Thursday, September 29, 2011

on money and happiness

Monasteries of Bhutan, photo from Bhutan Travel Inc

I was walking home with B, and she asked me, "Who came up with money anyway? It's like people can't be happy without money. Why can't everyone just do things for each other for free?"

I said I'd often thought the same thing. How correlated are wealth and happiness really? I remember being quite struck by the way things worked in the Land of Oz: "There were no poor people in the land of Oz, because there was no such thing as money, and all property of every sort belonged to the Ruler. Each person was given freely by his neighbors whatever he required for his use, which is as much as anyone may reasonably desire.

"Every one worked half the time and played half the time, and the people enjoyed the work as much as they did the play, because it is good to be occupied and to have something to do. There were no cruel overseers set to watch them, and no one to rebuke them or to find fault with them. So each one was proud to do all he could for his friends and neighbors, and was glad when they would accept the things he produced" (The Emerald City of Oz, by L. Frank Baum).

I read an interesting Project Syndicate article a couple of days back. It was titled, Can We Increase Gross National Happiness? In my newspaper, it was also subtitled, Bhutan is showing the way and the hope is that the goal becomes global happiness.

The eloquent, insightful article is by Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. Its focus is The Kingdom of Bhutan, which is located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, and bordered by China and India.

Mr Singer begins: "The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is known internationally for two things: high visa fees, which reduce the influx of tourists, and its policy of promoting "gross national happiness" instead of economic growth. The two are related: more tourists might boost the economy, but they would damage Bhutan’s environment and culture, and so reduce happiness in the long run".

He goes on to describe attending a conference organised by Prime Minister Jigme Y in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, on "Economic Development and Happiness": "Never before have I been at a conference that was taken so seriously by a national government".

Further on, he writes, "Bhutan has a Gross National Happiness Commission, chaired by the prime minister, which screens all new policy proposals put forward by government ministries. If a policy is found to be contrary to the goal of promoting gross national happiness, it is sent back to the ministry for reconsideration. Without the Commission’s approval, it cannot go ahead.

"One controversial law that did go ahead recently – and that indicates how willing the government is to take tough measures that it believes will maximize overall happiness – is a ban on the sale of tobacco. Bhutanese may bring into the country small quantities of cigarettes or tobacco from India for their own consumption, but not for resale – and they must carry the import-tax receipt with them any time they smoke in public".

This alone makes me go, Wow.

"Last July, the UN General Assembly passed, without dissent, a Bhutanese-initiated resolution recognizing the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal and noting that this goal is not reflected in GDP. The resolution invited member states to develop additional measures that better capture the goal of happiness. The General Assembly also welcomed an offer from Bhutan to convene a panel discussion on the theme of happiness and well-being during its 66th session, which opens this month.

"These discussions are part of a growing international movement to re-orient government policies towards well-being and happiness. We should wish the effort well, and hope that ultimately the goal becomes global, rather than merely national, happiness".

I remember reading an article on Bhutan in National Geographic Traveler by contributing editor Boyd Matson. "Although most of us give lip service to the cliché, "Money can't buy you happiness," in our hearts we believe a big pile of cash can make a sizable down payment and at a minimum put smiles on our faces," Mr Matson wrote. "To us, if a country's economic development isn't measured in dollars, it doesn't make sense. So the story of Bhutan and the King's commitment to Gross National Happiness (GNH) sounds like a fairy tale".

One Bhutanese told him, "In our most beautiful places, we build temples and monasteries, and everybody goes there. In your most beautiful places, you build five-star resorts, and only the very rich go there".

Hm. Penny for your thoughts?

Read Mr Singer's article here. Read Mr Matson's article here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

go to the ant

So ok. Sometimes one of the kids will leave something they ate or drank on my worktable. And the next thing I know, there are ants. Teeny black types. I don't think they're what people like to call sugar ants, because I'm told sugar ants are actually fairly big, with tan, orange-ish bodies. But maybe these are sugar ant children or something.

Anyway, they're on my worktable. Not many, or at least, not noticeably so. But it's fine, because seriously, I'm very, very fond of animals, and that does extend to most insects as well. I absolutely hate killing them (well, except maybe mosquitoes). So when I know that some ants have arrived from wherever it is they were waiting, I don't get all upset.

But I have to say, it really does bug the heck out of me when I'm just sitting here typing, minding my own business, and one of them imperceptibly climbs on to me and -- BITES me. I mean, it's like, hey! what the --?!

It's so unexpectedly startling -- I mean, I don't expect to be that startled, but I invariably am -- and I end up squashing them to absolute smithereens before I even fully register what I'm doing. And then I feel so bad. Because they're like completely, absolutely, thoroughly squashed -- they become tiny unrecognisable dots.

And so -- in that spirit of using the Internet "just to see if anyone else in the world had the same thoughts about something that I did" -- I typed "why do ants bite" in the Google box. I wanted to know if they were doing it in self-defence, in defence of their colony, in an effort to see if I was edible, or something else altogether.

Needless to say, there were other people in the world who wondered the exact same thing; usually they were the ones who got bitten while minding their own business (interestingly, the word ant apparently derives from the West Germanic amaitjo, meaning "the biter"). Strangely though, I could not find a proper answer, at least not within the first 5 minutes of scanning. There were more explanations of how they bite, rather than why.

So as far as why goes, I only found a few answers. Perhaps the most reasonable one was that they're trying to protect themselves, or their colony. Someone did suggest that ants bite because they are in fact trying to eat you. I don't know, maybe. This article is especially detailed, and accompanied by some fantastic photos (in the process, I came across this unnecessary bit -- a portrait made of 200,000 dead ants).

But I've made a few of my own personal, albeit unscientific, observations about the ants here. They're industrious, they work hard. They're committed, they stay on track despite getting squished. They're determined; if one route fails, they try, try, and try again. They're cooperative, working harmoniously together for the greater good. And they're conscientious, faithfully carrying out their assigned roles. One might even say they're bold and valiant; bravely, perhaps even sacrificially, taking on giants greater than themselves.

So while I may not know exactly why ants sometimes bite, I have in the process developed an even greater respect for them. Like many other animals, they're living examples of some very valuable life principles. They don't waste the day, for example, they're diligent, they're tough, they don't sit around moping in discouragement or self-pity (not the ones I've seen anyway). Says Proverbs 6:6-8:

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise!
Which, having no chief, overseer, or ruler,
Provides her food in the summer and gathers her supplies in the harvest.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

on courage and creativity


So the past couple of days have been a little busy. First, Ro's cold had made her adenoids swell, which translates to trapped mucus and an awful phlegmy cough. What are adenoids you ask? They're spongy tissues at the back of the nasal cavity which help keep the body healthy by trapping nasty things that are breathed in or swallowed. How did we find out? She went for a nasopharyngoscopy. Yup.

I have to say, I was a little anxious, because, after all, she is only three. But she just proved: "God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power", whatever our age. She did not say one word throughout the whole thing, she did not flinch, she never complained. And at the end of it, she demanded some stickers and sweets, like any spirited, confident child should.

Then, I had some custom orders to get done. Painted dolls which are quite time-consuming. But my most demanding customer of all was Becky, who, as you know, is now a grown... girl (well hey, she recently turned 7 you know!). She has embarked on a new project -- an actual blog of her own.

Well obviously, I had to help her with the technical stuff and teach her some blogging basics (yeah! me! Miss Techno Expert!) (can someone please tell me why her followers aren't showing up on her blog page?). But I didn't really mind; I felt it would be good writing practice for her, and also provide another platform for her creative endeavours.

Well, on the one basic level, I have to say I am pretty pleased with her spelling. But on another, deeper level, I am glad to see how enthusiastic, how full of ideas, she is, how earnestly she considers her words, how diligently she writes (and works on her keyboarding skills).

I leave the whole thing pretty much to her, I don't interfere or pass any judgments. I read a good article on this topic, at A Place of Our Own. In answering a question on encouraging children's creative expression, early childhood educator Susan Baxter says, "Creativity is a person’s expression of their inner-self...

"Play encourages creativity whenever it is child directed. It is that simple. Provide a safe space and open-ended materials, and affirmation where needed and the child does the rest. We actually do not need to encourage creativity in children – it is spontaneous and natural. Most often, children need to encourage the parent to let them design their own play and step back.

"Children are creative by nature. We all are. It’s sometimes, we, as adults, who do not feel very creative. I often wonder who told us that we were not and why we believed them. Adults have a great deal of power in the development of a child’s nature. We need to be very mindful of how we direct and interact with children...

"I have been using the term “open-ended” which helps explain the types of materials that are best suited to creativity. The best materials are ones where the child brings definition to them. The items that the children love the most are the ones that cost the least...

"Children’s freedom to make their own choices is creativity. Choice means you are making a decision about something that is personal to you. What it really communicates to children is that we trust that they can make decisions for themselves and that we value their participation in our daily lives...

"Don’t correct children if they express themselves in an unconventional manner. I know that when it happens to me at my age I do not like it and it is no different with children. If we correct children, we communicate that we do not value their individual differences. It also undermines the child’s confidence.

"Creativity requires a certain amount of risk and confidence because you are putting a part of your inner-self “out there.” The best way to shut creativity down is to “correct it.” If the unconventional expression is not hurting anyone and no one is in danger, then I do not see it as wrong or something that should be corrected. Mistakes, as they say, are really just learning opportunities, which are born out of creativity. Mistakes are teachable or learning moments" (read the whole article here).

Honestly, I think it's pretty much a crime to squash a child's creativity. So I encourage and support my kids' creative endeavours however, wherever I can. I remember how, when I was little, my one aunt would be quite indifferent, disparaging almost, about things I'd drawn, or stories I'd written. I might have worked so hard on the thing, and she'd give it about two seconds of her time. It was really quite deflating. The message was distinctly, "Yeah, that's nice, but it's not really useful is it?" (plus sub-message, "Why don't you be more like so-and-so whose future is set because she's so staid, conventional and good at math?").

PBS has a good article on this topic too: "There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling for children than to be able to express themselves openly and without judgment. The ability to be creative, to create something from personal feelings and experiences, can reflect and nurture children's emotional health...

"Creative experiences can help children express and cope with their feelings. A child's creative activity can help teachers to learn more about what the child may be thinking or feeling. Creativity also fosters mental growth in children by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving" (read the whole article here).

In the meantime, Beck is looking for followers ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Forest Adventure

During the recent school holidays, Beck had the great good fortune to have a go at Forest Adventure Mobile. This is the mobile version of Forest Adventure's kid course, and features nine stages of their treetop course (outdoors, Forest Adventure is an aerial course built up in the trees!). The whole thing is very cool; despite its massive structure, it manages to fit in nicely in confined places like schools, or mall lobbies, which was where we saw it for the first time.

Becks was super keen on trying it -- she loves sports and games -- so I let her. Well, I was actually a tiny bit worried that she'd balk at the harder stages -- like the swinging logs, which seemed to petrify some kids and even made a couple of them cry -- but she was confident, and I was determined not to undermine that.

And she did great! No hesitation, nothing. I'm pretty sure I would have frozen up on the logs. As it turned out, she did the course three times. The first time, the lady instructor said, "She's so confident, she's a little monkey!" I was really glad of her self-assurance, her enthusiasm, and her spunk
. How important those things are in life! It's tragic when children have it all squashed out of them by hypercritical, discouraging, neglectful adults.

So I'm really glad we discovered it. Becky's been hankering to go to the huge outdoor course by the reservoir, which features 16 stages (the adult course features 32). I think it's an excellent way for kids (and grown-ups) to have fun -- it's in the great outdoors, it's physically challenging, it encourages pluck and poise, and it builds self-confidence. Plus, it's great for bonding. Isn't that so much better than leaving the kids indoors all day, with one of those handheld Playstation things as their only companion?

Find out more about Forest Adventure here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

on being a good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan, by Vincent Van Gogh

I was on the train today, and standing across from me was this lady whose skin was a darkish red from what appeared to be some sort of horribly severe dermatitis. She was apparently afflicted from head to toe; any visible skin looked raw and rough, and was covered with pebble-like lumps of various sizes, some almost as large as a marshmallow. Some of these lumps were also in awkward areas, like in the crook of the elbow, and on the edge of the eyelid.

My heart felt so heavy for her, she looked so tired and sad. I wondered how she made a living, what kind of home she had, if she had any family, if anyone looked after her or cared about her. It was obvious she wasn't very well-off; her clothes and accessories were of the meanest sort, nor could I say how old she was, she could have been in her 40s, 50s or 60s.

However, it did not take much to guess that she did not have a happy or easy life, and I kept wracking my brains on how I could be a blessing to her. I thought I couldn't very well just hand her some money, or ask her if she would come have dinner with me; the thing is, she wasn't right next to me -- she was about three and a half feet away -- so going over to her would have been a deliberate, conspicuous action. I thought she might well feel insulted, or think I was some creepy person out to take advantage of her.

Finally the only thing I could think to do for her was to pray. So there and then, I closed my eyes and started praying for her. I prayed that God would comfort her and strengthen her, and bring people into her life who would be of practical assistance to her in her everyday life. Then I asked God, if it be His will, to open the way for my being of some practical help to her.

I felt then that I should not try pressing money or myself on her, but instead to smile. If she smiled back, I could then start a conversation and get her to be more at ease with me. So I smiled.

And she just glared back at me.

In fact, she looked so suspicious that I immediately turned to look out the window in an effort to assure her I was not trying to be funny in any way. A little while later I turned back and tried smiling at her again.

Well, she was not going to smile at me.

A few minutes later, she got off, and I saw her standing on the platform, looking about her as if she were lost. Then she started shuffling off, in what seemed to be the wrong direction. The train moved off and that was it. I didn't get to help her in any concrete way (well yes, I know prayer is powerful, but I would have liked to be of some material use right there and then).

I kept wondering if I should have just risked it and given her some money, or at least started a conversation. But the mere thought of humiliating her, or her getting indignant with me was just too much. I didn't know how I would be able to handle her outrage or her suspicion, when I'm not the most socially adept person even under the best circumstances. But should it have mattered?

Every so often I see people begging in the streets, old people or people with disabilities, and I put money in their boxes. But there are lots of other people everywhere who aren't obviously begging who would appreciate our help just as much -- yes , money sometimes, but also our time and our exertions, words of encouragement or support, a listening ear, a shoulder.

There really are so many needy people around us whom we overlook, are too busy for, who never get any help or attention. And we don't need to look far -- they could
be at our workplace, on our bus routes, at that coffee house we like so much, perhaps even in our own families.

"And then a certain lawyer arose to try (test, tempt) Him, saying, Teacher, what am I to do to inherit everlasting life [that is, to partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah's kingdom]?

Jesus said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it?

And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

And Jesus said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live [enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God].

And he, determined to acquit himself of reproach, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

Jesus, taking him up, replied, A certain man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him of his clothes and belongings and beat him and went their way, [unconcernedly] leaving him half dead, as it happened.

Now by coincidence a certain priest was going down along that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

A Levite likewise came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road].

But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled along, came down to where he was; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity and sympathy [for him],

And went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on [them] oil and wine. Then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

And the next day he took out two denarii [two day's wages] and gave [them] to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return.

Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?

He answered, The one who showed pity and mercy to him. And Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:25-37).

The Samaritan was busy, he had other things to do, yet he put himself out for the stranger, he went out of his way, he even told the landlord, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return". If we truly, sincerely want to be of help, of service, to others, we can, somehow, make it happen.

Looking back, I think I could have followed that lady off the train. The kids were with me, but they could have come too. At the worst, she might have ranted at me and stalked off, or perhaps just fled, but it would have been on the quiet platform, not in front of everyone in the train.

And that would have been the worst case scenario. It might not have been so. Away from all those curious eyes, she might have opened up to me, she might have told me what she needed, or at least hinted at it, and I could have tactfully offered my assistance. I could have, somehow, made it happen.

Well, I shall certainly take it as a lesson. And perhaps, taking that same train home another day, I might see her again. And perhaps this time, recognising me from before, she might smile at me a little.

"What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]?

If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day,

And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?

So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead)" (James 2:14-17).

Friday, September 16, 2011

a raffish Rossetti

Beatrice, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Edith Nesbit

I've been reading Edith Nesbit -- noo, not The Railway Children -- but The Power of Darkness. Yes, Tales of Terror!! from the author renowned for her charming children's classics, which influenced the likes of C.S. Lewis, P.L. Travers, and J.K. Rowling.

So far all the stories have been wonderfully chilling -- imaginative and unsettling -- and often harsh and unhappy; quite unlike the buoyant cheerfulness of Ms Nesbit's children's tales. I finished reading one story entitled The Shadow, and it put me in mind of these verses in the book of Job (4:13-15, italics mine):

In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men,

Fear came upon me and trembling, which made all my bones shake.

Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up!

Isn' t that just awesome literature? Written some time between the 6th and 4th century BC. But alright, back to Ms Nesbit. Ada Chesterton, wife of author G.K. Chesterton, described her thus: "[She] was always surrounded by adoring young men, dazzled by her vitality, amazing talent and the sheer magnificence of her appearance. She was a very tall woman, built on a grand scale, and on festive occasions wore a trailing gown of peacock blue satin with strings of beads and Indian bangles from the wrist to the elbow.

"Madame, as she was always called, smoked incessantly, and her long cigarette holder became an indissoluble part of the picture she suggested -- a raffish Rossetti, with a long full throat and dark luxuriant hair, smoothly parted.

"She was a wonderful woman, large-hearted, amazingly unconventional, but with such strange reversions to ultra-respectable standards. She could write unconcernedly in the midst of a crowd, smoking like a chimney all the while" (The Chestertons, 1941).

Can you just imagine? The turn of the century, and Ms Nesbit hosting these lavish parties at her home Well Hall, with literary friends like George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, as well as her political ones. The conversations and happenings at these gatherings must surely have been of the sort to which one might apply terms like "sparkling", "witty", "intellectual", "flamboyant", with sharp asides and bons mots every few seconds.

And the style... It got me thinking about what pieces were still wearable today, some 100 years later. Artistic, modern, feminine, haunting -- here's to raffish Rossettis, wonderful women, and stories that make the hair of your flesh stand up!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

here's looking at you

Last night Casablanca was on TCM, and really, who can resist 1940s style, Humphrey Bogart's smirk, or Sam singing As Time Goes By? And then, there's Ingrid...

A Loving Today inspired by a timelessly gorgeous actress and film :)


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

loving today: studs!

Since B got her ears pierced (yep, my little baby's a grown... girl!), we've been enjoying regular forays into earringland. There are so many lovely options available; I don't think I could have enough Loving Todays to show them all! Here are just a handful for starters :)


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

on 9/11, and living today

Morning, by Maxfield Parrish

On this 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, much of the media is covering and paying tribute to the horrific events of that fateful day. My husband has been watching these programs over the past couple of days, and I've been hearing the painful accounts of people who were right there on the scene, or who had lost someone that day.

I don't have the eloquence to write sufficiently on how sad I am for all the people who were affected, devastated, in some way, by what happened. I can imagine how ten years just pass for many of these people and the hurt and heartache are still as strong as ever. Many of us have our own thoughts and feelings about what happened, what it all means, but most of us share the grief.

The latest issue of
Real Simple has a feature entitled I Will Remember You; in it, ten people pay tribute to the loved ones they lost, and the ways in which they celebrate their lives.

One lady lost her son in the collapse of Tower Two. She tells of how his mantra had been, "Do what you love, love what you do", and how it has become her mantra too. And she tells of how she sees his spirit everywhere: "Recently I saw a black butterfly with yellow markings that looked like a smile -- as always, I thought of him" (
p.206). My heart aches for her and the many, many others who have suffered, or are still suffering, such pain and sorrow -- in the 9/11 attack, yes, but also around the world, every day.

The New York Times published a commentary written by Robert De Niro, entitled
From downtown NY to Doha: How a film festival helped revive NYC and its international spirit. On 9/11, Mr De Niro was about to fly to Los Angeles when his son called to say that a plane had hit the World Trade Centre. He immediately returned to his apartment, from which he could see the towers nine blocks away.

It's a very articulate, well-written piece; one line that I found especially powerful was: "I didn't lose a relative or close friend when the towers fell, but after the attacks, whatever I had done, whatever I was striving for, had no meaning: it all just stopped".

Or, as my husband said while watching TV, "I'm watching this because it puts things in perspective. Every day could be one's last. All those people, they were just going to work like they did every day".

I think of my post
Rejoice Today, where I quoted Dr Osler: "Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day absorb all your interest, energy and enthusiasm. The best preparation for tomorrow is to live today superbly well".

Yesterday's a memory, tomorrow's a dream," wrote Robert J. Hastings in his poem, The Station. "Yesterday belongs to a history, tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday's a fading sunset, tomorrow's a faint sunrise. Only today is there light enough to love and live.

So, gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key away. It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as
we go along. The station will come soon enough".

The Lord bless you and watch, guard, and keep you, dear reader.

The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you;

The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you and give you peace (tranquility of heart and life continually) (Num 6:24-26).

Friday, September 9, 2011

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Procrastination Mama

Tracey of Procrastination Mama was so kind as to mention Leo and Flossey on her blog! Thank you Tracey!! Procrastination Mama is chock full of lovely design, decor and home ideas and pictures -- just have a look at what she did with her sweet baby's nursery here:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

a very powerful prayer, and more lookie-look

Well, you remember you-know-who. I was finally compelled, because of Paypal's claim deadline, to lodge a "dispute". At the dispute stage, buyer and seller are theoretically supposed to communicate, and ideally, resolve the situation amicably.

Well, almost needless to say, the seller did not respond. Then, five days later, yesterday, she cancels the transaction and refunds me -- including, for Etsy's benefit I suppose -- the following explanation: "I have sent emails discussing my situation. Buyer was not understanding under my unusual circumstances. I issued a full refund" (italics mine).

Below this, Etsy tells me to contact them with regard to the "accuracy" of this. And so, while what I really wanted to do was just forget about her and her item and the whole stupid transaction, I was compelled to explain my side of the matter.

I explained how she had described the item as "ready to ship", how three and a half weeks passed and the item never arrived, how I finally wrote to her asking about it, and was told only then that the item wasn't even sewn up yet, that she was in the middle of moving and doing shows, and would ship my order out "the next day".

Note: That was her only email to me.

Note 2: The item was clearly not shipped out "the next day", since a week and a half later it still hadn't arrived. Interestingly, even with this refund, no mention was made of the item having already been shipped. I guess it never was.

Now, while I was writing my explanation, a whole bunch of things were buzzing heatedly through my head. Like, for instance, I think most buyers would be perfectly understanding of one's "unusual circumstances" if they were told of those circumstances before making their purchase (and, under "unusual circumstances", it's best to avoid terms like "ready to ship").

Honestly though, I'm not sure how many buyers would actually buy something if the fine print read, "Yes, this item is described as ready to ship, but it's actually not, and I'll keep you waiting and wondering for over a month without any explanations or updates".

And then I was also thinking, DON'T keep your shop open -- just shut it up, put it "on vacation" -- if you are so busy that you can't even answer convos, update customers, or be responsible and conscientious about your orders.

Honestly, I felt frustrated, vexed and indignant. I guess what was really bugging me was the seller's accusation that I was not understanding or reasonable. I mean, I thought I was being pretty understanding, all things considered! Why couldn't she just quietly refund me, for a purchase which she had yet to honour, and leave out the blatantly inaccurate, fallacious comments?

False accusations -- slander -- can really get one's goat, can't it. In the immediate, I wanted to rant and rave and say biting, vociferous things, and it was only the power of the Holy Spirit that helped me keep my thoughts and words in check. I literally had to stop and pray about it. And the conviction rose in me to just let it go, and I heard in my spirit then that the most important thing was the pursuit of peace.

Proverbs 14:29 says, "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is hasty of spirit exposes and exalts his folly". Throughout the rest of the day the phrase "God is my vindicator" kept crossing my mind, and while I was still a little troubled because I hate any sort of strife, I was no longer upset or indignant. I mean, who knows what that lady is going through, what sort of life she has, or has had.

And I prayed for her, that God would bless her, and that His power and peace would smooth things out in her life, and between us. And I asked also that God would help me be patient and forbearing.

Remember, Col 3:13 says, "Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]".

"Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord" (Heb 12:14).

And lo and behold, what do I find as my devotion for this morning? Matt 5:44 in the King James Version: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you". Yep.

My book of morning devotions is Hearing from God each morning, by Joyce Meyer. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who wants to start every day right, and keep growing closer to God.

In this morning's devotion, entitled A Very Powerful Prayer, Ms Meyer writes: "One of the most powerful prayers you can pray is a prayer for your enemies... I believe that God blesses us tremendously when we intercede for those who have offended or betrayed us...

"Praying for someone who has hurt us is so powerful because, when we do, we are walking in love toward that person and we are obeying the Word of God...

"When you think about the people who have used you, abused you, harrassed you, and spoken evil of you, bless them; do not curse them. Pray for them... you don't do it because you feel like it; you do it as unto the Lord" (p.251).

In the meantime, more lovely options for carrying loads of things -- help me choose!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

virtual seller ethics and a little lookie-look

So. In the past month alone I've had to deal with not one, but several sellers who were not honourable, or at least decent, in their dealings.

For instance, there's this one Etsy seller from whom I purchased a fairly expensive tote over a month ago. Her listing described the item as "ready to ship". But, since three and a half weeks passed and there was neither hide nor hair of the thing, I finally decided to write to her.

She did not reply till some days later, and then it was to tell me that the item wasn't even sewn up yet. She said she would ship my order out "the next day", and even added something about checking if Fedex could get it to me faster. Note though, that she was not prepared to pay more for expedited shipping to make up for the delay (is it just me, or would not paying for expedited shipping have been the decent thing to do?).

Anyway, that was on August 22nd. Can you already guess where this is going? On the 31st I wrote to ask her to please just cancel my order and refund me. Can you guess what happened next? She did not reply, has still not done so, and the item has still not arrived.

I generally have very positive, straightforward transactions with sellers on Etsy. It's certainly a much nicer environment than, say, eBay I think. But I guess once in a while... Unfortunately, it was only after the fact that I checked out this seller's feedback, and found a bunch of neutrals, as well as a negative from someone who had a vaguely similar experience.

I absolutely hate leaving negative feedback for anyone. That probably doesn't help my feelings of frustration or annoyance. Do you think, because you don't have a physical, brick-and-mortar store where you have to deal face-to-face with the actual customer, that you aren't bound by rules of honour, service, and plain courtesy?

Do miles of land and sea create a comfortable intervening distance, perfect for avoidance and dismissiveness? Does the fact that you can literally "switch off" your customer by ignoring electronic communication allow you to shirk responsibility, and avoid dealing honestly, with integrity and consideration?

My husband would ask, why am I even surprised? People behave badly, it's just human nature. Being honourable, just, conscientious, thoughtful, upright -- it just doesn't come naturally. Well perhaps he's right -- I do believe that anything truly good that we humans do, or are capable of, is inspired by God. It can only be the Holy Spirit working in you that makes you keep your word, behave fairly, put others first, do your best.

I wrote a somewhat related post earlier this year. I referred to Matthew 5:37, which says, "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one", and I wrote:

"It's funny/sad how people often say things they don't mean, commit to things they never intend to see through, are double-minded, unreliable and dishonest beneath a veneer of friendliness, benevolence or magnanimity...

"WHY do people do this? Why say one thing when you mean another, why say you will when you won't, why put on (in this case) an "image" of sincerity and bubbly affability, when the reality is an insincere hollowness? And if one can be like this in even small, simple things, how does one deal with bigger issues, matters of importance that require unshakeable integrity, commitment or trustworthiness? It strikes me as I write this however that it really doesn't matter whether something is small or big -- we should mean what we say all the time, be honourable and dependable in all our dealings".

Well well, will I get my money back? Who knows? At any rate, I guess now I shall have the fun of choosing another tote -- any suggestions? In the meantime, take a gander at these wonderful recent purchases I made from some very nice, decent Etsy sellers :)


Friday, September 2, 2011

more Totoro!

Ooh, this is so cool -- an actual replica of the Kusakabe residence in the forested area of Nagakute! Since the film is set in the late 1950s, the house was built using Showa era techniques and underwent artificial aging. The furnishings reflect the movie as faithfully as possible, and visitors can explore the house freely, just like Satsuki and Mei!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


In the late 1980s, Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli released Tonari no Totoro -- or, My Neighbor Totoro -- a Japanese animated film about two young sisters and their interactions with the forest spirits living in the area.

I personally love the film -- the artistry, the pathos, the magic, the downright plain cuteness of it all -- and now my own kids are huge fans as well. Beck sees herself in the older sister Satsuki, and of course it's easy to see Ro in the younger, 4-year-old Mei, who is just a little older than Ro herself. Mei's gleeful fearlessness when she first encounters Totoro is perfectly portrayed -- she is all the confidence, faith, innocence and goodwill of unspoilt childhood.

As I saw Ro hugging my Totoro this morning, I thought it would be neat to see what crafty goodness Totoro has inspired. What a lovely lot I found! Here are just some super cool Totoro picks -- enjoy!


And on a moonlit night he plays a magic flute in the sky
There you'll be with

Totoro, Totoro
Totoro, Totoro

You only see him when you're very young
A magical adventure for you
It's magic for you


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