Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
It's hard to believe that it's nearly 2009! This last year has been one of changes for me--big changes. First, I quit my job to go out on my own with my writing career. Exhilarating. Wonderful. And scary. Worth it? Absolutely. But that just wasn't enough fear for me to feel in one year, so then I decided I was ready to be a mom. And poof! Just like that, I was "with child". (Must be that healthy vegetarian diet!).
Which brings me to the point of my post--healthy eating and a whole foods diet. Now, if you read all the studies, statistics, books, magazines and other information that inundates us on a daily basis in regards to losing weight and being healthier, you can easily become overwhelmed. I know I am. While information about what's healthy and what isn't is beneficial, I think it can all get to be a little bit much.
Recently, I've been reading Michael Pollan's, "In Defense of Food". I find his philosophy of healthy eating simple and astute. Ready? Here it is: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That's it! Simple? It would seem so until one heads into the local grocery store and finds 20 "ingredients" listed on popular favorites that you can't pronounce. Pollan states that we should shop like we were with our great-grandmother. If she wouldn't be able to recognize the food item or ingredients in it, that's our cue to leave the food on the shelf.
For the past couple of months I'll admit I've been doing more of a grab-and-go style of eating than is healthy. On top of that, I've been seriously craving sweets and letting myself have them with a little too much abandon. Oh, it starts innocently enough. "Just a couple of hard candies after lunch with a cup of cocoa." But then later in the day the cravings get worse and I feel like crap after plowing through a bunch of cookies or leftover sweets we have in the snack cupboard. "But I'm pregnant! I can't be held responsible for these horrible cravings!" And, I don't know if you are like this or not, but the more I try to restrict myself, the more I want something. The problem is that if you eat a lot of junk, it's taking the place of good, healthy foods that your body really needs. This can set off more cravings and additional craziness in the kitchen.
So I'm trying a new tactic, one that for the past few days I've been doing it, has been working beautifully. Forget what I "can't" have and focus on all the awesome foods that I haven't been making room for. Mangoes. Fresh pineapple. Dried figs. Fresh vegetables prepared in a new delicious marinade. I thank my friend who kindly sent me, "Vegan Express", a new cookbook that is giving me lots of inspiration! And amazingly, so far, after eating lots of fruits and veggies and healthier meals, my sugar cravings are nearly gone.
On top of the wonderful way that you'll feel if you start eating healthier, eating a plant-based, or even decreased meat diet has many benefits on the planet. Global warming is being attributed to, in part at least, the amount of land that is being used up by animals which will later be slaughtered. Methane, produced by animals (ahem) gas, is seriously hurting the atmosphere as well. It might seem funny, but it's actually a really serious problem. Read more about it here. So, we can actually save two of the most important things that we have at our disposal--our health and the health of our planet--by choosing to eat in a healthy, more responsible way.
And on top of all that, it's yummy.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Commercials on TV want us to feel that we're not really "doing" Christmas unless there are diamonds under the tree or a shiny new car in the driveway for us. Really? Is that what the holiday season is all about? How about sharing a good meal with friends or family? What about the perfect, gentle snowfall that makes you feel like you are inside of a snow globe? The peace the comes when all the candles are lit at a religious service and there is a hush over everyone gathered together in the perfect, warm candlelight?
If you are feeling pinched this holiday season, check out these articles. Most of all, let's remember everything we have, even if it's not what we think we deserve. Family. Health. Opportunities. Friends. New chances. Memories. Simple pleasures. The beauty around us.
Pause. Take a deep breath--and remember what the season is all about.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
But blaming never gets one very far.
Instead, let's focus on what we can do--each and every one of us. I've compiled a teeny list below, taken from a recent article in Real Simple magazine. For a comprehensive list, follow this link. The articles are called "How to Recycle Anything", and are written by Natalie Ermann Russell. She did a great job on them and offers a huge array of recycling tidbits.
- Sneakers: Nike offers a "Reuse a Shoe" program where they make courts for kids to play on. If shoes are still in good condition, consider donating to your local thrift shop.
- Packing peanuts: With the holiday season upon us, we'll more than likely end up with some boxes filled with the puffy peanuts. These can be brought to UPS or Mail Boxes, Etc. stores for re-use.
- Recreational equipment: Bring to Play it Again Sports, drop off at a local thrift shop, or offer it up on Craigslist or Freecycle.
Monday, December 8, 2008
It's easy isn't it, to get bogged down in all the cant's. "I can't do that, I don't have the money for it. I couldn't possibly do this because it would never work. I could never do this or that because I'm not smart enough/rich enough/popular enough/brave enough."
The fact is, that for many of us focusing on the can't's is easier and more comfortable than dwelling on the possibility of what we can do. "I can stop doing this and start doing this. I can try this. I can believe in this."
Now, what does all this have to do with the environmental and social issues that this blog is dedicated to? Well, a lot really. So often in areas where real change is needed, it is often hard to come by. It's easy to become discouraged over time, to feel like your small changes (re-using plastic bags, wrapping gifts in hand decorated newsprint, composting your kitchen scraps) are all for naught. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the big, harsh world outside of our doorways. But if you walk out of that doorway with a positive attitude, I believe you will see big changes.
I see positive thinking as something that I need doses of on a daily basis. Like sunshine, healthy eating and exercise, it's something that can boost your spirit every single day. And for people who have a natural tendency toward negative or "realist" attitudes, it's even more important.
One of my favorite positive authors is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. He wrote many books on the subject of positive thinking and most of what he says really resounds with me. The books, most of which were published many years ago, do have a lot of "old-fashioned" language in them. Some of it is rather comical. But the points he makes are clarifying and the overall feeling of his books is that of personal responsibility. No one else is going to do it for you. Each of us has to take charge of our minds and our futures, to stop blaming others and start looking at what we can do, right here and now to make this place, this life, what we most want it to be.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Yeah, yeah, I hear you saying. That's all well and good, but it's a lot of work to make homemade meals and clean up afterwards.
Well, true. It is a little work and if you are someone who doesn't enjoy cooking than going out is probably a much better option.
Still, if you prepare some or most of your dishes ahead of time, you can pop them in the oven before guests arrive. I try to keep the dishes cleaned as I go and put things away as soon as I finish one recipe so I don't make a huge mess of the kitchen. PLUS, making a nice big Sunday meal means you'll have at least a day or two of leftovers. I had leftovers for lunch--yummy, free and no work.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
This theory keeps popping up in different places for me. I bet I've read the idea, in one form or another, in three different places within the past week. The most recently was while re-reading Richard Carlson's Don't Worry, Make Money which I borrowed recently from the library.
In fact, not only should we give when we are feeling like there isn't enough to go around or when we instead want to hold tight to every penny in our purse, but we should give out exactly what it is we are hoping to get more of. Want more time? Give some of yours away. In need of cash (who isn't)? Make a donation or treat someone to something special. Want more love in your life? Give love-- to people, pets, the environment, etc.
Here's a paragraph from Dr. Carlson's book:
"Money is "circulation." It needs to flow. When you are frightened, selfish, or when you hoard everything for yourself, you literally stop making circulation. You create "clogged pipes," making it difficult to keep money flowing back in your direction. . . Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. If you want more love, or fun, or respect, or success, or anything else, the way to get it is simple: give it away. Don't worry about a thing. The universe knows what it's doing. Everything you give away will return, with interest!"
A good reminder.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Anyway, in reading the chapter on nutrition, the author talks about the importance of whole, unadulterated foods and trying to eat foods as close as possible to the way they are found in nature. By doing this, we can feel our best, build our immune systems, and generally be our healthiest.
The author bases a lot of her health nutrition on that of the Seventh Day Adventist Church (though she is not an Adventist herself). One of the things that Adventists traditionally believe, is that the body needs good, nourishing foods and then time to digest them properly. Luhrs talks about their belief that one should eat their largest meal at breakfast, the second largest at lunch, and a very small, or no, supper. Meals should be spaced about 5 hours apart and one should eat a LOT at mealtimes, as snacking is not looked upon favorably.
I'm not one for a lot of "rules" around food--having grown up in a house where we were always "all or nothing" eating (either all trying to be super healthy or all scarfing ice cream sundaes). I try to be very moderate about my eating habits. However, I did take the authors suggestion of making a pot of healthy, whole grains and having that with fruit for breakfast. I found a recipe for Crockpot Cobbler and scoured my kitchen cabinets Saturday night, putting together the ingredients in my trusty crockpot. This is a great way to use up some of your fall apples AND any stale granola you might have lurking in your cupboards. Plus, it's super easy and fast to make.
It was delicious--warm and creamy, low in fat and high in fiber. And it was a real treat to smell breakfast already cooking when I got up on Sunday morning. I felt like I was at a B&B!
This morning I made up a large pot of kidney beans, from dry beans I purchased at our local natural food store this weekend. Dry beans are a HUGE savings and really aren't that time consuming to make--they just require a little pre-planning to soak before cooking. I'm going to make chili and Mustard Baked Beans with them, and will use any leftovers in my salads. I think I'll try to find a whole grain cornbread recipe to go with both dishes.
Here's to cooking healthy AND delicious foods!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What will I do with all that extra time and money? Well, I definitely want to participate in Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child again. I think that was the most fun purchasing I did last holiday season. For those of you not familiar with the program, you fill a shoebox up with toys, non-melty candies or gum, and personal hygiene items like toothbrushes, etc., and drop the box off at a collection location near you. The boxes are combined at a central location and shipped around the world to children in need, who otherwise wouldn't have anything given to them. The organization asks for a $7 donation to help pay for the shipping and you choose the age group/sex of the child who you are buying for and label your box accordingly. It's so much fun to do and to imagine the child's face when they open their present.
Something else I want to do is sit down and decide what the most meaningful parts of the holiday season are for me. I want to do something in nature--decorate a tree in the middle of the woods with popcorn and cranberries and homemade edible bird feeders for the animals. I want to spend more time enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of the holiday. I want to make Christmas meaningful again, not just a slew of activities to get through until I collapse in the new year. And of course, I want to spend time focusing on the original, true meaning of Christmas for me, the birth of Jesus. Last year was the first in a very long time that I created an Advent wreath. Lighting the candles at each meal and reading a scripture verse was calming. I am considering no tree this year and very minimal, mostly natural decorations.
For a long time I thought, "Well, others will be disappointed if I don't do X, or if I don't volunteer with Y." But I have the entire rest of the year to volunteer my time for causes I believe in, it doesn't have to be just a one month/week/or day thing in December. And I'm sorry if I insult someone by not displaying the holiday decorations or ornaments they gave us--though in reality they've probably forgotten they ever even gave it in the first place!
So, here's my advice for you this season. First, read all you can about alternative/pared down holidays in books like the Tightwad Gazette, Unplug the Christmas Machine, and the One
Hundred Dollar Holiday.
And take some time now, before the rush begins, to determine what you do and don't like about the holidays. If you love giving gifts and can't imagine paring down, could you give gifts that have less of an impact on the earth and it's inhabitants? What about some consumable gifts like fair trade coffee and chocolates, or sweat shop free clothes or accessories? Want to spend more time in nature or creating new family traditions? Start talking to other family member now, don't wait until a week or two before Christmas. For many, many people the holidays are the most depressing time of the year. What could we do to help those who might be feeling down? Animal shelters struggle to pay their fuel bills as winter closes in. Can we help with that? Food shelves typically are bombarded (wonderfully) with food this one time of the year. Could we make a donation for future purchases when people aren't giving so much? Could we "adopt" a local family or elderly person and pledge to leave a box of food anonymously for them each month for the rest of the year?
Christmas is about giving: Giving hope, peace, warmth, food, love. It's not just about giving material gifts.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Weeeeellllllll, actually when one purchases organic or fair trade items, they usually are of better quality. More importantly, to me at least, is that I can buy these items with a clear conscience. Fair trade items guarantee that the folks making them get paid a fair wage and that they are working in decent conditions. Many, many times the reason we in the West are able to get such "cheap" items, be it food, textiles, or other merchandise, is because the people making the goods are are working basically as slaves.
As far as organics go, there is another two-fold benefit. Not only are you not putting potentially harmful chemicals into your body, but organic farming is much, much better for the earth and environment. Organic farmers also tend to treat their animals more humanely, and to take better care of their land and farms.
Sometimes in the U.S. I feel we have a "see no evil" mentality. Just because we can't SEE what people in under developed countries go through to produce us with our cheap goods, doesn't mean we shouldn't care about what's going on. It's our responsibility to find out where our goods are coming from and decide if we want to support a company that enslaves children or has horrible working conditions for its employees. I would bet you a million dollars that no company which utilizes these types of practices is going to stand up and tell you the truth about it for our convenience. We have to become socially responsible detectives and do a little digging on our own.
With that being said, there is a true and understandable concern regarding the price of some of these items. Believe me, I'm as cheap as the next tightwad. I rarely buy something if it's not on sale and more often try to make do with something else entirely if I'm in a very thrifty mood. I also buy a lot of used items. Thrift shops are some of my favorite haunts and a great place to get some of my favorite brands of clothes (Liz Claiborne, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic) for just a few bucks. I don't really "believe" in labels, but there is something to be said for the quality and fit of certain items. However, buying used is a fairly guilt-free indulgence.
The article in Relevant also quoted J. Matthew Sleeth, the author of my much loved, "Serve God, Save the Planet" book, who (I'm paraphrasing here) says that if cost is an issue, then we should consume less and still spend our money on the more expensive fair trade and organic items. Hmm.
Consume less. Imagine that.
I'm considering doing a fair trade/organic challenge for a period of time. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Yeah, that's winter alright.
There is a meaning behind this cold, icy photo though--it ties in with this awesome, inspiring story that you must read if you are an animal lover. As my Dad said when he sent me the link, "There's hope for humanity yet."
PS Okay, I know the article isn't really about Arctic penguins, but still. . . when you think penguin, don't you automatically think snow and ice?
Friday, October 3, 2008
I've posted before about my love/hate relationship with news. Of course, I love surfing the Internet, having a zillion bits of information available at my fingertips whenever I want. And it's lovely to research new ideas and possible writing topics from newspapers, magazines, and my RSS feed. But sometimes all that news gets me down. Floods and hurricanes, genocide and serial killers, starvation and war--it's hard to keep a positive outlook with so much negative stuff going on in the world.
But there's hope. If you're just looking for something a little more positive and upbeat to read today, check out Only Positive News. Not only are there some really great and inspiring stories posted here, but they have fabulous wallpaper on the site.
I wonder if they make that for houses?
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Today I'm craving a little simplicity. Just a good, old-fashioned tea time with a slice of spice cake and a mug of something hot.
Sometimes it feels like living simply is an unattainable goal. I have been paring down, giving away, packing up things in the house on and off for the past couple of months. Now we are getting ready to do some room re-arranging and I feel that familiar sense of anxiousness and dread coming. Where will I put everything? Why can't our house be better organized? Why did the builder put that room there? And didn't he think we might like a closet here?
I love my house and I'm grateful for it, don't get me wrong. But sometimes it feels like a huge jigsaw puzzle to me. I have two file cabinets stashed in the closet of the exercise room, along with all our board games. The dining room closet has a big bureau in it, packed with candles and candle holders, gift wrap, and presents for upcoming holidays. The storage container stuffed under our bed has some of my old artwork in it; stuff I can't bear to throw away but don't want out on display.
No matter how well I think I de-clutter, there's always more.
Sometimes I think that this is the reason that vacations are so stress-free. You have a small bag of belongings. . . and that's it! No myriad of shoes to organize, no dozen family photo albums to find a new place for, no videos and DVDs to try to keep straight in the cabinet. Hopefully I will remember all of this the next time I'm at the store or at an online shop and see something that is just-so-great-I-have-to-have-it.
But unfortunately today there is no cake or hot mug of anything waiting for me. Just a large room with many windows which will, if all goes as planned, hold our dining room furniture, my home office, and craft/art supplies in a somewhat tidy manner by the end of this evening.
Wish me luck.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Ebay has certainly changed over the years. A lot of people have made a lot of money selling a lot of crap. Okay, there's been some good stuff, too. Like this adorable set of vintage Pyrex. Yum Yum!
There are other sites like Etsy which I absolutely love. Etsy is a HUGE online mall of artists and crafters who make the most wonderfully creative stuff. Though my little shop is currently empty, I'll be filling it back up at some point.
But thinking about Ebay and Etsy, got me thinking that I have some things I could auction off. And instead of selfishly selling these items for my own profit, I've decided to raise money for causes that I believe in.
I'd like to hear from anyone who would be interested in having the option of a silent auction here on A Chick with a Conscience. Now, just being interested in seeing what is for bid doesn't mean you have to place a bid, so don't worry about saying "Yes, I'm interested" and then not bidding. It's not a problem.
If enough interest is generated, I'll post the item(s) here, and anyone interested can email me privately with their bid. I will set a time limit so that you aren't waiting weeks to find out if you've won. At the end of the time limit (say 7 days), I'll post the big winner here.
The hardest part will be choosing a charity. There are so many incredible ones out there, it will be hard to pick just one. But I will have to do just that, if the auction is a go-ahead.
So, post a comment in the "Comments" section if you are interested in seeing an auction on this site. I'm curious to see the results. . .
Monday, September 15, 2008
Are any of you concerned with the amount or quality of television or movies you've been watching lately? I'm re-reading Dr. J. Matthew Sleeth's book, Serve God, Save the Planet and just finished a chapter on the negative aspects of television.
Now, before anyone lambastes me for trying to make them feel guilty for watching a little TV now and then, let me share a scary statistic with you. The average American citizen will spend 10 years of his or her life watching television before she dies.
I'm not a big TV watcher, but I do love movies. I love going to the theater and renting movies at home. Love, love, love it.
My husband is a big-time TV watcher. I bet if I didn't live here, it would be on just about all the time. But, the truth is, if it's on I will usually watch it, sometimes even against my will--I get sucked in. In fact, I even asked him to buy a headset for television watching because I cannot seem to keep my focus on what I'm doing if the television is on.
So lately I have been thinking that it's time to pare down on the television watching a bit. I just came across this great Web site which offers you 101 emailed ideas of what you can do instead of watching TV. I'm signing up.
The site also lists a lot of the reasons to turn off the "boob toob" (my parents favorite term for the television). And really, reading through the list, it did make me think: When's the last time I watched television and felt all happy and energized afterward? Does it ever make me inspired to do things that will positively effect my life? What else am I missing out on by watching too much TV?
"But it's just so eeeeaaaasssssyyyy. . . " I can almost hear someone responding. It's true. Watching TV is easy--incredibly so. Now televisions are installed in places I never thought they would be--in the back of minivans, at the grocery store, in restaruants. What did we do before all this constant TV watching? Hmmmm, I think we used to do something strange, called conversing. . .
Make sure you tell me if you sign up for the email ideas, okay? I'm curious to know what others think--I'll try to post some of the more interesting/unique ideas on this blog.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Ugh, just when I was feeling so smug that I haven't had to deal with the gimmes lately, they've struck again. Of course, this always happens in the fall. Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the cool weather, sunny or rainy days, the smell of woodsmoke, and the fall-only activities like apple picking and leaf peeping.
But with fall always comes this deep desire to have a new wardrobe. And a new house. And a huge new creative project or two, just to keep things interesting.
I think it's because I feel so energetic and happy at this time of year, that I want to celebrate--for me that means spending money and eating too much chocolate. I can't take all the blame for that. . . my mom used to give us "treats" to celebrate events when I was growing up. They usually involved shopping for new clothes or eating ice cream in some form.
But I digress. What's a girl (or guy) to do about these pesky gimmes?
Perhaps I should seriously think about freeganism. But I think I'm still a little too squeamish to eat food from a dumpster. Unless it was super clean. Like brand-new clean. And everything inside was wrapped in mounds of un-earth friendly plastic or secured in very sturdy glass or something.
Maybe I should join The Compact? That seems much more do-able. I've been following this blog by Katy about her experience trying to live more lightly. She's a Compact member and seems completely cool.
But all of these things are simply distracting me from what I really want to do--rush to the mall (which I normally avoid at all costs) and shop, shop, shop. New clothes, new music, new home decor--then a trip to a big bookstore to shop some more. Books, a journal, magazines, a new yoga DVD. And of course, we can't forget Michael's Craft store.
Maybe instead I should look for some new ways to celebrate things that don't involve overeating or overspending. And hey, when the gimmes pass, I might just have an extra hundred bucks in savings and still fit into my jeans.
"I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than attempting to satisfy them." ~John Stuart Mills
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
But these days I'm trying to eat more healthfully. Even my husband has gotten on board lately, asking for extra fruit and vegetables and cutting back on soda and chips. I know in my heart of hearts that eating good food makes me feel good. I know that eating foods full of sugar/fat/salt don't make me feel so hot. So if I know all that, why is it still so hard to eat good foods?
If you've been wondering that same thing, I have the perfect Web site to share with you: Happy Foody. This girl is a true inspiration to me on many levels, but one of the best things about her site is that she makes you absolutely crave crunchy fresh vegetables and sweet, wholesome fruits as though they were cake and candy. Her photos are amazing and she includes some fabulous recipes.
PLUS she's super environmentally friendly. You can learn more about her and her family's recent trip across country in a veggie-oil RV here.
Here's a delicious recipe from Dr. Weil's site that I just tried out today.
This makes a perfect snack or dessert when you have a sweet tooth and is nice and healthy.
Cocoa-Banana Frozen Dessert
4 bananas--quite ripe
2 Tbl. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbl. real maple syrup
Whiz together the bananas and cocoa powder in blender or food processor. Add vanilla and maple syrup and process until very smooth. Transfer into custard cups and cover. Freeze a few hours until set.
Monday, August 25, 2008
I try to recycle. But sometimes it's hard to find a place to recycle certain things. For instance, I have this broken 7-in-1 blender/chopper/smoothie maker/food processor that's been sitting in my basement for years because it's missing one little, tiny part. I contacted the company several times, but unfortunately, they aren't making this particular unit anymore. I refuse to just throw it in the garbage though--there must be some way to recycle it. Perhaps into a lovely smoothie- maker planter?
For all of you who have those pesky items sitting around gathering dust in your
garage/attic/basement or closet, I have a great site to share with you: "How Can I Recycle This?" is a fabulous blog which will give you a thousand (or at least one or two) ideas of what to do with things which you can't recycle traditionally, but hate to throw in the landfill.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I understand that some people just don't care about nature. They maybe hate trees due to an unfortunate incident when they were small, or fear grass because of it's pointy-ness--I'm grasping here. So it sort of makes sense that they wouldn't give a hoot about nature or the environment. But what about the rest of us? Those who adore spending time hiking and gardening and playing in the dirt. The farmers who work the soil, the mothers that like bringing their children to the park and playing a game of pickup softball, the men who love extreme Frisbee and mountain biking? How does such a disconnect happen between us (humans) and the natural world? What allows us to shut off the voices that tell us that dumping chemicals into our gardens and rivers, and driving huge, gas-guzzling SUVs because they're "in"? How do we decide as a society that it doesn't matter if people in other countries don't have enough resources, as long as we Americans have all we need?
To me the lack of interest in, and worry over, the environment ties into our whole consumer culture. I like to call this the Christmas Tree Shop mentality. Have you ever seen commercials for this store? If not, consider yourself lucky. The commercials generally show women parading around the store, snatching things of the shelves and immediately turning them this way and that to find the price tag. "Oh, look Marge. Isn't this a cute potholder? And it's only $.99! I'm getting five!" Plunk, plunk, plunk as Alice throws handfuls of potholders, which she may or may not ever use into her hugely full, towering cart of crap.
But it's worse in real life as I would guess that 90% of the items in this store aren't necessary to daily living. This is not to say that I never shop there. Occasionally, I have found nice books, cards, or gift wrap for presents. And once in awhile I do pick something up there because it's inexpensive, like tea light candles or flower bulbs. But I can't help but notice that mentality more and more--not just in this one store either. It's like shopping and having more than everyone else has become some sort of national disease. And where are we putting all this stuff? Sometimes we store it in little extra "closets" a.k.a. storage units that we pay for each month. Sometimes we fill our houses with it to the point where it's not even comfortable getting around. But eventually most of it, nearly all I would guess, ends up in the landfill.
I guess I just wonder how we, as Americans, have turned from a country of do-it-yourselfers into a culture of wasters. I wonder what our grandparents would think, or the founding fathers of this country, if they saw where we are now. We're ruining the environment to make things "better" for ourselves. We've stopped questioning government policies that allow the total annihilation of once perfectly natural environments. We are addicted to oil and shopping, and having more, more, more. And all of this at our own expense, or at the expense or other people who we share the planet with who are less fortunate than ourselves.
I'm re-reading a wonderful book right now, called "Serve God, Save the Planet". It is in the Green Lending Library to be borrowed (or will be in a few days). It is written by J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D., a man who once "had it all". He worked as a bigwig doctor and had a huge house, a flashy sports car and everything else that the so-called American Dream tells us successful people have. He and his family, however, changed their ways after they realized how out of line their choices were compared to their values. Sleeth shares in his book how important that realization was to him.
"After I became a Christian, I went through a process of examining my life. It was filled with sin and hypocrisy. . . At the time, I considered myself an enlightened environmentalist. The United States uses more resources than any other country in history, and my crude audit showed that my family used slightly more energy than the average American household. Despite our modest recycling, carpooling, and electricity conservation efforts, we were living an unsustainable lifestyle. We were going about living our life as if we were the center of the universe, and there was no tomorrow to protect." --J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D. Serve God, Save the Planet
I am certainly not saying that I'm immune to the gimmees, that I never waste gas on unnecessary trips, that I always think first of other people and the environment when I'm shopping. But I do try, and I think it's important that we all try, to be more conscious of our choices. How does buying sweatshop made goods affect people? How does buying conventional versus organic products affect our planet and the workers who farm the fields their grown in? How does my deciding I need a big SUV for my safety affect the person whom I collide with and who is hurt in their modest sized or small car? How does adding chemical fertilizer to my garden affect my neighbor's children who's well is located near my yard?
Just being conscious is the difference. Can't sell your SUV? Maybe you could use it less or use public transportation more. Don't have the money to buy all organic foods? What about at least avoiding the foods with the highest amount of pesticides in them? Can't afford all sweat-shop free clothes? Try used. This saves money and resources as you're keeping one more thing out of the landfill.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
"Live simply so that others may simply live." I love this quote though I can't remember at the moment who is famous for having said it.
Simple and frugal living have a rather bad rap if you ask me. So often they are thought of in the same vein as "deprivation" and "poverty". But that's not what it's about at all. Living simply and frugally is about taking into account what matters the most in your life and paring down the extras so that you can focus on what's most important to you. Let's say you absolutely adore sailing. You live far from the ocean and rarely get a chance to be on the water, between working full-time, keeping up your house and tracking your stock portfolio. But, wow. You really do love sailing and would like to make it a huge part of your life.
Someone who was dedicated to living more simply would take all these things into account and then start creatively brainstorming ways to add more of what he loves into their life. He might decide to pare down his belongings, sell his house and buy a sailboat big enough to live on. Doing this might mean that he needs less income, so he could work the summer months giving tours or sailing lessons with his boat in the US and then spend the winter off the coast of the Bahamas fishing and relaxing.
There are so many real life stories similar to this fictional story. So often when we are faced with a problem, we hurry and throw money at it. Something breaks in the house? Rush out and find a new one at the store. A family wants to start using cast iron pans and pots instead of their current non-stick cooking ware? Hurry, get to the store and buy a new set.
To me, living simply and frugally is really about being more creative. If something in your house breaks, pause for a few minutes before running to the store. Is there something else you could use instead? Does a family member or friend have an extra of these items gathering dust at their house? Could you buy it second hand? Thrift stores are much more than musty basement deals with shabby clothes. Our local Goodwill has a ton of great kitchen appliances and some brand new items like dish towels, curtains, rugs and more. The next time my coffee maker goes on the fritz or I am in need of something else for the house, I'll check there first.
It's not about deprivation, it's about looking at things another way. Taking the time to be creative saves you money, and it also saves resources. Every single "THING" that has to be made uses valuable resources. It also is one more thing that will eventually land in the trash one day. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle--and RE-THINK.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Letting go can be hard for some people. Very hard for others. When you let something go, or even contemplate letting something go, there is sometimes this feeling of panic. "What if I never, ever, ever find a vase/dress/house/potential mate like this again?" Some people have a hard time letting go of objects which have sentimental value. Other people have trouble letting go of people in their lives, even relationships which no longer serve them or are toxic.
For me, the hardest thing to let go is my idea of how something should be. Even if the truth is staring me plainly in the face, yelling "Yoo-hoo! I'm right here~Pay attention to me." I will sometimes keep going right along doing the same thing I've always done and wondering why things are the way they are.
It reminds me of that saying, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."
Working for myself has been eye opening on many levels. One thing I noticed is that I'm a boring boss! What I hated about previous jobs were being micromanaged, feeling chained to my desk, and feeling that I didn't have any freedom to come and go as I pleased. Looking at the way I've been working over the past few months has made me take a step back. Yes, I do have the freedom to come and go as I please, but I haven't been doing it very much. Instead I've been sitting at the same desk, in my same office, in front of the same wall and window everyday. I type, I write, I do transcription, I invoice, I make phone calls, I fill out deposit slips and pay bills all at this desk. Why? Because I feel guilty. "Real self-employed people don't fritter away work hours doing frivolous things. Real writers sweat blood to write good articles. Real bosses put their noses to the grindstone and work hard, even when they don't feel like it."
Well, I've been trying this method, and I have to say, it sucks. Not only that but it's making me very unhappy. I have even started dreading work (again).
So, no more. This week I have made some small changes and I'm going to keep making changes until things feel right, feel better and more natural to me. I have let go of a small medical transcription account that I've been doing for about a year to free up more time and energy for what I love to do--write. I am going to take more time to research new work and spend more time working on my fiction which I absolutely love to do. I'm also going to build in some breaks to my day. And yes, if I decide I really need a 15 minute cat nap or a 20 minute yoga break I'm going to take it.
What's the sense of trying to be in control all the time? It's not reality and it's not fun either. My goal now is to learn to just go with the flow.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Also check out this link to a video of Mr. C. He makes all his own clothes. From scratch. That alone makes him slightly heroic in my mind. . .
He's crazy, wonky, and absolutely in love with all he believes in. He's also written a fabulous book, "The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical". This is the book I mentioned a few weeks back--I finished it in about four days, but needed time to really absorb it. . . I'm not sure I really have done that fully.
It will be added to the Green Lending Library. If you'd like to read it, email me and I'll mail it to you.
Monday, July 7, 2008
It's been months since I last had a creative project. This is in part because I was transitioning into my new career as a writer (finally, work that I love!). But it's also partly because I feel a little guilty spending time on creative stuff when there are so many more important things calling my name. Volunteer here? Donate there? Could I swing a short-term mission trip?
But I've been reminded that without replenishing my well with some creative endeavors, I will run out of steam. I just re-started reading Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" I'm not sure if I can follow her full 12-week program, but just reading the introduction this morning helped me unclench my stomach and take some deep breaths. "It's okay to play now and then," it reminded me. "It's not going to make less for someone else if you run a paintbrush through watercolors or tear some paper scraps into a collage. It's okay to do some self-nurturing."
That's a message I really needed to hear.