Monday, December 6, 2010

Ecomonical Gift Giving

With 17% of the adults in the U.S. either unemployed or underemployed and lots of others anxious about reduced earnings or layoffs, gift giving is a heavy stress this year. Most of us don't want to put more on our credit cards than we bring in, but that emotional tug-of-war between wanting to buy-buy-buy and knowing we shouldn't can be agonizing.

To reduce spending and vastly increase the love you give along with the gift, consider these economical offers for those who are dear to you:

*  A healthy growing plant makes a heart warming gift. Trim off 3" or 4" pieces of your vining plant(s) and set them in a small jar of water until a few good roots have developed. Then plant one or more of those rooted starts in a simple clay pot with a draining saucer underneath. For succulent plants like aloe, wait until new growth "babies" sprout up around the main plant and trasfer those to small clay pots.

* Buy a simple (inexpensive) personal phone and address book and fill in the contact information for every  family member and friend you can track down. The more such phone/address books are used, the faster they wear out and need replacing. (A job most of us put off until the book is falling apart!)

* A set of file cards with your all-time favorite recipes. Plastic "sleeves" are available to keep the cards free of food smudges. Pick out recipes - exotic, inexpensive, quick, simple - that especially fit the lifestyle of the recipient.

All of the above are far more personal than just another plastic or electronic gadget and will be enjoyed for far longer than the generic gift-of-the-week special. And, yes, they are all economical.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday & Everyday Thanks

Whether you live in the U.S. and celebrate Thanksgiving as November holiday or simply take time to notice the blessings you enjoy, including love, kindness, nature, shelter, potable water, and food enough for sustenance, I wanted to share this affirmation of life with you:

My Affirmation of Life
    *  Today my heart will be filled with love and joy.
   *  I will be grateful for the goodness in my life, and will strengthen my sense
      of trust and peace.

   *  I will welcome each day and will make a powerful effort to shift my dreads
      and negative thoughts to positive, upbeat ones.

   *  I will show kindness to all I meet and feel a warm glow inside for having
      done so.

May this week be a time of family, friends and joy for all of you ~


Monday, November 22, 2010

Lecture & Analysis vs. Sharing

Brace yourself! I'm going to ventilate.

There's a Newsweek article online entitled "Divided We Eat" by Lisa Miller. Here's the link: What Food Says About Class in America - Newsweek. Although obviously a skilled journalist, Ms. Miller missed out completely on the generosity gene.

She describes the everyday shopping and eating habits of three families in Brooklyn - her own and two others. She and one friend are devotees of one or more of the organic, free range, free trade, high-end eating preferences. And it evidently never occurs to them to eat thoroughly healthy foods in a more modest price range. Another woman lives in "subsidized housing," but is fairly well versed in shopping for nutrition.

Then she peeks in at the food stamp folks who are fat, lazy and stupid. (Did I read that correctly, Ms. Miller?) The article would lead one to believe that includes all of those who live in poverty.

It's a long article, filled with good detail and, might I say, none too subtle attitude. Some of her points are well taken, but often harken back to one's upbringing. If everybody grew up in a family where healthy (not exotic) cooking played a natural part in their everyday lives, if they were taught the basic concepts of that gentle art - and even given a cookbook for a birthday, then the nutritional playing field would be a whole lot more even. But that isn't the case.

One reader made a great point: some of us took a Home Economics class in school, and there learned to read recipes, cook and even sew a bit. Those have long since fallen by the wayside. And, truly, mom and dad might have scant energy for teaching when they finally get home from work.

But home skills like cooking and simple budgeting are essential to building a solid foundation for family life - even for a family of one. If that isn't going to happen at home, how about upbeat, fun classes held on Saturdays in community centers, YMCAs or church kitchens? Cooking can be playful! And cooking nutritious foods on a budget is a fine challenge that gives the "doer" a powerful sense of one-upmanship on the economy.

Now my editorial: I don't recall any mention in that long article about the drinkers of imported, free trade, organic coffee picked by literate, well-groomed Columbians offering to teach economical nutrition and cooking or to offer a helping hand in some other way.

It would seem that judgment is the alpha and omega of Ms. Miller's writing.

Perhaps we could all set an example for that writer by offering to help in our own ways rather than wisely shaking our heads and tut-tutting about the inadequacies of others.

What do you think?


ps ... There is also a psychological tendency of poverty parents to feel guilty for not being able to provide more for their children. So they may show their love through sweets and other treats or by handing the child a $5 bill now and then. No, those are not economically logical, but they are understandable.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ease Stress with Positive Mindset

According to Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, optimism can be learned even by those who tend to be pessimistic. What an empowering concept! The above, his seminal book on positive psychology, sets forth various ways we can begin to move towards a brighter outlook on life.

Although I’m a dedicated optimist by nature, I still have my times of dreading future events if I think they’re going to be emotionally draining. And for a quiet person, that means any combination of noise, big bunches of people and the ensuing chaos. (Yes, those would be energizing for some. But not for me!)

Initially, my grandson’s 4th birthday party looked to be one of those chaotic times. Not only could it wear me out, but I wouldn’t really have any quiet family time with my two offspring and their children.

But somehow, on my way there, my thoughts shifted to happily hugging my family and being with them. By the time I got to my daughter’s house, I was actually looking forward to the afternoon with a huge smile on my face.

That afternoon turned out to be one of the happiest, most emotionally nourishing gatherings I’ve enjoyed in months. Perhaps it would have been no matter what my mindset was going in. But I do believe that anticipating and looking for the positive, the good fun, goes a long way to helping us focus on those things and ignore the rest.

Do we experience what we expect to experience? Possibly. Probably. I do.

It seems to be a matter of reconditioning our expectations.

Try it. You may really like it!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Offering Kindness

An acquaintance just told me he was going to give a 12YO boy 2 cans of his favorite soda as a birthday gift. But the boy had been receiving really bad grades in school and had been given in-school suspension. (Whether that was for the bad grades or a different infraction, the man didn't say.)

However, because of the problems the boy was experiencing, the man was only going to give him one can, and it was an obscure off-brand instead of his favorite.

I said maybe what the boy needed most was that 2nd can as an AttaBoy, a  vote of confidence that showed the giver believed the receiver could do it - a kindly boost to the child's self-confidence. But the man said, Oh, no! This one can is my AttaBoy. He doesn't even deservce that.

Even my saying it seemed like there had been punishment enough failed to sway him.

And I wondered - how many people try to make themselves seem superior by punishing and putting down another person. No one who demeans another can be superior or even appear to be.

It seems to me that kindness freely given is usually returned many fold in one way or another.What do you think?