Monday, December 19, 2011

An Observation (v)

So the friend who sometimes reads the blog wrong and has been mentioned before emailed last week because she bought a Christmas tree.  Initially she said, she was getting it wrong, feeling all guilty and wrong for spending money on a tree. Then she looked around. She saw she was on a family farm. She saw her own family being together and sipping hot chocolate and choosing each other over the Cheapest, Fastest, Easiest.  She saw: she had Peopled over Profiting. 

She's been Occupied.

Living Occupied isn't about not spending money. It isn't about not being rich. It isn't about feeling guilty for the life we find ourselves living.  It isn't about what we do.

It is about Who We Are.

Living Occupied is a life where people take precedence. Where we live mindful of others - of their hearts and their lives.  Where we use our influence and affluence, not for a "greater good" but for another's good.

Enough of being greater. Enough of being better. Enough of trying harder. Enough of Me.

My friend got it.  She had the moment where seeing that Others were the beneficiaries of her time and effort and yes, even money - that's the point. The wonder of it is of course, that so often another's benefit ends up being our benefit too.  But only in that order.  It is a lie we tell ourselves when we suggest that acting in our own benefit benefits others.  Not in any way that matters.  But choosing to consider The Others Too and Maybe Even First?

Therein is our salvation.

Occupied R.  Occupied Me. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Idea #12: Create a Sabbath Day

Okay, I know I said I was done with ideas, but then today I tripped across this one in my day and ended up obsessing over it dwelling on it for a while and decided I ought to add it to the list.  And as an aside, I've found someone who is willing to guest-write the post about Occupied Investing, so watch for that soon!

Right, but back to me. Or at least me's new idea.

Create a Sabbath. 

So this morning, on my way to church (alone - the kids are both sick but I was this week's Sunday School "teacher" so off I went) I realized I needed gas in the car. And I rolled my eyes to myself and said, probably outloud, but I don't really listen to me so I can't say for sure, "Lord, can't there be just one day when I don't spend any f'ing money??!" (The Lord likes it when I abbreviate the swear words I think. Baby steps.)

And shazzam! the answer came: Yep.

There could be a day when I don't spend any money.  It could be Tuesdays. Or SJ's first day off. Or the 21st of every month. The quarter moons.... whatever.  We could decide that there are days when we don't spend money. At all.  A money sabbath.

Now I have actually looked up the word "sabbath" to make sure that I'm not getting this altogether wrong, and I think I'm right enough that it will do.  In my mind, sabbath means "a rest".  The Jewish people were instructed in the Ten Commandments to "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy".  I think this meant that there was one day a week where all work was to cease, and instead the community would set it aside to pay extra attention to the things and person of God.

For those of us with faith, in creating a Sabbath where we remember not to spend, we would probably find ourselves able to think a bit more on The Provider and Creator of All Things.  We might trip across some fairly wonderful Trues about where our help comes from, and where our hope lies.  We might find ourselves, in the decision to not provide our own needs for twenty-four hours, better able to meet the Giver of Life. I'd be into that.

For those of us low on faith, or maybe straight up distrustful of all things faithy, the principle remains (and of course for the faith-y people too): going a day without whatever it is we might find ourselves needing gives us an opportunity to feel need in a way we rarely do, but that so much of the world does. It would create a moment of solidarity with the many on this planet who don't spend money that day, not out of choice or conviction or lack of want, but out of necessity and in despair.

And so, this week, SJ and I are going to figure out a schedule of days on which we will take a Sabbath from spending. We'll have to check the gas tank the day before, and make sure there is wine in the cupboard (the last is optional, but you know, pleasant) and then we'll try being on purpose in the non-spending of money and see where we end up.  Could be good.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #12 Response:
What do you think would happen if you didn't spend money one day a week?  Do you ever have days when you really, truly can't spend money? Do you know someone who does? I don't know if I do...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Idea #1: Shop More Wisely, Redux

I'm not going to lie. I don't know exactly what "redux" means, but I just kind of like the effect.

So, I'm kind of interested to find out what I'm thinking about all these ideas a few weeks later (yes, I do have to read my own blog to find out what I think - I'm that much of a mystery to myself).  Each seemed so crucial and vital when they were first written.  Life has intervened, some have worked out, others have not or at least not in the way I had imagined.  Others probably just need more time.

That first idea was inspired by the accompanying image and was reinforced knowing so many people who have created work and meaning in their lives by building a business.  I think it is right and good to support those people and I also think that it is probably a decent way of redistributing wealth more equitably, at least at the service/retail sector level.  Big box stores do hire more people, and some even pay more as a wage, but the "owner" is actually a corporation so the profits are leaving my community and if they're a multi-armed entity, the profits may actually be re-invested into businesses and practices that I actually don't want to be supporting.  When I support a local, independent business I can be fairly certain that the profits are being returned to at the very least a neighbour, and hopefully at least being re-invested into their children or house or whatever.

A friend emailed this week pointing out that if you don't live in an urban setting where the goods and services you need are available, the costs to the environment and your own opportunity cost may be so high that it is actually more beneficial to centralize your shopping in one spot even if that spot isn't home to independent businesses.  I'm not sure (or willing to do the research to become sure) how one figures all that out but it is worthy of investigation if anyone is interested.

For us, most of our daily needs can be met locally.  The grocery situation has not changed much: Thrifty's weekly, Costco monthly and Apple Market (local, walkable - independently owned? I'm not sure. Buddhakind, do you know?) every 10 days or so.  It turns out that Costco isn't a terrible choice on the wage/employee decency scale and is at least better than the alternatives (namely Superstore and Walmart in my 'hood).  Thrifty's is a mixed bag. Excellent experience for me as a shopper and employees seem happy but I haven't had the nerve to ask yet if it's really okay.  Their rate my employer page is full of rants (as they are wont to be), but their "I work at Thrifty's" facebook page is more positive. No getting around having to ask I guess.

We did end up choosing local and independent for our tires.  SJ had a conversation with a co-worker who moonlights in construction about why they both thought it was important to shop up here and it really helped solidify our decision.  We also chose locally-sourced windows for our small renovation on that same principle.  It's expensive though ($400+ for the tires, I don't know what on the windows) and a choice that only those of us with relatively flexible discretionary income can manage. All the more reason to keep choosing that when we can I think, but some days it hurts.  A lot.

Christmas shopping is going to be a trick. In particular, I'm flummoxed by socks and underwear. There is no local purveyor of said items that I can think of, and the local-ish options are all big box corporate folks. I think this will be a matter of choosing the lesser of several evils - I'm definitely looking for input on this one, so comment away with ideas and suggestions.

Does anyone else have any experiences or thoughts about trying to move to more local shopping?

Oh, and finally, just because I know awesome people who are independent business owners, shop this way this week, k?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

An Observation (iv)

I've been waiting for a new really great idea.

I got nothin'.

Well, I've got a couple, but they're ideas that I won't be following through on (ask me about Occupied Investing and Creating Affordable Housing if you've got some coin kicking around...) and I don't feel comfortable suggesting an action that isn't one I'm prepared to try myself.  But if circumstances change, be sure to watch for more ideas.  And of course, if you have an idea you'd like to suggest for exploration, I'm game.

In the meantime, a few thoughts.

First, I had a really happy-making conversation with a nice friend who also sometimes reads this blog.  It was happy-making because she kept saying things that were just nice about all my crazy and that made me think she probably does really, actually read my crazy.  And sometimes even think her own thinking about the crazy and that's just heartening to a person writing their crazy all over the internet.

One thing that's disheartening though, is when that friend says more than once, "But I feel so bad" or "I'm just spoiled" or any other version of What You Write Makes Me Think Less of Myself. 

It's disheartening because I'm a bit... umm, hopeful? optimistic? deluded? and kind of hoped that the crazy was going to be of the more Inspiring, I Can Do That! variety. I had kind of imagined that it would be so possible sounding, these little changes, that everyone would do it and jump onboard and suddenly we'd be living in a cash-paid-for utopia where everyone shops down the street and is paid well and has Resistance Granola for breakfast.

Alas, 'tis unlikely.  And while I have of course, reveled in despair a time or two, I mostly am at rest with the futility of it all.  (Insert sermon here about the kingdom on earth as it in heaven, a rest in The Promise, and an abiding faith that All Will Be Well.) Because while the world is not greatly changed, I am a tiny bit changed. And a tiny bit of change in me is miracle enough. If my friend and her family try using cash for a month or two and find themselves a tiny bit changed, then praise be! If another friend trips across their own tiny change, then praise be twice! And so on and so on and so on... A few tiny changes are about as much as a person like me can ask for. 

And so, in case you're a friend who considers self-flagellation in lieu of celebration, please, please, in the name of all that is holy, quit it. Choose your tiny change, from my list or from your own, but choose it, pursue and then celebrate whatever success you enjoy.  And then maybe pass it on.  Please?

In the meantime, I'll be going back to the list of eleven ideas to date, and writing a bit about how they've worked out and whatever other insights seem includable. I'll look forward to hearing from a few of you about your own experiences of trying on tiny change.  As long as they're of the celebratory variety. Got that fridge lady?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Idea #11: Carry Peace In My Pocket

(Disclosure Statement: This may be more all about me than usual.)

I foolishly sign up for email updates from several blogs - oddly, most of them urge me to consume. I should probably unsubscribe (maybe next week's idea?).  I get all the TeamBuy and EthicalDeals and BuyMoreButFeelGoodCauseItWasADeal emails a girl could desire.

Another feed I get is from Simple Mom which is certainly less consumey, and often points me in directions I like to go.  I also like to smirk at my own inside joke to myself about being a simple mom - not 'simple', like simplicity, but 'simple', like dim.  I feel a bit not-so-bright most days and it's kind of nice to think there might be a whole website set up to support me.

There is a new theme happening for Christmas, and so right now every email update shows up on my phone with the subject "Plan Your Pe.." which I automatically fill in with "perfect Christmas."  And I am Every Time gratefully surprised to open it and read "Plan Your Peaceful Christmas".

Peaceful.  Oh, yes please.

Peaceful like the dis-encampment of Occupy Vancouver this week, when miraculously the tents were taken down and moved two or three times and then ultimately gone without any police officers having to dress up in riot gear. I'm not altogether clear on why this wasn't more newsworthy - this is astonishing to me and entirely unexpected.  I am deeply thankful that neither the law enforcement officers nor the occupiers were required to be physically harmed to bring an end to this part of the protest. That it has gone mostly un-noticed and un-said in the public discourse and media reporting perhaps tells us all we need to know.

I have to confess though, that peace is not my own personal go-to.  As evidenced by The Case Of The (It Turned Out Not So) Anonymous Commenter, my own heart goes first to verbal violence and anger-fuelled retorts. I took the edge off by using facebook to vent, but I know my own heart and know that peace was not reigning there.  And that was the most peaceful encounter I probably had that day - I was raging in most directions, especially at home.

The structures that wreck us are fuelled by discord and discontent. From the Too Big To Address Here military-industrial complex that diverts all our productivity to the pursuit of war-making to You Deserve A Break Today advertising that reminds us to spend our way out of stress and ill-will and unhappiness, our world requires our Not Peace to push us to consume.

If I pursue peace, I think maybe I undermine a structure that builds itself on our ill-will and anger, a structure that loves our divisions and separateness from one other, a structure that uses violence to maintain itself.

This week, I will try carrying peace in my pocket. I will watch for ways to invest in peace and starve violence.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #11 Response:
Do you see peace as a means of undermining All That Should Not Be? In what ways can you invest in peace?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Observation (iii)

One thing that may be true is that I'm a bit motivated in this whole Occupy Me mission by fear. Like straight up, they're coming for me terror. I'm afraid that one day the disenfranchised are going to quit being so nice about how deeply they've been screwed and do what millions have done before them and start a fight.  And since they really, truly won't have anything to lose, they're going to fight like crazy to the death.  And my friends, I am not a fighter.

A nice blog with friendly reminders to try screwing other people over less seems like a bit of an innoculation against it all, but the longer things go on, the less effective an innoculation it seems likely to be.  If it comes to the worst, I don't think any of those people are going to stop their pillaging to google who was thinking about doing something about it all.

A friend is a pastor in the great state of Oregon.  She posted on facebook tonight that the family staying in her church waiting for shelter space is headed by a mother working full-time at Walmart.

In a recent conversation with really thoughtful, peace-loving, justice-seeking friends, I found myself explaining that Walmart isn't just a kind of neutral not-so-great entity - they're Big Terrible Bad Guys Doing Evil.  And people I really like don't know.  Or sometimes know but need a cheap toaster, you know?

Oh, I know.

I know because I bought the kids jackets at Old Navy last week.

That's why they'll be coming for me.

Because despite all the writing and thinking and cash paying, I am ultimately Unchanged-Enough and most certainly the world around me is Not Changed. People will remain concerned about their own profit over that of their neighbours forever probably. And by people, of course I mean me.

The last month has had it's successes - paying cash feels right and good; we ended up buying tires from a local independent dealer down the street; I asked a client to pursue becoming a Living Wage employer; I voted and even sought out candidates' opinions on Living Wage policies.  Friends have made adjustments in their own lands and have even sometimes told me about them.  Certainly I've had a lot of conversations about the world as it is and how it might be, conversations I would not have otherwise had to be sure.

And yet.

And yet, it becomes clearer and clearer that the changes we make will not change much as long as these changes are the changes of the affluent.  Because poor people can't afford to live this way - we barely can and we're the not-so-poor. And rich people won't, or mostly don't. Because then they would be less rich.

Oh hell. 

I bet the world changers weren't depressives.  Maybe there will be new life for this tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Christmas

So in an odd paradox, Christmas is in one little holiday, exactly what the Occupy Movement is fighting and exactly what it is fighting for...  I know, I'm a bit confused too.

But in thinking about how to Occupy Christmas, I have been stuck at the part where Christmas actually is the celebration of Jesus coming to occupy us and bring the freedom, life and community that so many of us are craving.

And yet.

And yet. Christmas as it is celebrated in my neck of the woods is actually a celebration of consumption, acquisitiveness and Too Much.  I don't know a person who doesn't at least once in December lament the state of yuletide affairs.  Too Much food, Too Much stuff, Too Much family, Too Much need... it's just All Too Much.

I am not going to write anything new or life-changing about Christmas - we all know the parts where we're supposed to make it simpler, enjoy each other, give goats and chickens instead of trash, blah blah blah. If any of those things have made you like Christmas better, please share what and how in the comments.  Instead, let me revisit the first ten Occupy Me Ideas and see how they can be adapted for nativity purposes. Is this cheating? Oh well...  read on anyway!

IDEA # 1: Shop More Wisely
Well, this was smart huh? The picture that started it all is a good one: choose independent businesses for your holiday purchases.  Local food, local employees, local owners - all of it is better than sending your dollars to anonymous bad guys in a highrise somewhere. If you have a great vendor you'll be using this year, please post a link in the comments.  Personally, I'll be asking for the Seaflora Skin Care stuff made on Vancouver Island and sold at Dream Designs.  Local, local, good for me. Win, win, win.

IDEA #2: Need Less
Again, it's like it was made for Christmas! So obviously, I'll be asking for less and giving less.  Certainly, only giving what we can afford.  Expensive debt that jeopardizes our security and enriches the anonymous bad guys is a terrible gift for our children.  We'll keep paying cash for what we do buy to a) make sure we can afford it and b) make sure no small merchant is subsidizing our decision to lie about how much we have. How will you be needing less this year?

IDEA #3: Real Food
Oh, the food at Christmas.  We are really fortunate because everyone else cooks at Christmastime. And our key cookers in SJ's family are Real Food people.  In my family, we've become a lot more Real Foody since my dad moved to a gluten-free diet, although it's been real food most of my life the way it was for most kids born in the 70s.  That said, I may make up an extra-large batch of Resistance Granola for Christmas morning just as a reminder that that's smart. And maybe we'll work a bit harder at sourcing local-er meats and treats. Any corporate food you'll be giving up this year?

IDEA #4: Support a Living Wage
Yikes, this is going to be tricky.  Christmas is so retail-intensive and the retail sector is so notoriously poor at paying a living wage.  I think choosing independent businesses might help with this since if the business is staffed by family, at you know the profts are being kept at home, you know? I'm finding asking about this really tricky, but I should probably try harder now that we'll be doing so much spending. Anyone have any recommendations for They Pay Better vendors of things we might buy this Christmas?

IDEA #5: Do Work I Would Prefer To Pay For
There are several jobs I would like to outsource over the course of December.  We won't be outsourcing them because we can't afford to mostly.  But it will be nicer to pretend that it's because we're jumping into solidarity with the many who do work I would prefer not to do.  And maybe at some point it will stop being pretending and turn into a real kinship with those who do work that is difficult and boring and that pays poorly... I think that would be a real Christmas miracle.  You?

IDEA #6: Fix It
Two things came out of this for me: One, fix things that are broken obviously.  At Christmas this means maybe replacing burnt out light bulbs instead buying all new strings as I have generally preferred to do.  The other is to buy things that can be fixed as Ryan mentioned in the comments.  This means not buying garbage for people.  Which probably means buying less, because the can't-be-fixed stuff is so much less expensive and so to upgrade to fixable will probably cost more and since we're only buying what we can afford, well, we'll be buying less. Which is kind of a win, right?  Anyone see other ways Fix It ties into Christmas?

IDEA #7: It Is Better To Give And Receive
This one is so awesome for me. Huh. Anyway, so somehow at Christmas, receiving makes me feel terrible (do you even know me?!) and giving makes me feel angry (you don't even need this and I certainly can't afford to give it!!).  Awful, right? I'm a bit scroogey for a Jesusy-type gal.  But I want to live in the part where both the giving and the receiving are reminders of my I've Got Enoughness.  I think on the giving side, paying cash and buying what we can afford is going to go a long way, as is trying to pay closer attention to what is needed, even if what is needed is just something wrapped and given in love.   On the receiving side, I am going to watch for ways the gifts given reflect the giver's own Enoughness and I will also be clearer about our needs so that givers can maybe experience their own flood of affluence that comes when you are able to give what is needed.  I would love to hear other thoughts on this - am I the only scrooge at gift giving?

IDEA #8:  Rock The Vote
So not so Christmassy, but still, another reminder to my BC readers - GO VOTE on SATURDAY!

IDEA #9: Give To People, Not Causes
Oh boy, this is a bit of a tricky one at Christmas because of course, most of us are already giving to people and most of us feel that giving charitably is part of the celebration.  Certainly most charities count on our yule-inspired generosity to gird their efforts for the year.  So maybe this:  as we choose how to give this year, we will talk to our people to find out what causes warm them up and we may give to people by giving to their causes.  But we will also watch for people who need what we have to give, be it the extra seat at our table, an evening of anything-but-Christmas chat, or extra help getting their decorations up. What are your causes people? and what do you have to give that you're hoping someone will need?

IDEA #10:  Be A People Person
It will sure be tempting to avoid people - so often it's faster, and at this time of year, friendlier.  People are stressed and over-worked and over-demanded-of and just straight up unpleasant. Machines are not. But all the more reason to be the pleasant person who does not demand and who says "please" and "thank you" and remembers that I may be the difference between making their work meaningful and making it sh*tty. I will take advantage of having a lot of spending to vote with and will vote for people as often as I can.  What will you be voting for with your Christmas spending?

Oh my, that was a lot.  I should point out that this is clearly written by someone who celebrates Christmas. I am aware that many don't.  This is written unapologetically for those who do.  If you are one who doesn't, I am certain we would benefit from reading how you plan to occupy the month of December and all that it brings to you and your family. 

In the meantime, I am looking forward to entering into the Christmas season with a clearer hope for my family, and all the more aware of how deeply we need the Gift That Was Given to get there.  Advent will indeed be a Sweet Waiting for God With Us, the best occupation I know.

Occupy Me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Links To Good III

This is a link to an article that Mamabear did not send me. I was able to find it anyway, and thought this line was particularly awesome, when the author quotes Chesterton: There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.  

Oh, and the link is here: A Lifestyle of Enough, Relevant Magazine

This is a link Sarah posted on Facebook that I found really helpful: Rolling Stone Magazine Article.  And then Darren posted a great Following Up On That link: Occupy Winning.  Both articulate the heart-capturing parts of the Occupy Movement for me.

Please keep sending and posting your links to good stuff!  It's life-expanding to think in all these different directions.

Oh, and don't forget to vote!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Idea #10: Be A People Person!

So one thing that has happened is that now that I'm paying with cash all the time, I have to deal with people more often. To my surprise, this is a good thing.

I notice it most at the gas station.  Previously, fill-ups were a stop and go transaction between me and a largish-box with a credit card slot. Now I get to run inside, slide my Bill Reid statue (the Americans do have something on us with the nicknaming of currency, what with all those handsome Presidents) across the counter and actually say "Please" and "Thank you" to a real, live, human person.

This is nice, because hey, who doesn't like to have a quick, polite encounter with The Rest Of The World? God help them, they may be the only adult I speak to in a ten-hour span.

But it's also nice because choosing to interact with the person means choosing to vote for their job with my money.  I kind of like this math.

And now it has me noticing all the places where I can vote for people and their jobs:  tellers for banking; librarians for book checking-out; cashiers for groceries.  The one I noticed most recently that left me a bit flummoxed was parking:  the parking attendant at Lonsdale Quay has been replaced with a machine and there is no Choose-A-Person option nearby.  But generally, when I can, I'm choosing the person option and I think life is better for it.

I don't imagine it's altogether clear economically what is better though. If the parking guy has moved on to full employment manufacturing planet-friendly goods to be justly distributed across our land, then who am I to complain about walking to a machine to collect my free 2-hour parking ticket?  On the other hand, if that was his only or best option for work and now it has been eliminated for the long-term profitability of the parking corporation, then yuck.

What I mostly notice is that we are being asked to replace our interactions with low-level staff with interactions with machines for the profitability of owners and in turn (one imagines), higher wages for high- and mid-level management.  I guess those jobs are more desirable, but what happens when we have no work for the beginners? for the not-so-ambitious? for the Not-Management-Material-types?

When I vote with my money for those jobs, I also vote for those people and say that providing meaningful work (for surely there is some meaning in making sure I did in fact find everything I needed at the store today?) for everybody is worthwhile. 

So the next time you get to choose between (wo)man or machine, consider the message you're sending up the ladder with your choice:  the easiest way to redistribute wealth is through the employment of the many.

IDEA #10 Response: 
Where have you seen a change from people to machines? Where have you voted with your money for people over profit, even when it was less convenient?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Idea #9: Give to People, Not Causes

I'm a bit conflicted as I write this:  the Occupy Vancouver movement is unravelling a bit.  Sadly, a young woman died in her tent a few days ago.  Protesters bit police officers trying to assist firefighters in extinguishing a fire. Several showed up at a recent mayoral debate and threatened a riot.  In a church.  It's a bit... off-putting.

I suppose I'd prefer to be on the same team as the Winners! the Awesome Ones! the Successful Overcomers! Nope, just me and the losers.  Again.

I considered giving up the blog. I have conceded that it is unlikely that the ramblings and tiny changes of one suburban housewife are going to amount to much.  I have realized that my own commitment to my own change is not all that it ought to be.  I have faced the sad truth that my motivations are not all lovely and light and that I am most likely to adopt adaptations that save me money and/or improve my own sense of awesomeness.  I can't help but think Real Change had a better start than this.

And yet I persevere.  Though the Occupiers flounder, though my will is flawed, though my energy flags... still I want to want more of myself and my world, so I will do one more week.  One More Idea. And maybe next week, another.

This week's idea is inspired in part by the advent of Advent which of course is the advent of The Giving Season.  The time of year when we spend what we do not have to give what other do not need to celebrate what we do not remember.

That may be a bit cynical.

And maybe sometimes a bit true. We may be a tiny bit thoughtless when we give and maybe being a tiny bit more thoughtful will be another tiny step to a better world.

Specifically this:  In earlier comments, Darren posited that giving to some of his preferred causes was a more effective vehicle for change than tenting in the rain.  I wondered in turn if perhaps working to eliminate the need for those worthy causes might not be a better investment of my own time.

If I think this is true, then I must wonder about whether or not how I give might be promoting or hindering change.  In discussing with some friends, this emerged:  if my "cause" is hunger and I can give to $25, do I do more to end hunger by giving (for example) to UGM to feed several a Thanksgiving dinner or by giving to one person in line there to buy their own food?

I could probably argue either.  But I know the part where when I give to a cause, a percentage goes to the people who serve (rightly, as well it ought) but when I give to a person, all of it goes to their need.  Am I willing to forego the tax receipt and the anonymous distance of giving to a cause in order to make what I think may be a more meaningful, lasting difference by giving to a person?  And isn't that kind of the crux: that I would have to know who needed what I have to give? And that by getting to know some people, I might better know what would truly make a difference? Instead of what I think should make a difference?

So this is not being very clear.  I think what I want to think about is if I am serious about redistributing wealth, and particularly my own, then do I want to send it to institutions or to people?  I'm not altogether sure.  But there is something appealing about arranging cleaning services for a mother enduring chemotherapy (a project friends took on last year) instead of giving money to The Big Cancer Agency; to collecting groceries for a local family experiencing loss instead of dropping a few old cans of expired beans in the food bank bin; to giving cash to that guy with the sign instead of charging a donation to The People Who Help, even if he uses it in some way I don't approve of - God knows I hardly approve of all the ways I spend the money I keep to myself.

I don't know exactly how this works, but there is something to knowing people in need that inspires a generosity that can change things.  Giving to an institution means that I never have to know about real need, never have to face the other side of my affluence, the cost of my comfort.  Giving to people means that I have to listen a little more closely, think a lot more thoughtfully, live a little more generously.

I wonder if we'll try this one.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #9 Response:
Do you see any benefit to giving to people instead of to causes? Have you given in a way that changed you? Do you have any ideas about how to give in a way that makes a tiny change?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Idea #8: Rock The Vote

Okay, this is going to be short and sweet.

We are just over two weeks away from municipal elections in my fair town. We are just over one year away from a presidential election in the United States.  In between, there will probably be local and provincial and state elections all over these great lands.  Sadly, most of the time, in most of those places, most people Will. Not. Vote.

They should.

So for Idea #8, I'm suggesting this:  Provincemates, Plan Your Vote.

Find out who's running.
Read a newspaper that tells you who they are.
Better yet, go to an all-candidates meeting and ask them who they are.
On November 19th, phone a friend and arrange a coffee date for AFTER YOU VOTE.

And right this second? right now? Pass this on.

Local government has more to say about our day-to-day experience than any other level of government. How long it takes for the fire department to arrive, whether or not we drink clean water, whether our schools are well-managed and maintained, whether or not our roads get cleared and salted and repaired, whether or not there are bike lanes and sidewalks and wheelchair access and libraries and art and sports and recreation and places for children to play...  all of that and more is decided by our local government.

If we don't vote, if we don't use the opportunities we're given to say We Give A Flying F*ck about how our very own neighbourhoods are shaped, well, that just makes all the rest of this silly. In 2008, not even 18% of my neighbours voted in our local election (check your municipality here).  Really? Not even 2 of 5 people could do it? Sigh.

To be honest, I'm struggling to tie this directly to the Occupy Me gig.  I could stretch and try to make it sound more righteous or game-changing than it probably really is.  I won't.  Just please believe me - people have died fighting for my right as a woman to vote.  People have died believing your right to vote was worth their lives.  I know. It floors me too.

So please plan your vote.  Please plan to vote. And please pass it on.

(This was neither short, nor sweet.  Pass it on anyway. And vote.)

Who are you voting for and how did you decide they'd get your vote? Any other ideas for improving voter turnout this year?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Idea #7: It Is Better to Give And Receive

You could get this card from here I think.
It is so easy for me to forget my affluence.  Especially this week after switching to cash.  Counting out exact change at the till made me feel poor.  I can't really explain it, but I wanted to say something like, "I could charge this whole store if I wanted! I just don't want to...." Why does cash at a grocery store feel like food stamps to me?  Weird, right?

Anyway, part of the Occupy Me gig is an effort to remember and live in my affluence as way of undermining the Big Booming Voice that says "STILL NOT ENOUGH...!!"  Tonight, as young kids knock on my door and demand free candy and I keep having more to give away, I'm enjoying the feeling of having more than enough and I think there's a lesson there.  Again.

It's is a lesson I've learned so many times, but apparently don't retain: giving things away makes me feel like I have more than enough. Every. Time.

I figure that that big bad guy, Corporate Guy Out There, spends all of his time crafting ways to make me feel like I don't have quite enough, and thus pushing me to consume.  Consume what I can not afford, what I do not need, what does great harm in its very manufacture and distribution.  And so often, I'm falling for it. Over and over, I'm all like, "Yeah, you're right! I do need that!" Moron.

Giving away is a great big F*%k You to Corporate Guy Out There.  In one fell swoop, it is my statement that I have more than enough and that the receiver can get what they need without buying into the system.  So amazing, right?

Now in case you missed it, cause I'm subtle like that, here's the tricky bit:  to make this work, we all need to not only give what we have away, but receive what is freely given.  The first half of the equation is so awesome because we get to feel our affluence and the warm fuzzies of being a provider.  The second half? Not so much.  Buying what we need is kind of empowering: "I'm captain of my own ship! Tally Ho!"  Being given what we need, for free? Kind of like cash at the grocery store for me.  It is an admission of my own finite resources, of my own need for the generosity of others to sometimes step in and provide what I can not, for whatever reason. 

That is exactly where the power of this one lives: when we live in the ebb and flow of giving and receiving to and from our neighbours (the people we run into who need what we have to give, and have to give what we need), the structures that have been built to get us to Buy More! Have More! Get More! become useless and unnecessary. It's magic. 

And so, Idea #7 is a two-pronged one:  I will start to listen more carefully for the knocking at my door, when my neighbours arrive and ask for what I have to give.  And equally, I will make known my need and receive what is offered, believing that both actions undermine a system that I believe to have done us all great harm by convincing us that we are our own providers.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #7 Response:
What have you given that reminded you of your own abundance? When have you last received something you would have preferred to have provided for your own self?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Links To Good II

I like how many people like to fix things.  I like that I know them, espcially the ones with sewing machines, since I am sew-stupid when it comes to the repair and life-lengthening of fabric goods.  I got two great links for this:

From Brian: Learn the 4th R, Repair
From Ryan, a fixer of many things: iFixit

I also like that many people have found their own end-runs around unfairness.  I will note that these were all American examples, and that it is easy to point at the US and say that they're so much worse than we are and thus excuse ourselves from action, but Walmart is here and lots of other large retailers who treat their employees poorly in order to maximize profits for the already-rich-people who own them.

From Laura:  The Moral Undergroud

And then this video, which was emailed to me and then posted on my wall, and then posted all over facebook. So simple, so easy, and right up my "I'm not tenting with 2 preschoolers" lane...

From Mary: Keep Wall Street Occupied

And then a link to a holiday destination that passed one reader's Good For You, Good For Me evaluation - fair wage, fair work, decency of all sorts.

From MK:  Point-no-Point Resort

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Picture of Why Occupation

These pictures are obvious.  The contrasts shown will come as no surprise to anyone I know who views them. Most know that the second and fourth images ought not to be.  I wonder though if in fact, the first and third ought also not to be - they are only possible because of their opposites.  The awful of the latter images is built on a deeper awful hidden in the former.

I doubt my choice to pay cash at the grocery store will make food acquisition any easier in Somalia. But it will be my own reminder to myself that I need not be wholly owned by a system that pays for my comfort with the struggle and pain of others.

This is the mess.  Those of us who "have never had it better", have it because there are so many who have never had it worse.  If I am silent...  well, I just can not be.

If my protest is judged ineffective by the very system who's measure of effectiveness is it's own growth, I am not concerned. It will be effective if I do a better of job of walking through this life awake, aware that I am not audience but actor on this stage and someone who can Do Something.  Even if it's just a tiny thing. I will not say, "But I didn't know."

I do know.

Occupy Me.

How I Get to Get Rice

How They Get to Get Rice

What Thanksgiving Preparation Looks Like for Me

What Thanksgiving Preparation Looks Like for Them

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Observation (ii)

A friend whom I highly esteem has wondered aloud in the hallowed hallways of facebook, What in fact, is the point of Occupy Vancouver? Vexed by the ambiguity of their self-proclaimed purpose, is perhaps closer to what he said.  He's a writer like that.  Vocabulary aside (and accuracy, for that matter), his question did leave me wondering if I was actually clear on what those tenters downtown are saying and if I needed to perhaps be a bit clearer about my own reasons for participating as I am.

The Occupy Vancouver website contains the following:

We, the Ninety-Nine Percent, come together with our diverse experiences to transform the unequal, unfair, and growing disparity in the distribution of power and wealth in our city and around the globe. We challenge corporate greed, corruption, and the collusion between corporate power and government. We oppose systemic inequality, militarization, environmental destruction, and the erosion of civil liberties and human rights. We seek economic security, genuine equality, and the protection of the environment for all.

I'm not sure I would call this ambiguous.

But of course, they have yet to describe what specific ends they are pursuing.  You know, using those SMART goals that were all the rage back in the early millennium. And I guess I can see how that is bothersome.

The difficulty is that specific goals and measurable outcomes are kind of what created the mess in the first place. Maybe it's time for a more hard-to-put-my-finger-on-it-but-damn-this-feels-different kind of change. Maybe it's time for all of us to decide that waiting to measure whether or not we're being Just Enough, or Equal Enough, or Integritied Enough (my apologies for the word-making-up, but some days the English language fails me) is in fact just a decision to change the paint on a crumbling building. Sure it looks a bit better, but ain't no paint gonna keep that thing standing next time it gets rocked, you know what I'm sayin'...?

And now, because the change can not be negotiated or bargained or bought, we of the Elevator Speech Generation are getting bored and want them to carry on to their next project.  But instead, they say they will stay.  They will endure cold and wet, the disdain of the many, the ire of the inconvenienced, the misunderstanding of the masses - they will endure all of that so that there remains a physical, hard-to-miss, traffic-wrecking reminder that The World Is Not How It Ought To Be.

I went searching for a quote of Martin Luther King Jr.'s that of course more poetically drew the point I am working at but found another that sent me reeling:

“Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.” - Martin Luther King

I am mostly certain that I am not a bad person. On my good days, I think I'm probably even good people. However, when I think that my silence might be added to the list of sins that must be repented for by The Saints... my heart weeps.

And so I'll blog on, and I'll put my lot with the dread-locked tenters and their grandmothering lawn-mates who are living together in solidarity with the Least, the Last and the Lost and inconveniencing us at every turn so that we can not say, "But no one told us."  The deepest injustices may not be happening on my block, or even in this nation of ours, it's true.  And yet we benefit and our lives are better because of evil done by others.  If I collude with my silence, I am no better.

Better.  It's an ambiguous goal. It lacks in specificity to be sure.  I can't even say if it's attainable or realistic. But it's worthy, and thus I'm in its pursuit.  I will make tiny changes and have great faith that even getting to A Little Bit Better will count as success. 

Occupy Me. 

The original quote I was seeking, I still think is worth including: “I said to my children, 'I'm going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don't ever want you to forget that there are millions of God's children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don't want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.” 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Idea #6: Fix It

I grew up in a disposable world where objects are not meant to be kept. The time and money required to fix things makes throwing them out the more reasonable option.  My in-laws have had the same toaster since they were married in 1957.  We've been married since 2003 and are on our third. I think this is probably a bad thing.

This month, an object lesson for me:  The year that our second was due to be born, I asked for a watch for my birthday. I was a tad obsessive about keeping track of breastfeeding and having a timing device within sight at all times seemed required.  I wore said watch for about 14 months before something sad happened and it kind of gave up.  Over the next months, it moved from the Find A New Battery pile to the Someone Should Put That Shelf to the I Can't Throw It Away Drawer.

Last week, I found it.

For almost two years, I had managed without it but when I saw it, I remembered how much I liked it, and how handy it is to have a watch on.  I remembered how much I use "What time is it?" as an excuse to check my phone which most often turns into quickly checking email, and then facebook and then a quick round of brickbreaker and What? you want dinner??  Yeah, that happens.

Maybe a watch would help. I should get a new one, I thought. Until I remembered the part where I'm trying to be more thoughtful about these things.

Turns out there are watch repair people who do more than change batteries.  One of them is tucked away in the corner of the Bay, and helpfully told me a quick fix of the hands was all that was required and we'd be back in business. Thirty-five dollars and seven days later, I've got a me a new watch.

Except it's not new. It's the same one as before, obviously.  But fixing it was new.  To me. 

My in-laws' toaster hasn't lasted 50 years because it's so awesome and has never broken.  It has lasted because when it breaks, Pops takes a day or two to figure out what's wrong with it, and then he fixes it.  Sure he's retired and has time and (insert reason why he can do what we can't here), but he fixed it when he was working. He fixed it when he didn't know how.  But he found time and he figured out how, because it was still mostly fine and that's the kind of man he is.

This may in part tie back to the last post on doing work I would prefer not to do. I am part of a generation of people who would prefer not to spend time or money on menial work like fixing things when we can in one fell swoop replace and upgrade.  No broken, no old, no out-of-date.  New! Shiny! Amazing!  We are raising children who won't even know that these things can be fixed, never mind know how to fix them themselves. Isn't this kind of terrible?

So I think I'm going to try looking at things with a longer view. I'm going to give our objects as long a life as I can.  I'm going to find people who know what I don't and can fix what I can't and see if that doesn't maybe just undermine a culture that has made not only broken objects, but broken people and broken relationships tossable.

I'm going to work towards being a keeper-longer fixer-upper.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #6 Response:
What objects have you found a way to keep around a bit longer by fixing them instead of replacing them? Who knows how to fix stuff that most of us throw out?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Idea #5: Do Work I Would Prefer to Pay For

This may be what is sometimes called "self-serving".  You've been warned.  And perhaps let me further warn you that this won't be the last time.  The genius of the human brain is its ability to tell a story that makes said human the hero as often as is necessary.  Today it appears to be necessary.  Or at least "necessary".

Some of you will recall a bit I wrote about Justice Pesto in another forum.  It was inspired by the ten minutes I spent harvesting basil for pesto-making this summer and my rapid descent from "Earthy Super-Mom" to "Carer for The Migrant Worker" to "Cursor at Small Children".  It was real heart-warming.

This afternoon, I had a similar experience doing some painting in the house.  As the wall was changed from white to vellum, my own self was changed from "Sharer Of Household Work" to "Resenter of Hard Work With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome".

I painted two walls.

Earlier in our renovation planning, I had planned to hire someone to do this work.  We feel short on time and have several difficult responsibilities that made this seem wise.  I even went as far to have someone come in and quote to do the work.  This person quoted what was most certainly a fair price for the work, but a price that was several hundred dollars more than I had thought it would be, and thus, more than we could afford.

While I was thinking we could get it painted, I felt quite rich.  Affluent really.  I thought about how great it would be to help a guy out by giving him work.  I thought about how I would probably offer him cool drinks and lunch, and then pay him on time and in cash and be one of his favourite clients.  I felt... well, better off, or something like that.

While I painted, I felt useful.  Then tired and cranky.  But useful.

I think the latter is better for me.

With my body doing all this painting, my brain had perhaps too much time to wander.  And as it wandered, it tripped over this thought:  When we pay for something, do we feel differently about it? Cause suddenly painting seemed like it should worth at least twice as much as this guy had quoted.  As I calculated how much SJ owed me for doing this job (for surely he owed me, right?), I had an hourly rate somewhere near our monthly car payments.

And this got me to the next bothersome thought:  does buying someone else's effort let me de-value them?  The very fact that I can afford to buy that work makes it cheap, right? And if it's cheap, and I don't consider my own self cheap, then I think that I might accidentally start believing that I'm worth more... Oh for eff's sake, as if I needed another flaw to fix.

It's some kind of weird cosmic math that I'm going a poor job of explaining, but what I'm getting at is this: maybe one reason people are occupying Wall Street and all the other streets is because a small group of people have cheapened a large group of people by buying them.  They buy them, trading those people's hard work for credit and fees and financial products of dubious worth.  I'm not sure how it all works, but somehow, in our current way of living together, we've managed to make a lot of people worth not quite as much as a few other people.

I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea. In fact, I'm certain of it. 

But good news! I think we can undermine the harm done every time we say, We will not be bought this time.  And we can say that by choosing independent businesses, or paying cash, or paying a fair wage, or producing our own food.

And we can say it by not buying each other.  At least not all the time. Obviously the world needs for us to exchange goods and services with each other, and pay those who can do what we can not.  But I think maybe it's good sometimes to do what we can (even if we can only do it badly and resentfully, muttering awful things under our breath), and remember why it's so valuable.

I think this is my point (finally!): it somehow increases the value of another's work when I have to do it. So maybe anytime I find myself accidentally thinking myself above another, I'll do their work and so restore their value in my own mind.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #5 Response:
What work do we often pay another for that we might then devalue? What work can we do in an effort to consciously esteem higher those with whom we might be tempted to do otherwise?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Links to Good I

One super-duper thing that is happening is that my friends are sending me all their secret ways around this world of ours that are doing great good.  Or sometimes just marginal good, but good is good and I'll take it where I can find it.  My hope is that each week, those of you reading will forward on your own links to good so that we can pass 'em on.  If everything works out like it does in the movies, this could be a weekly feature!

From Lisa:  NOWBC Co-op  Online farmers market!

From Laura: Better World Shopper  Evaluation of several major shopping categories including some Canadian stores (VanCity wins again!)

From Ali: Credit Card Rate Chart  Shows how much your card costs businesses. Turns out our cash back and Airmiles aren't so free after all...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupied: The First Week

Calvin gets it...

One thing about starting something new is that well, it's new.  And while new is often Shiny! and Bright! and Awesome!,  it's often also surprising and odd and unfamiliar.  There is the new car smell, tinged with the disappointment of a ding on the bumper.

There is much that is Shiny! and Bright! and Awesome! about Occupy Me, The First Week.  In five days, I've had almost 600 page views.  To be honest, I'm not altogether sure what that means, but it seems like a lot of views of the five pages that make up this blog.

And then there are the tiny steps: -I've had a friend let me know she's moving all her coffee meetings to small, independently-owned establishment.  Several people have said they too are on their way to a more cash-only way of living.  Neighbours have decided to host a locally-sourced dinner tomorrow night and all I have to do is source the wine part and a babysitter!  This is too much goodness for words.  Add the general interest and warm support of my favourite people who have taken a minute to say they like thinking in this general direction, and really, this can't be anything but Shiny! and Bright! and Awesome!


Except for the parts where I'm kind of failing already.  While we've only done debit this week, we haven't moved all the way to cash yet. While we want to support local, small business, tires are almost 40% more expensive here in Canada and we think we'll be driving south to replace our nearly-bald set. At Costco.


The good news is that my not-quite-there-yet brings with it lots of grace and compassion.  I stand here with  all of us who truly, deeply want to undermine a system that is based on injustice and greed and all manner of wrong-doing that benefits the very few at the expense of all the rest.  I stand here not doing enough, but doing more than I did a week ago and have great faith that a tiny step can be fish'd and loave'd into great change.

If you have taken your own tiny step, I hope you'll find a way to let me know so that I can keep track.  One step you might consider is forwarding a link to the blog to people you think might be willing to take their own tiny step.  One of the magics of the interwebs is its power to multiply - one tiny step forward could help us get to hint o' great change.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Idea #4: Support A Living Wage

There are a few people in this world who don't deserve to earn a living wage.  They are the ones saving up for Sea Monkeys and/or find themselves on The Real Housewives of Anywhere. The rest of us should reasonably expect that the work we do sufficiently provide for what our lives require, be it home for a family or funds for school or maybe even a hint of future security in the form of savings.

One thing that is kind of terrible for me is that this beautiful province of mine, The Best Place On Earth no less, is also home to our nation's highest child poverty rates.  If you took your average preschool dance class, one of those seven kids would be living in poverty.  Not, "I guess you'll have to pay your own way through college" poverty, but "no, it's your brother's turn to wear the jacket poverty".  I know most of us like to think that it's because their parents are sitting around in their designer clothes playing XBox (as an aside, if I had a dollar for every time I've heard this indictment of poor families who are clearly only poor because they buy stuff, I'd have enough money to end the poverty), but in fact, more than half of them have parents doing paid work, and a third of them have at least one parent with full-time work. And they still have to choose between heat and hotdogs.

In my neck of the woods, a living wage has been calculated at $18.81 for each parent working full-time.  Minimum wage here is $8.75.  Full-time that's about $17,500 a year, or $1460 a month.

In my neighbourhood, say a family of four decides to squish up into a two-bedroom apartment.  Average rent for that two-bedroom (in 2009) is $1116. To meet the affordability threshold of 30%, both parents would have to have combined earnings of $3720.  Fully employed at minimum wage, they'd be $800 shy of that threshold. Sure they'd have more than $1800 to "spare".  But you know, by the time they pay for luxuries like cars and insurance and groceries and gas and school fees and maybe shoes... well, you know what I'm getting at.

Here's the thing. The facts can all be refuted and argued and yes but'ed, but the fact remains that part of what makes me feel rich is that so much stuff that I want or want to do is cheap.  And the main reason it's cheap is because someone has not been paid very much to get it to me, or do it for me.  Keeping other people poor makes me feel rich.

This is gross.

So here's my next plan.  I'm going to start looking for Living Wage Employers like VanCity.  I'm going to ask the places where I do business if they pay a living wage. I'm going to ask candidates in our local election if they support a living wage policy for our municipality like the one recently enacted in New Westminster. And the people I pay directly, I'm going to pay in such a way that I know their household is earning a living wage.

As I discussed this with a friend who is also a business owner, she pointed out that there is a point where upward pressure on wages means upward pressure on prices.  So I do all this knowing that as more and more employers adopt a living wage policy, and as our family slowly moves our business to living wage employers, we're going to be paying more for the things we want and the things we need and the services we enjoy.  And we'll probably feel poorer for it.

Unless making fewer people poorer actually makes me feel a tiny bit richer.

Occupy Me.

IDEA #4 Response:
Do you know employers who are choosing a living wage policy for their employees? If you're paying anybody to do anything, will you be able to start a move to a living wage policy for your own family?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Idea #3: Real Food

As far as I know, there is no Granola Conglomerate secretly running the world through the sale of rolled oats and dried fruit.  Probably there are some really bad dudes trading fancied up GORP but most of the purveyors in my local market seem to be of the small and sweet variety.

Still, when I read a recipe for granola I realized it might be possible to add said treat to my repertoire.  Turned out that it was more than possible and even preferable and now we are home-made granola eaters.  I'm not sure it saves us much money and lord knows it costs me time.  And yet, it feels important and so we press on.

One reason we press on is because I had read recently about trying to move from being a consumer to being a producer and making granola, even if I buy my oats pre-rolled and my fruits pre-dried, moves me just a little further along the continuum away from consumer.  I mean, we consume the granola, but we make it too and that just feels a bit better.

My friend Karen mentioned the appeal of those baby carrots in our initial FB dialogue about this and I have to agree that they are on the list of present day evils that I just keep buying.  Pre-cut, pre-peeled, pre-washed... what's not to love? except for the part where they are processed and machined and end up costing this little planet more than it can afford - carrots didn't use to require a fossil fuel to get ready to be sold did they? And now just putting those carrots in a plastic bag for sale means they're using oil.  And that doesn't even account for the energy used to work the machine that shapes them.

Turns out though, that the baby carrot was invented because so many other carrots were being tossed because they weren't pretty enough. This is probably sad, but I can't help but think that composting some ugly carrots is still better than using our resources to make them prettier. (And as an aside, why are we so obsessed with only eating pretty food? Anyone who has grown a garden knows you end up with a few... surprises. The surprises are the ones the kids are most likely to eat, aren't they?)

As ever, nothing is altogether clear, but I think I'll still be buying my carrots un-hussified so that I can be the producer of carrots sticks and carrots treats in my house. 

IDEA #3 Response:
What other foods can we add value to ourselves instead buying processed? How do we become better producers of our families' foods?

Update: Mamabear asked for the granola recipe.  There is no link because I read about 17 and then made up one that used what I had and a technique I liked. You can try it and then make it yours with your own tweaks.

ACJ's Resistance Granola:
Preheat oven to 275. Pour 2 1/2 c. rolled or quick oats onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet.   Sprinkle with maybe 1/4c. - 1/2c. slivered almonds, a tablespoon or two of wheatgerm if you have it. Bake for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine 1/4c. each of brown sugar, honey, vegetable oil and boiling water, plus cinnamon to taste.  Remove oats from oven, pour into bowl. Pour in sugar stuff, stir thoroughly. Return to cookie sheet, then oven for 45 minutes, turning over every 15 minutes or so. After 45 minutes, turn off oven, sprinkle about 1/4 c. each of dried cranberries and raisins over top and let cool.  Store in airtight container. Overcome the forces of Granola Evil in one fell swoop. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Observation (i)

I have started keeping a list of things I can do differently - I think I'm up to an even dozen? Not sure, but a lot, and they have so far come fast and furious and I want to write and post them all Right. Now.

But then I remember the part where I've still got a Costco list on my fridge and I bought everything (at the local market though) with my debit card today.

It is unlikely that I'm going to be able to do a change a day, even if it's a tiny one. I mean, I might do the change for the day, but to repeat it for several days, or maybe even longer than that - it seems unlikely if I keep adding a new one to take on every 24 hours.

So I'm going to just go at my own pace.  Probably I'll shop at Costco again, but I'm hoping this month I choose small retailers on Lonsdale over big box stores more often.  Probably we will sneak in a card purchase from time-to-time: we're in the middle of a reno and some of those purchases are just more easily made with a credit card.  But we'll add using cash to our routine and see how it fits.

In the meantime, know that I've got a brain's worth of thoughts brewing and eventually they'll get here.  Because as it stands, this isn't enough for me. I know there is more that I can do, and I'm not ready to let me off the hook yet.

Occupy Me.

Idea #2: Need Less

Catherine posted on the facebook page this:
We, the 99%, are as much a part of the problem as the 1%. Let's not forget that the debt of the 99% are the assets of the 1%. Wanna make a difference? NEED LESS! People need to stop living outside their means. 
Need. Less.  I'm on it.

This is going to be multi-post idea because there's a lot to it, but the first thing it got me thinking about was how credit has allowed me to believe we're a lot richer than we are. And every time we buy what we can not afford by using a credit card, not only do we lie to ourselves, we send our resources over to the very structures that are the problem.

The lie is the biggest problem for me.  The lie that I am rich.  It's a problem because I'm not as rich as a lot of people I'm buying like, and it's a problem because it alienates me from the ones I should be living like.  For a person of faith, there is no avoiding the hard truth that Jesus thought that the Least and the Last were where it's at, and that the Kingdom of God was for them.  When I align myself with the Most and the First, I step away from where my hope lies and that is soul crushing.

It also allows me to start believing that somehow I am an improvement on them, whoever they are.  That maybe it's because of my own wonderfulness that I can have all these markers of Most and First, instead of just because of some odd combination of fate and happenstance.  And if it's my goodness that has landed me here, it becomes possible to believe that it is their badness that has landed them where they are.  And if it's their fault, then there really isn't much I can do to help them until they help themselves.  

But if I feel the edges of my resources, if I bump into my Not Enough more often, if I reject the cushion of cheap credit and have to say no to things because I can't afford it - if I face my own poverty, then suddenly I am them too, and if I'm them then maybe I'm a bit more willing to help them.  Because helping them is helping me.  And we can be as warm-hearted as we want to be, but most of us do good best when we're doing it for ourselves.

So our family....  our family is going to try living within our means.  We have to talk about it, but I think it will look like moving to cash.  Cards not only allow the lie, but they also take money out of the hands of the merchants I am trying to support by charging them huge fees for accepting my Lie Payment.  If I pay with cash I not only know what I can afford but I land an extra 4 - 6% in the hands of my neighbours.  One action, two good outcomes.  I like this kind of math.

I'm not sure how this will go.  We already feel the edges of our resources too keenly.  Even though globally we are the richest, in our world we feel like we're barely making it.  I'm not sure we can do it, to be honest.  And it's not like we're in a lot of debt. If you don't count our massive mortgage, that is.  But we use credit to ease cash flow and justify things that we can't afford in the moment because we may be able to afford them later.  

This one's going to sting I think.

IDEA #2 Response:
What are other ways of moving to life within our means?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Idea #1: Shop More Wisely

This was the first image that grabbed my brains and shook 'em all around.  Not just the squint-making colour scheme, but the idea that being part of the Occupy Movement might be something I could do without living in a tent next to a portapotty downtown.  And that meant that this was the first thing that gave me hope that I might in fact, become part of the change. 
One thing I've learned about trying to do something different is that I have to make it possible.  And I can guarantee you that moving all of my shopping to local, independent merchants is unlikely. I like Thrifty's too much, and Costco still feels necessary to justify paying more for that good service back at said Thrifty's. I also just figured out that Banana Republic jeans fit me and are reasonable with the 40% coupon they seem to email me every other week.

But I can start... adjusting.  I can start moving my money towards independent retailers and vendors who may just be feeding their own families but are probably also feeding a few others.  I can afford to pay a bit more (5% more? 10% more? I don't know, but more. I can afford more.) for the privilege of saying Yes to the hard work and risk those merchants are investing in my community.

Puddlegear, Buddhakind Coffee Co., Norquip... these are my people who are working hard to provide something a bit better.  They feed their own families with this work, and then they feed a few others.  

IDEA #1 Response:
Who else do we know who we can support? How much more can you afford?

The Beginning

(GeneTaylor 2011-All rights reserved. )

There is a possibility that change is coming.

It is a certainty that change is desired by many and that the many are gathering in cities across Canada and the United States as part of the Occupy (My Town) movement.

I want things to change too. 

But when I read a sign like this one, I worry I won't change anything enough to keep the poor from coming after me when they run out of food.  Because despite how poor I feel on almost any given day, there is no denying that I am the rich.

So being rich, and wanting change, I am going to keep track of all the ways we rich kids can make a change. Even though we feel poor, we can be change-makers.  Surely that is so.  Lord knows that we've changed this world for the not-so-good pretty thoroughly - imagine if we harnessed our power in a new direction?

Watch here for ideas and observations about what might be done.  And more importantly, post here or on facebook, what you are doing or have seen being done that makes you think change might be possible.

Because if the change is going to take, it has to take with me too.  And then you.

Occupy Here.
Occupy Me.