Learning (slowly) to shop, give, & live with more dignity. Also: Blankets.
If you've been around Shop Good for any amount of time, you've seen some book lists. You've probably also seen a few books appear over, and over, and over. 😂
Here is my summer reading post from 2016, and I still stand by it!
I would love to add more to the mix now in 2018, but I have a few problems on the recommendation front:
So, what is left?
I find that I consume a lot: of beauty, information, news, other people's babies & cats, etc. I want to consume less, and create more, so I'm trying out an experiment.
When I have a compulsion to "check" something — Facebook, Instagram feed, Pinterest's beautiful ideas, business metrics etc. — instead I will try to create something.
I know that not everyone is a "creative" (as a noun 😒), but we are all wired to some extent to create (the verb). I'm sure that there is research about the flexing of our brain muscles when we create, rather than consume — I don't know any of the details! But besides the brain benefit, I feel like I want more to show for my time spent.
"I read the Internet so much I feel like I’m like on page a million of the worst book ever." - Aziz Ansari
Right?! I don't finish bad books anymore, but I think I'd still rather read a bad book than a bad book's worth of internet... and yet, I have done it. Many times over. Without even so much as a "books I've read this year" list to show for it.
Most cultural changes happen gradually — it's the frog being slowly boiled in water effect, not the one dropped into the hot pot who immediately identifies the change & hops out. Logically, I know that our interaction with things & belongings has changed a lot in the postwar years; of course it has.
When I read Little House on the Prairie with my daughter, Laura Ingalls’ most prized possession is her corn cob doll. This is obviously very different than my daughter's life now, with an abundance of beautifully made toys (none of which are made from our backyard crops). But, so much about life then was drastically different that it doesn't even really impact how we think about life now. It didn't much chasten her... the life she lives now bears little resemblance to Laura's.
But, a few things lately have really drawn my attention to how much has drastically changed within my short lifetime.
You may not be a guest at the royal wedding this weekend (in spite of the fascinator you have all ready to go!)... But, we all have those friends.
You know, those friends who are getting married and what on EARTH could they possibly need or want as a wedding gift? The registry (if there is one) is dull, or they've asked for cash (a move that seems to get less tacky in the age of dead etiquette and sky-high housing prices). Officially, Harry and Meghan asked for charitable donations in lieu of wedding gifts, so yes, if that is the case with your own newlyweds, then by all means, donate to the charity of their choice (or Friends of Basha)!
However, I, for one, often still feel compelled to give something tangible as a present to a new couple. For me, it's a way to share the wealth, to be generous, to give as we have been given to. Also, a way to express my care for them in a way that is memorable and appreciated.
Photo: Bethany Douglass
"The wand chooses the wizard... it's not always clear why."
My husband just finished re-reading the Harry Potter series and marveled again at how intricately the story is weaved from the first through the seventh book. From early on in dignify's life, we have referred often to this line ↑ from The Philosopher's Stone (Rowling's first book in the series).
You see, each time we receive a shipment of new kantha quilts, there are always a few that I pull out and think, Yikes! Nobody is ever going to buy that. Then, I launch a collection of throws and undoubtedly, one of the blankets I deemed "unsellable" is among the first to go!
I wrote before about the visible change I witnessed in my kids’ want-iness when we had a particularly spendy summer. Now, years later, I have seen a similar difference play out on a larger scale …
We have 3 kids, and when the two girls were little, we were living the student life; as I’ve mentioned, our budget was pretty much “don’t spend money”. We were still rich by global terms — warms beds, full fridge, and all of that. But, extraneous expenses were rare: clothes that weren’t gifted or thrifted, eating out, takeout coffee… none of that.
Now, the better part of a decade later, our impressionable son is coming of age in a slightly different family culture. He’s not living in the lap of luxury, by any means; but, he comes with us to coffee shops on a Saturday afternoon, he sees us replace dishes and appliances that have long run their course, he eats pizza in a restaurant (never mind that the pizza is $5 because we’re there at 4pm — the best deal going — that part evades his observations).
He sees the money (or at least the credit card) in & out of our wallets, and it’s all so… normal.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about our Bangladesh team & the extraordinary work they are doing. It's impressive and exceptional, and most of us think: that is waaay beyond me.
But, maybe our scope is just a bit too myopic!
It has been said (by a few, though often attributed to Bill Gates) that we overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in a decade. I would go even further to say that we probably WAY underestimate the impact we can have in 50 years, over a lifetime.
The reality is that in most cases, something extraordinary has come as a result of a whole lot of ordinary.
During our oppressive January of illness, one item became a staple around our house: OJ. We’ve never really had juice around our home, except as a splurge for a brunch or vacation or special event. (I know I’m talking about orange juice here, not caviar… I affirm that it is a totally normal grocery item to have all the time for many of us!) But with sick kids & wary parents, somehow it becomes in our home the elixir that we cling to in order to boost immunity and keep something down in low-appetite bodies.
I’ve enjoyed having OJ in the fridge, and it had me thinking, maybe I should start buying it all the time. This, friends, is (a micro example of) lifestyle creep.
"Social enterprise" is the category name for a business that is run for profit (not a charity), but that also has other goals in addition to profit as the bottom line.
I consider dignify a social enterprise: we are motivated by sustainable finances (profit), but also by good. Good for us, good for the artisans making our blankets, good for everyone from stitch to doorstep, good for the earth.
Basha, our producing partner, is also a social enterprise, but with a heavy lean on the social side. There is simply so much need! When you choose to employ people who are traditionally difficult to employ, there are risks and challenges, and most of all: tensions.
In a standard business, if an employee doesn't show up to work multiple times, they get fired, right?
What if she doesn't show up because her husband beat her (again) last night, and she's nursing her wounds? What if she is cradled in a corner, unable to get going for the day — a direct result of the trauma of her previous year, 5 years, lifetime?
Decisions, as the boss, become a bit more tricky, a bit more nuanced.
(listed chronologically by when I read them)
Inexpensive gift exchanges are very common in workplaces and among other groups of people who may not know each other well, like a committee or among neighbors. Sometimes, guests pick a name in advance and are meant to bring a $10 or $20 gift for that person.
In other cases, the gift exchange isn’t actually for a person in particular, but for a general pool where maybe it is traded (opened or unopened) among the partygoers.
In either situation, the result is often a glut of gifts & items that will, in January, be relegated to the back of the closet or the Goodwill pile.
The challenges are many:
I have a pet peeve about the pre-planned gifts that line the aisles of drugstores and Targe-type stores… So. Much. Junk. Some of the worst offenders, imo, are: random lotion sets; bad chocolates; mug sets…
I think that, addressing #2 above, many of these gifts are attempting to go for something more physically substantial. Maybe it feels better to come with an entire basket of a gift rather than something small? The “value” of these prepared gifts (and I use the term value very loosely) seems to be in the quantity, at the expense of quality — like, there’s nothing great about this thing… so let’s just add more of it and make it into a big gift!
With a bit of planning and a bit of thinking, we can have the best gifts out there, without adding to the landfill or going over the budget.
We’re heading into a season of major family dynamics, with holidays and time together and everything else that involves.
People are so complex, and the relationships that we are born into (or perhaps, join in marriage) make for some of the most fascinating fodder for fiction and memoir alike.
I am always very reluctant to recommend anything I have never read, but the truth is, I’m not particularly well-read, and I often recommend the same favourites! #sorrynotsorry! (Though, there is not a single mention below of my oft-mentioned books Dinner: A Love Story, or The Glass Castle. I'm mentioning them here instead 😂)
You may pick up one of these books to feel better that your family isn’t so bad after all; or, to experience communion with others whose families are just as crazy; or, to wish that you were one of the Marches, just for a while. Or, perhaps you just need an excuse to retreat into your own room with a good book ;)