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08 February 2020

Poverty :: And the Rest of the World

So, I saw this via my Facebook feed:

I thought she was brave, well-spoken, compassionate, and passionate.  Congress absolutely needed to hear this.  Good for her, having the courage to do this and have a voice.


I think we should also remember that most of the world does not live like America, even those who are low-income.  Ms Hutchinson makes a good point about poverty levels in America, and certainly when compared to the outrageous incomes and spending of political officials, she and those like her are dealing with poverty.  Nevertheless, I'm guessing Ms Hutchinson and her family have a roof over their heads.  And while everything is certainly relative to where one lives, it is also true that abject poverty, as the rest of the world knows it, does not exist in America on the level in which it does in, say, Africa.  Or Asia.  Or parts of Eastern Europe.  Or South America.

While I completely applaud Ms Hutchinson, I also think we need to remember some other expressions of poverty:




Habitat for Humanity, UK, has written an article called Relative vs Absolute Poverty, and it is worth a read as part of this converation.

They define poverty in these terms:

Absolute poverty is when household income is below a certain level, which makes it impossible for the person or family to meet basic needs of life including food, shelter, safe drinking water, education, healthcare, etc. In this state of poverty, even if the country is growing economically it has no effect on people living below the poverty line.  Absolute poverty compares households based on a set income level and this level varies from country to country depending on its overall economic conditions.
The last sentence is the key piece here.  In America, the overall conditions are the aboslute best in the world.  And this automatically makes the poverty level higher than it would be elsewhere, say, in India. I am not saying that poverty in America isn't a real thing.  It most definitely is.  What I AM saying is that we need to understand that going without McDonald's or a TV is NOT a hardship.  We need to begin putting things in perspective.  It will help both ends of the spectrum.
 Relative poverty is when households receive 50% less than average household incomes, so they do have some money but still not enough money to afford anything above the basics.
I believe this is closer to what Ms Hutchinson is dealing with.

This type of poverty is, on the other hand, changeable depending on the economic growth of the country.
Relative poverty is sometimes decribed as "relative deprivation" because the people falling under this catergory are not living in total poverty, but they are not enjoying the same standard of life as everyone else in the country.  It can be TV, internet, clean clothes, a safe home (a healthy environment, free from abuse and neglect), or even education.
Relative poverty can also be permanent, meaning that certain families have absolutely no chance of enjoying the same standards of living as other people in the same society currently have access to.  They are basically "trapped" in a low relative income box.
I do believe that relative poverty is soul destroying.  I do believe that Ms Hutchinson has an absolutely valid point, and that EVERYONE in poverty, whatever sort it is, deserves better.




All I ask is that we remember others -- those who have no voice because they are not American, or British, or they live under tyranny, or they are persecuted for their faith, or they are the "wrong" colour -- and they live in poverty.  Extreme, absolute poverty.  They need help, too.  And they wouldn't even understand what Ms Hutchinson is talking about.  They would view her as wealthy.

We need to be asking ourselves how we can help these people, too.  And we need to ask whether our home country is even on this list:

Even Pope Francis is working to alleviate poverty.  Part of the Vatican has been opened as a homeless shelter.  What are we doing?  What are you doing?  What am I doing?

I want to do more.  Pope Francis has said:

Poverty is a scandal.

Something to think about...

07 February 2020

Moral Courage

Attribution: Finer Femininity blog / Facebook

I would agree with this.  If we do not have a firm understanding of who we are and what we believe, we can never be strong and courageous in times of real testing.  And it seems to me that the testing times are becoming greater and with increasing frequence.  Be clear, my friends!


When we were first married, I believe my husband said something along the lines of:  We are two cultures divided by a common language.  How true that was!  Everyone knows that the UK and America have different words or terms for the same item, but you really have no idea what it is like to have to rewire your brain to comprehend them until you are immersed in it.  When I first moved here, I was SO frustrated when trying to speak to my husband about everyday things.  After over 12 years, we have developed our own kind of "Spanglish" which we both completely understand, and which works for us.

I also remember having been here less than a year when a man (who is no longer our friend!) told me, "You live in Scotland now; you'll have to start speaking like a Scot."  He actually meant not only my pronunciation of the language, but also my accent.  Of course, that was absurd.  People do not lose their native accents, and people do not fundamentally change just because they have moved countries.  Yes, we have to adapt and be able to communicate, but we do not have to deny the people we are.  I was 43 when I moved here.  There was no way I was going to suddenly become Scottish! Nor did my Scottish friends who have lived in America for decades ever lose their accents and suddenly become American first.

In the beginning, I was also tormented by thoughtless, rude people who made fun of my accent.  Coming from America, I was appalled.  Everyone there has some sort of accent, and no one is bothered about it.  I can remember a petty, mean-spirited bank manager where I worked many years ago (my first job in Scotland) constantly berating me about my pronunciation.  Little did she know that I thought she frequently sounded like an ill-mannered and not very literate grade school child.

All these things were very hard to put up with, but somehow, I eventually let them slip away from me, and I continued on as I was / am.  My accent is clearly American.  My pronunciation is clearly American.  Everyone seems to understand me fine.  If I feel there might be any confusion, I use the vernacular that people are familiar with here.  And I know what people are talking about when they use British English vocabulary.  I am bilingual.  Ian is bilingual.  We can function on either side of The Pond.

Language barriers are very real things, and possibly one of the most frustrating aspects of culture shock.  After all, language IS culture.  It is completely defined by culture.  I have been thinking about that recently because of the worldwide refugee situation.  These poor people who are displaced (and did not want to leave their homes, but were forced to, remember), struggle worse than I did.  Communication is fundamental to our being able to live comfortably and safely, and with peace of mind.  

My situation was something I could overcome, with time, and was nowhere near as difficult as what most refugees deal with.  Let's try to remember to encourage foreign speakers, be patient with them, and reassure them of their worth -- not devalue people because they don't "speak like we do".

Feast Day of St Richard the King

Today commemorates a lesser known saint, at least maybe outside of the Celtic / British world:

St Richard the King was an Anglo-Saxon king, also known as Richard of Wessex.  He lived in the 8th century, and he was father to St Willibald, St Winebald, and St Wallburga.  We don't have a lot of information about this saint, but he was apparently very pious and faithful.  He died on a pilgrimage to Rome, and he is buried in the church of San Frediano in Lucca.  Miracles have been reported at his tomb.  St Richard the King pray for us!

06 February 2020

Tiny Houses, but Not By Choice

Where I come from (originally Florida, USA), we think of the UK in terms of great country houses and castles...

or cute and cosy country cottages built of stone and covered in thatch.  The view from every window is beautiful country scenery. 

Everyone is happy and hey, this is 2020, so everyone must have all the modern conveniences, right?

This is a market photo of a bedroom in a new build house.  Tiny, isn't it?

Well, the truth is Britain has the smallest overall house size of any Western European country.  In fact, one analysis in 2017 discovered that the average three-bedroom house is only 947 square feet, which is 53 square feet smaller than the regulatory minumum.  That even includes new builds!

View this article, which is actually from 2014, if you are unsure of the verity of my statements!

When I first moved here twelve years ago, I was amazed at how small the houses were, and how tiny and unworkable the individual rooms were.  Not only that, but the house prices are astronomical.  This is combined with annual incomes being much smaller than what the average American brings home.  I read and heard a lot about younger adults here not being able to "get on the property ladder".  I didn't know what that meant until I had lived here for several years, and then just recently experienced buying a house in Scotland.

These are some "houses" in Scotland

Another misleading term here is "house".  Anything that is not a flat / apartment is considered a house -- even if it is attached to five other "houses".  What I have known as a duplex, a townhouse, a condominium, a villa, is simply a house here.  The misleading part is that you don't have a "house" lifestyle in many cases:  chances are you have neighbours either attached on both sides, or right next to you, almost like zero lot line properties.  You have very little privacy, and virtually none in your garden / yard.  You are not allowed, by law, a fence higher than one meter in the front, and two meters in the back.  This does not provide much privacy, either.

These are fancy new build Council houses in Perthshire :: how about those beautiful big front yards!

What I have always been amazed about is how docile and complacent people are here when it comes to things like this.  They accept that this is the standard of living here, and don't seem to mind.  Compared with other countries in Europe and certainly America, the standard of living is quite low, at least in the Highlands.  Also in the Highlands, a lot of the older houses are very run down and in some cases nearly derelict.  I suspect this is true all over the UK.  The windows and doors are rotten, or if they are new PVC ones, they are badly fitted; there are houses without showers; there is little or no insulation (our house has very little insulation -- that's on the list to be dealt with).   House sizes are tiny; heating is often either inadequate or expensive --and open coal fires with back boilers are considered "central heating"; choices are very limited. 

This is from an advertisement explaining why you should consider buying "small single" and "small double" beds.

If I am being harsh in my assessment off the British / Scottish property market, consider that the average three-bedroom house size in Germany is 1173 square feet; in the Netherlands it is 1237 square feet; in Australia it is 2002 square feet; and in the US it is 2687 square feet.  Pretty amazing, isn't it? 

I have been following the real estate here for several years, and intensively for the last two or three.  The average house price in Scotland last year was over £200K.  You are not getting much for your money, in my opinion.

Another example of how the UK compares with other countries' house sizes.
Pretty pathetic, isn't it?

To all of my American friends who think living in the UK is like living in a fairytale, consider these things.  You will not find anything like what you are used to.  Of course every country has its good points and bad points.  Personally, I consider the housing situation in the UK to be a very large bad point.  On top of that, there is almost no private rental market.  The government / council manages most of the rental properties, and there is a stringent list of requirements to "get a house" -- mostly you have to be on every benefit under the sun (the UK now has over 35 different benefits you can draw), not working, and basically a drain on society to get a Council or Authority house.  Finally, add to this mess of a housing market the fact that there is a huge housing shortage all over the country, and especially in the Highlands.

A lovely little shoebox living room.  Not enough space to turn around in.

It's a lot to think about.  How to fix it?  I can't even imagine.  It has been a problem for years and years.  I feel compelled to talk about it because there are so many misconceptions by foreigners about life in the UK, and especially in Scotland.  We do not live in castles and big houses, or cute little thatched cottages.  Most of us live quite poorly by the standards of other western nations. 

The challenge is to move outside of the mould and make a real home, whatever the external circumstances.  I would like to encourage women to take a good look at their houses and really consider how to make them a home.  The home should be the most important aspect of a society, and we can only manage our own homes.  It IS a challenge, but it's essential, and worth it!

05 February 2020

Simple Woman's Daybook No. 1

Well...I think I have waited almost too late.  I have never participated in this lovely blog hop, and it's been going since 2008.  I can certainly understand why the Daybook has slowed down to a link every two months.  It seems like the world is speeding up, when really, what we need to do -- ALL OF US -- is slow down.

So, here goes.  My first entry (hopefully not my only one):



It is a bit bleak.  We live in a housing "estate".  Our house is lovely -- blue, for Mary -- but most of the houses are bleak and dirty white, grey, or brown.  It's winter, so no leaves and not much green.  But I can see the hills and mountains in the near distance, so there are signs of hope.

About Brexit, and all the hatred and division in this world.  I am thinking about how sad I am for such greed and ignorance and racism, and all the bias that causes divisions -- based on nothing.  Based on fears and insecurities and ignorance.  I am thinking that truly, God is our one hope.

My husband, my home, our Shermy, my family, my husband's job, travelling, homemaking, friends, and most of all faith and God and Jesus and the Blessed Virgin.

Cross stitching, and beautiful finished cross stitch projects.  Also, our Shermy!

A blog, cross stitch projects (at the moment, Christmas ornaments, and also several other WIPs), a home, a life.

Blue jeans, a red sweater, blue canvas shoes.


Encouraging and uplifting blogs, The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club by Marlena de Blasi.

To be inspired and to feel a new fire in my life -- for God, for our marriage, for my creativity, for whatever the future may bring.

How to blog again, how to draw again, a little bit of conversational language (various languages), about other cultures, about the Faith.

Homemade spaghetti sauce for tonight's dinner, with salad and garlic bread.

A mess!  We are in the process of renovating an entire house, including the gardens front and back.  But there is a big rowan tree, and a beautiful, lovely birch tree which we just transplanted and which I am hoping will adapt.


If you want to change the world, go home and love your family. ~St Teresa of Calcutta

The best time of my day is when my husband is home and we sit with a drink or coffee, quietly, and share about our days.

Thank you for stopping by.  As I write this, I don't believe anyone has read any of my blog.  I am happy and grateful for your time.


The whole Brexit thing makes me SO sad.  Today I saw this newspaper article:

To be fair, the poster caused all kinds of backlash, and most people were very upset about it.  But the thing is, the UK was already a very divided country on major issues, both political and societal.  On top of that, there is very little faith motivating anything that happens here. 

So yes, Brexit makes me sad.  It is just another example of the world becoming more and more divided.  Us and them. 

I believe Brexit was motivated by these things:  prejudice and bigotry (keep those immigrants out), greed (keep our money in, don't help others), fear (someone else will take whatever it is we think we have), and ignorance (if we leave the EU, life will suddenly become great).

I also believe we will see in the months and years to come what a sad mistake the UK has made by separating from and leaving the EU.

Lord have mercy on the UK.

Blessed Feast of St Agatha

Not a lot is known about St Agatha for certain, but plenty has been preserved in Church tradition, including the fact that she is in the Roman Canon and mentioned in the daily Mass.  She was probably martyred during the persecution of Decian in 250 AD.  She apparently came from a wealthy family in Sicily, dedicated her life to Christ at an early age, and her beauty drew many men to her.  She refused them all.  At some point, she was arrested, interrogated, tortured, and martyred.  Legend has it that she was mutilated sexually, her breasts being cut off.  Whatever she went through, she never betrayed Christ.

From the mycatholiclife.com site:

Men commit most of the physical violence in the world.  And when their victims are women, that violence can be particularly vicious because their victims are so defenseless.  The stories of the early male martyrs of the Church relate tales of extreme torture by their Roman captors.  But the stories of the women martyrs often relate something more--sexual humiliation.  No male martyrs are known to have suffered similar indignities.  Saint Agatha and others were not only physically tough to endure the pain they did, but also mentally and spiritually powerful to have resisted to the death the public embarrassment and degradation particular to them as women.  They were the strong ones.  It was their male captors who looked weak.

Saint Agatha, you were a virgin espoused to Christ himself, a bride of the Lord who preserved herself for Him alone.  Your vow to love God above all else hardened you to endure temptation, torture, and degradation.  May we be as resolute as you when any type of persecution, however mild, seeks us out.

St Agatha pray for us!

Inferiority Complex

Crikey!  I only just started blogging, and already I feel completely inferior.  Somehow I stumbled upon one of the many, Many, MANY advice blogs (especially advice for we ignorant podunk bloggers), and it basically said that if one was writing a Christian / Catholic blog and using a free blogging platform, then one would never, EVER be anyone in the blog world, and no one would ever read one's blog.  Well, um.  It's true that at this writing, no one has read my blog.  But good grief, what is the point of tolling the death knell on other people's blogs before other people even get started?  And whatever happened to people blogging just because they enjoy it?  I mean, seriously?

When I first started blogging, it was in 2007.  I kept it up until late 2011.  At that point, I had become weary.  My blog was being stalked by an entire village in the north of Scotland, and they were apparently upset because I was (a) a Christian, (b) married to "one of their own" (thus taking him off the market, I guess), and (c) had the nerve to write whatever was on my heart (which must be offensive to those who have no heart).  But I digress.  In the beginning, I really enjoyed it.  I made friends with women, some of whom I am still friends with. 

How exactly did blogging become a career choice and an income generator?  Is everyone out for a buck, no matter what? 

Ah, well.  I guess I can write whatever I want, because the "blogging experts" were right!  No one is reading my new blog!  Which is fine, because really, I'm more this speed:

04 February 2020

Do What You Can

Our evenings are way too short.  By the time my husband comes home after his 45-minute-to-an-hour commute (longer if I ask him to stop by the store), gets washed and changed, we have a few minutes to share about our days, and finally have dinner, there is not much time left before Ian has to get his shower and get into bed, preparing for another early morning.  And if we are both doing Shermy-care, then there is even less time.  Still, we do what we can.  I think that's what the Church instructs:  do what you can.

So tonight was Taco Tuesday.  We actually don't follow a template, as it were, for dinners -- although, I do plan ahead and am very budget-conscious.  But we can have tacos any night of the week!  I'm definitely not a "food photographer".  Or even a foodie.  In fact, I read somewhere that it is sinful to play with food, and frankly, I agree.  I do not like the square plate brigade, nor for the food on my plate to look like a piece of abstract art!  It seems to me that when so much of the world is starving, it is somehow sacreligious--yes, even sinful--to play with food in that way.  So, my photo is just a plain old kitchen photo, with food on the stove, and now, in our bellies.

We also do have a Domestic Church.  It has taken various forms over the years, but the important thing is, we make sure to pray together daily.  We've only been in this house for about a year and a half, so we're still deciding how we want things done.  At the moment, we have our icons in various locations:  a group of them in the living room, another group in one end of the dining room, icons in our bedrooms, pretty much all through the house.  A special shelf on one of the bookcases.  We have prayed standing up, kneeling, sitting on the sofa.  And during this time while Ian's work makes for short evenings, we have a wee tray on the coffee table, with a candle we light when it's prayer time.

Also at the moment, we're doing well to read the daily Mass readings, study about the day's saints, and then do compline, followed by personal bedtime prayers.