The Indie Life so far…

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So it’s been a couple of weeks since I started my ‘going indie’ challenge. On a week where I’ve been more stressed and tired than usual it’s been more of a challenge. The first big challenge came the other week when I was staying late at work and planned to go to the local noodle bar to get some food. And said noodle bar was shut. All of sudden I was without a plan, running out of time to get food before my next appointment. Usually that would have been an automatic local supermarket or Subway sandwich purchase. Instead I found a local cafe close by, went in, asked if they did takeaway, and I discovered they do! A panini and brownie was bought and it was fine.

And the brownie was about double the size of one you’d get in a certain coffee chain for probably around the same cost.

The up-side about ‘going indie’ is the relationships built. I’ve found that in the local cafes and shops, the staff are there for the longer haul, and they take the time to get to know their customers. I’ve been going to the same local cafe for a number of years near my work, and during the last few weeks I’ve been given Active Kids vouchers for my Guide unit by the manager, and a free bag of popcorn – as they are trying out different brands to sell. Propercorn is different but quite nice!

The most recent challenge is that I’m currently nocturnal writing an essay for university. I haven’t had time to do a proper food shop and my food supply is running out. Oh the temptation to jump into my Mum’s car at 1 a.m. and nip down to the nearest 24hr metropolitan hypermarket store.

All in all, I’m enjoying this process even with it’s challenges. It’s amazing how much I’m discovering how many of my habits come through choosing out of convenience.

Here’s hoping for more discoveries of places on the lead up to Easter Sunday!

Going Indie for Lent

It’s coming up for six months since I started my postgraduate studies. One of the things that I’ve been challenged to think about more by having lots of conversations with my classmates is my politics, my eating and spending habits.

So I decided to try an experiment during Lent.

For Lent I’m ‘going indie’. I’m not a huge fan of rules, so I’m going to call these guidelines. But this is what I’m doing to challenge myself in where I spend my money…

1. I’m only allowed to visit a supermarket once a week, and only to buy ‘normal’ groceries. This means food, cleaning products and so on. 

This rule may have to be bent slightly if I can’t find Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle in a toy shop and it turns out to be available to buy in a supermarket. (He’s Elastaboy’s favourite turtle and I’m trying to get him one for his birthday).

2. During the week I can only buy food and snacks in Independent places.

This means no popping into the ‘Tesco Express’ or ‘Sainsburys Local’. No Subway either. And definitely no Costa or Starbucks. This could make the mornings I don’t manage to get up in time to make breakfast slightly more interesting…

3. No shopping online when there is an in-person option.

Books will be bought in bookshops. Because I don’t want bookshops to close down. CDs and DVDs will be bought in shops too for much the same reason. Clothes will be bought in shops. Birthday presents will be bought in shops.

4. If there’s a fairtrade option, only that can be bought.

Even when Lindt chocolate is on offer in Sainsbury’s.

5. Trying to avoid the corporate brands and go for the indie ones.

I will confess that I spent some money in TopShop at the weekend because I needed new pants (Gok Wan would totally throw out the contents of my underwear drawer. Especially as our washing machine seems to enjoy putting holes in my clothes at the moment). However they are noted as a FairTrade clothing company by the Fairtrade Foundation. So I guess better them than H&M?

But I will be endeavouring to go to more locally owned places. Like my favourite Indie clothing shop, Cookie.

6. Hello indie cinemas.

Sorry Cineworld, Odeon and Vue. I will not be visiting you with your overpriced popcorn and masses of really crappy films. Hello cinemas that are supporting and showing more independent films and documentaries!

So they are my aims for the moment. My hope is to encourage places trying to keep it local/ethical/fairly traded! Have you got any advice for how I can keep going indie? 

This whole Lent thing…

At Christmas time, I joined our Senior Section on a ferris wheel once again to make a promise. Part of that promise was to develop my beliefs.

They are constantly evolving.

I think it’s easy to assume that as a Christian, that I signed up to a set of beliefs and religious rules and rituals and committed to keeping them. But truth is, as I see the world, learn more, study the bible, converse with friends, strangers and God – I’m always questioning, always considering, always trying to work things out.

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There are parts of the Christian festivals that I struggle with. Pancake Day though is a ritual I love and try to stick to. I’ll be honest, my incentive often has more to do with fun traditions of making pancakes and tossing them than God. But at the same time the tradition marks a moment to start Lent – preparing for Easter and the fear, mourning, confusion and celebrating that came with in the space of three days many, many years ago.

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Last night I gathered with some Jesus freak friends (I say that with love…!) and we had a time of prayer as we always do on the first Tuesday of each month. We then ripped apart round loaf of olive bread, shared glasses of wine (grape juice for me) to do what is known as communion before making pancakes. For those of you who don’t know, Jesus shared a meal in a home just before he was arrested – and asked his disciples to routinely break bread and share wine together in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice. These days, many churches mark it in a service with a shot glass and a teeny bits of bread. I won’t lie – it makes me a wee bit angry that they do it like that because I think it’s a bit of an insult to Jesus really. There is something far more real about a good chunk of bread and a generous glass of wine to symbolise it all!

There is much chat that has gone on this week amongst Christians bemoaning people giving up things for Lent and what they are giving up for Lent. Personally I think you should do or not do what you feel is right. If you want to use this season to abstain from something – go ahead. I don’t mind you using this season to do that. Perhaps it isn’t what God really cares about – but I don’t honestly know.

Over the years I’ve done different things. My uni friends still recall the year I gave up straightening my hair for Lent. It was much tougher than I care to admit. It says a lot about my vanity, and I never considered myself as one of those girls who are obsessed with their looks. Other years I’ve given up things that weren’t that tough to give up. One year I took up doing random acts of kindness each day when we did The Art of Joy. Last year I didn’t do or give up anything.

These last few months, I feel challenged – whether by God or otherwise – to consider how I spend my money and where I spend my money. I’ve been wrestling with whether I should go to the cheap places like Primark or Aldi so I can save money, and maybe make it seem better by giving the money saved to charity? Or do I spend more by supporting local businesses, that are perhaps running more ethical practices, and maybe benefitting the vibrancy of the economy? Do I go to the big corporate cinema showing the trashy blockbusters, or do I go to the independent one that is showing films “where stuff actually happens” (to quote from Lupita Nyong’o) and telling important stories that matter? Do I focus my time more carefully so I’m not running into the many local ‘metro’ supermarkets that are undercutting small businesses on my way to and form work by bringing a reusable flask of water from home, or maybe going into the little corner shop or health food shop instead?

And is it ok to have a greater focus on doing this during Lent? Is it even something God cares about?

I don’t know that I have the answer,  but I’m going to try it anyway – and not necessarily stop after Lent but perhaps as a friend of a friend put it on facebook

 “I am thinking that giving up chocolate for 40 days, but being a complete a55hole about everything else is not exactly what God has(d) in mind. So in honour of Lent, and regardless of your religious or non-religious leanings, let’s all just try to suck a little less. We can all use it.”

That sounds good to me. A start at the very least. :)

Lent Sunday Causes – Sport Relief 2012

185 mile cycle from 9.30 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Rowing the English Channel after getting 1 hour of sleep (and after cycling for 185 miles)
Running marathons (actually longer than marathon distances) for 3 days

Yeah.

It’s mental.

No.

I wouldn’t be doing it.

I’ve liked John Bishop’s stand-up comedy for a few years now, and listen to Radio 1 most days. I have to confess that I felt kinda weirdly proud and a little emotional each time I heard him when they called him daily while doing this crazy week of hell.

What I also loved though, was the people that cheered him on.

3 years ago, I sat in a hotel room with my friend Jud watching Comic Relief. I’d driven us from Edinburgh to Watford and was kinda tired. The reason we were in Watford was for an orientation/training day in preparation for us going to South Africa that summer.

I’d grown up watching those appeal videos but that year it became more real – knowing that we would like be seeing some of that poverty in person. It would no longer be just something we saw on TV.

I watched one appeal video with David Walliams, and it reminded me of the kids in Durban who were living on the streets. A month after we went there, police came, took them off the streets, drove them 100 km out of the city and dumped them out there – so tourists wouldn’t see ‘street kids’ during the world cup in 2010. What was lovely was seeing the young boy in a second video, now living in a better place, thanking David for some stuff he had sent him.

It made me think of Henok and Kinen.

I will say that the one thing that bothers me about Sport Relief is they don’t show what they have that we don’t. Joy. Resilience. It’s not all bad out there. I was really pleased to hear John talking to Dermot O’Leary during one of his marathons talking about how people don’t want hand outs – they just need a hand up. Because these are capable people.

They are people with potential.

They are people who probably know how to start solving some of the problems.

This year I donated to Sport Relief because I was inspired by John’s determination and endurance, and the reason why he did it.

I hope that the money does make a difference to save lives.

I hope that one day the western world will stop taking advantage of the vulnerable so that the structure that causes all these problems in the first place, will one day come tumbling down.

 

Lent Sunday Causes – Amelia’s Campaign

Friday saw a stealthy postman come a-visiting. Somehow our postman ‘couldn’t’ deliver a parcel from Girlguiding UK online shop because no one was in. Funny when there was me, my stepfather and at least 3 builders in our house all day and the doorbell didn’t ring!

But today, after I came back from the post office with the package contaning some new resources for next term something awful happened. A football player collapsed on the the pitch in the middle of the game. He had to be resusciated with a defibrilator. As he was stretchered off the pitch to be taken to hospital by paramedics he wasn’t breathing. Amazingly, medics have been able to get him in a stable condition though as I write this he is in a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit criticially ill. Fighting for his life.

He is 23 years old.

An athlete.

With a wife (or fiancée?) and child.

His name is Fabrice Muamba.

When I heard about it, my automatic reaction was ‘crap, it sounds like this guy has undiagnosed HCM’. Just for the record, I don’t know that for sure, and I’m not a doctor. But I know that HCM is common amongst young athletes and is often the cause of sudden death in young people. In 2003, a footballer collapsed and died on the pitch, and he had HCM. And it is something that has been at the forefront of my mind because…

It was the cause of death for Amelia Scholey’s brother.

This year, Amelia (who is a Guider in North Yorkshire) is trying to promote the importance of organ donation and raise money for two charities – Live Life Then Give Life (a charity I’ve spoken about before) and the British Heart Foundation (a charity my family raised money for after my Uncle died from myocardial infarction a few years ago). After Amelia’s brother died, they found out he had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) which is a genetic disease. They thought perhaps that it may have been the cause of their father’s death too. Amelia got tested, and doctors discovered she had a heart disease too, and ended up having to have two heart transplants.

Next term, at Guides we’ll be combining some Olympics fun and awareness raising to do Amelia’s Campaign Challenge Badge. Some of the resources we’ve got to do this, I received in our parcel this afternoon.

The Amelia Campaign Challenge Badge can be done by Rainbows, Brownies, Guides or Senior Section, and to get the pack you can e-mail the LLTGL office info@lltgl.org.uk

You can also find out more about Amelia’s Campaign to raise £10,000 by August 2012 for Live Life Then Give Life and the British Heart Foundation by going to the Amelia’s Campaign website.

I commend Amelia for all her hard work into putting the challenge badge together, plus all the campaigning which I know is going well.

My thoughts and prayers are also with the Muamba family, Fabrice, the medical team taking care of him and his friends and teammates at Bolton.

Lent Sunday Causes – British Red Cross

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This weekend, my chosen charity is the Red Cross. Today is the anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake & tsunami, and Red Cross was one of the first organisations on the scene helping those affected. Red Cross & Red Crescent societies exist all over the world.

Last year I wrote a post showing videos about the work that the Red Cross does all over the world. You can see it here.

At the moment the main appeal British Red Cross is doing is for Syria, where the International Red Cross & Red Crescent have been trying to provide aid and even helping take people to safety.

They are also still in the ground in Fukishima trying to help rebuild community in the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

They’re also doing things every day probably in your hometown. Educating about the work of the Red Cross from humanitarian aid, to war crimes trials, to tracing missing families, to helping bring supplies in snowy weather. Teaching First Aid which could save lives of many.

In fact my friend Nicola wrote a fab post recently about her experience of taking part in training from Red Cross. And I love that my friend Flinderella now is part of a Red Cross education team.

Are there ways which you can get involved? Why don’t you go to your local Red Cross organisation’s website and find out?

Lent Sunday Causes – Compassion International

Last weekend my lent sunday chosen charity was Compassion International. Apologies for the lateness of this post – but I’ve been without the internet for the last 5 days!

The story of how I began supporting Compassion is here. But let me tell you the little story of how I came to sponsor this wee guy:

This is Kinen. He lives in Indonesia, and is one of 6 children (the same as Henok). Apparently he loves cycling and singing. Maybe he can teach me to ‘love’ cycling (because I already love singing, and have a love/hate relationship with my bike). Kinen will be 9 in a few months, and I suspect this photo is not totally recent. I could be wrong.

On a table full of photos of children clearly being told to stand up straight, look serious this little guy jumped out at me. My first reaction on seeing his cheeky grin was one of giggles. He reminds me a LOT of Elastatoddler. He also reminds me of my friend who died at Christmas time.

We flicked through all the photos the had on the stall, and there was another little boy with a cheeky grin too – I noted that the two of them would probably be trouble if they were friends, and then noted that the other little boy was also from Indonesia – so maybe they are. Hee hee.

Anyway. I walked to and from the stall, eventually took the photo back to my stall for several hours. Eventually I realised that if nothing else, the fact that when the people from Compassion asked for the photo back I couldn’t do it, I needed to sponsor this wee guy! So I proclaimed to my colleague

“Right! that’s it! Decision made – I’m sponsoring him”

I filled out the form, and went over to the Compassion stall to had the photo & form back. They thought I was saying ‘no’.

“Turn it over, I’ve filled it in”

Elastatoddler’s Mum (my lovely friend Carrie!) was also at the conference. She’d actually taken ill that afternoon, and her Mum had left their stuff at our stall while she went on a search for Carrie. When Carrie came back (feeling better!) she said

“Look!” – pulling out a picture of a Compassion child she’d decided to sponsor that day.

“Look!” – I said, reaching for the picture of Kinen.

We laughed, and what was so funny was Carrie said to me

“I saw him, he’s got such a cheeky grin, and I almost sponsored him.”

She though had wanted to pick a younger child close to Elastatoddler’s age to sponsor, and so had asked to see children not on display, and found a little boy who is exactly a year older than Elastatoddler (they share the same birthday). I love though that although she hadn’t sponsored Kinen, I had come along after and ended up sponsoring him!

My Mum did sigh one of those heavy motherly sighs when I told her about sponsoring Kinen (‘Don’t you already sponsor a child?’). But I know it was the right thing to do. Plus, Henok, the child I’ve sponsored for the last 10 years will soon be 18 so I will no longer be sponsoring him after that. I hope that the education he has received over the last 10 years will have set him up well for adulthood, finding a job and all that stuff.

To find out more about sponsoring a child through Compassion, you can go to your country’s Compassion website. People in the following countries can sponsor a child through Compassion International:

Australia

Canada

Germany

France

Italy

Netherlands

New Zealand

South Korea

Spain

Switzerland

UK

USA

It just might be that you give a child more opportunities, and possibly save their life today...

 

Lent Sunday Causes – Girlguiding

Every Sunday of Lent, I choose to highlight one of the charities that I support. This weekend, I choosing Girlguiding because earlier this week it was World Thinking Day. (This is the birthday of the founders of Guiding & Scouting, and the day when Girl Guides & Girl Scouts all around the world think about their sisters globally each year).

I’ve been involved in Girlguiding for half my life. I was a Rainbow; a Brownie – where I first got a taste of leadership becoming seconder, then sixer of the Pixies; I moved up to Guides where I first got thrown into having to work things out as a team, went to camp and met several of my high school friends. As a Guide I learned Scottish country dance, how to do a reef knot (actually kinda handy), how to pack to go on holiday super efficiently, First Aid, sign language, leadership skills and team work. Doing my Baden-Powell Award I had to do all sorts of things including becoming a leader at a local Brownie Pack for a year. I still have the toy Mushu (a character from Mulan) that one of the Brownies gave me for my 16th birthday. I was a Young Leader - I stayed on with the Brownie Pack and then later helped at a challenging Guide unit in Leith. While working on a service team at a big Scottish camp me & my friend Kate met our friends Lizzie and Karen and they introduced us to Rangers. We got to go on Venture Scout camps doing activities we’d never have got to do usually, did community projects and ended up becoming finalists in a competition where we got taken to London to give a presentation about it.

All of these things gave me skills I’ve been able to use in the workplace and at university. And I’m super grateful.

I am super happy after a 9 year separation from Guiding, to be back as a leader!

Girlguiding has 500,000 members in the UK alone. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) has about 10 million members across the world, making it probably one of the largest international youth organisations.

I loved guiding. For a while as a teenager I thought it was a bit ‘uncool’ but now I’m so happy I stuck with it, because I learned a lot and made some amazing friends. I love guiding still because I’ve realised how inclusive it is compared to most youth organisations. I also love that it has stayed ‘girls-only’, because I think it’s important to have a place were girls can be girls with no pressure to look good because of the distraction of boys!!

If you are female, and would like to be involved in your region’s Girlguiding/Girl Scouts you can find out how to contact them here on the map of WAGGGS member organisations. There are so many ways to be involved – by volunteering your time, by donating to your local organisation or some of the Global funds…

Pancakes, pancakes, I love the pancakes!

One of my favourite days of the year is PANCAKE DAY. Nothing like bringing in a season of reflecting on Easter sacrifice by feasting on pancakes with lots of yummy toppings (standard lemon and sugar, not so standard banana & maple syrup) and of course the very important pancake tossing. Sadly the first of our pancakes got binned when my Mum got a little overzealous in her tossing – she was doing double and triple flips and then on her 3rd toss the pancake landed on our very dirty kitchen floor.

It’s now Lent. I would have liked to have given up eating out or something – however, we’re now beginning our ‘camping out’ stage of the building. Tonight I’m camped out in the living room as our dining room wall is mostly a big sheet – soon to become totally non-existent tomorrow morning. You need to go through the dining room to get to the attic conversion part of the house, and at the moment the dining room is sealed off with masking tape. To add to our ‘camp out’ fun, just after the builders left there was a power cut in our area, so we had no electricity for over 3 hours. So thankful my friends were kind enough to let me come over early as it began to get dark!

In a week or so we will be without a kitchen. You may see why giving up eating out is not really the best idea this Lent. However, I do plan to do Lent Sunday ‘Causes’ to give money and give a shout out to charities I’m a fan of, like I did last year. :)

Are you doing anything for Lent this year? (I’m curious!)

Causes I support: Live Life Then Give Life

Today is Easter Sunday. The weekend Christians celebrate how Jesus died so that all that believed He was the son of God may have a second chance at life. So it was a very simple choice to make my final ‘Lent Sunday’ cause a charity very close to my heart who encourage people to be organ donors – so that in our death, we might give someone (or many people) a second chance at life.

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The mission statement of Live Life then Give Life is

“To save and improve the lives of all those in need or receipt of organ and tissue transplants. The charity exists to improve education and awareness of organ donation and to fund projects that increase the numbers of successful transplants in the UK.”

LLTGF Website

Last year, after hearing of Eva’s death and on the lead up to Easter weekend I wrote this post in regards to my thoughts on organ donation.

More than 10,000 people in the UK alone are currently waiting for an organ transplant. It’s funny – we always think ‘it’ll never happen to us’ but if you read some of the stories on the LLTGL website, you’ll find that’s not the case. You just don’t know when yourself or maybe a close friend or relative may end up on that list. In fact the way things are at the moment, you are more likely to need a transplant than to become an organ donor.

So if you haven’t already, I’d really encourage you to get educated, and if you feel it is something you want to do…join the organ donor register in your country. And make your wishes known to your family.

Links connected to this charity:

Live Life then Give Life Website

NHS Organ Donor Register (UK only)

Donate to Live Life then Give Life via JustGiving