Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day, with this year's focus on poverty.  Check out 88 Ways To Do Something About Poverty Right Now on the Blog Action Day site.

And note the recurrence, throughout the list, of the one most important thing...Don't Be Lazy!

We tend to be complacent here in the United States, because many of us have more we need.  The very fact that you can read this web site at all is a clear indicator that you have more than most people on the planet.  You have access to a computer, and presumably, electricity, and a roof of some structure covering you.  Kind of a big deal, when placed in proper perspective.  Large population groups on this planet don't have that.

The thought of having all that we need, and having it without having to buy stuff has come up in several amazing ways this week.  For example, while I've always been a bit of a freak about frugality, having my soon-to-be ex husband tell me, over the phone, that I was "right" about not needing so much stuff in our lives was not necessarily gratifying to hear, but gave me some hope that when the going gets tough, even the avid shoppers can get by with less.

( might get tough here in the U.S.  Some would say it's tough already.  Don't be scared.  You can handle it.)

Later in the week, while watching a PBS program about life on a Minnesota farm in the early part of the 20th century, my friend and I reflected upon those "olden days"--how they survived with "nothing", and how it was incredibly difficult sometimes, but they did it anyway.  They heated their homes with corn cobs and cow pies, had to preserve most of their food because there were no freezers, and had to deal with incredible weather conditions, but when they interviewed the people who lived through it, what they remembered was not burning cow pies, but the good food, visiting friends and neighbors, and family gathering around the piano.  Nobody complained.

Lastly, at a get-together, Barb and I discovered that when we were kids, we both had to "make the milk"....what a strange childhood recollection to have in common!  My father drove a truck, and there wasn't much money, but there were six of us kids.  My mom would buy a half-gallon of whole milk, and mix it with a half-gallon of powdered milk. 

Barb's dad sold insurance, and when it came to milk, her mom went "full powder". 

Somehow, we both managed to survive this indignity and become productive members of society...(sarcasm intended)

It seems fitting, thinking about the economy in the US, and the poverty situation worldwide, that we should come together today and discuss this issue.  Some will take the information they receive today and use it to shrink their personal economic and ecological footprint.  Others will use it to help those in desperate need.  Either of those things will help, so go for it.

My best recommendation to you regarding poverty is simply to use less.  There are only a billion ways to do that, so to keep you from losing your mind and being overwhelmed with choices, I'll just give you my NUMBER ONE thing, the most important thing in my life, that I do in order to be happy and save money....ready?  Here it is...

Get a useful hobby. 

Seriously--that's it.  Get a useful hobby.

My hobbies tend to be utilitarian, and all involve making stuff, like painting, knitting, gardening, etc. 

I can buy a packet of tomato seeds, for example, and have a kajillion tomatoes for less than the price of one little bunch of tomatoes at the grocery store.  More importantly, however, it brings me great joy and a sense of accomplishment to do this.  I'm contributing something, even in my relaxation.  And usually, there are more than I can use, so I give a lot away.

I can also take a pretty cool photograph, blow it up and frame it for less than I could buy a similar item, and it will ultimately mean more to me and my family than something I just bought. 

Knitting, of course, always creates something of use. 

Very often, I look at a clever idea and think, "That is so cool!  I would like to have that!"  Even more often, however, I think, "That is so cool!  I should MAKE that!"

So, that's my something you love, that produces a usable result or item.  Use just what you need, and give the rest away.

About a million years ago, I wrote about all of this stuff, and you can read all about it here, but if you don't mind, I'll just pull some of the good bits for you:

I'm stuck hard in the notion that buying something that you could easily (or even not so easily) make yourself is practically sinful and definitely wasteful.  I'm tired of looking like the weirdo because I'm not a big "shopper".

Doesn't everybody know how to make their own soap? Can't ANYONE grow tomato plants and everything else under the sun from seeds you stashed safely away last fall (or bought from a catalog)? Or spend the winter enjoying all of the food that you put up from the garden? Isn't knitting a normal thing that people do just for the hell of it because they CAN? Don't "normal" people wear clothes that somebody MADE for them by hand and then just gave it to them to wear? Are we not supposed to cover ourselves with all of those quilts and afghans?

But, most importantly, aren't all of these things useful? Or do they only become useful when there is a crisis?

So, why the hell do I do this, even though nobody around me really appears to care one way or the other? (Gedney pickles sure are WAY better than mine, I can tell you that...) I don't know. I guess it is the feeling of knowing that no little kid in a far-off country had to have a shitty day because I wanted, no, NEEDED to have something that they could produce for pennies and I am too lazy to make myself, or hunt for something that is already made but just harder to find. That would be a good start.

And I suppose that we could spend some time in deep thought about our environmental footprint--you know what I am talking about!

But really, I think that I am into it for a lot of reasons:

) The giving. Making a gift of something that you made yourself is awesome, and usually very appreciated. ( Every year at Christmas, two or three ladies from my office give everybody a jar of jam that they made. It is my favorite gift, every year, and so clever! They are able to have enough of a thing on hand to give a nice gift to LOTS of people, and it costs them practically nothing...) You feel so much abundance when you can make a thing that is really special and then you give it away.

) Politically, well, the politics of being a massive consumer SUCK. Please make the effort to watch "When Walmart Comes To Town" or order a tape of it from PBS--go here for the broadcast schedule in your part of the world--you will never want to buy a thing that you don't ab-so-freaking-lute-ly NEED ever again, especially anything made in China.

) To be my own person and not blindly follow trends like some f*cking drone, and to be a good example for my children. This is probably the biggest one of all.

) To be able to have a good laugh at all the people who ARE f*cking drones...

) And, finally, though I have not really made much use of this one, to join a community of others like me, who think that all of these same things are important--to gather ideas, enjoy creativity at it's finest, and reap the benefits of just being around all of this--where people are creating and producing and giving and giving and is a beautiful thing.

Thanks, all, for your contributions to Blog Action Day!

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