The Sky is Falling (part 2)

—> I posted this last year, October, and interestingly it is still relevant. The Sky is Falling (Part 1) is here. <—

Did you know around the world

some 26,500 children

die DAILY?  This is equivalent to:

  • 1 child every 3 seconds.

  • Almost 10 million children dying every year.

  • An Iraq-scale death toll every 15–36 days.

  • 18 children dying every minute.

  • A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every week

(Statistics from: http://www.globalissues.org)

It is a difficult battle to face down the fears of today.

What am I afraid of ?  For starters, I am afraid for the state of the world’s economy.  I mean, financial security (something that I thought was a given and that I have absolutely taken for granted) is all but disappearing.  Yes, I am afraid.   It feels like our country is being run into the ground.

Ironically though, really what I’m afraid for is the state of my America — my middle class, or upper middle-class life is feeling shaky.

Did you know America’s poverty rate was almost 13% of our total population last year? That was the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau says.

Last year, there were 37 million people living in poverty in the UNITED STATES.

That’s more than one in ten citizens living below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening.

I am a “have” — and yet I’m scared?  It makes me wonder what kind of fear and stress others live with daily.

Perhaps as a result of all of the reality shows on television which do nothing to project “reality” but something surreal and unbelievable.  My children are often asking “Are we rich?”  Ah, a good question and difficult to answer.  But if I compare myself, our life, to most of the world we are rich.  As my son says:  we’re definitely thousannaires. (I’m fairly sure he’s coined this phrase.)

And although I am afraid; Even as my mind runs to ‘what ifs’ it is good to remember to reflect on these facts.  Though winter is coming:

  • I have heat and a roof over my head.
  • I can feed my children three meals a day, more if I want.
  • We have two cars,
  • and clothes,
  • and clean water,
  • and health care,
  • school,
  • and our health,
  • currently, we can pay our bills.

I am blessed.

There are many places in our community where others are in need and you and I can help.  Donate clothing or money, or time or food to homeless shelter or a local food pantry.  These are just a few ideas.

Remember to be grateful and not focus on fear.  I want to give out of my abundance, because no matter how much I lost in the stock market recently, or may in the future, or how much the prices of gas and food are skyrocketing, I have much, much more than so many in our community and around the world.

Updates from an Oct 2008 post.

And a few articles to read regarding the US Economy.

1) An interesting article with a little hope about the economy, written by John Maudlin, investment specialist and author of many best selling books.

2)  On another note, I just read this interesting article about a woman, Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ,who was warning against this current financial crisis ten years ago, titled: The Woman Who Could Have Prevented This Financial Mess Was Silenced by Greenspan, Rubin and Summers.

The Sky is Falling (part 3) Shop locally, it’s more IMPT than cheap underwear!

Recently I received a notice that TARGET wanted to build a store in my neighborhood.  I often shop at Target.  So why do I resent them moving into my turf?  I had to really think about it and I realized, other than the increased traffic and tacky feeling of strip mall, I am afraid local mom and pops businesses will suffer.  My money represents power and I have the opportunity to wield it.

There was no author to credit on the website I read it on. So thanks to whomever wrote this:

Top Ten Reasons to Shop Local

10. Local stores are more likely to carry locally produced foods which supports local agriculture.

9. Local business owners give to more local fundraising and 501(c)3’s.

8. Local businesses create a majority of jobs.

7. Local businesses support other local businesses.

6. The business community becomes reflective of this community’s unique culture.

5. The sales taxes I pay support this community and county: fixing my roads, maintaining my recreational facilities, . . .

4. Competition and diversity result in fair prices and more choices.

3. Shopping local reduces my carbon footprint.

2. Local business owners invest in the community and have a vested interest in the future of this community.

1. My hometown is more important than a cheap pair of underwear!

Well said!

And this is a great website the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) which proposes a set of new rules that builds community by supporting humanly scaled politics and economics. The rules call for:

  • Decisions made by those impacted
  • Communities accepting responsibility for the welfare of their members and the next generation
  • Households and communities possessing or owning sufficient productive capacity to generate real wealth

NewRules.org discusses the importance of rules and catalogs the best.  We make the rules and the rules make us.

Things I Gave Up For the Recession (Updated)

One one of my current favorite websites, The Huffington Post, has a new section, Blogging the Meltdown.  Here’s my entry for how the recession has impacted me.  It’s updated from something I wrote a month ago.

Ten (or so) things I gave up because of the recession:

Not in order of importance.

1. Coffee shops. Though I still drink good strong (usually fair trade) coffee at home, I no longer stop for it when I am out and about.  (Sorry Starbucks.)  And I’ve vowed to use up all the tea I have at home.  Somehow I like buying tea (they come in beautiful boxes) but don’t seem to drink much of it.  That’s changed.

2. Books. My husband swears I could read for two years or longer on the books I currently own, but I have given up purchasing books.  That’s a compulsion that is hard to change but important way to save big dollars.  I will visit my local library which means I have to be much more organized and less spontaneous about my reading preferences.  (Goodbye Borders.)

3. Neighborhood grocery store.
I love the beautiful atmosphere including classical music, but I’ve given it up for the prices at Trader Joe’s and a warehouse store like Woodmans.  Again, I must be more organized.  Frankly, I don’t miss seeing wine on every corner associated with all the good food I like, since I gave up drinking in July.  (That’s saving us a bundle.)

4. Shopping for entertainment.  Okay, don’t judge.  It is something that I enjoy(ed.)  But we’re not shopping at all.  Only what’s absolutely needed and in the budget.

5.  Eating out. We just don’t do it. And we used to eat out three or four times a week, sometimes as a family of five, sometimes at lunch from work.  It was a way to stave off boredom, an antidote for laziness, and somehow a ‘reward.’  Again, planning ahead is required to eat every meal at home.  Tom just got eight cans of Progresso Soup for $10.  Now that’s a deal!

6. Cambodia. I had planned a trip there to take a photography course, but this is postponed indefinitely.

7. Our Dishwasher. It broke, burning out in a blaze of glory after probably 30+ years and it won’t be replaced for a while.  Things we don’t need, won’t be repaired or replaced.  We wash our dishes by hand which has caused me to use more hand lotion.  But funnily enough, I have quite a bit.

8. Furniture in our Living Room. Our cat George has issues (related to peeing) and we’ve lost furniture, rugs, pillows, etc. all because of it, I mean him.  They won’t be replaced for a very long time.  He may get the boot!  Though that is under debate.

9. Gourmet cheeses (and things like it.) Yummmmm.  The older the better.  Stick to grocery store brand Sharp Cheddar.  Oddly difficult for me.

10. We’ll be canceling all of our magazine subscriptions (except PASTE magazine, which is awesome! And you get a CD of cool new music each month.  (By the way, no more CD purchases!)

On the short list for what’s next: Piano tuning won’t happen this this winter or vacations & travel of any kind.  We’re considering cutting Cable, although we’ve had an ongoing family debate over this.  The Persian rug in our den will not be cleaned.

We’re still investing in retirement, the kids are still in soccer and music lessons, we eat well, we are in no manner suffering. The biggest sacrifice has been what we perceived as financial “freedom.”

It is interesting how our priorities change as we deal with the fact that we must bring down our debt and increase our savings.  The recession was basically a wake up call for my husband and I who have been living as if we can buy and do whatever we want whenever we desire.  If we can’t afford it this month but we really want to do it, we put it on credit.

We now live on a budget and track each category (almost) daily.  What we thought was freedom was bondage, and now, we are free. It will take us four years on this restricted budget to be completely out of debt.  It is ironic, but by the time Mr. Obama is running again, we will be in a place to afford vacations, send our kids to college, and have a little more real freedom.

The recession is a blessing disguised as a burden.

For us, that is.  For many people it is much more dire.  Just spend a few minutes on the Huffington Meltdown site reading the stories of the homeless, uninsured, jobless, … yes, in my America.  Your America.

It makes my little list of “sacrifices” seem so silly.

Madness! My Brain on Recession

It is also what my brain feels like today.  I’m starting to really have a pit in my stomach about the state of the economy, every day I am aware of the cost of the most basic things.  I just feel down by it all, dragged down.  It is all madness!

(These are trees really played around with in a program called Picnik. )

The Sky is Falling!! (part 1)

This is the best summary I have seen on the state of the current financial crisis, which I read online in Scientific Monthly.  Succinct with ways to fix things.

But before reading that article, consider this poem by Kipling. I loved it when I first read it.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And which is more; you’ll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling
1865-1936, written in 1895