Christmas Shopping

It’s that time of the year.  Malls are packed with people as they try to get their Christmas shopping done. Whenever I go into the mall and I go in and out of the stores, I am reminded why I don’t like shopping and can’t understand why people are shopaholics.  I only go to the mall when it is absolutely necessary.

Thankfully, my husband and I have finished our shopping.  I have discovered that it’s easier and less stressful to find out what people want instead of trying to figure it out.  My family and I ask each other what we want, make our lists and then pick one or two things from the lists. Everyone is happy because we get what we asked for as opposed to getting gifts we have no idea what to do with.

Don’t stress yourself out.  Get a list of things the person might want or find out from someone who might know.  For example, I ask my sister what I could get for our mother and she gives me suggestions.  I did the same when she wanted to know what to get for my son.  Doing it this way is a sure way of not spending endless hours in the mall trying to get something you think the person might like.

For kids you can ask their parents.  If you have kids of your own, you should have an idea of what they like.  With the new Star Wars movie out, some parents are probably getting Yoda (my favorite SW character) or R2-D2 or the action figures.  I just visited the Toys R Us site and they already have lots of items from The Force Awakens.  I can imagine how busy the stores are. My husband and I are weaning our son off of toys and the action figures.  He is reading more now so I suggested to my sister that she could get books for him.  I also suggested getting a journal as he likes to write stories or a drawing book because he likes to draw.  However, as a surprise and a treat I think he deserves for doing well at school, I bought the Lego Obi Wan Kanobi for him and was delighted when I got a complimentary gift wrap.  So, I have one less gift to wrap.  Kids are easier to buy for.  They let you know what they like.   And what a joy it is to see their faces when they unwrap those presents and see the things they wished for.

Don’t spend too much.  And it depends on how many people you are buying gifts for.  I was buying for four people so I set a budget for $200.00 but I tried not to spend more than $180.00. This year, I ended up spending around $160.00, this included cards, stamps and gift bags.  I was determined not to spend more than $30.00 for a gift and look for the items that were on sale.  The most I ended up spending on a gift this time around was $33.00 and change.

Don’t wait until the week of Christmas to go shopping.  Too stressful. The parking lots of the shopping malls were full to capacity and the lines to get in and out were ridiculous.  It took my husband about over twenty minutes just to turn the corner so that I could come and pick me up. Almost everything you want is gone.  I went to get long johns for him and there weren’t any in his size.  I promised myself that next year I will shop either during the last week in November or in the first week of December.

When you have done all of your shopping and gift-wrapping, you can breathe a sigh of relief and take a break.  Then, start planning your Christmas dinner menu….

stressed shopper

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Literacy Saved Her Paycheck

Literacy brings an incredible freedom to women in South Asia; helping them to take care of their families, not be cheated at the marketplace, and be able to read the Bible for themselves – Gospel for Asia

As an avid reader, I can’t imagine not being able to read.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  I loved reading since I was a child.  It led to my other favorite thing–writing.  Being able to read and write can really make a difference.  You can read books, study the Bible, write letters, read recipes, directions, the labels on products in the grocery store and write checks.   These are things that most of us can do but in South Asia, more than 30% of the women are unable to because of illiteracy.

Imagine that you are illiterate and have no opportunity for an education. Imagine the struggles you face as you try to make ends meet while your husband spends your earnings on alcohol.  This was Dayita’s reality.  She came from a village where few girls received an education.  Being illiterate left her with very few options.  She began sewing clothing to ease her family’s financial situation.  Her husband Kaamil deposited her earnings in the bank but she was horrified when she found out that he was withdrawing her money so that he could buy alcohol.  Desperate, Dayita found someone to help her to open her own bank account but managing it proved to be very difficult because she couldn’t read or write.  She was unable to fill out the deposit and withdrawal forms.  She had to rely on others to help her.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

God saw that Dayita needed help and He intervened.  He sent Ashna and Neha, believers from the local Women’s Fellowship to start a literacy class in Dayita’s area.  Dayita began attending the sessions because she was determined to keep her hard-earned money safe.  To her surprise, Kaamil supported her.  Ashna taught two hour classes on reading and writing from a Bible based curriculum.  Within two months, Dayita could read and write enough to fill out her bank forms.  She is able to deposit and withdraw money on her own now.  She is able to get around because she can read the names of buses and bus stations.  Thanks to the ministry of Ashna and Neha, Dayita is learning about Jesus and starting to believe in Him.

Thanks be to God, who sees all and knows all and is every ready to help those who are in need, Dayita can enjoy the freedom that literacy brings.  Knowing how to read and write, she doesn’t have to depend on others for help.  She can go to the bank and do a transaction any time she wants.  She can travel without worrying about getting lost.  She can also enjoy the freedom that knowing Jesus brings.

If you are interested in helping other women like Dayita, find out how at this link.  Help to free the women of South Asia from the yoke of illiteracy.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Global Renaissance Woman

“I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone…”

Maya blamed herself for the death of the man who sexually abused and raped her when she was only eight years old.  For five years she remained mute until a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, helped her to speak again.

In her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya touches on her childhood rape.  Rape is used as a metaphor for the suffering of her race. Another metaphor, that of a bird struggling to escape its cage, is a central image throughout the work, which consists of “a sequence of lessons about resisting racist oppression”.  Angelou’s treatment of racism delivers a thematic unity to the book. Literacy, and seizing the power of words, help young Maya cope with her bewildering world; books become her refuge as she works through her trauma.

 Caged Bird was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and remained on The New York Times paperback bestseller list for two years. It has been used in educational settings from high schools to universities, and the book has been celebrated for creating new literary avenues for the American memoir. However, the book’s graphic depiction of childhood rape, racism, and sexuality has caused it to be challenged or banned in some schools and libraries.

 The success of  I Know Why the Caged Bird sings hailed Maya as the as a new kind of memoirist and earned her the distinction of being the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life.  She became recognized and highly respected as a spokesperson for blacks and women. It made her “without a doubt, …America’s most visible black woman autobiographer”.  According to author Hilton Als, Maya made an important contribution to the increase of black feminist writings in the 1970s.  Her writings which were more about self-revelation than politics freed many other female writers to “open themselves up without the shame to the eyes of the world.”

 Angelou is one of the most honored writers of her generation. She has been honored by universities, literary organizations, government agencies, and special interest groups. Her honors include a National Book Award nomination for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 1973 play Look Away, and three Grammys for her spoken word albums. 

 In 1995, Angelou’s publishing company, Bantam Books, recognized her for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List. In 1998, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She has served on two presidential committees, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Musician Ben Harper has honored Angelou with his song “I’ll Rise”, which includes words from her poem, “Still I Rise.” She has been awarded over thirty honorary degrees.

Maya is dubbed the “global renaissance woman”  She is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature.  She travels and continues to captivate audiences with her words and lyrics.  She is a multifaceted woman–poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director and an inspiration for many of us.  Notes to Women salute this amazing woman who found her voice and is using it to spreading her legendary wisdom. 

 I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.

   

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Know_Why_the_Caged_Bird_Sings

http://mayaangelou.com/

Women and Money

I thought it would be interesting to find out some facts about women and money especially as I used to spend, spend, spend money on clothes, shoes, books and Bibles.  I have so many Bibles.  The clothes I bought I had to donate because they couldn’t fit me.  I had to get new clothes when I became pregnant.  I had to get Employment insurance when I went on mat leave.  I am still paying off my VISA debts.  I had planned to buy new clothes and shoes which I really need but will have to wait until the next time I get paid because I have to pay the rent.

Being in debt makes me feel  a bit overwhelmed sometimes and find myself longing for the days when I used to be able to pop into my favorite stores and buy what I needed.  I needed tips on how to stay on top of my debts until they are all paid off and came across these 8 must-follow tips from the Women in Red online community for reducing debt by M.P. Dunleavey.

1.

Face Up to What You Owe Financial solvency starts with fearless honesty. So sit down and tally every last dime.

2.

Set Up an Emergency Fund
Having backup savings will help keep you from going further into the red.

3.

Repay Aggressively
A good online debt calculator (like the one on bankrate.com) lets you run “what if” scenarios with different repayment amounts and deadlines. Choose a plan that’s more demanding than you’d like.

4.

Track Your Money
It’s duller than eating Weetabix for breakfast, but keep a spending diary for at least two weeks. What you’ll learn: why and how your cash is leaking away.

5.

Inspire Yourself
Visualize your post-debt life, when you will be able to use your money for some interesting or more important things.

6.

Go On a Cash-Only Diet
It’s a known law of financial physics: Plastic attracts debt. So cut up all your credit cards (except one, for emergencies), and when you buy, spend actual money.

7.

Pay Bills More Often
Many Racers make debt payments two or even four times a month. This pares down principal faster and reduces interest, too.

8.

Adopt a “No Excuses” StrategyYou may not want to take on a weekend job or sell your grandmother’s jewelry — but maybe you should. Do whatever it takes to succeed. You’ll thank yourself when your debt load shrinks

Right now I have one credit card which I can’t use because I am trying to pay off the debt I still owe.  I am using cash only to buy what I need.  I am really trying to conserve and only buy things that are essential.   I have enough clothes for now and I can survive on three pairs of shoes although one pair looks worn.  I have my moments of discouragement and a sense that I will never get out of debt but then I get suggestions from my fiance and I feel optimistic.  Right now I am looking into an option he suggested to me.  Hopefully it will work.

If you are in debt, don’t be discouraged.  Just focus on paying off your debts using these tips.

Writer and Philanthropist

My mother’s favorite novelist is Catherine Cookson.  After I read a few of her books and watched movies based on them I became a fan too.  Her characters seemed so real and no wonder–her books were inspired by her deprived youth in North East deEngland, the setting for her novels.

Catherine’s story is as intriguing as the stories she wrote.  She was the illegitimate child of an alcoholic named Kate Fawcett, she grew up thinking her unmarried mother was her sister, as she was raised by her grandparents, Rose and John McMullen.   She married Tom Cookson, a teacher.  Tragically, she suffered four miscarriages and had a mental breakdown.  It took her ten years to recover.  She also suffered from a rare vascular disease, telangiectasia, which causes bleeding from the nose, fingers and stomach and results in anemia.

Catherine took up writing as a form of therapy to tackle her depression, and joined Hastings Writers’ Group. Her first novel, Kate Hannigan, was published in 1950.  She became the United Kingdom’s most widely read novelist, with sales topping 100 million, while retaining a relatively low profile in the world of celebrity writers.  She remained the most borrowed author from public libraries in the UK for 17 years, only losing the title in 2002, four years after her death.

Thanks to her craft Catherine became a multi-millionnaire.  She supported  causes in North East England and medical research in areas that were close to her heart.  She also donated more than £1 million for research into a cure for the illness that afflicted her (Wikipedia). 

With affluence Catherine concentrated on philanthropic activities to support the less fortunate. Catherine Cookson created a trust at the University of Newcastle with a committed amount of £ 800,000. The self titled Trust is dedicated towards the progress and research in the field of medical sciences and provides medical support to the underprivileged. Besides this Catherine Cookson also contributed £20,000 for the Hatton Gallery of the University and £32,000 for it’s library (http://www.catherinecookson.net/).

Despite the challenges and tragedies in her life, Catherine Cookson reached out to help others by using the money she made from the sales of her books. The plight of the less fortunate and the underprivileged moved her to do something to make life easier for them. 

Writing helped Catherine to get through her dark hours.  It is my hope and prayer that if you are going through something, that you will find the help you need to cope.