Tuesday, May 31, 2011


For some reason, I'm in the mood for quotes this week.  Here is one I found on Crunchy Minimalist:

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.” ~Ellen Goodman

Monday, May 30, 2011


"We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power.  Then will our world know the blessings of peace."
~William Ewart Gladstone

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quote for the Day

"I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit.  What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
~Rev. Tony Campolo

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Making a Difference

I read a lot of blogs on a variety of topics.  I find myself going through phases with the types of blogs I read.  Lately, I've been most interested in reading Quaker blogs and blogs that support my four basic Quaker testimonies:  simplicity, nonviolence, equality, and integrity.  For me, part of living with integrity is being aware of the consequences of my actions and trying to make a difference in the world.

One blog I've added to my regular reading is Be More With Less:  Life on Purpose.  Recently, Courtney, the author of this blog, talked about her Starbucks addiction and how, over the course of a month, she discovered that she had spent a whopping $225 there!  She felt that this spending was not matching her desire to live "life on purpose" and so, the next month, chose to spend that exact amount in a way that would line up with her values and would make a difference in the lives of others.  I recommend you go here to read about what she did with her money.  And maybe it will inspire the rest of us to do something similar.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stuff We Don't Need

This morning I spent a little bit (okay,a lot) of time catching up on blog reading.  One blog post in particular made me do a double take.  Serena at the Everyday Minimalist had a post titled "Americans buy a trillion more than they need each year."  A trillion dollars?  She had a link to a Wall Street Journal article that you can find here.  It seems this spending frenzy began in the 1970s and we haven't looked back.  In addition, the article points out that this estimate is probably low due to what is considered "essential."  

I'm still reeling over this number and all that it means.  Americans have gotten to where we have so much money that we have to find ways to waste it.  That's just wrong, especially when you think of how 1.2 billion people lack clean drinking water; 5,000,000 people starve to death each year; 656,000 individuals in the US are homeless; and 1,345 million people live on less than $1.25 a day.  (And I'm sure these are very conservative numbers.)  It seems to me that once our basic needs are met, we should be searching for a way to ensure that the basic needs of others are met, as well.  Having some luxuries is fine - but over $1 trillion?  

Last night I attended a planning meeting for our local CROP Hunger Walk that will take place October 2.  We had two representatives from Church World Service, the sponsoring organization.  One of the reps, Mary Catherine, told us a story about visiting Bolivia and how $200 raised through CROP Hunger Walk's made a tremendous difference in a small village.  This money was used to purchase seeds, tools, etc. to begin a community garden and food cooperative.  After the meeting, another member and I were talking about this and I commented that the average America wastes $200 on a trip to Wal-Mart.  Seeing the blog post and article just confirms my observation.

Americans need to learn to distinguish between our wants and our needs.  Since so many in the world lack basic needs - food, water, shelter, and medical care - spending $1  trillion seems morally wrong to me.

P.S.  After I wrote this blog post, I found this article entitled "Nearly Half of Americans Are 'Financially Fragile'" from the Wall Street Journal.  In a survey, Americans were asked  “If you were to face a $2,000 unexpected expense in the next month, how would you get the funds you need?” In the U.S., 24.9% of respondents reported being certainly able, 25.1% probably able, 22.2% probably unable and 27.9% certainly unable."  So, according to these articles, half of Americans are on financially shaky ground yet are still able to spend over $1 trillion on nonessentials.  Go figure.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Two weeks ago I mentioned Michale Pollan's advice on eating.  The three main things to do are: 
  1. Eat [real] food.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Mostly plants.
In follow up to yesterday's discussion where I mentioned the environmental causes of cancer, I realized that this advice has health benefits that extend beyond just eating the food.  

When we eat real food, we avoid the processing and packaging that creates the chemicals that ooze into both our bodies and the environment.  Processed and snack foods always come in brightly colored boxes and bags.  A variety of chemicals go into making this packaging.  In addition, the process of turning the items from real food into food that can be patented also creates chemicals that must be released into our environment.

Reducing the amount of food also contributes to a reduction in processing and packaging, thus helping to save our environment and keeping more chemicals out of it.  Eliminating snacking and seconds means fewer packages.  Fewer packages means less output by factories

In our modern society, in order to produce large amounts of meat, companies must concentrate the animals into small areas to save time and money.  Eating mostly plants means fewer concentrated feeding operations that cause at least two problems:  1) Increased use of antibiotics to prevent the illnesses that result from overcrowding.  These antibiotics are released into the environment via the animals' waste and create antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  2) The creation of "waste lagoons" that are at risk of spilling into our environment and polluting our water sources.  
A Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) with waste lagoons.
The above photo (courtesy of the Sierra Club) is a picture of a concentrated feeding operation. Those bodies of water are not what you think they are.  They are some of the waste lagoons I just mentioned and I believe the name is self explanatory.  Given the flooding and tornadoes we've experienced throughout the United States, these lagoons are not safe, no matter how many precautions are taken.  (Read more about these lagoons here.)

Ultimately, good health is more than what we eat.  It's about our environment, as well.  Making personal choices to reduce chemical and other pollution in our world is essential to our well-being.

(Photo credit:  http://www.sierraclub.org/communities/factoryfarms/)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Treatment vs. Cure

In a post last week I mentioned that I am trying to work out a personal giving policy.  One place I won't give my money anymore is to the organizations that are trying to find the "cure."  For me, there are severe ethical problems with their approach.  

First of all, we tend to consider treatment and cure as one and the same.  They are not.  To me cure means eliminating the disease.  Period.  Exposing our bodies to chemicals and radiation that can cause cancer is not a cure.  A cure involves discovering the source and eliminating it.  Once the cure is found, we can do away with the expensive drugs and equipment.

Secondly, many organizations that claim to be looking for a cure are heavily invested in the businesses that provide the means to treat the disease.  It is not in their best interests to find a cure because 1) they will lose money on their investments and 2) it will put them out of business.  These are multi-million dollar businesses that one does not take lightly.  If a cure for a disease that is widespread and generates millions of dollars a years is found, how many people will be out of jobs?  How many businesses will close?  What would it do to the stock market?  A cure would be bad for business and bad for the economy.

Now I'm not one for conspiracy theories; however, over the years some true conspiracies have been exposed.  Wonder why mass transit died out in most of the United States?  We can thank General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil,  and several other corporations for that.  You can read about the "Great American Streetcar Scandal" here.  Remember when chiropractors were considered quacks?  Thank the American Medical Association who feared the competition.  At the close of a lawsuit in 1987, the judge found that the AMA "had engaged in an unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade 'to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.'"  Something to think about.

Well-respected organizations sometimes act in their own self-interests, often to the detriment of the general population.  I'm sure there are many well-intentioned individuals working for organizations that claim to be searching for the cure; however, I think they sometimes get blinded by and caught up in the machinery of corporations and finances.  Here is a great article about the links between the American Cancer Society and pharmaceutical and chemical companies.  

Although studies have proven the link between a number of diseases and environmental influences, little attention is given to it.  According to the above article, the American Cancer Society,"along with the National Cancer Institute, virtually exclusively focuses on cancer research and diagnosis and the chemical treatment of cancer. Preventive strategies, such as avoiding chemical exposures, receive virtually no consideration at all."  In fact, many of the pharmaceutical companies they support also manufacture the very chemicals that are linked to disease.  

As long as we ignore the environmental causes of many diseases and instead focus on treating them, we will not find cures.  Take cancer, for example.  In 1971, President Nixon declared the war on cancer.  However, cancer rates continue to climb.  According to this 2004 article, "Thirty-three years ago, fully half of cancer patients survived five years or more after diagnosis. The figure has crept up to about 63% today."  And this statistic is slightly misleading because the five year "cure" doesn't really mean the person is cured.  (A good friend lost her battle against cancer, but was considered a "cure" because her cancer had returned after her five year anniversary.)  The article goes on to point out that "pharma companies, quite naturally, don't concentrate on solving the problem of metastasis (the thing that kills people); they focus on devising drugs that shrink tumors (the things that don't)."  Until this model changes, we will continue to have cancer.  

Another environmental cause of many diseases is our diet.  Numerous diseases are linked to the Standard American Diet.  However, this link is often ignored and, instead, we treat the illnesses with an assortment of pharmaceuticals that cause a myriad of side-effects and drain our pocketbooks.  So, in some cases we have the cure - it's called "prevention" - but our medical advisors allow us to wait until we have a disease that needs to be treated.

We must start demanding that true cures be sought rather than continuing to fund expensive, painful, damaging, and sometimes deadly treatments.  As long as we keep falling for the emotional marketing of the companies who purport to search for a cure, we will not find it.  

Monday, May 23, 2011


Out here in the boonies country, we often find unique ways to entertain ourselves.  For instance, on Friday, after my husband and son moved some of the goats from one pasture to the other, we had a bit of drama.  
Now to the untrained eye, this photo might look like the girls were getting together for a bit of socializing and gossiping.  However, what was really going on was an epic goat fight.  Four of our girls, yes four - Maggie, Nellie, Juliette, and Esmeralda, were battling it out to determine who would become alpha female of that particular pasture.  There was much locking of horns and back biting (literally).  A fifth goat, Sara, was waiting in the wings, although we're not sure what her goal was.  Was she rooting for her favorite, was she waiting for her turn, or was she trying to serve as the peacemaker?  

I did notice that the four goats vying for the alpha role all had beards.  Although I don't know why, some of our female goats develop beards.  I'm now wondering if it's a hormonal thing which explains why they have this violent urge to fight for supremacy.  As Sara does not have a beard, I suspect she was trying to play peacemaker.
The battle when on for quite some time.  First it was the four, then two, and then there appeared  be a winner- Maggie.  There was one last challenge to her by Juliette, but at the end of the day, Maggie prevailed.  Maggie, the goat we almost lost to illness last year; Maggie, mother of my sweet little bottle-fed Iris.  

By the way, my son was afraid for that little goat.  Her instinct was to go to her mother, not realizing her mother was in a heated battle and that she might get trampled in her attempt to join her.  Iris was moved out of harms way for most of the fight, but was very happy to rejoin her mother at the end of the day.

Don't I lead an exciting life?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Quote for the Day

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. 
~Rachel Carson

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finite Resources and Moral Choices

GiftIt seems that I get requests to give to a variety of causes and events on a weekly basis.  Someone is running for a cure or a new baby is born or a family is having financial difficulties or a charitable organization is holding a fundraiser or someone is getting married or moving into a new home.  All of these events require that I open my wallet and contribute.  The problem I have is that my money is finite.  No matter how much money one has, there is still a limited supply.  When I give to one cause, it means that those dollars cannot go to another.  Sometimes I consider all of the causes to be good ones; other times, I have ethical questions about them.  At all times I want to make a wise decision on how to allocate my limited resources. 

Because of the constant demand and my personal dilemma, I want to come up with a giving policy.  I want my choices to be ones that contribute to the greatest good and not to support a cause just because a friend or neighbor is involved.  This will sometimes put me in a difficult situation.  However, because I have limited resources, I feel that giving to one takes away from another.  I want to establish some personal guidelines to help me sort it out, to determine if a request is a need or a want.  If all the needs in the world were met, I'd be glad to help with some of the wants.  But the reality of it all is that there are so many needs with serious consequences, often life or death consequences, that it's hard to justify supporting mere desires.

It really bothers me when I mentally line up desperate needs next to frivolous wants.  It seems to me that our middle class culture has taken a wrong turn.  We have endless events that require us to spend money that would be better spent on other more urgent needs.  The cult of consumerism has taken over and we look for any opportunity to run to the mall.  We also support fundraising events without questioning the methods or the results.  Just mention a disease and we open our wallets to support products or events that claim to support the cause.  If we don't, we appear callous.  It's a knee-jerk reaction that I want to end.  I think we should ask questions:  Does the money really support research for a cure or does it go to support funding for pharmaceutical companies?  Are the products we buy in support of a cause actually contributing to the problem by increasing chemical pollution in our food supply and in our bodies?  Does our friend, neighbor, or family member actually need the item that we're purchasing or is our purchase just one of the niceties we go through in our culture?  

I want to stop blindly following the rules of etiquette and to start making the moral choice.  I would rather contribute to a shelter for the homeless than to buy a gift for a housewarming party.  It's not about being cheap.  It's about parceling out my finite resources in a way that is right and moral.  

(Photo credit:  http://www.sxc.hu)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Choosing Healthier OilsI'm a bit tardy with my Wellness Wednesday post.  My intention was to research what types of cooking oils are best.  This article from Whole Living sums it all up very nicely, telling us which oils to use in dressings, which ones to use for high temperature cooking, and which oils to eliminate altogether.  The only caveat I have is that nonorganic canola oil is genetically modified (GMO).  Although most experts say that  GMO foods are perfectly fine, I tend to avoid them.  When I do buy canola, I try to purchase organic so that I know it's not GMO.

Photo credit:  www.wholeliving.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Scary Proposition

The past few weeks, ever since the end of Lent, I have been thinking about the imbalance of wealth in the world.  I've especially been focused on clothing.  For an American woman, I don't really have a lot of clothes.  However, compared to someone living in an undeveloped nation, I have an obscene amount of clothing.  I'm not really a shopper either, but if you get me in a clothing store, odds are I will end up buying something.  

Lately I've been wondering, could I handle taking a vow to not buy clothes for x number of weeks?  Whenever a "special" occasion comes up, many of us (mainly women) tend to panic and run out to buy a new outfit because we decide we have nothing to wear.  But is that true?  Do we really have nothing to wear?  Or do we have a lot of trendy clothing that are past their expiration date.  Which means that we need go out to buy more trendy clothing that will only be worn for that one event and then put in the closet until the next special occasion comes up and we start the cycle all over again?

Taking a challenge like this would be a great test, although I confess I don't know if I'm quite ready for it.  But it would probably make me a better steward of money and resources.  I might become more careful and plan better when I do purchase clothes.  I would probably end up being more selective as to both style and quality.  I would make sure my clothes were timeless and not trendy and make sure I have multipurpose clothing that I would carry me through a variety of circumstances. 

Not spending any money on nonessentials during Lent has made me much more careful about how I spend money.  It is a habit that I like and want to continue.  As I slowly get out my warm weather clothing and put away my sweaters, etc., I think that I probably do have all the clothes need to carry me through the spring and summer.  

I don't know if I'm quite up for this challenge because I worry that something will happen to a staple piece of clothing and then I can't replace it.  But I did manage to make it through the entire Lenten season without any such emergency.  Something for me to think about...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Quote for the Day

Our lives begin to end the day we became silent about things that matter.
~Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

As part of my low-cost/high-health cookbook project for our local food pantry, a few weeks ago I met with a very nice woman from our county's cooperative extension office.  She will be holding some cooking classes for clients of the food pantry, so talked her to find out what her needs were and how our cookbook could help satisfy some of those needs.

We talked about the need for healthy snacks for children and she emphasized the need for healthy alternatives to soft drinks.  As someone who is very concerned about what we are putting into our food system and ultimately into our bodies, I was taken aback by some of her examples which including making a juice mix using diet ginger ale.  Of course this led me to the following two thoughts:  We take out natural fat in healthy foods (i.e., yogurt), replace it with sugar, and call it healthy.  We take out sugar, replace it with chemicals, and call it healthy.  Rather than continuing to consume excessive amounts of adulterated foods, maybe we should just consume more moderate amounts of food in their natural state?  What we need to do is follow author Michael Pollan's advice:
  1. Eat [real] food.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Mostly plants.
If we followed this advice, we would save our health and our wallets, as we would be putting the diet food/supplement/book industry out of business and reduce our healthcare costs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More on Iris

My daily life continues to revolve around my bottle-fed baby, Iris.  It was touch-and-go at first, with Iris having a hard time with being bottle fed, but I think we've turned the corner and she should grow into a nice, beautiful (and, hopefully, unspoiled) doe.  Here are a few pics of my girl:

Iris with some of the other girls

 Iris having her lunch
 Getting some special attention
 Isn't she a beauty?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.
~Jewish proverb

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Sometimes things that are bad for you, are also bad for others.  I've read of the health benefits from chocolate, but the truth is most of us consume far too much of it.  By eating too much of it, or by eating milk chocolate rather than dark chocolate, we cancel out any potential benefits.  However, you might start cutting down on chocolate consumption after watching this movie trailer that Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green shared on facebook:

Monday, May 2, 2011


All weekend and into today, I've been struggling with an overwhelming sense of disappointment - disappointment in my community.   You see, on Saturday there was an event for domestic violence awareness, a chance for the community to come together in strength and solidarity.  This event included the opportunity to walk a labyrinth, something one doesn't get to do every day.  Light refreshments were also served.  However, in the time I was there, the only visitors were those of us who are already part of the domestic violence coalition.  And I noticed that we are all transplants to the area.  Not one single local person visited.

In contrast, when our local Olive Garden restaurant opened a few weeks back, over 100 people lined up before the doors were even open.  Guess we know the priorities of our local citizens.

Things like this make me want to give up on community efforts.  Why bother?  Often it seems that few people who were born and raised here really care.  And in my experience, except for when those "hot button" issues are addressed, the local community of faith rarely gets excited about or involved in anything meaningful.  I see a lot of selfish activity within the religious community, projects or activities that benefit the church or temple, or easy projects, ones that involve shopping for gifts or donations.  But seldom do I see the community go out of it's way to support a need that does not somehow have a personal connection.  It's all about us and our friends.

It just seems so selfish.  I do understand that people have very busy lives and sometimes it's hard to find time to help others.  But from my viewpoint, I find that many of my neighbors who complain about lack of time are never too busy to go to the latest, greatest, newest restaurant or store or to spend hours watching television or surfing the internet.

Of course, there are those in this area who do care and who do some very important work.  But the list is short, and it always seems to be the same people thinly spreading themselves across a community that needs a lot of help.  So, I'm grateful for what we have, but I think we can do better.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Quote for the Day

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
~Saint Augustine