Thursday, December 27, 2018
Advent Gratitude Calendar
When I unpacked the Advent box this year, I found a piece of paper in it headed "Advent Gratitude Calendar." I have no idea where it came from, and googling turned up MANY different ones, but not this exact one. I am assuming that the author does not mind it being shared, considering the topic and attitude behind it!
It is headed with John 1:16: "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace."
Then follows the explanation: Most Advent Calendars present us with a gift each day leading up to Christmas. The purpose of this Advent of Gratitude is to remind us of the gifts we already have, what we often take for granted, what we can and should be grateful for. Each daiy reminder includes a suggestion for payment, a small monetary gift that in 24 days will grow into a donation payable to a charity of your choice.
Every few days throughout the first 24 days of December, after lunch or dinner, I got down the donation jar and read what was suggested each day, and each person in the family made a decision whether or not to donate. The most important part to me, though, was reflecting on what it means that every single thing listed on this page is a LUXURY: it is above and beyond what we need to live. (I've left the dollar amounts in. We obviously use Euros, and didn't follow this exactly anyway.)
Day 1: Pay 50 cents for each woman in your family who graduated from high school.
The first question for us was how we define "graduate from high school". Marie, for example, didn't graduate from high school, never having attended high school, but is now nearly halfway through her second year of university. Since the point is that females having the opportunity to receive formal education to the same extent as males is very unusual in many places, we decided that Marie counts. But she doesn't live here...so then do we count extended family? My mother, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, etc, have all graduated from high school, so it could quickly get out of hand. We decided to count Marie for this one, both as a family member and as having had that opportunity at education, but no extended family, and for the rest of the "family" questions, we're just going with the six people who live in this house.
Day 2: If you rode in a car today, pay $1. Pay $2 if you drove the car.
There have been many days in the last couple of months in which I have NOT actually ridden in a car, but as Jacob now has the use of another vehicle and I have my car back, and it's been raining a lot, I've been in my car a lot more lately. And almost every time I ride in a car, I drive it.
Day 3: Count the light switches in your home. Pay $.25 for each one.
This one got expensive--we have 34! Two of them don't turn on lights at the moment (one because of a light bulb that needs replacing, on our back porch, and one because there isn't yet a light there, on our bedroom balcony), but we didn't think that was a reason to disqualify them. Also, there are quite a few lights that have two switches, and we agreed that both switches should still be counted. All three original bedrooms have two light switches just for the ceiling light: one by the door and one by the bed. An additional luxury, that one can get into bed and THEN turn off the light! Both sets of stair lights have two switches and two of the living room lights do, too. And we currently have four reading lights plugged in, and will have five when I finally figure out which box my reading light is packed in.
Day 4: How many pairs of shoes/boots do you own? Pay $.10 per pair.
This was interesting: Lukas has only two pairs of shoes, and Elisabeth claimed seven (and I'm sure she has more), although when it's time to leave the house, she can hardly ever find any. And when I stopped to count them, I had a LOT more than I thought I did--six pairs, I think. Helen has no real idea how many pairs of shoes she have. I just know that both of the younger girls have a LOT, and can rarely find them when it's time to go anywhere.
Day 5: If you have never experienced having your electricity or heat shut off due to inability to pay the bill, pay $5.
This one had nothing to negotiate, as this has never happened to us, but it generated a great deal of thoughtfulness in the girls: It was fascinating watching their faces as they realized just what that meant, how it would affect their lives to not have electricity.
Day 6: If you have travelled outside of the U.S., pay $2. Pay an extra $2 if you have travelled within the past 6 months.
We adjusted this slightly, considering that I'm the only one of all of us who was even BORN in the U.S., so we changed it to "traveled outside of your country of birth." That's all of us, obviously, Elisabeth at eight and a half being the only person who even lives in the same country in which she was born, and she left that country for the first time at six months of age. And double if having traveled in the last six months, which was four out of six of us, although I just barely qualified for that one, as it was 5 1/2 months earlier that I had gone to England. 2018 is the second calendar year in the lives of Helen and Elisabeth to not have travelled by airplane, the first year being 2011, and 2011 being the ONLY year I haven't travelled by airplane since my trip to Japan in 1986. (And 1987 and 2011 are the only years of my life to have not travelled internationally since that Japan trip.)
Day 7: Pay $2 if you bought a gourmet cup of coffee in the past month.
Defining "gourmet" as buying at a coffee shop instead of making at home, that was just two of us, but Katie said that the hot chocolate she bought herself should count, too. Another good discussion of what it means to be able to choose to occasionally (or ever) pay insane prices for something one can make oneself, or at least buy in a grocery store, for a tiny fraction of the price. So having a 200-ml glass of apple juice in a restaurant for 2.50 when a liter of apple juice costs about one Euro is paying 15 times more than necessary, just for the luxury of not having to pour it yourself and wash the glass.
Day 8: If you went to work today and earned an income, pay $2.
This ended up being pretty funny, because I DON'T normally have a personal income. I do now have two English students, but they are on Tuesday and Wednesday, and this was a Saturday. But...this was the one day I babysat, and was paid, so I was caught out. Everything I earn goes straight to luxuries, too: piano lessons, dance classes, and drama classes for the girls. However, we as a couple do receive money from our mission agency, all of which is donated to them for that purpose, and we do not have concrete working hours, although Joern most certainly does put in at least as many hours a week as at any other job, which can be random hours any day of the week. (Nor, officially, do I "work" as far as our mission agency is concerned--however, it is the fact that I do not need to go to a regular job that means I can volunteer in various capacities as time allows.)
Day 9: Pay $1 for every refrigerator/freezer in your home.
I don't remember if we counted the small one that is standing in the middle of our living room at the moment or not! It's not being used, and I want to sell it, but we do have it in our home. And we also have a brand-new one in our kitchen, bought in September, the first new fridge/freezer we've ever had.
Day 10: Count every cell phone in your home. Pay $1 per phone.
Well...Joern has two, although one he uses only as a camera, and Lukas has two, and Katie and I have one each, so the six people living here have six, although two of the people don't have one at all...Four of them (one for each of us) are even smart phones, not a single one purchased by any member of our family.
Day 11: If you graduated from college, pay $1 per degree.
This was a little complicated, because "college" in the American sense doesn't exist in Germany, and Joern never attended a normal university. However, he does have several German degrees in banking and translating, which are certainly the equivalent of U.S. B.A. and M.A. degrees, as well as an M.A. from the Open University in the UK (all done by correspondence), and I have an Early Childhood Education degree from Germany as well, which I think is somewhere in between an A.A. and a B.A. We counted them all.
Day 12: How many televisions do you have? Pay $1 per TV. Pay $1 extra if you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or a similar subscription.
There was a certain amount of smugness in the room as I read this out loud. We have no televisions and no such subscriptions. However, looking ahead on the list, there was no mention of computers or internet, so we decided those should be counted here. The smartphones practically should have been, as well, as they access as much as a computer. However, we left it at Joern's laptop, the laptop that belongs to my friend Sue and I have here and occasionally use, my Kindle Fire, and Lukas's iPad (given to him by his saxophone teacher.)
Day 13: Open your pantry. If there is more food than you can consume in 2 days, pay $2.
We don't have a pantry, but we didn't even bother getting out of our chairs and looking through cupboards and the fridge. Even the teenagers who often claim "there's nothing in the house to eat!" immediately realized that we most certainly had enough food to last way more than two days.
Day 14: Pay $2 if you have more than one bank account. Pay an extra $2 if you have investments that earn income.
My banker husband (who worked in the bank in Germany for 25 years, but doesn't like to be referred to as a banker, but truly still is...) started asking what kind of accounts were meant and arguing about which ones shouldn't count. I told him it didn't matter, and in any case, if we just count the main account in Germany and the main account in Cyprus, that's two right there. There was also a bit of discussion on the definition of "investments"--Germans love insurance policies, and while we've cashed in some of them in the last few years for various reasons, we haven't used them all up. For the most part, yes, they will return more than we pay into them, if we don't cash them too soon. (I've said before that I think the German for "insurance" actually means "savings account"...)
Day 15: If you slept in a warm bed last night, pay $2.
Not much to discuss here, we definitely all did.
Day 16: If you have visited your doctor this past year, for something relatively minor, pay $2.
Quite a lot of discussion on this. Is a dental check-up "relatively minor"? A broken leg isn't, we agreed, but what about the number of check-ups Lukas went to afterwards? When we had our excellent German insurance, I was pretty good about taking everyone to the dentist and the optician regularly, but I've done that a lot less in the two and a half years since we lost the German insurance, as the Cypriot insurance doesn't cover those. There have been some other things that I might have gone to a doctor about with our German insurance, which I haven't because of not having it, so...it definitely gave us food for thought.
Day 17: Count the faucets in your home. Pay $.50 per faucet.
We have seven: two bathrooms with sink and a shower each, the kitchen sink, and two outdoor faucets. Not counting various other water attachments, such as the inlets to the toilets or the connections between water tank and pumps, etc.
Day 18: If you've bought gifts for others this season, pay $1. If you added "a little something" for yourself, pay an extra $1.
Yep, all six of us. Even me, and I'm lousy at gifts and hate having to deal with them. I did a lot less than usual this year, though, after money was stolen from my wallet a couple of weeks ago. There has been no confession, so no direct consequences for the perpetrator. However, I declared that I wasn't doing stockings, which did relieve my stress a great deal.
Day 19: If your home has more than 25 books, pay $1. If more than 50, $2.
We all started laughing when I read this. And were glad it wasn't $1 per 25 books, seeing as we have an estimated 3000 books...
Day 20: If your parents had a high school education, pay $1. If one attended college, pay $2. Pay $3 if both attended college.
We weren't sure just whose parents were meant. However, both of my parents and both of Joern's parents attended college, as did both Joern and I in the sense meant, so there was no getting out of the maximum amount there.
Day 21: If you are travelling more than 100 miles for Christmas festivities, pay $1. Pay $2 if ou are confident your vehicle will get you there.
Weeeellll...we actually walked 15 minutes to where we were going, and wouldn't have taken a car at all, except that then I walked home (long story...), and ended up driving back. Not that I was confident that my car WOULD get me there, as it has been sporadic about starting, twice not starting on Saturday, then no problem on Monday or Tuesday (Christmas day), but not starting today (Thursday)...
I probably should have gone to the mechanic today to see what's going on, but I didn't need to go anywhere (once I couldn't go swimming) and it's raining and I just didn't feel like it. But it occurs to me that we're supposed to be going to the north next Wednesday (over 100 miles, I guess), and the mechanic will definitely not be open either Monday or Tuesday, so I really should have gone today...
Day 22: Count the coats in your closet. Pay $.25 per coat or jacket.
We didn't do this. We just listed the ones we actually use, which was a rather large number, considering the mild weather in Cyprus. But I do have an additional cupboard stuffed absolutely full of coats, so if anyone needs one, we'll be able to find one. Not that we've actually BOUGHT more than about three or four of them. Okay, four: the one that I use most (it was my summer jacket in Germany and is usually the only one I use here in the winter) I bought 18 years ago, and my winter coat I bought 21 years ago, Joern's long winter coat was bought at a second-hand store in Germany probably 15 years ago, and his short winter coat from Peru was 12 1/2 years ago.
Every time someone does need a new coat, I open up the coat cupboard and dump them all out, one is chosen, and half a dozen or so are sorted out and taken to the thrift store...
Day 23: Pay $2 if you can name more than 5 people who love you.
Even the people in the very worst moods at the moment we discussed this had to grudgingly agree than each of us has WAY more than five people who love us, even not counting immediate family.
Day 24: If you have a pet, pay $2. Pay an additional $2 if you have more than one.
We have three cats. Or three cats have us. Two more cats than I consider necessary. But whoever has whomever, we buy the cat food, so...yep, more than one pet.