Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spaving

Spaving is a new term I learned.  I got it from a post by The Everyday Minimalist.  Spaving is a term she coined to describe what a lot of us do:  we "spend to save."  You know, we set out to purchase something we need.  We notice that there is a larger size of it for a few pennies or dollars more and think, "Wow, that's a great deal!  We'll be saving money!"  So we purchase the larger size, that costs more money, and feel good about it because we've actually saved money.  Wrong!  What we've actually done is spent more money, and probably ended up getting something that will ultimately go to waste since we didn't need the extra in the first place.  


Next time you're out shopping, keep in mind what you need and remember that spending extra to buy what you don't need is not saving.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Scientists are now examining the role of chemicals in our struggles with weight.  According to Paula Baillie-Hamilton, an expert on metabolism and environmental toxins, "the earth's environment has changed significantly during the last few decades because of the exponential production and usage of synthetic organic and inorganic chemicals."  As a result, Baillie-Hamilton believes our natural weight-control mechanisms have been damaged.  She believes that some of the culprits are the endocrine-disruptors found in a variety of plastics, pesticides, and other chemical compounds.  These endocrine-disruptors mimic hormones and affect our metabolism.


Avoiding these chemicals requires rethinking our food and personal care products.  Try to eat as many organic and close-to-nature foods as possible.  Avoid prepackaged foods that contain ingredients we don't recognize as food.  Also, swap out chemical-laden toiletries in favor of those composed of natural ingredients.  Don't forget that chemicals are also linked to a variety of diseases so it's still a good idea to eliminate them even if you are not struggling with weight problems.


Although there is a link between chemicals and our metabolism, weight control also depends upon consuming fewer calories and getting regular exercise.



(Source:  http://www.onearth.org/article/is-your-shampoo-making-you-fat)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wild Goose Return

Wow!  Wild Goose, what can I say?  It was what I expected and so much more.  It was a gathering of about 1700 like-minded people of all ages and backgrounds.  It was a safe place to talk and to share.  It was a place to refuel.  


The Wild Goose Festival was an event that was 10 years in the making and brought together progressive people from around the world.  Although it was predominantly Christian, all faiths were welcome.  Rabbi Or Rose and Imam Abdullah Antepli were participants.  I actually got to speak briefly with Abdullah who smiled and told me that "Cherie" means "heavenly" in Persian.  


And that was one of the beautiful things about this event; there was no barrier between the presenters and the participants.  Both performers and attendees camped and ate together.  Often I would be strolling along and walk past someone whose work I admired.  And they were all approachable.  In my previous post telling about the event, I mentioned how discovering Sojourner's magazine and the writings of Jim Wallis had helped save my faith.  Well, I got to meet him.  After my telling him in my tongue-tied way how important his writing has been to me, he asked if he could give me a hug:
I got to literally sit at the feet of Brian McLaren as he facilitated a discussion on global versus local economies and their impact on the environment, poverty, peace, and religion.  I sat next to Lynne Hybels as she discussed the need for justice for the Palestinians, as well as for the Israelis.  I heard Tony Campolo, Phyllis Tickle,  Jay Bakker, Tony Jones, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shane Claiborne, Frank Schaeffer, John Dear, and many, many others.  Some were familiar authors and speakers, others were new to me.  In addition to the speakers, there was music and art.  


This four day event was jam-packed, beginning at 9 a.m. every day and lasting to well past midnight.  In addition to listening to the speakers, we attended four concerts.  On Saturday, my hubby and I realized that we had something going on every hour from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.  We had to cut out a couple of events so that we could eat lunch and dinner!  And we had to choose from among several events every hour.


Wild Goose was such an affirming experience for me.  For many years I had felt alone in my attempt to wrap together my Christian faith with my beliefs in creation care, non-violence, simple living, and social justice.  And there I was surrounded by hundreds of like-minded individuals who were eager to explore the questions together, never pretending to know all the answers.  What is more encouraging is that the gathering included a large number of students and pastors, people whose influence can change the next generation.  They will be the public face of Christianity, a face that is not judgmental and selfish, but is loving and accepting.  Right now I'm feeling good about that face.


This festival was a virtual anti-trust lawsuit against the monopoly that is called the Christian Right.  They can no longer claim to own absolute truth, define what it means to be a Christian, and then call those who question their beliefs "heretics."  They cannot tell me that being a Christian isn't about something you can do but about what you believe, and then proceed to tell me what I must do in order to be a part of the club. 


This event was so amazing and overwhelming.  There were lots of new voices that I'm looking forward to exploring.  As a result of this event, I've probably added about 20 books to my wish list, books written mainly by authors that are new to me.  I'm sure this is not the last you will hear about this event, about it's impact on my life, and about the amazing people I've met.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Quote for the Day


"Time is a created thing.  To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.'"

~Lao-Tzu



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wild Goose Chase

This weekend should be a very good one for me.  You see, my hubby and I are going to this event.  Wild Goose is a four-day event that is publicized as "a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation."  (I love the all-inclusiveness of it.)


What is also exciting to me about this event is that I will be surrounded by people who are like-minded.    Long-time readers of my blog know about my spiritual struggle when I moved from Florida to Virginia.  Although Florida is in the Bible belt, it is not considered a "red" state, so the strange mixture of religion and politics was quite a shock to me.  Everyone in my community was friendly enough, but everyone I met assumed I was a Christian, with one of the first questions being, "Do you have a church home?"  This was no problem for me as 1) I knew they were being polite; 2) I am a Christian; and 3) I had already identified a church to attend.  However, the assumption was also that I held certain political beliefs.  What was worse, the general consensus seemed to be that it was actually un-Christian to have different beliefs.


Those were dark days for me.  I began to question whether or not I could call myself a Christian as it seemed I didn't fit the mold of what that means.  (Also, having studied medieval history, I was reluctant to give voice to my doubts and questions as I had read too much about what happened to heretics.)  During my search for "truth," I stumbled upon a web site and print magazine called Sojourners, run by a pastor named Jim Wallis.  I immediately subscribed to the magazine and pored over everything on the web site.  Hallelujah!  There were people like me out there who were Christians.  I found much comfort in this knowledge and also began to read books and blogs by the authors featured in the magazine.  


Now Wild Goose is almost upon us and I'm going to finally get to see in person some of those authors and activists whose words were like life-rafts to me.  People who know it's okay to have questions and not answers, who care about real people and not just about Bible verses, and who know that Jesus teaches that love trumps everything.


Here's a little video preview for the event:




Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Shopper in the market 5
A pet peeve of mine is the idea that fast food is cheaper and quicker than home cooking.  Well, this article on Huffington Post dispels this rumor.  The author did some math and realized when you add up the cost of feeding a family of four at a fast food restaurant or with frozen dinners, it's not really a bargain.  Here's what the author said after visiting a McDonald's outlet:

After going to McDonald's recently and putting together a typical meal for four (mom, dad and two kids), I came up with a total of about $14.00 (I didn't actually buy anything, though). For that money, you get almost nothing of nutritive value, but bland white bread, greasy burgers and fries with a sugary soda.
That same $14.00 will purchase two pounds of lean ground beef, a pack of eight whole wheat buns, lettuce, tomato and enough potatoes to make oven-baked french fries and salad ingredients with money left over for some fresh fruit. The best part is that this is twice as much food as at McDonald's, so there's plenty for leftovers later. Better food at half the price: that's pretty simple. I'll allow that there's no soda included in the home cooked meal, but no one should drink soda anyway and a full pitcher of iced tea costs pennies to make.
Not only are you not getting more food for your money at fast food restaurants, you are getting a lot of empty calories.  Taking the same money to the grocery store results in healthy, wholesome food.  In addition, prep time for making healthy meals is no more than the time one would spend in line at the fast food restaurant.

(Photo source:  http://www.sxc.hu)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Challenge

Happy Summer!  


My summer is taking a turn that I hadn't anticipated a couple of months ago.  In an earlier post, I commented on how I was thinking about taking a clothes shopping hiatus.  In response to this post, my friend Shona at LALA dex press asked me about this hiatus and challenged me to do it for an entire season.  Well, I've agreed to the time period and we're beginning the challenge today - no shopping for the entire summer!  Shona, like me, is on a quest to live a simpler, more meaningful life and mindless, unnecessary shopping is the antithesis of this type of life.  


I mentioned to Shona that I was a bit concerned about the timing of the challenge as I do have one event to attend and I'm not sure I have an appropriate outfit.  However, after reading this article on CNN about Amy Seiffert and then visiting her blog, I've decided I can manage.  You see, Amy decided to take a six-month challenge to wear the same dress every day in order to raise awareness and money for this cause - victims of sex trafficking.  During her six months, Amy had to attend formal events and found out she was pregnant.  Yet neither stopped her from pushing forward with her project and daily she found creative ways to wear the grey knit dress that she chose for the challenge.  If Amy could do that, I can shop my closet for three months.  


Shona and I aren't focusing on any particular cause.  We're just trying to simplify our lives and the world.  Not shopping means having less to worry about and care for.  Plus, it frees our resources so we can contribute to things that really matter to us.  This challenge also speaks to several issues that are important to me:  environmentalism; social justice; anti-consumerism; and simplicity.


Anyone else up for the challenge?

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Recipe at Dee's Kitch

My friend Deanna at Dee's Kitchen was kind enough to feature me as a guest post last Friday.  Go over to this page and check out my Quick Kale and White Bean Soup recipe.  While you're there, explore her blog and check our her other two blogs:  Tea with Dee and The Well-Groomed Hippie.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers' Day

"Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope."
~Bill Cosby

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Peace and a Perfect World

Peace comes when we recognize our connectedness.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

From a sign posted in my doctor's office, asking people to refrain from using fragrance in the office and why:


"Perfume today isn't made from flowers.  It's made from more than 4,000 different chemicals.  95% of those chemicals come from petroleum."
Petroleum certainly isn't sexy - and dousing our bodies with it isn't healthy, either.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finite Resources and Moral Choices Revisited

I've recently written about my struggle with giving gifts to individuals who really do not need the gift they're receiving.  A blogger friend, Shona at LA dex press, gave me another perspective on it with her comment about "$20-ing me to death."  This comment made me revisit this problem.


When I purchase a gift for a friend or family member, I am usually out at least $20.  This $20 is finite, as my income is limited; I can only use that particular $20 in one way.  When I buy a gift for someone, that item will usually be out of style, obsolete, and/or unused within 6 months.  (Studies have shown that 80-90% of what we purchase is not in use 6 months later.)  However, I can take that same $20 and invest it in a child, a child who would not otherwise go to school or even possibly have a meal that day.  For $20 a month, North Eastern Haiti Lutheran Mission can provide an education and a lunch to a child in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.  Of course, there are many other worthy organizations that can also stretch a $20 bill so that it can save a life.  I'm just using this organization as an illustration since it is one with which I am very familiar.  


Often I wonder if we are doing our friends and family a favor when we purchase gifts for them.  So many people are overwhelmed with their possessions and the constant need to care for them.  Many people talk about decluttering and simplifying.  I feel that when we give someone yet another item, we're really adding to their burden.  I've hear some individuals say it's "fun" to shop and "fun" to receive gifts.  However, that fun feeling is fleeting and then you're left with the purchase - sometimes with the problem of credit debt for the buyer and with the problem of storing and caring for the item on the part of the receiver.


There are so many instances throughout the year where am am asked to invest my $20.  It's a sad state of affairs when individuals get hurt feelings because they believe the only way one can show love is through purchasing trinkets.  And I don't like having to make the choice because what I consider the right choice might send the wrong impression to those whom I care about. Often, however, my choice is clear:  I can either use my $20 to negatively impact someone's life with yet one more unneeded item to care for or deal with (and I'm not even going into the negative impact on the environment), or I can make a positive difference by investing in someone's life - literally. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quote for the Day

In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.
~Walter Cronkite

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Trash

It's something we really don't really think much about.  When we have something to discard, we look for one of these:
Deposit trash
(Source:  http://www.sxc.hu)
Then our minds move on to something else.  Of course, some of us try to recycle and then consider what can be recycled and what cannot.  In that case, we look for these:
Bins
(Source:  http://www.sxc.hu)
Then we've done our jobs and can move on.  There's a problem, though.  The things we no longer want don't disappear, even when we recycle.  Sometimes the demand for recycled materials is lower than the supply of recycled materials.  Sometimes the economy cannot support the market and areas that have recycling programs cannot find a taker for the items that have been recycled.  According to this 2008 article in The Telegraph, the market for recyclables in the United States has crashed.  Thus, the items that have been carefully washed and sorted into bins end up going where the rest of our refuse goes. 


In case you weren't aware, here are a few places our discards end up:

(Source:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk)
junk2
(Source:  http://www.sxc.hu)

(Source:  www.austinpost.org)


(Source:  http://www.heraldtimesonline.com)
Those of us who live in wealthy countries can make it appear as if our trash disappears.  We can ship it overseas, to third world countries that need the meager amount of money that is paid to make our problem vanish.  In those countries, our trash is heaped into mountains in impoverished communities where people, including children, are exposed to the toxins produced by the decaying garbage.  Many of these people make a living out of picking through these festering piles of rot:

(Source:  http://www.theworldrace.org/)
You see, our things don't disappear; they have to go somewhere.  Sometimes we just pass our problems on to the less fortunate.  It's a fact of life that possessions wear out, break, become obsolete.  However, although we cannot eliminate this problem, we can alleviate it.  We don't need to shop unnecessarily.  We need to carefully think through our purchases, distinguish needs from wants, and demand that those items we do purchase are well made and built to last.  


As I read about the rampant consumerism in the United States and elsewhere, I realize that at some point we are going to run out of places to hide our excesses.  We're behaving much like the joke about the woman who is addicted to shopping and hides her purchases from her husband by putting them in the back of her overstuffed closet.  The problem is, that closet is going to be full some day.  Ultimately, it will eventually all come back to haunt us.  And then what?


Friday, June 10, 2011

Walking the Talk

Bill Maher discussing how hypocritical many Christians look to non-Christians.  (Warning:  strong language ahead.)




One of my favorite quotes:  "Nonviolence was kind of Jesus' trademark...to not follow that part of it is like joining Greenpeace and hating whales."  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Science in the Beauty Industry

Can a skin cream eliminate wrinkles?  Reverse ageing?  Make us more youthful looking?  This three minute video exposes the fraudulent "science" behind the products and shows us how it's really a lot of nonsense:



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

In my studies of health and wellness, I've run across yet more reasons to reduce calorie consumption.  According to an article in the May/June 2001 issue of Well Being Journal, "there is a strong correlation between per capita food consumption and risk for Alzheimer's disease and stroke.  Data from population-based case control studies showed that individuals with the lowest daily calorie intakes had the lowest risks of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease."  The article continues by pointing out that reducing our calorie intake may be as simple as reducing sugar in our diet as "the average American now eats and drinks an incredible 160 pounds of refined sugar each year."


So, skip that soda and say "no" to that doughnut.  Small changes can make a big difference, in the short term and in the long run.



(Photo source:  http://www.sxc.hu)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another Busy Weekend

This weekend proved to be a busy one around the farm.  We had two new babies born - Delilah and her brother:



And we got the hay baled for next winter:

I didn't participate in the baling of the hay, but I did provide some of the farm hands with a delicious dinner of fresh fish, sweet potato fries, green peas, and homemade bread.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Uniform Dressing

This past weekend I read an interesting post by Deanna at Crunchy Chicken.  Her post was about how, in our consumerist society, clothing has become dirt cheap and we are driven to buy clothes that we don't need.  She talks about two women who spent a year wearing the same dress, something that probably seems shocking to some.  Deanna asked her readers if they would be willing to wear the same outfit or a uniform every day for a month and many commented that they could.


This discussion reminded me of an article I read (somewhere but I can't remember) about how people in the fashion business - the very ones that push the latest, greatest styles on us - actually wear uniforms!  Of course, they don't call it that; they sexily package it as their "signature style."  The people who are considered the epitome of style just say no to their own industry.  Something to think about.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quote for the Day

"The three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."
~Joseph Addison

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Meaning Behind "The Matrix"

My family and I talk a lot about the movie "The Matrix."  Last night we decided to watch it again, as it had been a few years since our last viewing.  For those of you not familiar with it, this film revolves around the concept that what the character's perceive as reality is actually a computer program designed to make individuals believe all is well.  However, in truth, humans are being used and manipulated by those in power.  


Over the years, I have been questioning the "status quo."  First, after some health problems that conventional medicine did not help, I began investigating the health and food industries and saw the complex web of powerful corporations whose bottom line was profit, leaving the consumers of their products as a mere side thought or even nuisance.  I saw how healthcare and agricultural executives in the private sector would would make career changes that put them in a position to dictate government policy, only to return to the private world to benefit from the very policies they helped to set.  


We are encouraged to want more and faster and better, and we are discouraged from wondering about the limits of our resources or the byproducts of the manufacturing process.  I broadened my quest and began to question industry as it pertains to the very health of our planet.  Where does it all come from and where does it all go?  This line of questioning, of course, led to my stepping back and taking a look at the big picture.  Seeking information about other countries and cultures, I discovered that so much of what we consider normal really isn't and that the whole consumerist mindset is like a runaway train.  Unless we do something to put on the brakes, it will all come crashing down.  It has happened in other countries - why are we immune?


One of my favorite quotes from the movie is from Morpheus, the mentor to Neo, the main character.  Prior to revealing the matrix to Neo, Morpheus offers him a choice:  "This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."  


It's as if I've taken the red pill and now I can't go back.  Sometimes, I feel like Cypher, another character in the movie, who says, "Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?" and later adds, "Ignorance is bliss."  Yes, ignorance can be bliss and knowledge can be painful.  I talk to many people about some of the problems with the world, and the usual response is, "I don't want to know about it."  Maybe this is because once you've taken the red pill, you see that there are huge problems in the world, problems that are often preventable, and you can't go back.  Life as we know it starts to seem frivolous and functions as a distraction from reality.  You find yourself compelled to do something.  


There are times when I can relate to Cypher.  I don't want to see behind the matrix.  I want to embrace the fiction of the good life.  However, I cannot take the blue pill and find bliss because I've already taken the red one.  I see that much of what we do is wrong and destructive.  Keeping quiet about it would be a disservice to my fellow human beings.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Great Article on Money

Melissa of Welcome to the Savvy Life linked an article from the Wall Street Journal on her blog that I feel is one of the best articles on money.  The advice is so simple and so true.  Although the article is aimed at recent high school graduates, it can apply to any of us.  


Basically, the article tells us that 1) Debt is slavery; 2) College debt takes its toll; 3) Rich friends may be broke; 4) Materialism is misery; and 5) TV makes you feel poor.  Go here to read the entire article.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Clothes Shopping and Poverty

On Monday I bought some clothes - the first time since before March 9, Ash Wednesday.  I had promised my daughter and her friend that we would take a "girls' day" and go shopping when they returned home from college.  I didn't buy much - two t-shirts (one a solid white), a pair of denim capris, and a sun dress.  After I returned home, I sorted through my closet and drawers, eliminating those items that didn't fit well, those that were beyond their "use by" date, and those that I just didn't wear.  I felt pangs of guilt as I discarded clothing (actually turned into rags) that I knew people in other countries would be glad to have and wear.  But it's not socially accepted to wear stained or torn clothing in our country.  Why?  Because we're rich beyond belief.  


Many of my regular readers know about my connection and work with Haiti.  Words and even pictures don't do Haiti justice.  You have to see it to believe it.  And I know that there are many other places in the world that are just as heartbreaking.  Recently, a (I suppose) well-meaning family member sent me one of those forwarded emails that I detest.  This one was particularly offensive as it talked about how the original author could not understand how "our" (American) good money was shipped overseas to help children in other countries when we have children in need in our own country.  I saw red when I got this email.  I wanted to find a picture of an overweight, low-income child in America and contrast it with a skeletal. starving child in Haiti.  There's just no comparison.


This morning I spent some time reading this blog by Kat, a woman who is blogging about her visit to the Philippines for Compassion International.  In this blog post, Kat begins by talking about her need to redecorate her bathroom, then she shifts gears and tells the story of her visit to Rose Ann's house.  She says, "It was so hard for me to fathom that we were not pretending…that this was Rose Ann’s daily life. It was her future as far as she could see.
It was just one day for me. Only about 25 minutes actually. But everyday she wakes up in that room. A room she could cross in a single step."  Kat is no longer concerned about redecorating her bathroom.  
And I've come to feel the same way about many things in my life, including clothes shopping.  In the United States, it's easy to get caught up in the spiral of wants because we're not exposed to the people with true needs.  Plus we are daily exposed to messages that tell us that we don't have enough...of anything and everything.  We need more and better and faster and newer.  Take a few minutes to read Kat's blog, watch some of the YouTube videos, learn about poverty in your country and abroad.  And then take steps to do something about it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Seems that one of the tricks parents use to get their children to consume healthy meals also helps adults.  A recent study found that people who "ate an entrée made up of 25 percent puréed vegetables - think carrots and squash mixed into carrot bread, or squash and cauliflower blended into mac and cheese - cut a whopping 360 calories a day.  That's because the added veggies made food less calorie-dense per serving."*  In addition to helping to cut calories, this technique will also give you the additional benefit of the added vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients from the vegetables.


*Source:  Health, June 2011.