Santa’s Workshop

It was so nice to go see a movie this afternoon.  I ate bad-for-me popcorn.  Extra butter.  I bought a terrible soda for my partner–made with non-local, non-organic, totally GMO, sugar-based crap.  I saw a movie produced by the Disney company.  It was awesome.  It was so American.  I was feeling kinda bad about it.  Until I got back to the parking lot.


I managed to buy nothing on “Black Friday.”  In fact, until this afternoon, I hadn’t bought anything in ten days.  My partner and I spent Thanksgiving with my mother.  We bought our turkey last weekend, before we left for my mom’s house. Our family had a potluck Thanksgiving.  We didn’t go out on Black Friday.  We didn’t buy things for people we haven’t seen in a year. We didn’t buy things we didn’t need.  We didn’t trample small children at Walmart or punch any old ladies in the face at the mall. We didn’t shop online either.


I checked my bank account this morning: I’m practically rich!


It is amazing what not spending money does for one’s bank account.  I will have enough money to pay rent this month.  PG&E will get my bill on time.  My phone bill has already been paid.  It’s exhilarating!  Why buy things?


But, truthfully, I hadn’t really been feeling the “spirit”.  We had been away from home for so long, visiting others; it was hard to picture the upcoming holiday.  For one thing, my mother lives in the desert and I live in the Sierra Foothills.  I had been taking naps in the sunshine.  It was hard to think about the holiday at home.  We will likely have snow.  We will definitely have pine trees.  I hadn’t even started on the usual songs.


My attitude changed when we saw the first twinkling lights on the way into our town.  Tucked beneath the pines and quaking aspen, someone lined their fence with lights and a star.  Truly, there is no place like home.


If I’m going to get a gift for someone, I want to feel inspired to do so.  I want it to be heartfelt, unique and meaningful.  For me, there is no such thing as a “season of giving”.  There is only a season of buying.  Life is precious and it is short.  If there is a reason for a gift, there should be no hesitation in gifting.  Gifts are for all seasons.


It was nice to get out today.  It was fun to see a movie.  I live in a small town in rural area.  Our nearest movie theatre is almost 20 miles away.  Our nearest Walmart is over 75 miles away.  It was fun to go “to town.”


We do have a movie theatre in town but, unlike so many Americans, our choices for shopping are limited to local vendors.  We have no malls.  There are no Walmarts or Targets. Most people buy their pet food at feed stores.


I live in a place where there are still shops on Main Street.  There are still carolers who sing this time of year.  There’s a music shop full of guitars and drums and a man who can play both.  There is a stationary store where a person can still get personalized, pressed stationary.  There is a chocolateir.  There is a cobbler and a jeweler and a few bakers.  Our restaurants buy from local farmers and ranchers.  We drink local beers.  It’s not that we don’t know that there are other conveniences.  It’s that we revere and respect our local skilled workers and crafters.  Ceramics are hand-crafted.  Glass is blown.  Wine is stomped by local vintners and their family members.  People come up from the nearby cities to witness what we have to offer.  It is one-of-a-kind.  It is the kind of place that you could find a gift for a person who is one-of-a-kind.


Most small businesses in small towns have struggled these past few years.  Our town is no exception.  We have seen our share of struggle.  For a while, there were many empty store-fronts.  There are still a few.  But, like so many other small towns, we have found ways to pull through.


During this season, there are local people who volunteer their time to support our local “mom and pops”.  We have a few local Santas and Santas’ wives.  We have several elves that gift-wrap for free just to give credence and validity to our local downtown shops.  It’s all-volunteer and it is all free.  (Though, you can give a donation!)  You can purchase your one-of-a-kind gifts here and you can have them wrapped for no extra charge.  Just step into “Santa’s Workshop.”  It is truly a town effort.


Because our local downtown knows that people give their time to help with sales, our local downtown parking lot reserves a space for our local supporters.  Santa gets his own space.  It’s the least we can do.

A local visitor had a new car and ignored the sign.

Santa wrote a letter.

Sometimes all we can do is make a statement.

I’m not saying you have to exclusively shop local, organic, sustainable etc.  I do the best I can but even I like to get out to the movies once and a while.  All I’m saying is that, when you go into a town, please think about the people in that town.  When you make a purchase, think about the hands that went into the goods you are purchasing.  Think about the businesses you frequent.  Do they use environmentally sound practices?  Do they pay their employees a fair wage?  Are the products produced with acceptable labor conditions?  If it is hard to answer those questions, it is probably because the answer is no.

Don’t be on the naughty list.  Support local businesses.



The Food Revolution Continues

I’m seeing all these “do not buy” boycott lists for the corporations that donated to defeat the GMO food-labeling initiative in California.  I appreciate that people are finally waking up.  I’m happy that there is now an awareness campaign.  California’s Prop 37 was perhaps the most important human rights initiative on the country’s ballot this year.

Prop 37 dubiously failed and now some people are outraged.  And folks should be outraged.  A product is labeled if it has sugar in it.  All ingredients are listed on labels.  We should know if those ingredients have had their DNA altered in a laboratory.  We have a right to know what is in our food.


What I’m asking myself is, why the sudden urgency?  Why now?  Why are people outraged?  Is it because companies used millions of dollars and deceptive messages to skew the public’s views about what is healthy and in the public’s best interest?  They do that every day.  It’s called advertising.


A McDonald’s Big Mac has 550 calories.   People still eat Big Macs.  It is no secret that corporate-produced, factory-made food is less-than-healthy, dangerous even.  Don’t believe me?  Google phrases like “salmonella outbreak” and “tainted meat” and see how many pages of articles are listed.  This has been going on for years.  But people still buy and eat factory-made food laden with GMO corn syrup and deficient in vital minerals and vitamins.


Our food system has been broken for a long time, long before Prop 37 was a ballot issue.


If we really want to change the food system in California and in this country, we need to get back to basics.  The healthiest, safest food is whole and organic, from a local source. Know your farmers and your ranchers. Support them. Or better yet, grow your own food. Get a few backyard chickens. Then you won’t have to consult a list.