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


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.