Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

“How Can I Help?”

He even poses for pictures without a fuss!

“How can I help?” Today I am thankful for these four simple words that mean so very much, and I’m even more thankful for the one who speaks them to me.  You see, these four words comprise a question my wonderful spouse asks at least once a day, and I have come to treasure them as a reflection of his love and care for me and our family.

He’ll walk in the kitchen door and see me preparing dinner, set down whatever he’s carrying, and immediately ask “How can I help?” No task is too great or menial. I’m a terrible chopper; my lefthandedness and clumsy fine motor skills never have been helpful when it comes to chopping vegetables. Mr. Husband can chop as well or better than any food channel chef. He’ll set the table if asked or make a salad. In fact, he’ll frequently make an entire meal; we are true partners in the kitchen just as in other aspects of our marriage.

Mr. Husband doesn’t limit this question to meal prep and clean-up either. He is incredibly handy and able to fix almost anything. Broken faucet? No problem. Leaky shower? No big deal. Need an oil change? Done! His acts of service know no limit, and I’m convinced he can make just about anything work again.

If I’ve had a bad day or am worried or dealing with excess stress he’ll simply ask “How can I help?” Help might be a back rub, a listening ear, or a cup of tea. He’s also really good at inciting some awesome belly laughs. He’s also patient, kind, and calm.

So today I am grateful for my spouse, and for his servant heart, gentle spirit, and true partnership. Thank you, Mr. Husband, for your love, your friendship, and your partnership. You’re the best!

How often do you ask “How can I help?” Who has been of great help to you? Who can you thank today?

Photo by Linda Fleagle. Thanks!


Thanksgiving with the Girls

This blog began last November as a way to increase gratitude and turn everyday life into a lifetime of thanks-living. I wanted to learn to live more gratefully, fully, and simply and encourage others to do likewise. The journey has been one both of learning and celebration. We may have a national holiday here in the USA called “Thanksgiving,” but living with gratitude and thanks all the time sure does trump a single day’s remembrance.

But since it is “Thanksgiving Day,” and since I have so much in my life for which to be thankful, I don’t want to neglect the chance to be especially grateful right now in this present moment.

For the first time in many years my mother and both of my daughters were gathered with me around the table. Our dear friend Debbie joined us, too. I was able to cook up a traditional family feast without massacring the turkey or ending up with lumps in the gravy. It was a good time; however, it came at a price.

My mom took a lot of risks to fly up here. Her health has been tenuous for a while now, but thanks to the good folks at Delta Airlines and her friend, Greg, she braved the journey. It has been wonderful to have her here, and she even made us one of her awesome pecan pies for dinner.

My wonderful husband also paid a price. It is his tradition to travel to New England to be with his family at Thanksgiving. Pastors have a tough time getting away at Christmas, so if you want to spend a holiday with family Thanksgiving is the window of opportunity. Because my oldest daughter had surgery and could not travel, Mr. Wonderful Husband suggested I stay home with her and have a holiday with the girls. When I mentioned flying my mother up, he was completely supportive because he realizes how precious time with family is and how seldom I am able to see my mother (who lives in Tennessee) and have both daughters home, too. I am grateful that his family understands why I stayed home this year.

So the day has been joyous. It has been fun. It has been a bit bittersweet, too. Gathering around a table spread with all the good foods that have been a part of my (and my daughters’) childhood, with my mother seated next to me, with prayer, laughter, and much joy has been better than any Hallmark sentimental moment.

I am thankful for family. I am thankful for traditions that bind us together. And, I am thankful that on occasions tradition can be broken or altered through acts of love and caring that are truly gifts of the heart. Thank you to my family–all of you–for the gift of this Thanksgiving Day.

What about today meant something really special to you? To whom do you need to say a special word of thanks?

And as my Thanksgiving gift to you, here’s my recipe for Tipsy Taters (a decadently delicious take on candied sweet potatoes)

Tipsy Taters

You will need–

Enough cooked and sweetened yams for the number of folks you want to feed (or a large can or two of yams)

1 egg

brown sugar to taste (I use about 1/4 cup with sweetened canned yams or more for fresh)

spices to taste (I use cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg)

somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 cup Kahlua or other good coffee liquor

2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter (margarine won’t cut it–don’t even try)

Mash and mix these ingredients and place in a greased casserole dish.

For Topping (get ready to sin and sin boldly)–

Mix together brown sugar, sweetened flaked coconut, and chopped pecans using enough to liberally cover the contents of the dish. Melt 1/2 cup butter (again, no margarine please) and Kahlua to taste. Pour melted butter and Kahlua over sugar/coconut/pecan mixture and stir until you have a lumpy but not overly moist mixture that can be sprinkled liberally over the yam mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes (topping should be bubbly and browned but not baked to a crackly crisp). Enjoy!

And the Winner is…Jen!

Last week in celebration of the release of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926), editor Julia Park Tracey made available a copy of the book for on lucky adventuresinthanksliving blog reader. Congratulations, Jen! You’re the winner, and I look forward to sending you your very own copy. Please e-mail me at with your contact information, and I’ll send it right along.

To the rest of you who commented and read the article, ask your local library to get a copy and spread the word!

Thanks for reading!

Photo by poppy13. Thanks!

Building Up One Another

Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.   Romans 15:2

Yesterday my daughter had outpatient surgery, and I had several hours to reflect on the verse above and on the idea of how we build up one another and pave the way for our neighbors and those yet to come. Even being there at Gettysburg Wellspan Hospital and watching how my daughter’s caregivers worked together to make the experience a successful one reinforced this idea. Each person was part of a seamless whole–from the valet who opened her car door to the nurse who wheeled her out six hours later–all doing their best to provide care, hope, and healing.

We do not operate in a vacuum. Everything we do has an impact on someone else in some way. It can be for good or for ill, but it will affect the fabric of the universe in some way. We do have some choice in how we approach life. We can be like a bumper car bouncing off of others in a random or determined fashion thinking only of our own pleasure and goals. Or, we can be like weavers working with others to create something strong, beautiful, and useful–a collaboration of individual fibers that each brings character, dimension, and color to the whole.

As for me, I prefer the latter approach because I realize that I am who I am today thanks to so many people who have paved the way before me, who have touched my life, and who have woven strands of themselves into the fabric of my being. Some of these folks have made significant personal sacrifice–family members, friends, folks in the various faith communities of which I have been a part–in an effort to help me thrive and grow. Likewise, I am thankful to be able to sacrifice for others and pay forward some of the abundant blessings I have experienced.

As English poet and priest John Donne wrote in Meditation XVII

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main

We, each one of us, are where we are today because of the work and building up others have done on our behalf. “Bootstrap” mentality and the notion of a “self-made person” are illusion; one may work hard and succeed, but that success is built on an existing foundation, a bit of something much bigger than ourselves. That, dear friends, is something  really quite wonderful.

Who in your life has paved the way and helped build your firm foundation? How will you build up another?

Photos by opensourceway and hanssplinter. Thanks!

The Gift of Doris

(This is a guest post by friend, author, and fellow Compactor, Julia Park Tracey. Be sure to check out the website for the book. Enjoy!)

For the past year I have been sharing snippets and excerpts from the “Doris Diaries,” a collection of diaries from the 1920s through 1940s that I inherited from my Aunt Doris. The first volume of these has just been published as I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). It has been an unexpected pleasure to spend time in the presence of someone I miss very much, and whose presence in my life was akin to a fairy godmother.

When my great aunt Doris, who passed away in 2011, was beginning to fail, starting to lose some steam in that last of her 101 years, she asked me to take care of her private things, not to leave her frillies and her secrets open to just anyone.

At that time I did not know that Doris had kept journals all her life. I did not know that she had held onto her teenage scribbling – those that embarrass us so much later in life. After she passed, my mother gave me a box of letters and diaries, and I was shocked and thrilled to find this fresh voice, this impish artistic soul, in pen and ink. For all the years I knew Doris – since 1963, if you must know the numbers – I never knew she wanted to be a writer, and never heard this voice. And this voice is lovely and amazing.

When I first started to read her words from 1925, I couldn’t keep from laughing. What a dry wit! I couldn’t keep from swooning with her over the handsome boys and flirtations and moonlit rides in a roadster. Such stories she tells, so casually elegant, so refreshingly blunt. So Doris!

I’ve been asked if I’m telling her secrets and how she would feel about that. I feel confident that Doris, knowing I’m a writer of 30-plus years in publishing and journalism, would not have directed in her will to give this box of her life to me in particular, if she hadn’t wanted to share her story. And the Doris I knew wanted to tell her story; she published her memoirs in 2006, when she was 96. To quote the 16-year-old Doris of 1926, “I love to cause a sensation!”

For me, the gift has been getting to know someone I had already known for 50 years – again, and better, and deeper. And though I miss her, it’s different, and not the sense of absence and loss that usually accompanies a loved one’s passing. I realize how rare and special this is. And I’m grateful, every day.

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning blogger, journalist and editor. Her book, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926) is available at your local bookstore or through Amazon. Follow Doris’s ongoing diary adventures on Facebook and Twitter at The Doris Diaries, or

Photos courtesy Julia Park Tracey. Thanks!

Nota Bene: Today is the last day to leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page in order to be entered in the drawing for your own copy of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). Don’t miss this opportunity!

Be Kind

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. — Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968

Today, November 13, is World Kindness Day. Click here to learn more about the movement’s history and intent. I am thankful for this timely reminder about the importance of kindness in our world–on all  levels.

If you live in the United States, and unless you are completely off-grid and out-of-touch, you’ve heard some of the shrill cries and seen the petty accusations being hurled cavalierly about in cyberspace and in the media. It never fails to amaze me how absolutely awfully we can treat one another in our quest to be “right.”

I have seen some of the ugliest, mean-spirited, vitriolic memes and posts on Facebook in the past weeks and months, not to be outdone, of course, by some terribly toxic tweets. Good and faithful folk were sputtering and clattering like pressure cookers about to blow. Most assuredly it would seem that our country is headed straight off a real (not just fiscal) cliff in a metaphorical hand basket accompanied by the cranked-up strains of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”

Thankfully, things are never as dire as the pundits and extremists would have us believe, and I strongly believe that the powers of good will always prevail. Sure, there’s trouble in River City–and just about everywhere else–but there’s a lot of really good stuff happening, too. You just have to look for it because you probably will not see it on the evening news.

All major world religions stress kindness as an attribute to which adherents should aspire. It may be expressed in different words or ways, but the message is clear. We are to treat one another with lovingkindness. We are to love our neighbors–both those we agree with and those we find abhorrent. I’ve included one of my favorite passages of scripture and a favorite quote. Yes, the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice, and kindness is the weight that helps us bend toward justice and a better world for all.

When we are kind to one another, we see each other through more compassionate eyes. We are more willing to listen, and not just listen but really hear and empathize with one another. When we are kind, we see a fellow human, a beloved child of the Creator, and one whose journey is equally as valid as our own rather than an opponent who is to be squashed like a stink bug.

So, dear reader, how have you practiced kindness today? What one small thing can you do to reach across a divide and make a difference? How can you accomplish one small thing to help heal this beautiful yet broken world?

Blessings on your continued thanks-living journey!

PS: Don’t forget to comment if you want to have your own copy of I’ve got Some Lovin’ to Do, Volume One of The Doris Diaries, edited by Julia Park Tracey.

Photos by ~maja*majika and sweetonveg. Thanks!

Healthcare and Pizza?

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. I consume a lot of it, most homemade, but still a hefty portion at various restaurants. But here’s one thing I won’t do any longer–stuff my face at the expense of the pizza delivery guy or gal. That means no more patronizing Papa John’s Pizza.

I was appalled to read today that Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter plans to cut hours for his already meagerly compensated employees. Why? To avoid having to absorb the cost of medical benefits associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare). Earlier this summer he was chided when he stated that the cost of each pizza would increase by 11-14 cents because of the legislation.

Nobody asked me, but I’d gladly pay more for my pizza if the company CEO told me that he was providing a living wage and benefits for all employees. Fast food employees make close to minimum wage. That means the average pizza delivery person makes $15,000 plus tips in 2010 dollars. Don’t forget, said employee also drives his or her own vehicle and absorbs the cost of gas and car maintenance. Plus, that’s assuming the employee is full-time. Mr. Schnatter and other restauranteurs plan to avoid hiring full-time employees, meaning that same pizza delivery person will have to work a couple of part-time jobs to keep a nose above the U.S. poverty level.

As a community college English instructor, I always had students who delivered pizza while working on a degree that would afford them better earning potential. Oh, the tales they told! Don’t count on customers being good tippers; many tip poorly if at all. If these hourly wage earners get sick, need surgery, or are pregnant–too bad. No work equals no pay. The vast majority of these individuals were bright and articulate. Many of them were working to break out a life of poverty or to overcome the consequences of poor choices.

Mr. Schnatter and other entrepreneurs certainly have the right to run their businesses the way they see fit. There’s a reason they are wealthy, and I am middle class. That’s what a culture of choice and free enterprise is all about, right? What I have trouble squaring is a business that doesn’t put the well-being of its employees on at least the same level as the well-being of its customers and its quality control. After all, happy workers help ensure good quality and satisfied consumers.

Mr. Schnatter is quite the success story, although not one of rags to riches. He was a go-getter, a hard worker, and created a company that has done amazingly well, with a net worth worth somewhere around $400 million. The University of Louisville football stadium was named “Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium” thanks to his more than 10 million dollars worth of generous gifts to the University’s athletic program. Papa John’s is also the official pizza of the NFL and the Super Bowl, and you know that cost a pretty penny. Spokesperson Peyton Manning just signed a deal to own 21 Papa John’s locations in the Denver area and appears in television ads touting the pies.

Again, great business decisions and advertising. I’m not faulting Mr. Schnatter for being less than savvy. But come on, can’t you invest a little of the profits in the workers in the trenches? Can’t you help revolutionize the industry in a new and more humane way, one that would make Papa John’s an ethical star in the industry?

Mr. Schnatter understands the high costs associated with health care because he has a daughter who was born prematurely as the result of an automobile accident and who has had access to the best therapies and treatments medical science has to offer. Might that not motivate this CEO to assist his employees with basic healthcare? Evidently not.

In a People Magazine article from 1997, Mr. Schnatter was talking about the family mansion in Louisville and the addition of a 6,000 square foot carriage house that will never house any horses. “It’s too nice for them,” he says. “I just like building stuff.”

That’s cool, Mr. Schnatter, and I can appreciate that you enjoy building businesses and stuff. It’s what you do. As for me, as a pastor and writer, I’m in the business of building up people and working on behalf of justice for all God’s children. So, let’s make a deal. I’ll start eating your pizza again when you put your money where your mouth is and do right by your employees. And yes, I’ll gladly pay extra for it because that’s how business works–somebody has to pay.

In the meantime, and I suspect it may be a long time, I’ll make my money count by putting what I might have spent at Papa John’s into my church’s offering plate to benefit hunger ministries and the working poor. I’m going to invite everyone I know to join me in this effort, too. How’s that for a deal?

Wondering what this has to do with thanks-living? I’m glad I have the choice to make a difference and stand up for fellow Americans who don’t have access to healthcare like I am blessed to have.

Photos by moresheth, Arturo de Albornoz, and Keith Allison. Thanks!

Lovin’…Laughin’…Livin’ Doris Style

Occasionally a book comes along that just flat out tickles my fancy and keeps me turning pages in anticipation and delight. This is the kind of book I don’t want to put down. I want to savor certain snippets so much that I find myself turning again to particular quotes  and scenes. I find myself torn between galloping through to the end or savoring each page. A book like this is an experience, one that leaves the reader wanting more. Such is the case for me with I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen.

Doris Louise Bailey began keeping a diary in 1925, at the tender age of 15. Chronicling her adventures became a practice she would continue throughout her long life. After her death in 2011 at the age of 101, her great-niece, author and editor Julia Park Tracey, found herself in possession of a real treasure–a box of her journals, beginning with the very first teenage diary. Thankfully, Julia began the process of lovingly and carefully editing this gift in order to share Doris with a wider audience.

Typical of any teen, the pages are filled with tales of young love, exquisite crushes and fickle passions, vivid detail and bored pronouncements, all interwoven with the occasional poignant insight into the mysteries adolescence. Doris offers keen insight into the life of one very real roaring twenties teenage girl, making the book both good reading and solid history. The fads, culture, and events of the day are chronicled and filtered through the adolescent window of a girl who would become a most remarkable and strong woman.

I grew up in the South, so reading about a teen whose parents hailed from Alabama and Georgia but settled in Portland, Oregon to rear a family, was a real treat. It was delightful to watch her become bold enough to swear yet still mollified enough to cross out and soften her salty slips of tongue and pen. The book also contains a treasure trove of period photography, the majority of which were snapped by Doris’ older brother Rae with a circa 1918 Kodak box camera.

I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do gets a five star rating from me, as does editor Julia Park Tracey. It can be quite a challenge to edit someone’s private writings, especially a young voice from another era. I think you’ll be impressed by Park Tracey’s work and by her useful explanations, appendices, and forthright presentation.

Who should read this book? Anyone who enjoys a good character study will find Doris compelling. Teachers of history and women’s studies will appreciate how The Doris Diaries augment other selections and texts. Reading groups will have a hotsy-totsy (see page 198) time and some keen opportunities for themed gatherings while thumbing through the pages. Finally, anyone interested in journaling will appreciate Doris’ wit, honesty, and insight. Books make good gifts, so consider purchasing a copy for the young (and young-at-heart) readers on your holiday and birthday lists.

Win Your Own Copy of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Doris Bailey Murphy in word and image. To give you an opportunity to do so, too, Julia Park Tracey has generously donated a copy of the book for me to give to a reader. Check out some of the excepts from The Doris Diaries Facebook page and/or Twitter feed and then leave a comment by midnight PST Thursday night, November 15. I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments left. (Note: I was not paid to read, review, or endorse this book. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Coming Up Later this Week!

Look for a guest blog post by none other than Julia Park Tracy. I’ve known Julia through The Compact for several years now and appreciate her own blend of wit, wisdom, and wonderment. She’s an excellent writer, and I think you’ll enjoy what she has to say.

Time to get back to living this good day. Or, as Doris would say: “Love is life; life is love!”

Photos courtesy Julia Park Tracey. Thanks!



Seven Shades of Gratitude

The week is ending with a quiet, crisp sunset and a chill in the air. Tomorrow a new week will begin, a week filled with promise and possibility. I leave you this evening with seven shades of gratitude for this past week of thanks-living.

1.  I am grateful for our house. We don’t own our home; we live in a parsonage provided by my spouse’s congregation. It’s part of his compensation package, and we both feel grateful to live in this commodious turn of the 20th century brick home. It is more than ample for our needs, full of character, and set amidst a lovely landscape of Pennsylvania orchards dotting the rolling hills.

2.  I am grateful for heat. My writing desk sits next to the radiator, and I find its gurgling and occasional clanging to be a comforting sound and a reminder of the gift of heat. Heat is something I all too often take for granted until the power goes out and we find ourselves suddenly without it.

3.  I am grateful for hot green ginger honey tea. A pot is sitting beside me now. It warms and soothes my throat, helping to reduce the residual soreness from this week’s surgery. A cup of hot tea or coffee cupped between one’s hands is a simple pleasure not to be taken for granted.

4.  I am grateful for Skype. Skype allows me to converse with my daughter at college and my mother in Tennessee. It allows me to be a good steward of resources and and attend meetings at the congregation I serve without leaving home and burning fossil fuel. Skype dates were one of the ways my spouse and I kept connected when we were dating and lived so far apart. Yes, I am thankful for the gifts of technology.

5.  Tomorrow is Veterans Day. I am thankful for freedom. I am grateful to live in a country that guarantees me certain rights freedoms and also holds me accountable for the responsibilities of citizenship. I am grateful for the many men and women who have served in our country, including my father who served in World War II. Thank you all!

6.  I am grateful for music. I enjoy a variety of musical styles and genres ranging from jazz to folk to bluegrass to classical and a whole bunch more in between. Not a day goes by that I don’t listen to, sing, or play some kind of music.

7.  I am grateful for books to read. Since I’ve been home this week I’ve been turning the pages of several books–a biography, a diary, poetry, and fiction. While I appreciate the NOOK my daughter gave me, I also love to turn the pages of library books and wonder about their journeys. Right now, for example, I’m reading Jon Krakauer’s fine book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. A previous borrower must have had this book at the beach because grains of sand are caught between the cover and its cellophane protector. I wonder which beach?

So many things for which to be grateful and so many shades of gratitude to share and experience are available to each one of us every day. What shades of gratitude have colored your day and week?

Nota Bene: Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing one of the books I read this week, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen. Drop in; I think you’ll enjoy hearing about it so much that you’ll want your own copy to read! If you just can’t wait, you can check it out on Facebook. Click here.

Photos by k4dordy and RichardBH. Thanks!

Thankful I’ll be Home on Black Friday

Disclaimer: I begrudge no one the experience of shopping on Black Friday. If that’s your thing or your holiday tradition, go for it. To each his or her own.

I, however, won’t be engaging in any retail recreation or therapy on the day after Thanksgiving for several reasons that range from ethics and justice to simplicity and supporting local businesses. I’m thankful to be able to opt out of the consumer hamster wheel and choose a different way to spend the day. Here are my reasons.

1. Because we keep Christmas giving simple, there is no need to rush out and save a few cents (which is generally what it amounts to once the value of my time and fossil fuel is figured in). I don’t take pleasure in shopping, so there is particular incentive to hold this day sacrosanct for consumer activities. I would much rather stay home and read, write, play games, or watch a movie.

2. I find myself resenting the retail world’s ever-increasing competition to be the first, the earliest, and the most sensational. You can now shop Black Friday deals before the day even officially arrives. I find it equally annoying that the Halloween candy was competing for space with Christmas decorations before the little witches and goblins had a chance to don their costumes.

3. It’s pretty tough to balance giving thanks for abundant blessings one day and then obsessing over wants before the sun rises on a new morning. Whatever happened to being content? Or even simply letting your food settle before thinking about what to consume next? We in North America are incredibly blessed. Why not savor those blessings a little longer?

4. When I do shop, I prefer to do so locally, supporting independent businesses whenever possible. I also like to give gifts that are consumable, practical, or revolve around time and experiences. We make our own jellies and other canned goods to give. Other good options are handmade soaps, candles, plants, and wearable art. Best of all are gifts of time: concert passes, a certificate for dinner and a movie, or a coffee shop gift certificate. My favorite gift last year was a $5 stainless steel serving spoon. Hey, it gets used almost every day, and I get to tell the gifter repeatedly how much I like it!

5. Finally, I’m just stubborn enough and of an un-consumer mindset to resent being told what’s a great deal and what I simply can’t live without. Now that we don’t have television we get to opt out of a lot of the warm, snuggly holiday advertisements. Bah! Humbug! (Note: I direct that last Dickens-esque comment only to the commercial consumption machine and its minions–not to any holiday celebration.)

So, what alternatives exist to falling into the Black Friday black hole?

1. Just don’t do it. Plan a day of leftovers, lounging, sports, hunting, or hiking (if the weather allows). Spend time with family and friends. Give your children or grandchildren an entire day of your time. Take a little time to write letters, Skype, or phone the ones you love who live far from home.

2. Gather a group of friends and family members for a crafting day, bake-a-thon, or craft gift exchange. Make gifts together or barter and exchange for handmade gifts to give. You’ll have a blast, save money, and support one another’s artistic endeavors.

3. Declare a do-nothing pampering day. Take a long bubble bath. Eat fair-trade organic chocolate. Drink good fair trade coffee or tea. Stay in your pajamas all day long. Read that book you’ve been putting off. Give your spouse or significant other a massage. Do whatever brings you bliss. Remember that self-care is important, too. Hey, at least you won’t risk being mowed down in the quest for a limited edition Furby or the latest i-whatever!

4. Give of yourself. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen. Host a coat, glove, and hat drive. Collect non-perishables for the local food bank. Be creative and some way to give to others rather than to consume.

If you must shop on this most unholy of retail days, consider these alternatives:

4. Hit up the local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or consignment shops. See what perfectly wonderful treasures you might find for friends and family who support your un-consumer predilections and who find joy in preventing new additions to the consumer stream.

5. Shop locally. Go to your local farmer’s market, boutiques, or art galleries and support your local economy. Pay particular attention to selecting fairly traded, sustainable, and locally made items. Buy consumables if possible. Refuse to set foot in any big box or chain store for at least this one day.

6. If you simply must shop the major consumer retailers, consider carefully planning only what you need to purchase and make those purchases online. My super-bargainista friend Melissa tells me you can get almost anything at Black Friday prices that way. She would know because she is amazing at finding excellent deals. A major part of the reason she shops like this is to give to those in need and support local charities.

Finally, remember that there are very few real bargains. Somebody pays somewhere along the consumer chain. It may be that underpaid factory worker in China, or it may be the planet from the fossil fuel emissions expended to tote said “bargain” halfway around the world. It may be the big box store employee who gets just enough hours to prevent him or her from qualifying for benefits, or it may be you who supports government subsidies for these workers through your taxes. It might even be the person who receives the gift and finds out that corners were cut in the quality of the item to accommodate the supposed bargain price.

When you must consume, do your best to consumer justly, minimally, wisely, and thoughtfully. Make your precious resources count as best you can. Waste not, want not, and love your neighbor as yourself.

What ideas do you have for countering the Black Friday consumption monster?

Photos by Mike Licht,, KayOne73. glindsay65, bradley j, and Breibeest. Thanks!

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