I live on a sustainable family farm and work for a humanitarian aid organization. My goal is to have a simple beautiful life. The Quaker acronym SPICE (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality) guides my life.
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?
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.
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
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.
For a while now I've been toying with the idea of eliminating our satellite TV subscription. A discussion on a group I belong to has gotten me closer to my final decision. My husband doesn't watch television at all. I rarely watch it, especially since I gave up watching the news. Occasionally, when I don't feel like reading or the weather is bad, I like to tune into a few shows that are already in their upteenth season, so many episodes are played throughout the day. I recently did some research and realized that, for less than I pay for a month's subscription, I could purchase used copies of three seasons of shows. That's a lot of occasional viewing. Plus, once I was done, I could resell those DVDs. Since I never watch new programs, whenever I hear about one that might be interesting, I can always try one DVD through Netflix and, if it looks interesting enough, I could purchase an entire season.
The down side of cancelling is that our children do watch a few programs. However, they're away at college eight months out of the year and I'm having a hard time justifying paying that monthly fee just so they have something to do when they're home and bored.
Today I'm going to venture into a controversial area and probably upset a few people. However, these are my views and I want to share them.
A few weeks ago, in one of my textbooks for school, I reread the account of how Galileo revived the discovery by Copernicus that the earth was not the center of the universe. At the time, the Christian Church held firmly to its interpretation of Bible scripture, saying the earth was indeed the center of the universe and to say otherwise was to commit heresy.
As I read the forced statement that Galileo had to make, recanting what we now know to be true, I got thinking about how Christians (and other faiths may do as well) have a bad habit of drawing lines in the sand. We have so many hot button issues, where a line has been drawn by some denominations and individuals: homosexuality, abortion, alcohol consumption, medical marijuana, decriminalization of other drugs, etc. These heavy lines are drawn when gray areas exist. Seeing everything as black or white with a clear demarcation line is denying the state of the world. We live in an imperfect world. Often choices have to be made when there is no clear right or wrong. Those who point to Bible verses as an indication of where God falls on some moral questions are mistaken. It is their interpretation of the verse that is guiding them, not the actual scripture. What happens when rational thought and science prove that both our interpretation and the line drawn in the sand are wrong? We can't forget poor Galileo.
As an example of gray areas, I'll use medical marijuana. Studies have shown that the use of this plant can alleviate pain and suffering experienced by cancer and other patients. However, a line has been drawn and marijuana is considered evil, no matter how it is used. There are those who say it should not be used no matter how much good it can do. On the other hand, these same individuals, who have demonized marijuana, have no problem consuming drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, even when case after case has shown that many of these legal drugs are extremely dangerous, much more dangerous than marijuana. Sometimes I see pharmaceutical advertisements on television and at the end they include the disclaimers, where they list the possible side effects of the drug being advertised. I wonder how many people pay attention to the announcer as he or she drones on and on, especially to the mention that one of the side effects is possible death! Clearly, we need to stop drawing lines in the sand on this issue and really consider the pros and cons. If something is not harmful to others, we need to allow individuals to make personal choices based on what they know about their own circumstances, on their own faith values, and on the best available research.
Rather than drawing lines, we need to allow the gray areas to exist. When circumstances force an individual into that gray area, we should come along side them, offering love and encouragement rather than judgment and condemnation. It's what Jesus would do.
I'm continuing this topic as it's a very important one and very near and dear to my heart. I was recently skimming a book I got from the library and was stunned, to say the least, by some of the facts about food. The book is Fit to LIve by Pamela Peeke, a medical doctor. I'm just going to list some of the thing she shared:
Americans "spend more of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care - almost 17 percent - than any other nation on the planet. Most nations spend about 9 percent of their GDP on health-care costs. If we spent 11 percent (still more than anyone), we'd save $700 billion a year!"
People 100 pounds or more overweight are so prevalent in the United States that if they all lived in one state, it would be the 12th most populated state.
"The average 5-foot 4-inch woman in the 1950s blew up from a 120-pound, 26-inch waist, size-6 body to, in 2006, a 157-pound, 34.5-inch waist, size-14 body."
"Already one-third of our children are seriously overweight; many kids ages 1 to 6 are too heavy for standard car seats."
"One out of every three children born in 2000 will have type 2 diabetes by the age of 30. They are the first generation who won't live as long as their boomer parents."
Rates of obesity and overweight went from 58% in 2001 to 63% in 2005.
"Over 80 percent of the diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, top three cancers, fractures from falls, physical disabilities, and overall complaints to primary-care doctors are caused by the choices we make in our everyday living."
Dr. Peeke also wrote about portion size in the U.S. I didn't take notes on that - probably because it was so shocking - but you should know that the portions our grandparents ate at mealtimes would be considered mere snacks to us today. Even our neighbors to the north, the Canadians don't eat like we do as this Canadian blogger noticed in her trip to New York. Our portions have gotten larger, along with our plates. Studies show that when given more food, we eat more.
Here are some statistics similar to ones Dr. Peeke had in her book:
In the last 20 years, the average serving of pizza went from 500 calories to 850; the average coffee from 45 calories to 330; movie popcorn t from 270 calories to 630; bagels from 3-inch diameter at 140 calories to 5 or 6 diameter at 350 calories; cheeseburgers from 330 calories to 590 calories; and soft drinks in an 8-ounce can at 97 calories to a 20-ounce bottle at 242 calories.*
This slow creep in portion size and the emphasis on snack foods and supersizing has led to our current health care crisis. What can we do about it? Just Say No. We have to say no to the junk food that is pervasive in our lives. Say no to the supersized meals, even though they're a better "bargain." Say no to the manufacturers who want us to consume more and more food because now that is the only way they can increase profits. Say no to the advertisements we see on television by turning it off. Avoid restaurants that serve oversided portions (or at least take home a doggy bag if we can be that strong). We need to become educated about good, healthy food and start moving our bodies more. We need to start paying attention to our food and quit mindless eating. Is it easy? No. Is it worth the effort? Definitely. Our lives depend upon it.
Many years ago, when our family stayed with friends in Spain, we learned of a old Spanish tradition called "el paseo." El paseo, which means to stroll, takes place after dinner. During an el paseo, the entire community can be seeing walking the streets, greeting their neighbors, helping their food digest, and burning off calories, as well. This activity has become part of our family tradition. My husband and I (and my faithful dog Ginny) try to take a paseo every evening. When our grown children are home from college and don't have plans for that evening, they join us. Our modern lives mean we move much less than we need to. We tend to spend the vast majority of our time sitting behind desks, on the sofa or behind the wheel of a car. Paseos not only allow us to move our sedentary bodies, but it allows us to reconnect with family and friends. I would love to see this concept spread as it is one of the most healthy things one can do.
Some of my readers know that I'm currently working on my master's degree in Human Services, with a concentration in health and wellness. There are so many things I can do with this degree and one thing that keeps coming to mind is working in a setting where I help people with food issues. In the United States, a large number of people have a serious problem with obesity and weight-related illnesses which contributes to our health care crisis.
A fellow blogger recently posted an article comparing French diet habits and food packaging to those in the United States. You can read about it here. This ties in with my post of yesterday where I talked about quality versus quantity. Although I was talking about possessions, it applies to food as well. We're supersizing ourselves into the hospital and an early grave.
It saddens me to see people with severe health problems when most of these conditions are easily preventable. One day, when I'm done with school, I would love to be part of the solution to this problem.
Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalimages.net Photographer: Suat Eman
Yesterday at lunch, I had a most interesting conversation with my husband. Recently, our son discovered a movie based on a novel from the 1980s, American Psycho. If you ignore the "psycho" portions, the movie was pretty accurate about the shallowness of the 80s. My son was laughing about the characters' obsessions with having the best business card, getting reservations at the most exclusive restaurant, and wearing the right clothes. I told him that the 80s really was about status - what you wore, what you drove, how you entertained.
Talking to my husband about it, I said the 80s was all about quality, whereas in the present day, it's all about quantity, i.e. consumerism. While there was a lot wrong with the 80s, I do think in some ways we had it right. We really should be concerned with purchasing quality items that endure the test of time. It's much better to have a few quality items that you enjoy for years to come, than to purchase a lot of cheap goods that are thrown away after a few uses. The problem with the 80s was that we bought items to impress others.
Today, however, we don't care at all about quality. It's all about price and getting more, more, more. Crass consumerism is the new way to impress friends and neighbors. We tell ourselves that we have a lot of really good stuff and we that we've saved lots of money in the process. The sad thing is that we really don't save money in the end. We find ourselves spending even more money to replace the items that didn't last. And for the few items that do last, we end up having them clutter our homes or putting them in storage because we really didn't need them in the first place. We were just seduced by low prices and shiny products.
Although we need to avoid trying to impress our friends and neighbors, I would like to see us get back to caring about spending our limited dollars on quality rather than quantity. By doing so, we simplify our lives, save money, and reduce our impact on the planet.
There she is. Isn't she a beauty? The Barnes and Noble Nook - an electronic book reader. I've been planning to get one for a while, ever since a friend started researching readers and learned that the Nook is compatible with e-books available for free through libraries. Of course I wanted to buy some books; but free is so much better, especially for books that I'm only going to read once.
However, I keep putting off purchasing one. I think the problem is I really love books. Just like in a previous post where I talked about the tactile experience of magazines, I feel the same way about books. And also there are older, out-of-print books that I would like to have that just aren't available in electronic format. On the pro side of the issue, I can travel with thousands of books, which really comes in handy when you fly. Not only are you limited to two carryons, but you have to schlep everything around yourself and books can weigh a lot.
To buy or not to buy, that is the question. I'm going to keep mulling it over and will let you know when I make a decision..
A few weeks ago, while I was in Tampa, I was without a car for the day and I decided to take the 15 minute walk to a grocery store near our condominium. It was a hot day, so at the checkout lines I searched for a nice, cold bottle of water to quench my thirst. It's a somewhat small store, really an upscale branch of a large chain, and I saw only one cooler. Inside, my choices consisted of different types of vitamin or flavored water or imported Evian.
I don't know about you, but when I'm thirsty, I want water in my water. So, I grabbed the bottle of Evian and was whisked through the checkout line. I knew I was going to be in trouble by buying that bottle. My husband detests bottled water. I'm actually on board with him on this one because it really is a tremendous waste of resources. Plus, if you know anything about bottled water, you know that it's no better than tap water and often IS tap water. Just plain tap water that has been filtered, something you can do in your own home. I worked in the bottled water industry when I was a young woman, before it became so popular, so I've been aware of this fact for many years and never got too caught up in the craze.
When hubby got home that night, he immediately spied the bottle and wanted to know why on earth I bought not just bottled water, but imported water. I almost told him I bought it because I thought it would impress people, but thought better of it, so I told him the truth. I was out and about, and got thirsty.
Bottled water does sometimes have a function, such as when you're caught away from home without a reusable cup or bottle. Although I suppose I could just used the drinking fountain; that's what we all did when we were growing up. But I did justify this purchase by saying it was a very nice bottle, with a handy fliptop cap, and that I would be reusing it. (Now I don't want to get into the whole debate about plastics, food, and health. I'll save that for another potential post.) I had the idea that this bottle would accompany me around town, to the gym and yoga class, and on errands. Unfortunately, my fliptop broke and the bottle is useless. Now I realize how silly my purchase really was.
I've been putting off this reveal for several reasons. First, I'm lazy; I had to take the photos, upload them, and then edit them to a size suitable to my blog. Second, I'm not a good photographer (and I think my camera isn't the best, either). This is something I'd like to remedy someday. Finally, the room really isn't finished. I want to buy or make some type of window treatment for the window seats and add some matching pillows, as well. I have a few decorative items I need to get out of storage and add to make it a bit more homey. One obstacle that I need to overcome is that all four walls slope, making it impossible to hang any art, so the room looks a bit bare.
Regardless of all that, here are the photos:
Now I have a place to do yoga, exercise, read, study, do crafts, and, most importantly, nap without interruption.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent quite a bit of time pulling weeds in my flowerbeds. I have all kinds of excuses as to why I let it go so long, but the bottom line is I still had to pull them. As I was doing this most unpleasant chore, I was struck by what a marvel weeds really are. Looking at the variety of weeds we have, I noticed almost all of them spread out in a crabgrass-like fashion. And I realized that, unlike cultivated grasses and plants, many weeds were designed to prevent erosion. Once a weed seed gets purchase and sends roots into the soil, it spreads out like crazy over bare soil. Imagine what the earth would look like without such plants in the wilderness: barren, eroded hills. Now I've developed an appreciation for the lowly weed. I just wish it would find somewhere to grow besides my yard.
Last February I took a vow for Lent in which I wouldn't spend any extraneous money until Easter. You can read about it here. One of the items I gave up was magazines. Magazines call to me, at grocery stores, book stores, drug stores, everywhere. The headlines and glossy pages seem to grab me. However, what usually happens is I feel disappointed once I've finished perusing it. My Lenten vow taught me that not only could I live without magazines, I could save quite a bit of money as well. Lately, I've noticed my old habit creeping into my life. Oh, I always have excuses - I'm traveling and don't have anything to read; this is a health magazine so it will improve my life; and on and on. It seems that all magazines now mention their web sites in columns and articles, often for specific areas of interest. It's got me wondering if going to the web sites and gleaning the information provided will satisfy my need for magazines. Is it the information contained within the publications that fill a need in me? Or is it the slick, glossy photographs that mesmerize me? Or is it just a tangible need to feel the weight of the magazine in my hands?
Does anyone else have this desire for magazines? Does going to web sites provide the same satisfaction?