Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.  

~Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Quiet Time

My blog has been extremely quiet lately, what with school and the holidays.  In addition, my adult children were both Christmas babies so we also had two birthdays to celebrate.  


We had a white Christmas here in Virginia and, although I dislike the cold, it was very pretty.  My husband and I and our daughter are all getting ready for a change of scenery.  Next month, our daughter will be heading to Costa Rica for a study abroad program while we are going to the island of Hispanola which contains the nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  We will be spending a few days in the Dominican Republic for a much overdue vacation and then will be crossing the border for a quick visit to see all of our friends in Haiti.  As a result, I won't have much time to blog as we prepare for these trips.  


When we return, I plan to get more active with my blog.  Of course I'll be posting about our trip, but I'll also be sharing my first quarter goals.  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and I'll see you in 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Quote for the Day

"I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me." 

~Anaïs Nin

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas



Wishing all my readers a very merry Christmas!


Monday, December 20, 2010

R.I.P. Reb



We lost another of our pets yesterday - our last barn cat Johnny "Reb."  2010 has been a cruel year for animals on our farm.  I'm hoping for a better 2011.


We rescued Reb when we first moved here, over 7 years ago.  I'm not sure if it was his gorgeous blue eyes or his very distinctive raccoon-like ring-tail that first got my attention, but once I got to know him, he had my heart.  For Reb's full story, go to my hubby's blog.  Reb will be greatly missed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.  If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.  Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.  And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love."
 -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas, Advent Conspiracy, and Alternative Christmas Ideas

I've really dropped the ball on my Christmas series.  My intention was to post regularly about the frenzy that occurs during the Christmas season.  However, a variety of events have kept me from doing a thorough job of it.  (School being the most time consuming.)


I've also found myself a bit caught up in the craziness of this time of year.  As December 25 approaches, I find myself worrying that I need to buy additional gifts.  Last night I became most concerned about purchasing gifts for some children in our extended family.  I always buy them gifts but haven't don so yet.  Then I remembered past Christmases, when I've watched them tear into gifts on Christmas day.  It seems to go on for hours, with the children casually tossing aside gifts that I'm sure the purchaser put a lot of time, thought, and money into.  Once a gift is open, it's rarely enjoyed, but put aside so that the next package can be opened.  Thinking about this orgy made me realize none of the children will notice that I didn't buy them a gift.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the gifts I purchased from past Christmases were never used.  What a waste.  And what a poor message to send to children.  Plus, often this frenzy of opening and discarding presents tends to send the children into a mood of over-stimulation, with the end result being unhappiness for everyone around.


So now I turn my attention to Advent and Advent Conspiracy.  Advent is the period of time when many Christians around the world begin a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth on December 25.  In the western world, this celebration has become, rather than a time of anticipation and joy, a time of dread and stress.  Americans especially have turned a time when we should be celebrating  and spreading the peaceful and loving message of Christ into a time of mass consumption.  Black Friday has become the day that marks the beginning of the season, a day when the goal is to get deals on items no one really needs (or wants) and the result often is crippling debt. 


Advent Conspiracy reminds us there can be another way, that we can celebrate the season by worshiping fully, spending less, giving more, and loving all.  It's not about being a Scrooge, but is about being more mindful and caring with our gifts.  Each year at Christmas, Americans spend a staggering $450 billion on gifts and many of those gifts are purchased more out of obligation than out of need or love.  Advent Conspiracy asks that we think about buying just one less gift and to apply the money where it is actually needed and can make a difference.  


There are a number of great organizations where the money usually spent on unwanted and unneeded Christmas gifts can often mean the difference between life and death.  Heifer International is a wonderful organization that provides farm animals to families around the world.  The families are taught how to care for the animals and when the animals reproduce, the offspring are given to other needy families.  Truly a gift that keeps on giving.  Another good charity is Blood:  Water Mission.  This organization helps provide clean drinking water in parts of the world where clean tap water is unavailable.  They also work to provide sanitation facilities and fight against HIV/AIDS.  Kiva is a micro-lending organization that provides capital to entrepreneurs around the world.  Money that is loaned goes to help individuals and companies fund business that provide income to poor families.  Although it is not guaranteed, the money is typically paid back to the lender, making it available to lend to another good cause.  It's another gift that keeps giving.  In addition, look at charities in your own community - for the homeless, the hungry, and the victims of domestic violence,   A good site to use when investigating a charitable organization is Charity Navigator.  


As the big day approaches and we go about buying gifts and spending money, let's keep these things in mind.  Remember that not all the world's citizens are caught up in the holiday frenzy and that their Christmas wish is to have food, shelter, and clean water.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quote for the Day

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas and the Environment

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, both as a religious and as a secular holiday.  While Christians celebrate the humble birth of the Messiah, many non-Christians see it as a time of year to gather together with friends and family, to share hospitality and love.  What become problematic is the over-consumption that takes place this year.  In our efforts to please our loved ones and to conform to society's norms, we engage in a frenzy of shopping, seldom stopping to really think through our choices.  We have come to equate Christmas with "stuff" rather than with "love." 


Annual total Christmas spending is estimated to be around $500 billion, with the average American spending over $800.  Most of this spending is for presents that go under the Christmas tree, items that we think we and our loved ones *need* for Christmas.  The truth is that many of these items are not needed (nor even wanted) and the vast majority of it will go to landfill within six months.  


The manufacturing process wreaks havoc on our environment.  In order to get the raw materials necessary to create the goods we demand, trees are harvested from forests, oil is pumped from the ground, various minerals are mined from the earth.  Extra gasoline is used to transport these raw goods to the places where they are turned into plastic toys, electronic devices, and other in-demand trinkets.  Needless to say, the manufacturing process itself leads to all sorts of toxic waste.  Once ready, the products are again shipped out, using more of our precious petroleum fuel.  In addition to the actual presents, we also consume resources and energy to make the packaging for the products, the bags to carry them home in, and the wrapping that we add before putting them under the tree.


Much of what we buy ends up in landfills.  Of course the packaging is the first to go, then the unwanted items, then those that break, and finally those that are no longer desired due to planned obsolescence.  Those items end up slowing breaking down into chemicals that leach into the ground and into our water sources.  Chemicals from landfills include:  arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, benzene, choloform, ethybenzene, toluene, and xylene, just to name a few.  To learn more about the dangers of these chemicals, go here


Now that we know what happens to all the gifts that are exchanged at Christmas time, maybe it's time to rethink the quantity and quality of what we give.


Photo source:  www.landofgraciousliving.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity." 

~ G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas and Our Global Neighbors

Very few of the items we buy at Christmas (and other times of the year) are made in the United States.  While I often hear people complain about jobs that have shifted overseas, I know most would not want those jobs as they come with a heavy price.  Further, some of those same people, while complaining of jobs moving offshore, also insist on low prices.  We want to make decent wages and yet we want to pay little for the products of labor.


According to BusinessWeek, China is the largest single source of American imports.  This year an investigation by the National Labor Committee at one Chinese factory revealed that 


the factory recruits 16 – 17 year old high school students — mostly girls – to work during the summer for 15 hours a day, six or seven days a week for just less than one dollar per hour. On top of that, employees were found to working in wretched conditions. Apparently, one-thousand workers were packed into small and uncomfortable 105 by 105 foot rooms. Also, fourteen workers are forced to share primitive rooms. They sleep on narrow bunker beds.
In 2007 and 2008, 14 to 15 year old children were reportedly recruited to work the 15 hours a day. The company prefers hiring women, as they are allegedly easier to control. In average, shifts start at 7:45 AM and end at 10:55 PM. The food the factory serves is discounted from their already low wages. In addition, employees are strictly forbidden to talk, listen to music, and use the bathroom during work hours. Workers who violate the rules or make mistakes are forced to clean the bathrooms. Workers are allowed to leave the premises during regulated hours only.
One worker is quoted saying:
“We are like prisoners. It seems like we live only to work. We do not work to live. We do not live a life, only work.”
Chinese manufacturers are under pressure by U.S. corporations to mass produce toys, electronics, and other items as quickly and cheaply as possible so that Americans and other westerners can get that latest, "must have" toy or gadget.  


Another investigation revealed that " manufacturers --which served a handful of global players, including Walt Disney Co, Bandai and Hasbro Inc -- paid 'little heed to the most basic standards of the country.' 'Instead of concentrating on improving product safety and workers' lives, companies spend their energy creating beautiful pamphlets on social responsibility, disputing critical reports and shifting blame."


Some critics point out that families in third world nations feel fortunate to have the jobs they do, that without them, they could not feed their families.  While this is often true, westerners are supporting brutal conditions by insisting on low, low prices.  Rather, we need to learn to consume responsibly - buy less junk, more quality items - and to insist on living wages and decent conditions for those who labor for us.


Many of the things we buy, both the necessary and the frivolous, are made by people living and working in inhumane and slave-like circumstances.  Next time you're shopping, try to find out where some of the items in your basket are made and then consider the people who made them.



Sources:  http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_48/b4011001.htmhttp://erictric.com/2010/04/14/national-labor-committee-uncovers-wretched-conditions-in-chinese-factories-used-by-microsoft/http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2137688620070821

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas and Our Health

Although we all know Christmas can be a stressful time of the year, we think in terms of the time crunch or money issues and seldom consider the toll it can take on our health.  However, there can be very serious and long term consequences of how we approach the season.  


In an article in the GuardianDr Orla Dunn, a lecturer in health psychology said, "In terms of the health effects of stress, people who spend weeks worrying about Christmas can suffer a breakdown in their immune system, leaving them susceptible to colds. Coming into contact with more people at Christmas exposes people to more infections. Eating fattening foods, taking less exercise and stressful situations between family members can really take its toll on your health."


In another Guardian article, one writer points out, "Our wallets will not be the only thing suffering as we buy presents this Christmas.  The mind and body will also be put under dangerous levels of stress, a study has found.  Christmas shopping increased blood pressure to dangerous levels in 50 per cent of shoppers.  This can lead to hypertension, which can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney problems.  Even low levels of hypertension are linked with migraines, panic attacks and osteoporosis.Heart rates increased by an average of 10 per cent during Christmas shopping,  University of East London in partnership with Moneysupermarket Shopping found.  Their researchers asked 15 men and 15 women to purchase a variety of gifts within 75 minutes.  Men felt twice as stressed post shopping, while women were almost three times as stressed."


As we go about checking items off our shopping lists this holiday season, we need to keep in mind the toll taken on our bodies.  Review your lists and rethink their value, both to you and to those you love.  Identify that which is essential and let go of the unnecessary.  Your body will thank you.


Monday, November 29, 2010

How the Commercialized Christmas Impacts the World

As we go about our merry way during the holiday season, we rarely think about the consequences of our actions.  Although we believe we're doing good - buying gifts for family and friends - this time of year can have a huge negative impact on ourselves, those around us, even people half-way around the world.  These next few weeks I want to explore the ways in which we are actually doing damage.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quote for the Day

"During Advent opportunities for works of charity abound calling out for Christians from every side: a sack of food for a needy family, money dropped in a Salvation Army kettle, a donation to an Indian school, a toy for 'Toys-for-Tots," etc.  Unfortunately, these works of charity so easily can assuage the Christian conscience, while doing nothing to being about a solution to the root causes of the problem.

"Works of justice, on the other hand, follow the road less traveled of Advent's hope to pursue solutions for difficult problems.  Hope comes through works of justice rather than simply performing works of charity."

~Fr. Brian Cavanaugh

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pickle Jar Time Management

stones in the jam jar
A couple of weeks ago I discovered a new time management tool.  This discovery is very timely as lately I've found myself overwhelmed with all the things I need to do and never seem to quite get done.  The Pickle Jar Theory is such a simple tool and seems just what I need right now.  The system goes like this:  


Visualize a large glass jar.  This jar represents the time you have available on any given day.  Then think of the tasks you have to do in terms of rocks, pebbles, sand, and water.  Every day you fill your jar with these items; however, what you can fit in the jar depends on how you fill it.  For instance, if you fill the jar by starting with pebbles and water, you won't have room for the rocks.  The way to maximize your time/space, is to start with the rocks.  These represent the biggest, most important tasks.  Don't try to fit more than about three rocks into your day or you won't be able to fit in pebbles,  the smaller but essential items.  Next, imagine putting in some sand and finishing off with water - things that don't have deadlines but are important to your health and well being.  


With this system, you don't find yourself filling your entire jar with sand or water and then stressing out because you don't have room for the rocks.  However, by putting the rocks first, but limiting their number, you make room for the things you enjoy.


Now that we're in the holiday season (and I have pending deadlines at school), I need to use this simple system to prioritize, get things done, and keep my sanity.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What to Do Instead

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, are you concerned about what to buy friends and loved ones?  Do you look in their closets and drawers and wonder how they could ever shove in one more garment?  Do you marvel at all their electronics and other gadgets and wonder what on earth you could buy to top what they already have?  Does the thought of shopping cause immense stress?  


Alternatively, do family and friends ask what they can get you and you are hard pressed to give an answer as there really is nothing that you really need or want.  In either case, think about outside the box about gifts that don't produce more *stuff* in our already crowded world but instead are beneficial to people and to the earth.


One gift that I highly recommend is student sponsorship at an amazing orphanage in Haiti.  For only $20 a month, you can provide education and meals to village children who would otherwise go without schooling and food.  Pastor Daniel and his wife Clynie, along with a wonderful American missionary named Emily, run a school out of their orphanage.  $20 a month provides books, supplies, a uniform, and a meal for each student, each day during the school year.  Does your loved one really need that reindeer sweater that might get worn once a year?  Or the fringed leather jacket that is already so last season it will be at Goodwill before Valentine's Day?  Or yet another game system to sit next to the other 3?  Instead, give the gift of life and education and provide your loved one with a photograph of a child who truly has nothing.  For more information and to see the faces of some of the children needing sponsors, go to Nord Est Haiti Lutheran Mission.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real."

~Thomas Merton

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Helping the Innocent

Right now I'm struggling with an issue that impacts a lot of people, not only in my community but around the world.  I'm talking about domestic violence.  In the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women; one-third of all murdered women are killed by their partner or ex-partner.  The world is not a safe place for women.


What I'm struggling with right now is the fact that I live in a community where domestic violence is a huge problem and yet we have no shelter for victims.  We had a shelter but it has been closed down twice:  the first time when a director embezzled funds; the second time when the board misappropriated funds.  Except for the embezzler, the board membership didn't change between the two closings.  I live in the largest (geographically) county in my state and now, due to lack of appropriate oversight, we have no shelter. 


What really bothers me are the stories I've been hearing.  We have judges who will not allow domestic violence advocates to accompany survivors to court.  We have judges who roll their eyes during proceedings where women plead their cases.  We have a court system that accepts that "this is just the way people around here live."  We have older women who look scornfully upon younger women who stand up for their rights, because the younger women should just "deal with it" they way they did.  We have family members and neighbors who turn a blind eye to the violence and abuse taking place under their noses, because "boys will be boys" and because, anyway, "men are the head of the household."   


We have a system where women who try to better themselves are told to quit their jobs in order to receive government support; or are told they must either quit school (the very vehicle that will lift them out of poverty) or face a reduction in child support.  We have churches that tell women in jail that it is feminism and the women's movement that got them where they are because they were not sufficiently submitting to their husbands.  The feminist movement made them make poor choices.  They neglect to tell them that it is the feminists who brought the issue of domestic violence to light and saved the lives of many women and children; the feminists who helped change the laws so that it is illegal for men to beat and rape women just because they're married.


It's no wonder that many women are afraid to come forward, to accuse their abusers.  It's bad enough that they have to fear their intimate partners, but they also have to fear the very people who are supposed to protect them.


I'm feeling like Martin Luther King, Jr. today as I have a dream that one day women and children will not have to fear the men they live with and can confront abusers with the full support of community.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Busy

Please pardon my absence from the internet.  This past week has been an extremely busy time for me and I feel I've neglected both my blog and my online friends whose blogs I religiously read and generally comment on on a regular basis.  


One of the reasons I've been busy is that it has been kidding season on the farm.  We had nine kids born in a weeks time - 3 girls and 6 boys!  Fortunately, this kidding season has been much better than this past winter where we lost 8 out of 16 kids, plus some of the adult goats.  All the baby goats are healthy and happy, as are the moms. In addition, our hens have been laying, at most, three eggs a day due to the change in season and the age of the hens.  Three eggs a day does not support two families, so yesterday my husband picked up ten more baby chicks.


In addition to the farm duties, my current class requires quite a bit of reading and writing so I've been trying to focus on getting the reading done so I can begin researching for the paper I have to do.  The program I'm in has 8-week intensive classes (rather than the usual 16-week schedule) so I have a lot to do in a short period of time.


However, I did manage to get away one day last week to attend the grand opening of an outlet mall about 1 1/2 hours away from us.  Stacy London, of the show "What Not to Wear" made an appearance and a friend and I made a day of it.  Although the place was a zoo - outlet malls and celebrities do not normally come to this area - it was well worth the trip. 


I'm already looking forward to Thanksgiving break and Christmas break so I can get caught up on the important things in life - like reading posts by fellow bloggers.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Every increased possession loads us with new weariness."

~John Ruskin

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's That Time of Year

Here in the U.S., we've just entered what we call "the holiday season."  We have Thanksgiving, Christmas (and other religious observances for non-Christians), and New Year's Eve.  I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year.


On the one hand, the holidays are a great time to connect with family and friends.  On at least one of these holidays, we gather together with those whom we love and care for.  People become more charitable and give to food banks and homeless shelters, and to other less fortunate individuals and families.


On the other hand, it had become a time of mass consumption and the celebration of greed.  Earlier this week I saw an article discussing strategies for "Black Friday."  For those of you who don't know what this is, it's the Friday after Thanksgiving, when stores open their doors at crazy hours (5 or 6 a.m.) and have tremendous, limited *bargains* available to consumers.  Since these offers are limited, people crowd the retail doors long before opening hours hoping to grab a deal before anyone else does.  People can and do get hurt, sometimes killed, in the rush to get  that coveted item.


I have family members who expect a gift at Christmas, even though they don't *need* anything.  And they have hurt feelings if you do not fulfill that obligation.  Often, these are people who have more than I have and more than they need or can use.  And I see that all of their possessions do not bring them happiness but actually cause them misery.  Misery because possessions require care and maintenance, taking up valuable, finite time in their lives.  


When my husband and I were first married and then when our children were young, we did not have all the things we who live in the western world consider necessities.  Over the years, I would ask for various household items for gifts.  However, we got to the point where our house was complete, so we stopped purchasing Christmas gifts.  Sometimes we will buy a small token gift when it's something we know will bring joy to the other, but as a rule we don't exchange gifts.  I'm perfectly happy with that as acquiring unnecessary stuff would actually cause stress in my life.


So as we enter this holiday season, let's keep in mind what our true needs are and what will really bring us happiness.  Let's focus on peace on earth and goodwill towards all.  That will bring true happiness.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quote for the Day

"If it comes through a car window, it's not food."

~Mike Huckabee

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Moderation

A friend is about to launch a program at church that is designed to both raise money for a charity and to help members lose weight.  I offered my help and wrote a list of simple weight loss tips.  Thinking about this upcoming project and the number of individuals in the US who are either overweight or obese, it dawned on me what is at the core of this epidemic:  Americans have lost sight of the meaning of moderation.  When it comes to our cooking, eating, and dining out habits, we don't understand that term.  


We only believe in excess.  In restaurants, portion sizes are now double or triple (or even more) what they were a generation ago.  Although serving sizes are listed on grocery store packaging, we blatantly ignore the labels and consume until multi-serving packages are empty.  We take seconds (and sometimes thirds) at mealtimes, eat large desserts, and then snack between meals and before bedtime.  We are constantly surrounded by food, most of which is high in calories, fat, and sugar.  All this excess leads to and sustains weight gain.


Even when we choose to diet and try to cut back on our food consumption, we go all out.  We have fads:  low-fat and low-carb are the most recent.  In embracing these diets, we don't eat less, we continue to eat to excess, just within a particular food group.  Once a woman I know who was supposed to be dieting was noshing on a bag of candy.  When she saw the puzzled look on my face, her response was, "It's okay; it's low-fat."  


Even if we manage to lose weight on these plans, there tends to be a boomerang affect.  These unhealthy diets lead to rapid weight loss (often it's just water loss).  Most of these diets are unsustainable over the long-run and we return to the eating habits that caused the weight gain in the first place.  


So many individuals have an all-or-nothing attitude towards their weight and eating.  Either they are on a diet, where they are extremely restrictive in when and what they will eat, or they develop a laissez-faire attitude where the belief is that "I'm not on a diet so I can enjoy eating all the junk food I want."



Of course, we have the other end of the spectrum - those who develop eating disorders in their quest to control their weight and their lives.  I'll leave this complicated topic to the experts.


What we need to do is develop a mindset that is based on moderation.  No food or food group is outright forbidden, it's just we need to keep an eye towards moderation.  Having this approach to food allows for enjoyment of food AND long-term weight loss.  A win-win deal.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going Vegetarian

A blogger I follow has recently read a book about the meat industry and, as a result, has decided to become a vegetarian.  Read her post here.  


As a teenager, I was a vegetarian but somehow, in my twenties, I drifted away and became a carnivore.  However, about eight years ago, I came down with a serious case of food poisoning from some chicken I had eaten.  I began to explore the food industry, read a number of books on the subject, and realized how far I had strayed from my own moral beliefs.  Some of the books I read discussed the conditions under which "factory animals" live and die.  I was horrified and vowed to never eat meat again.


This past year, my husband made the decision to become what he calls a "farmitarian."  He will only eat meat from animals that he has either personally raised or hunted.  That way, he knows the animals lived a normal and decent life before making the ultimate sacrifice to become food on his plate.  II believe if more people know the horrendous conditions of the corporate animal factories, we would have either 1) more vegetarians or 2) a huge public outcry with a demand for more humane treatment of animals.  Further, once you see the condition of factory farms, you'll understand why we have so many food recalls and become very concerned about your health and where your food comes from.


For those interested in this topic, there are a number of books available.  Here are a few titles to get you started, plus a movie to watch:


Slaughterhouse:  The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Market by Gail A. Eisnitz
Mad Cowboy by Howard F. Lyman (made famous by the lawsuit against Oprah)
Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully
Farm Sanctuary:  Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food by Gene Baur
Meat Market:  Animals, Ethics, and Money by Erik Marcus

Fast Food Nation:  The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy


Earthlings is a movie (available for viewing online) that I've heard is called "the vegan maker."  I haven't had the heart to watch it because I already know how we torture and abuse animals.  


Another book, the China Study by T. Colin Campbell exposes the truth behind diets based on animal products and discusses the benefits of a vegan diet.


I hope a few of my readers are open-minded enough to look into this subject, to realize the horror that we're supporting, to possibly become vegetarians, and to share this hidden truth with family and friends.  What you don't know can hurt you - and our furry and feathered friends.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Let us take care of the children, for they have a long way to go.  Let us take care of the elders, for they have come a long way.  Let us take care of those in between, for they are doing the work."

~Old African Proverb

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Really Matters

Today I'm going to spend recovering from an event I helped my husband and others host at our church.  This past week my house has become disordered, so I need to work on getting it cleaned and organized.  Even though having my home tidy and organized it something I strive for, it's really a small matter in the grand scheme of things.


Last night was an amazing event.  Our church hosted a sold out (500+ tickets) concert featuring best-selling contemporary Christian artists Todd Agnew and Pocket Full of Rocks.  The concert was a fundraiser to benefit Danita's Children, an orphanage in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.  We were fortunate that the orphanage's founder, Danita, and the U.S. Director, Sheree, were able to attend. After a brief video presentation, Danita gave a very moving testimony about her work in Haiti.  As a result of this concert, Danita's Children will have over $12,000 to help feed, clothe, house, and educate her children.   In addition, at least 13 children received individual sponsors which will bless both the children and sponsors.  


It's hard to believe that just over a year and a half ago, Danita's Children was just a web site to me.  Now I have the privilege of calling both Danita and Sheree good friends.  They are incredible women, as are the missionaries who live with Danita in Haiti.  After seeing them last night, I realized I must get back to Haiti.  My husband and I have been planning a trip for some time, but haven't nailed down the details.  Now I know it's essential that we get back there, even if it's for a brief visit.  It's because as time passes, you forget about what's really important.  I find myself getting caught up in trivial aspects of living this rich American life and I forget what it's like for most of the world, especially for our neighbors, the Haitians.  I need to get back to Haiti so I can be reminded of what really matters.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blogging

I've had an "off" few weeks and haven't felt I've had a lot to blog about.  Not that there's not a lot going on, just not much to share on the blog.  Part of it, I believe, is the season.  It's fall here and the days are getting shorter and shorter and shorter....Not my favorite time of year.  I find it harder to get up in the mornings and even harder to motivate myself to take on any large projects.  I was able to check off a few large items on my To Do list.  I spent one afternoon washing my SUV and the front porch rockers.  Another afternoon I weeded one of my front flowerbeds, something I had put off far too long.  Yesterday I finally sat down and hemmed two pairs of pants I recently purchased.


It's funny when you make a To Do list.  Some of the tasks look so simple, like "hem pants."  However, the steps involved in actually getting the chore done can take several days.  I started to hem two pair of pants on Friday.  First I had to try them on with the shoes that had the right height heel to make sure I did indeed need to hem them.  Next I had to tear out the old hem.  That involved getting out my sewing kit and finding my embroidery scissors.  Once the hem was out, I had to cut off the excess fabric.  I had to try on the pants again to make sure I didn't trim off too much.  By this time I was interrupted (by what I can't recall) and had to put everything away for the day.  The next day I was able to trim the pants and begin the process of pinning.  Of course, I had to try on the pants (with the right shoes) again to make sure I had the right length.  I only did one leg on one pair to make sure I didn't waste time pinning up to an incorrect length and having to start over.  At some point, I realized I didn't have the right color thread and wasn't going into town for a couple of days, so once again had to set aside the project.  Well, yesterday, I finally had everything ready to actually hem the pants.  So they're now done...except now I need to iron them.


So, since my life has revolved around checking off these mundane chores on my To Do list, I haven't had a lot to blog about.  I felt bad that I missed out on Blog Action Day this year.  It focused on water, which is a very important issue.  I really wanted to do a post on that topic but didn't have time to research it as I was busy checking off the work I needed to get done to finish a class.  As far as my blog is concerned, I want to return to my previous theme of editing my life.   I plan to organize how I use this blog and what I blog about so I have some consistency for my readers.  Please stay tuned for a little more order to this blog.  And hopefully a little more inspiration.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pencil Cups

Pen Cup 2


We all have one, right?  Are you also like me, where you reach for a pen or pencil only to find that the pen has dried up or the pencil's eraser is nonexistent?  What do you do with these pens and pencils?  Odds are, you put them back in the cup and then fish around for one that functions.  Soon, you have a cup full of pens and pencils you can't use.   It's really such a little thing, but sometimes a big frustration.  So, today I've decided to edit.  I'm going to go through every one of my pens and pencils and discard all that are defective or that I just don't like to use.  And I'll fill my cup only with writing instruments that work, and work well.  End of frustration.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quote for the Day

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world."

~E. B. White

Friday, October 15, 2010

Aging Gracefully

Yesterday, I found these images on Style on a String's blog:

A number of weeks ago I read about some unauthorized, unretouched photos of Madonna being released on the internet.  Madonna is 52 years old.  Yet the final, official photograph makes you think she's still a teenager.  While some have touted Madonna as a strong, feminist role model as she is her own person, a savvy business woman, etc., however, I beg to differ.  Our society is sending a very bad message to teenagers and young women, that there is something wrong being who they are.  The woman in the second photo doesn't exist and never really did.  But thousands of women see photos like this one and think they're damaged because they actually look normal.  There are few true role models for what beautiful is.  Lauren Hutton is one.  

One of the first supermodels of the 1970s, she has aged gracefully.  This quote sums up her attitude about getting older:  "We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be. I don't think I will ever cut my face, because once I cut it, I'll never know where I've been.” 

I'd like young women to have more role models like her.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Television

I've been a couple of weeks without television now, ever since I called our satellite television provider and cancelled, effective immediately.  I worried that I would miss it, that I would regret my action and call back to reinstate our service.  But that hasn't been the case at all.  In fact, when my son and his girlfriend were visiting this past weekend, they never mentioned the lack of television.  They even got out our old Scrabble game and played that, as well as another board game.


I often hear people complain about television, how programs lack values and push immorality on us.  My question to these individuals is, then why do you watch it?  If everyone who feels that television is contributing to the decline of western civilization would just stop watching television, or at least the programs they protest, then the media would have to change.  Simple as that.  


For me, I've never been a huge television fan.  I think it has something to do with growing up in a household where we only had one television and my father's viewing habits dominated.  Whenever possible, our television was tuned to either a western movie or a western series, like Gunsmoke.  I think that might also be the reason why I detest John Wayne, but that's another story...

Monday, October 11, 2010

4th Quarter Goals

I'm a bit tardy with this post as I've been a bit busy these last two weeks, what with school and taking a quick trip to Florida.  Part of my personal habit is to establish personal goals for each quarter, rather than doing the traditional New Year's resolutions.  For the last two quarters, I blogged about my goals and I'm happy to say I was able to achieve them all.  One goal from the second quarter had to wait until the third quarter, but I accomplished it so I feel I was successful.  

This quarter, however, I've decided not to set any particular goals.  What with my starting another class, assisting with a major concert at our church, hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, and with Christmas and our children's birthdays, I think I have enough on my plate.  Perhaps just successfully finishing my class, pulling off the concert and the Thanksgiving dinner, and enjoying the holidays can be my goals.  In the meantime, thoughts of next quarter's goals will be percolating in the back of my mind.  Nothing too challenging, mind you, as I hate to start a new year by setting myself up for failure.  So for this quarter, I'll just plan on successful living.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month




My friend Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green has an excellent post on her blog about the pinkwashing we see every October. She also shared this video, which talks about eliminating the causes of cancer rather than the illusive "cure." Please watch the video and then go to Lisa's blog for the full article



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Go Rays!

Just a quick, belated post to celebrate the Tampa Bay Rays winning the American East League Championship.  My obsessive baseball fan days are over (actually I was a Dodgers fan during that time period, many, many years ago), but I'm so glad to see the Rays doing well.  I remember the day it was announced that the Tampa Bay area would finally get its own baseball team.  There had been many unsuccessful attempts to either bring an existing team to the area or start a new franchise.  And there was even some underhanded scheming to prevent Tampa from having its own team.  Once a team was in place, there were many dark years.  However, during these last few years they've certainly pulled out of the slump and are doing the Tampa Bay area proud.  Go Rays!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Despise Hunters

Not all hunters, just a certain kind.  Let me start at the beginning...


Last year I blogged about the signs of the changing seasons in our part of the world.  You can read about it here.  Well, it's that time of year again and what it means for me is that we're going to have hunting dogs running through our farm for the next couple of months.  


This past week we had three dogs on our farm.  They got stranded in one of our pastures and were there for three days.  I didn't realize it until the third day and I spent a good amount of time trying to coax them out the gate without letting out the goats and the horse.  There was a phone number on a brass plate on each of their collars.  I called the number so the owner could come get the dogs.  The problem was, the number wasn't a valid number.  My next step was to take the dogs to the Humane Society so they could locate the owner through their license numbers.  Before I could round up the dogs, they disappeared into the woods.  I thought that they had gone home and didn't think anything of it until Saturday.  That was when we discovered one of our chickens behaving strangely, as if a predator had frightened it.  On Sunday, my husband learned why the chicken was so frightened.  One or more of the dogs had killed at least two of our chickens.  The dogs are beagles which normally don't hunt farm animals, but the poor creatures were so hungry they were desperate.  


This brings me to why I hate certain hunters - dog hunters.  These people use their dogs to hunt deer.  While the dogs do all the work, the hunters, dressed in full camouflage, sit in their warm pickup trucks, often drinking beer and probably eating Slim Jims,  and wait for the dogs to chase the deer in their direction so they can shoot them.   They call this a sport.  What makes it really bad is the way they treat their dogs.  They like to keep them hungry, because they say it makes them better hunters.  And I know these dogs are usually mistreated in other ways.  So, because these so-called sportsmen keep their dogs hungry, when the dogs get lost, and they often do, they become extremely hungry and will attack livestock for food.  Sunday my husband and I had to witness one of our chickens breathe her last breath after she was severely injured by a hungry dog.


Now, on a lighter subject, why do these hunters feel the need to dress in full camo to sit in their trucks?  Fashion statement?



Photo source:  www.cracked.com

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quote for the Day

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I'm with the Dogs




My daughter shared this link with me and said we'd better hurry up and convert.




Source:  http://www.pete.com/media/785/Battle_Of_The_Church_Signs/

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Virtual Editing

It must be the seasonal change, regardless hemisphere.  It seems lots of bloggers are evaluating how much time they spend on the internet and making proactive decisions to be more efficient with their time.  I've been doing the same.  This past week I finally cancelled my satellite television subscription.  I realized that the few televisions shows I watch are few and far between and are always repeats of episodes that originally aired two or more years ago.  For far less than what I paid a month for my subscription, I was able to purchase two complete seasons of used DVDs for programs I watch on occasion.  


I've started to view television as a one way conversation:  programmers provide the conversation and I can either listen or ignore what they're saying.  I don't have any input, but now I've eliminated that monologue.  The internet, however, is a two way dialog in which I can be a participant.  I love the internet as it's a wonderful tool to keep in touch with friends, family, and like-minded people and it's like having the Library of Congress in your house.  The problem is, I sometimes have too many choices.  That's where the problems begin.  Right now, I have over 250 blogs listed in my Google Reader, I belong to a number of Yahoo Groups, and I have Facebook friends that I don't really know.  Keeping up in just these areas requires lots of time that I'm no longer willing to sacrifice.  


Today I'm going to start some virtual editing.  Here are some of the steps I'm going to take:


Facebook - I really shouldn't have more than 50 "friends."  More than that and I find it distracting and time consuming to wade through the discussions, announcements, and trivia.  As an introvert, I really find it too overwhelming.  So, I'm going to "hide" a large number of friends.  Not that I don't care about those individuals, it's just that my plate is too full.


Blogs - I'm going to edit my list in Google Reader to about 50, then I'll monitor those 50 to see which ones really speak to me and will probably reduce the number again.


Email - It seems that my inbox is often full of advertisements and newsletters that I somehow subscribed to over time.  I end up wading through those bothersome emails to get to the ones I really need or want to read.  So, I'm going to start unsubscribing to all those unnecessary emails.


Yahoo Groups - Again, I'm a member of too many.  I don't always read or participate in those groups, but I know they're there and I find it distracting.  I'm going to cancel my memberships to all but a handful of those groups that I find truly engaging.


Searches - Doing Google searches can be a huge waste of my time.  I'm going to start making a list of things I really want or need to know, then sit down and do only those searches.  I'm going to try hard to resist going down the rabbit hole of endless information.


Some readers might think these are drastic steps and maybe they are for some individuals.  As for me, I think it's just what I need to keep sane.


I'm curious:  what are your internet time wasters and are you going to do anything about them?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quiet But Still Editing

I haven't posted in a couple of days because I've been working on actually getting ahead in my school work.  Even so, I'm also working on more home editing projects.  Today's project was the place I call the "pet closet."  It's a closet in my laundry room that is pretty much dedicated to my pets, although I also use it as a broom closet.  This closet had gotten out of control and I decided enough was enough.  I had a number of items that didn't belong in the closet or that I no longer had use for.  Since we live on a farm, I also keep a few items for goats in this closet.  These items are seldom used and mainly consist of various medications for when we have a newborn or a sick goat.  I needed to edit and arrange the closet so that it made more sense.


Editing the closet really didn't take much time.  There are a few items that I kept but will probably eliminate some time in the future.  But for now, I feel there's plenty of room to breathe and I can actually see and get to what I need.  Although I don't like the changing season (from hot to cold), I do enjoy how it motivates me to tackle household projects which makes my home more enjoyable during the cold of winter.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Quote for the Day

"I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult."
-- Rita Rudner

Results of Fall Editing

Once I decided to edit some of my kitchen, I couldn't wait for the weekend.  I went into a whirlwind of activity and severely edited my spice cabinet, my refrigertor freezer, and my pantry.  Out went herbs and spices that were past their use by date; out went appliances that were purchased with good intentions but never used (I'm not yet done with this task); and out went things that didn't belong in the first place; and out went long-forgotten frozen items.  I can now actually see everything in my kitchen.  My spices are neatly arranged in two rows that are easily accessible - the most used in the front, the occasionally used in back.  I even moved some items out of the upper shelves and was able to organize my canned goods in a way that made more sense.  I've grouped all my dried foods together in the pantry - pastas, noodles, rices, beans, etc. - and consolidated a few duplicates.   My next step in the kitchen will be to begin using up those items that have been around a while and I keep forgetting to use.  


While I was on this mission, I also tackled some of my reading.  I have a habit (good or bad, I'm not sure) of having several books and magazines going at once.  Every now and then the clutter gets to me and I make an effort to finish up several items I've started.  I worked on this a bit today, finishing one of the best books I've read in a long time.  (That's another blog post waiting to happen.)  Now I'm down to my school books, a daily devotional, and the next novel that I'm going to read.  Yes, more room to breathe.



Photo source:  www.freedigitalimages.net
Photographer:  Simon Howden

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Editing

This morning, when I was going about making my breakfast, I realized I need to do more editing in my house.  It never really ends as we bring things into our homes, we need to take out items that aren't suitable, are worn out, and just aren't being used any more.  Breakfast sparked this thought as I opened the cabinet containing my spices and realized I have far more herbs and spices than I need or use.  Besides, a good number of them are probably past their peak.  This weekend I'm going to get to work on that cabinet and probably a few others, eliminating those items that have expired or haven't been used in ages.


I probably won't stop with the kitchen and will move to my linen closet.  It's good to take a look at the things you actually use and eliminate those that just collect dust.  Having more than you need and use really adds stress and work to your life.  When there are items in our home that are unnecessary, we still have to dust them, clean them, maintain them, or just shift them around to get to what we need.  


Years ago I read about someone visiting a home in Japan.  This individual noticed that there were some empty shelves in a closet and asked what they were for.  The response?  Room to breathe.  Yes, I need to edit some more to create more room to breathe, especially as the season changes and I find myself spending large chunks of time inside.