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Life Arts

Patriotic Spending and Helping Others

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More on Alternate Gift-Giving

Holiday shopping needn’t be stressful; looked at in the right way, it can offer opportunities for creativity. I love thinking outside the (gift) box.  Here are some ideas, many of them gleaned from friends and readers. Odds are that you live far from Chicago; in that case, treat this article like a recipe - tinker and tweak freely to fit your own circumstances and locale.
Buy American

 I don’t mind making an extra effort to buy American. And, surfing the web, I came across many websites eager to help me do it. Stephanie from Virginia writes: “I try to buy American products whenever possible, but as a working mother of three boys, I didn't have time to drive from store to store, or search for hours on-line. From my frustration came the idea for

Made in is an information, database and search engine for American-made products and services. Made in points out,

“as Patriotic Spenders, we have the collective power of change in our wallets  ... There are 293 million people living in the United States. If each one would shift $20 a month in spending from foreign made products to American made products, that would create 5 million new jobs.”

American Apparel manufactures its popular clothing in downtown Los Angeles. The company guarantees full-time, year-round employment (unheard of in the garment trade), subsidized transportation and lunches, and other perks. Perhaps most important, they have truly affordable health care and have recently opened an on-site health clinic for preventative as well as primary care. My friend Sue reports that they have expanded their line of organic clothing, too.   

Jill, one of my readers, informed me of several footwear companies located on these shores.  One is Oregon-based Soft Star Shoes:

“Today, as one of the last remaining companies that sells handcrafted shoes made in the USA, we continue the tradition of offering baby booties, shoes, sandals and slippers as well as footwear for older children and grown ups at reasonable prices.”

The company also makes non-leather and design-your-own shoes. They promise to fill orders within 1-4 days, including custom items.

The second company is Georgia's Okabashi shoes. Jill says they are  “...very much like Crocs, they are Microplast, come in bright colors, and are made in the USA.” Everyone loves Crocs; they’re popular because they’re lightweight, comfortable, and fun. But, in recent years, I have examined hundreds of pairs of Crocs, without finding a single pair made here. Next time, I'm trying Okabashi. They've been around for over twenty-five years, are endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association, and have over twenty-five million satisfied customers. How is it that I've never heard of them until now?

Arts, Crafts, and Gifts of TLC

Supporting American artists and artisans is another way to shop mindfully.  Especially at this time of year, there are many pre-holiday craft fairs.  And most communities have at least one store that carries American crafts. In north suburban Chicago, check out Evanston’s Mindscape Adornments or the Artisan Shop, with locations in Wilmette and Glenview.

Patronize local businesses; treat friends and family to a massage, facial, or pedicure. Offer your loved ones an excuse to relax and pamper themselves.  I absolutely guarantee that your thoughtfulness will be well received. And don’t forget yourself:  treating ourselves well is the first step towards mental health.  

Some Great Projects

My friend and Feldenkrais instructor Kathi Lieb contributed the following two items.

“I am officially placing a Yes We CAN! box at my front door for anyone coming to class - to put canned fruits, vegetables or packages of pasta and rice for the Soup at Six soup kitchen in Evanston. I can't stand the fact that in this lovely, affluent town people are hungry and the soup kitchen is actually getting desperate for donations. Yes, we CAN!" 
"Bright Endeavors is a new social enterprise that hires young, at risk women to produce candles from renewable, sustainable sources.  Through their work, these young women learn to be responsible  and self-sufficient. You can see some of their beautiful products on my dining room table.”

School-based Projects

Here are three terrific school programs. The first one came from my friend, Linda, who immediately thought of me and my dog, Emma.  The goal of Sit Stay Read! is to inspire a love of reading in Chicago’s inner-city children. “[Specially trained therapy] dogs enable us to tackle the serious issue of childhood literacy in a fun way.” This unique program has had great success and is lauded by kids, volunteers, and staff. The dogs seem to enjoy it as well! Donations are tax-deductible.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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