Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

Whats Normal?

I love holidays. I love celebrating, I love people, I love food, I love my family, I love gifts, I love the seasons and I love fun.

I (regrettably) participate in but do not love: materialism, consumerism, gluttony, commercialism and the cheap thrill that comes from indulging in such fleeting pleasures.

Must these lists mirror one another? Must traditional celebration of holidays be so morally disconcerting?

Not only do I ponder my own ethical qualms at this time of year, lest I get caught up in the frenzy, but I must consider what I am teaching my sweet child about holidays, family and celebration.

I hope to always give generously and thoughtfully of myself, and to receive graciously and with thanks. I hope to not cave in to the societal pressure to buy and to have and to gorge not only on Christmas cake, but also with stuff because it “is the Season”… I hope to create with Zach fun holiday traditions for Judah and each other, and to cultivate a sense of peace and hope and whimsy at this exciting time of year. I hope that Judah will embrace her own sense of family and individuals, not for gifts they may bring, but for the privilege and good fortune we have in holding them close to us. I hope that entitlement and self centered-ness will not play a part in the way we celebrate, but rather our focus may be on thoughtfulness and giving to those who need things more than we do.

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clearly outgrowing the Learning Drawer

Well, the Learning Tower is out. I wrote previously about how we were considering purchasing the very spendy but desirable Learning Tower for kids. I struggled with the cost, and also the fact that we could not seem to find a used version of the LT for sale, but it is such a useful contraption…and I really thought it would be a worthwhile purchase. While still researching around the internet to hopefully find some retailer willing to provide free shipping to Alaska, Judah fell off of her Learning Chair (also known as a standard kitchen chair) onto the floor. It was an impressive fall; she landed flat on her back, still clutching the wooden spoon she had been using to stir up some delicious concoction.  This furthered my determination that a Learning Tower was needed in our house.

Then Zach Brown pointed out to me that the said Learning Tower is made in China. This device costs $180.00. Do you think that is how much it costs to mass produce said item in China? Do you think alot of Chinese people are getting a superior wage for working in the Learning Tower factory so that alot of American yuppies can have fancy step stools for their babies? Well, one might hope…but that is likely not the case.

Given this recent development, we have decided to take the advice of Brenda and commission a local Homer carpenter to craft something in the fashion of the Learning Tower, pay him a fair wage, and sleep well at night knowing that we avoided contributing to this unfair system that endeavors only to exploit.

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Made in China

Why do we, as Americans, buy so much stuff that is made in China? For sure, many things end up less expensive for us because they are made in a place where people make less wages than they potentially should…or what is potentially fair, but you know, still cheaper for us on this end. Is that our number one priority though? I mean, I buy things that are made in China. It is sometimes hard to avoid. It IS avoidable, but sometimes requires a bit of effort and foresight. My priority however, is to help maintain a strong economy in my town…or if not in my town, then in my region…my state…and at very least, my country. Even if it costs more. In the long run, it benefits me, and those around me.

Especially in this era where so many things made in China are recalled for toxicity…lead…poison…particularly in items marketed to children. Regardless, much of what is available to buy for children is made in China. Why are we not more discerning? More selective? Perhaps we should do without if we can’t afford to buy quality and possibly locally crafted items.

It seems as though our number one priority is not quality however, but quantity. QUANTITY at any cost…not a cash value cost, but health hazard cost, ethical cost, etc.

Thats upsetting.

It’s unfortunate that more people do not consider the effect that their own consuming has on others. Those in their own communities and those working for unfair wages in China.

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I have been thinking long and hard about The Learning Tower. I am positive that Judah would love it and I think it would make some activities more accessible to her while also keeping her somewhat contained…without causing her to feel too constrained. For instance, Zach has devised a makeshift Learning Drawer for Judah, while they make bread together. It involves pulling out the middle drawer under the counter and allowing the baby to stand in it and make large messes in bread flour; on the safety scale, it ranks at about number zero. Furthermore, what is the weight limit on the Learning Drawer? I am guessing that we are nearing the maximum load intended for our drawer, which previously had only been used for holding kitchen towels.

Some of the factors that make the Learning Tower so much more ideal than the Learning Drawer, or more ideal even than a standard kitchen chair pushed up to the counter, are the safety aspects. The LT is very sturdy and is designed to not tip over. It also has a rail of sorts around it, to keep small children from falling off. It is multipurpose as well! It can be used imaginatively as a fort, jungle gym, puppet theatre…oh the possibilities are endless.

It has crossed my mind that since I so highly value this clever contraption, I should perhaps set about making my own. I’m sure it’s possible, but I have neither tools nor know-how and I am confident that any creation of mine intended to resemble the LT, would be a rickety death trap. It would not have the sleek, aesthetic quality of the LT, either. I have also vigilantly watched craigslist for any word of an LT waiting to be passed on, but alas. Clearly, people love their LT’s too much to sell them.

The brand new LT costs like, hundreds of dollars. What kind of a scam is that?

Herein lies my conundrum.

I think this would be a valued addition to Judah’s belongings. I try to give it serious thought before I cave in and buy whatever fancy thing has been marketed in my direction, and I feel like I buy quite selectively. Judah does not own a mountain of Useless Items that might be considered by many to be necessities. When I do decide to give in and shell out the cash for the baby accessories, I make valiant attempts to purchase second hand or make my own items, or find some real person that makes said item, ideally in my own town. It’s not looking so promising for any of those to be available options for acquiring the LT however, and I am facing this dilemma.

Thus, I have created a poll and I am very anxious to have some objective and varied feedback! Please vote, and feel free to leave comments elaborating on any thoughts regarding The Learning Tower.

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The past few weeks in Homer have been marked by the joyful visits of dear friends and family. Being the dear, generous friends and family that they are, they all arrive bearing gifts for Judah, who is a gracious recipient img_5620and is always impressed with New Things and their Wrappings.

I wonder though, especially as her first birthday approaches, at what point do we have enough?

I very much enjoy perusing websites and stores that market tasteful items for babies. I’m a sucker and when something looks appealing, I generally want to have it. It’s pretty fun to buy things. It is also a nice feeling to buy things for other people…and thats partly what I’m a little bit afraid of. Being a consumer is so much fun. Shopping can be fun, purchasing, giving, receiving, it’s all such a good time! Moderation, as in so many other aspects of life, is the key here. I have this mindset that consumerism is something to turn away from, but I so often indulge in materialism, and by default am cultivating that in my hopefully thus far untainted baby.

While I intend to strive for a lifestyle of simplicity, I don’t want to have to completely abandon ideals and ethics for situations such as birthdays, Christmas or other events where gift giving is customary. The sense of entitlement is so easy to come by, and hard to avoid I think, in the world we live in. Knowing that one is loved and celebrated is of extremely high value. Having the expectation that others express their love and interest by sending “stuff” is self absorbed and flawed.

I also often wonder what the implications are of my own consumerist life. When I indulge in excess materialism, is it enhancing my life? Notably, it is not. How many other lives might it affect? When I buy a cute dress at the Farmer’s Market, from the lady with the pretty little girl, I know exactly who I am sustaining, and in this small town, I also have a good idea what type of lifestyle they might lead, whether or not our worldviews might coincide and if I really want to give her my financial support. I do really want to support her and her pretty baby and her fine sewing skills. When I find cute handmade toys on etsy.com, I am compelled to buy them, not only for their natural aesthetic appeal, but for the fact that I love how someone is making each item individually, themselves, and therefore it is unique and of a much higher value than most mass produced “stuff” – and it is sustaining their own ability to market their specialized skills. I often pay a greater price for these things of distinctive value, and feel that generally, you get what you pay for. If something comes at very little cost – perhaps it is because it is of very little value. I would rather invest in quality over quantity.

I am hoping to encourage these values of mine in Judah as she matures. I really question how the current traditions of gift giving fit into this scheme. I am afraid that it is a mixed message. As she gets older, I think it will be important for her to hold the reality of her priviledged surroundings and understanding that means closely knowing those who are less priviledged. For instance, the responsibility of those who have more, is to share with those who have less. When Judah is gifted with much, will she be obliged to give much to others? In my mind, it seems like a fair practice to share the best of what we have, as opposed to casting off our leftovers once we are finished with them.

These are just a few of the things I consider when I think of what an immensely sweet and perfect baby we have…and I don’t want her to spoil. It is our responsibility to inspire goodness in someone so small, but who will be enormously affected by all of the negative influences in the world.

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