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?