Fare Well, Glossop Events

 Posted by at 11:22 on 4 May 2016
May 042016
 

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A group I’ve enjoyed being part of, Walk the Wheel, which celebrates the changing seasons, is for now ended. The Beltane walk was cancelled by the organizer a few days beforehand, and she also announced that it was time for her to draw it all to a close. This wasn’t entirely unexpected by me, so it wasn’t a shock. I understand some of what’s going on in her life that’s led her to this; things are right for a time, and then they’re not. The notion we seem to have in our culture of permanence in all things leads to much more heartache than is necessary. I am sad for myself, though, because I quite like the celebrations, and the group of people, and I hope someone else picks up the reigns. We shall see what the future holds. In the mean time, Chris is being a sport and celebrating the turns of the wheel with me.

As I mulled over this turn of events for Walk the Wheel, I realized some more and larger truths. First of all, I realized that some of what Keli wrote echoes how I feel about Glossop Events:

I’ve been fighting this truth for some months; although I’ve sensed a need to release Walk the Wheel in its current form into the ether, seeing where it eventually ends up and perhaps allowing it to transform and be born anew in the future, I’ve been too afraid to do so. Afraid it would look like failure or a waste and afraid to lose all the wonderful connections I’ve made along the way. Despite being a great advocate of letting go and trusting in the cycles of nature, my instinct has been overcome by my fear of losing the friendships and community that I have been blessed to know and be a part of over these past years. Some of these friendships are still quite new, others go back much further; all are very important to me and something I am loath to see lost because I am feeling ‘uncertain’.

But if there is one thing walking the Wheel has taught me its that these feelings are often nudges towards a new path that holds new adventures and opportunities; for now I think my path needs to move away from organising Walk the Wheel.

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Me, too. I’ve been fighting with myself over what to do about Glossop Events for some time. I’ve been afraid to let it go and lose all the wonderful connections, and the feeling of connectedness it gave me. But in truth, I’ve lost the passion for it; that’s the bottom line. I need to release it into the ether because maybe the spring energy is stirring the passion in someone else who wants to do it now, put their own spin on it, do it their own way. I need to release it because I need to close this project to leave myself open to other possibilities in life – ones I’m passionate about.

I’ve mostly enjoyed the time in my life I’ve spent doing Glossop Events. I’ve enjoyed the connections I’ve made; I hope they don’t all fade away. I hope people continue to enjoy events in the local area, and remember that there are plentiful things going on locally.

Go forth, support local events, enjoy them, be happy. 🙂

Photo by DttSP

Photo by DttSP

Cromford and Matlock

 Posted by at 11:42 on 28 April 2016
Apr 282016
 

As part of my birthday weekend, we went for a lovely walk down in Cromford. I had a WI meeting to go to in Darley Dale for a couple of hours that afternoon; we decided we’d make a day of it, with a walk first, and then our packed lunches, and then we’d go get my birthday cake and then come home.

I’m partial to ice cream cakes, which we’ve tried to make but failed at a few times, so given up. We were absolutely delighted to find that we could, after all, get them here in the UK, in a few select Baskin Robbins locations – and thankfully one of them is near enough to us to make this a viable option. So that last stop was in Sheffield.

It’d been raining all weekend, so we reckoned the ground was all muddy, and more rain threatened still, so we opted for walking along the Cromford Canal, which would be graveled or paved or the like, and less muddy (mostly) than hill walking. It did mean walking in a straight line for awhile and then turning around and walking back, but it was pretty.

We naturally forgot the umbrella in the car, so when it did decide to pour down, I held part of Chris’ coat over my head (he was still wearing the other part) so I could still be vaguely presentable at my afternoon meeting – I’m sure we made quite a sight! It worked, at least. 😉

We had our lunch, the meeting was less useless than I expected, and then the time had gotten away so I decided we’d have dinner there in Matlock before going on to Sheffield. I regretted this decision later on, but hey ho. We wandered around Matlock til the restaurant opened – I’ve never had a chance to explore Matlock before; now I’m quite familiar with it. We got the cake, which was lovely, and headed home. It was a nice day, overall. Have some photos from the walk.

Tricycle

 Posted by at 11:42 on 27 April 2016
Apr 272016
 

I saw this a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to share it. Unusual!

a cyclist on the road on a tricycle - three full-size wheels, two at the back, one at the front.

The roads here are too dangerous for cyclists of any description – you can tell by the daily death toll of bicyclists and motorcyclists (whereas car, truck, and van wrecks/injuries/deaths are quite rare) – which is why I never bicycled before I got a car, even though it’d have been a huge help in my daily life around town, since it’s so much faster and lower-impact than walking. (You’re not supposed to bicycle on the sidewalk, which is sometimes stupid and sometimes sensible, but they have to make blanket laws for all situations instead of assuming anyone has any brain anymore.) But for the suicyclists who’re going to do it anyway, I did notice that cars were tending to give this tricycle more space than they give bicycles when passing, despite it not really being that much wider than the person.

Snow Day!

 Posted by at 12:34 on 4 March 2016
Mar 042016
 

It is well and truly snowing today.

8:30am, from Dinting Arches

8:30am, from Dinting Arches

It was snowing when I first looked out at 8am, and it hasn’t stopped once yet – it’s now 12:30.

Looking up Chunal Lane at 12 noon.

Looking up Chunal Lane at 12 noon.

There’s a chance of snow forecast to carry straight on through to 6am tomorrow morning.

The little tree on the left in the foreground is a cherry tree - it's in blossom, though you can't see that.  There are also a bunch of daffodils in flower buried in the snow at its base.

The little tree on the left in the foreground is a cherry tree – it’s in blossom, though you can’t see that. There are also a bunch of daffodils in flower buried in the snow at its base.

There are traffic accidents all over the place, naturally. One year ago today we went to collect our UK car from the dealer – thank heavens it wasn’t like this then!

Amazingly, we’ve actually gotten our milk and mail deliveries today. We’ll see if the eggs come later – I’m betting they’ll be snowed in on the farm.

Adventures in Dentistry

 Posted by at 01:19 on 20 February 2016
Feb 202016
 

Chris broke a tooth on Wednesday while he was eating his lunch. We don’t have a dentist, and aren’t terribly certain how this all works; we had to learn a lot about dentists very quickly. We did what we tend to do: the person who wasn’t broken took charge of the situation. So I tried to calm Chris down, and found him a dentist to go see. I also learned that apparently broken teeth are a common dental problem, according to the many dental practice websites I looked at and friends I spoke with who’d been through it. I also versed myself slightly in dental knowledge, so I’d avoid that feeling I can’t stand of complete cluelessness in preparation for talking to a dentist. I learned more about crowns and fillings in that 24 hours than I ever wanted to!

I’d looked into getting set up with a dentist awhile back, but gotten bamboozled by the apparent complexity and difficulty of it all and put it off. We’ve been very blessed and lucky with good dental health, or at least whatever problems we might have haven’t been apparent to us, so there wasn’t much motivation to navigate the complexity and get this sorted. However, I decided that I’d take this as a wake-up call and get us registered with a dentist while or after sorting out this emergency. Now, I’m going to tell you some about what dentistry is like today in the UK – at least, how to navigate it as a patient, at the beginning.

Kinds of Patients

In the beginning, the NHS covered dentistry the same as it currently covers doctoring: no payment required at point of need (paid for out of everyone’s paycheques instead). At some point, they decided to break dentistry off and treat it differently – and start charging for it.

Currently, there are 3 kinds of dental patients, in terms of how the work is paid for:

  1. NHS patients who pay nothing.
  2. NHS patients who pay something.
  3. Private patients who pay everything.

#1 is a fairly small group – basically those on certain kinds of welfare, those under 18, and pregnant women or those who’ve given birth in the last year. See “Who is entitled to free dental care?” on this page.

#2 is where the rest of us would usually like to end up. Essentially, any course of treatment has a specified co-pay. You’ll pay either £18.80, £51.50, or £222.50 (at the moment; they raise these amounts slightly every year) for your course of treatment. Not per visit – so for a crown, it’s £222.50, but you’ll have to (I think) go in, get a mold made of your tooth, and then go back once the crown is ready to put in. If something went wrong and you went back about that crown, it should still be covered under that one payment.

It seems most NHS patients will get some treatment paid for by the NHS and some they’ll pay for privately (all from their same dental practice), so it’s a mix. It depends on what their priorities are, basically, as each issue comes up.

#3 – This might be your only option at the time you need to get registered with a dentist, depending on what waiting lists are like. The charges for private patients are much higher, but they do give more freedom in what you choose.

I read somewhere but can’t find now, so could be wrong, that the NHS will only cover, for example, a metal crown for a molar; if you want a tooth-colored crown (porcelain, emax, lava, inVision, procera, and many more choices), you’ll need to pay extra for this, or maybe you’ll need to just pay the private cost wholemeal, I don’t know yet. An example I can cite is “the use of tooth-coloured fillings on back teeth is considered purely cosmetic” – so the NHS would only cover amalgam fillings on back teeth, made of “a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, tin, and copper.” As a private patient, you would automatically be asked to choose among all the different filling materials your dentist offers.

As a private patient, you generally have two options:

  • Sign up to a membership plan
  • Pay as you go

Based on the number of dental practice websites I’ve perused in the last couple of days, what the membership plans seem to have done is take everything they want to have you do annually – one or two exams by the dentist, two or four hygenist appointments, maybe an xray (it’s different from practice to practice) – and add up how much they charge for that, divide it by 12, and tell you that’s the monthly payment for the plan. Then they add in free emergency appointments and some discount on the rest of the work you might need – fillings, crowns, etc – I saw 10% and 20%. You’re still paying vastly more than the NHS patients (#2) – this example would have a full set of upper dentures for £432, versus £222.50 from the NHS. For the difference, you’re usually promised more time and more choice of whatever you want done and materials used.

If you don’t sign up for the membership plan, you can just pay as you go, paying for each of the services as needed. You get no discount, but then you’re not tied to that dentist for a year’s plan, either.

How To Register As A Patient

In all cases, this is what you do as a registered patient. You become one of those by finding a dentist who’s taking new patients and signing up – they’re usually (but not always) taking new private patients, but they only have a certain number of NHS patients they’ll take. Some will have waiting lists going; some will only open registration from time to time, and if you catch them when they do, you’re lucky. Some practices are private-only, but not many.

Your best bet to start with is to look at the NHS Choices Service Search and start phoning the dentists to see if they’re taking on new patients. The website tells you what the NHS knows about who’s taking on new NHS patients, and it was reasonably accurate for us yesterday, but I think it’s best to just phone any that you can get to, build your own list of who’s taking on NHS patients and private patients, and go from there. There are some reviews on that site as well of the practices, which you might find useful.

Then pick one or more practices, and do what you want. We’ve found 4 in reasonable reach that’re taking on NHS patients, so we’ve decided to visit all of them, get a feel for the places as best we can from the property and the waiting area, and then decide which to register with. Near as I can reckon, our first appointments should fall into that £18.80 band; we’ll decide after that whether to carry on with them or keep hunting for a dentist more to our liking.

Mayday! Mayday!

So what do you do when you have a dental emergency? If you’re a registered patient of any sort, you phone up your dental practice, and they fit you in as soon as they can. Same day appointments are rare, it seems – I boggle at these peoples’ idea of the meaning of “emergency”.

If you’re not registered anywhere, or I suppose if your dentist is on vacation or something inconsiderate like that, find the urgent dental care provision for your area. Google something like “urgent dental care” plus the name of your town to find it. In Manchester, the provision is to go to a clinic that runs from 9am to 12noon Mon to Fri, and just sit and wait. You show up as early as you can – doors open at 7:45 – and they’ll triage everyone and try to see you.

Living in Glossop, we could’ve gone to that, but we could also phone an appointment line, 0161 476 9649 from 8am to 6:30pm and 0161 337 2246 outside those hours. I think what happens is the first number opens at 8am with a certain number of NHS emergency appointments available at dentists throughout Tameside, and they make appointments until they run out of slots for the day. Then you’re told to try back the next day.

There’s also a clinic, the George Street Clinic, here in Glossop, that might have seen him had he been in pain and had we phoned them before we sorted out anything else. I didn’t phone them til we were hunting for a regular dentist, and they’re full up for that, but they seemed ready to see what they could do if he needed immediate attention, so I’m noting this here for my own future reference, and anyone in town who might somehow find and read this.

Our Adventure So Far

Chris broke his tooth at 1pm on Wednesday, so the Manchester clinic was closed. I phoned the Tameside appointment line first, and they had no more appointments available that day, so I phoned around to different dentists til I found a private dentist to book an emergency appointment with, and did so. The earliest I could get was 10am on Thursday; the practice I’d have preferred couldn’t book him in til Friday; some wouldn’t see a patient not registered with them at all. Private emergency appointments range in this area from £40 to £100 for that one appointment, but we knew something needed to be done to keep this from turning into an infection and then an abcess, so that was top priority. Thankfully he didn’t have pain, and he could eat.

I’d asked the various dental receptionists what he could do in the mean time before his appointment on Thursday – or some were offering Friday – and the best they could suggest was consulting a pharmacist. On his way home that evening, he did. There’s a kit he could’ve tried – they sell some sort of at-home kit for broken teeth – but there was a possibility that he was allergic to one of the ingredients, so between them, they decided it’d be fine til the next morning’s appointment, and he left it.

I phoned the appointment line back the next morning and managed to get an NHS emergency appointment, so I cancelled the private appointment and we went to our NHS appointment where the dentist had a look and told Chris what he thought (he thinks he needs a crown), and put a plastic cap on to keep out infection, and now Chris can talk correctly, too. Progress.

Remember what I said about the meaning of “emergency” up there? The dentist asked Chris approximately when it happened, and he said, “Yesterday at 1:00.” “Wow, that’s not approximate at all. I’m used to people saying, ‘Oh, a week or two ago.'” Both of our brains broke a bit when he said that – how do you forget that your tooth broke, and how do you leave it that long?! Seems like you’re just begging for an infection and abcess by then!

I’d been under the impression, after reading the NHS website and speaking with that dentist’s receptionist that morning on the phone, that this dentist would then do the job – the crown that Chris needs – but no, he just put the plastic thing in and sent us on our way. After some initial discombobulation (on both my part and the receptionist’s), I’m happy about this: I was tolerated, but not actually included. My husband and I are a team, so this is no place for us.

So then we went to the website above – the receptionist, at least, was helpful, and pointed us there – and started calling around to the different dentists. The first one I called said they are accepting NHS patients for one-off treatments, so I took that to start with, and told them what’s up. We now have an appointment for the 29th with that dentist, so this plastic cap need only last 11 days.

We then found 4 more practices that said they’re accepting NHS patients. We only had time left to make it to one before the close of day, so we went there. It was nice, from what we could tell, so we’ve put our names on the waiting list there – apparently it’s just a few weeks long at the moment. By the time they call, we’ll have been by the others, and be able to tell them to go on to the next people if that’s what we decide.

Thankfully catchment area’s not an issue with dentists now – it used to be that you could only go to certain dentists, based on where you live, but now you can choose any dentist. (Catchment area’s still an issue with doctors, though.) This is whether you go as an NHS patient or as a private patient. This is really good, because we only have five dentist practices in Glossopdale; 2 have treated Chris extremely poorly in the past, 1 gives me a very bad feeling, 1 has bad reviews I have trouble ignoring, and 1 has recently put someone we know on their waiting list and told her it’ll be a year. Out of town it is, then!

So that’s where we’ve been, and where we are. Wish us luck!

My new letter holder!

 Posted by at 14:50 on 2 February 2016
Feb 022016
 
My new letter holder, made by Chris!

My new letter holder, made by Chris!

I send lots of mail. I delight in brightening others’ days with a bit of personal mail – we all get far too much spam and bills in our mailboxes these days.

Some time ago, Chris thought of making me a letter holder to help hold and sort outgoing mail, and this got compounded to also sort my mail paraphernalia. He’d made me one awhile ago, but never finished it – he gave it to me before he finished it, and I immediately put it to use, so then he couldn’t well take it away to finish it. He tweaked the design, anyway, added a drawer, and this and that, and so that became the prototype, and now he’s made the finished product. And it’s done! Yipee!

It’s beautiful, and smooth, and the drawer glides nicely, and it’s exactly what I need, instead of me having to make do with what’s available.

Thank you, Chris!

Painfully circuitous speech

 Posted by at 10:45 on 21 December 2015
Dec 212015
 

I’ve realized something recently about the culture I’m in. It may or may not be the same as the culture I come from – this is one of the pitfalls of transitioning at one of the natural life transitions: you don’t always know what’s due to the place, and what’s due to the stage of your life, and what’s simply due to personality.

I’ve observed this method of communication hereabouts that relies heavily on getting others to talk about you, rather than stating your own case, in many situations. One that jumps to mind is if someone’s good at something. Let’s say Jo is good at writing. If Jo says she’s good at writing, it will rub most people the wrong way, at least around here. They’ll think she’s boasting, full of herself, needs to be taken down a peg, etc. But if Bob says Jo is good at writing, it’s fine. It’s even better if Jo’s not there.

Another example is with health issues. Jean may have a serious health issue, let’s say. She’ll tell her closest friends the nitty gritty of it, but she’ll gloss over all that with her acquaintances – “It’s no big deal” or “Mustn’t grumble”, etc. Her closest friends will be relied upon to fill in the gaps for the others, to tell them how horrible what she’s going through is, so that she can be admired for going through it so bravely and never complaining.

And so on. This is a pattern I see a great deal of, with different subjects, with different people.

Given that, I’ve just realized that a speaker needs to put flashing red lights around anything they want to not be spread around. “Don’t tell anyone this, you understand?”, etc. That is so weird to me. I’m so used to simply keeping confidences without thinking about it – and treating nearly everything told to me as a confidence – and expecting nearly everything I tell others to be kept confidential. I’m so used to just talking plainly, about my own things and asking about others’ things. This roundabout, painfully circuitous talk is hard. Not least because it all seems so utterly pointless.

Belief-generating machines

 Posted by at 14:14 on 20 December 2015
Dec 202015
 

I’ve read this fascinating article today, which starts out about dowsing, but ends up being about so much more. I did learn that you can dowse for anything, not just water – lost keys, landmines, gold, anything – and that it goes back to 6000 BCE. But this is my favorite bit (emphasis is mine):

When Richard Dawkins investigated dowsing in 2007, he concluded that humans were no different than B F Skinner’s pigeons. In a classic psychology experiment in the 1940s, Skinner put hungry birds in a cage with a machine that provided food sporadically. He found that the pigeons soon associated whatever actions they happened to be making, like turning clockwise, with the food’s arrival. The birds would later perform the same actions in hopes of receiving more.

Skinner speculated this was the basis of superstition, like wearing lucky socks. We act as if our behaviour has an outsized impact on the world because it’s discouraging to believe that things just happen: that good fortune is undeserved, that tragedy might have no meaning.

So true. This is one of my pet hates – looking for rhyme or reason where there isn’t any. It leads to people talking in circles for hours on end, speculating round and round. “Why have they suffered so?” “Why have they benefited so?” Usually, it causes the speaker to moralize every last thing the subject has ever done in their life until they find something suitably good or bad on which to hang the outcome, just so that the speaker ends up feeling better to have created rhyme and reason in the end.

Obviously, 45-year-old Johnny deserved to fall into poverty and become homeless because he once dipped Jenny’s hair in the inkwell when they were at school, as 8-year-olds. Clearly that’s what tipped the hand of fate against him.

The article continues:

In our increasingly literate and technological society, this kind of superstition still has a surprising amount of power. James Alcock, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, says that’s because we’re fundamentally “belief-generating machine[s]” with a “yearning unit”. We yearn to reduce fear, and develop our beliefs accordingly. “Rationality and scientific truth have little to offer most people as remedies for existential anxiety.”

“I think we’re all seekers,” says Shirley Runco, another dowser in California. “Even if we don’t realise it. Everybody wants the truth and everybody wants to be happy. So they search.”

If you’re looking for meaning, believing in divinity might simply be more helpful than understanding entropy. But water, unlike God, is a tangible thing. So how can dowsers be so sure about something that can be proven false?

Some of their confidence could stem from a phenomenon known as confirmation bias, humans’ tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that proves one’s preconceptions. “A man with a conviction is a hard man to change,” wrote the psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1940s. “Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” Small wonder there’s a large gap between what the general population thinks about science-related topics and what scientists think. The Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society (2015), published by the Pew Research Center, shows an alarming disparity – as much as 40 per cent – in views on many important issues such as climate change and vaccines. We’re wired to find the sources we agree with and to ignore the ones we don’t. So when dowsers don’t find water, they’re inclined to blame the test conditions or the situation rather than their ability.

Where this gets tricky is that scientists aren’t immune to confirmation bias either. In theory, the scientific method asks questions – how does dowsing work? – and then attempts to test them empirically. Repeatable results are fundamental to truth. But in practice, perhaps because of confirmation bias, scientific results are not nearly as consistent as we’d like to believe: a report in Science this summer found that nearly two-thirds of the published experiments they considered could not be replicated. Brian Nosek, one of the researchers, explained to NPR: “Our best methodologies to try to figure out truth mostly reveal to us that figuring out truth is really hard.”

Science has been turned into a religion by many, and that’s not right. Challenging the received wisdom of science has become nigh impossible – your results will automatically be labelled pseudoscience if they don’t fit within the current paradigm. That’s not what science should be. It’s supposed to be a method for questioning the world until we find what’s really there – until we figure out the truth. It’s supposed to be a superior method to what it replaced of clinging onto beliefs dogmatically … or did it replace those? Hm.

And what we do know is that results are mixed, on just about any subject you might care to name. There are a few biggies that have been extensively studied so that there’s a consensus – climate change is happening, smoking is bad – but most of the studies out there make a lot of assumptions that may or may not be true. They have to; it’s the nature of the beast. So you try it again, making different assumptions, and see if you come up with a similar answer. At least that’s what I’d do; the official method is to try it again making the same assumptions, but that seems a bit silly to me.

They also cut corners: they can’t afford to follow a bunch of people all the way to death – that takes decades and lots of money – so they find a shorter way. They measure, say, their cholesterol, and then they say that X leads to more death – because X led to higher cholesterol, and higher cholesterol usually leads to more death. But that’s not what fits in the headline or soundbite, and it’s not always entirely accurate – after all, we have drugs to lower cholesterol, so is X such a problem, after all? And was it X, anyway, or was it some unknown other thing they didn’t think to ask about – perhaps all of those people who did X also did Y (perhaps lived within a block of each other, next to a chemical plant, for example).

People are using the soundbites that the media generates from scientific research – which themselves are a distortion of the research – as gospel, when in fact they’re only provisional pieces of the puzzle. It irritates me. I wish they’d just use their common sense instead. If doing X or Y gives them some personal benefit that they can feel, then they should do it. Otherwise, they shouldn’t.

Gifts and cards vs charities at Christmas

 Posted by at 13:19 on 14 December 2015
Dec 142015
 

It has become quite trendy in recent years to donate to charity as a Christmas gift: you give the would-be recipient a card or something telling them you’ve bought half a donkey in Ethiopia, or some such. (They never tell us whether it’s the right half or the left half … the top half or the bottom half … ). Now, it’s even become trendy to announce that you’re donating to charity instead of sending Christmas cards.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, undoubtedly making myself unpopular, by saying I really don’t like these trends at all. Why on earth not? Let’s take them one at a time.

A collection box labelled "for the poor"

By Steven Depolo. CC 2.0

“I donated to this charity instead of giving you a gift!”

“Oh, um, er, that’s good, I suppose. What’s the charity do?”

“Distributes half-donkeys in Ethiopia so that families can become self-sufficient.”

“Oh, okay. That’s nice. Um, thank you.”

What’s wrong with this picture? Lots. Perhaps the recipient’s never heard of this charity, doesn’t necessarily care about this cause, doesn’t necessarily believe that the charity does a good job at what it says it’s doing, doesn’t necessarily believe that the charity’s stated goal (distributing half-donkeys) will achieve its stated aim (making families self-sufficient), and possibly other problems.

Perhaps the recipient has a charity they really believe in, that they wish you’d have donated to instead – maybe one that distributes half-pigs to families in Kenya. That may sound like much the same thing to you, and even be about the same price point, but for all you know, the recipient knows that the Kenya one turns 90% of donations into half-pigs, versus the Ethiopia one turning 50% of donations into half-donkeys. Or perhaps the Kenya one is one the recipient actually saw in action on a visit to Africa, and was moved by. Or perhaps they’d rather if you donated to the animal shelter they volunteer at once a week. Or maybe their relative has a really rare condition, and they’d like to raise money for research into that disease.

Yet you’ve put them on the spot – they’re supposed to act thrilled that you’ve donated to this charity that you’ve chosen and you believe in – and generally, we’re socialized to feel that we should act even more thrilled about this misplaced charity donation than we should about a badly chosen ordinary gift (the horrible sweater, the book you’ll never read), because after all, it’s for a good cause! If you’re not happy about helping other people – especially at Christmas – then you’re a horrible person!

But if it’s supposed to be a gift for somebody, it needs to mean something to them. What charities do they want to support? Find out.

1940s Christmas card, by 1950sUnlimited. CC 2.0

1940s Christmas card, by 1950sUnlimited. CC 2.0

And part number 2: “We’re not sending any Christmas cards this year – instead we’re making a donation to charity for the amount we’re saving!”

First of all, this just smacks so much of hipsterism: it strikes me that lots of people don’t see a point in Christmas cards and don’t want to do them, so they spout this line instead so they don’t have to send cards and don’t have to feel guilty, either.

I think I’ll always be biased against this one in this way because one of the first places I ran into it was in my WI, where we would just hand the cards to each other. Postage adds up, sure, but if you take that out of the equation: I just bought a pack of 20 cards last week for £1.00, and there were less than 40 members when this line started being bandied about.

But mostly, if you want to make a donation, just make a donation. Don’t make a grand song and dance about it.


In our local paper recently, there was a story about a bride and groom who got married after courting for 13 years and living together for 3, so they already have 2 of everything. They asked for donations to charity in lieu of wedding presents, and their guests happily obliged: £605 was raised, enough for the local charity they chose to buy a wheelchair for a girl who needs one. The couple’s delighted that they were able to help this charity that means so much to them, that means so much to a friend of the bride. The guests, I’m sure, will likewise be thrilled that they were able to contribute to something quite tangible and meaningful for the recipients.

That story struck me as how to do gift giving for charity right.

a wheelchair marathoner, mid-push

Who knows what she’ll go on to accomplish now?
Image by Tom Thai. CC 2.0.

On pet insurance

 Posted by at 16:21 on 7 December 2015
Dec 072015
 

My friend’s cat is poorly – but he’s on the mend, don’t worry. She was griping about the cost, but she has pet health insurance. I said, “Isn’t it wonderful that pet insurance is an option?” because I so so believe it’s such a blessing, at least in theory. Obviously, it doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to – nothing ever does – but it does have some success, which is better than nothing.

Her answer was typical (for either a Brit or an American, really): to gripe about the price of the deductible (excess) and the premiums. This really sat wrong with me, but I couldn’t articulate it well at the time, so I let it lie just then.

our cat as a kitten, attacking a pen

Kill the pen!

I’ve stood in the vet’s office and written a check for $500 – and that wasn’t even the whole bill, it was just the half or third (I don’t remember) that I could afford to pay. My parents (I was young; I still lived with them) had to pick up the rest. The £105 deductible on my own pet insurance bill is a whole lot easier to manage than the infinity that seems to be the upper limit when you have to go to the vet’s office for more than the annual checkup.

I realized: it’s not about whether, once everything’s said and done, the insurance has paid out as much as you’ve paid in. Most people tend to think that way, but that’s not what you’re actually buying with pet health insurance. You’re buying the ability to never stand in the vet’s office and have to say, “I can’t afford the treatment. I have to let my family member die.”

(I’ve never had to file a claim, mind you – for all I know, pet health insurance is as ornery at getting claims approved as human health insurance is infamous for. We have the company that the vet’s office recommended – the least troublesome one in their experience, so hopefully that’ll still be true if we ever need to use it.)