Monday, June 25, 2012

Big News!

Have you seen it yet? 

It's so exciting!

I'm finally official.

Please go.

I promise this will be the last time - at least for a very, very long time, that I will switch sites.

I'm quite excited.  It still needs a little fleshing out, and the logo isn't even close to what I ultimately want, but it will do for now, and I'm really glad to have to whole thing launched.  And there's a brand new post up over there just for the launch!

So please go.

Comment.  Let me know what you think.  Let me know if anything doesn't work properly.  I'd be happy to hear any advice or ideas.  

Can't wait to see you there!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Birth Control Hypocrite?

o         I lost about 100 followers when I switched blogs.  I was surprised by how little this really mattered to me.  I still have one more blog switch up my sleeve anyway, so there's no point in stressing about it now.  Plus, all the best followers came along for the ride ;-) 

            Oddly enough, though, even though I have fewer followers now, I've been getting a lot more private messages and emails about the blog and our lifestyle.  I've even picked up a freelancing position with a women's health website (more on that in a future post).

            Yesterday, I got a message from a friend of ours with whom we have an interesting relationship.  This friend, who I will call the Church Lady (I'm not sure if that would amuse or offend her, but my inention is not to offend her), is very, very Catholic.  Now.  Back when we first met, she mentioned she was Catholic, but wasn't too emphatic or outspoken about it.  We were pretty close to her and her husband until the Marine Corps pulled us our separate ways, but we stayed in touch and even went to their Catholic wedding - at which I got the pleasure of explaining to Punky why we were asked not to participate in certain parts - a year or so after we changed bases. 

            It was shortly after their wedding that she became much more outspoken about her religion - mostly on Facebook.  Church Lady is a super nice woman and I still consider her a friend, but we have very differing views on a lot of things - mainly tolerance.  Homosexuality and reproductive rights being the biggies, not shockingly I'm sure.  We've had many volleys back and forth - all respectful, and neither of us ever swaying the other.  MacGyver has had some very detailed exchanges with her on Catholicism since he was raised Catholic and is now, um, not.

           So we've had these respectful discussions.  Respectful, but strained.  She feels very strongly that it is her duty to save us sinners from Hell.  I obviously don't agree.  But we're friends and I respect her opinion and will remain friends with her as long as she remains respectful and somewhat restrained in anti-gay speech.  The only time I've really been upset with her was during a situation where I perceived an implication that she may have felt that trying to stop animal abuse and cruelty were unimportant, what with all the gays running around and women exercising their reproductive rights.  But I chose to stay out of that one.  I knew it would not end well, and I think remaining in contact with someone with such vastly different views who can communicate them with some degree of equanimity is good for me.

            Anyway, that is a long lead up to say that she sent me a Facebook message yesterday.  I thought the message and my response would make for a good post.  So, without further ado:

       Lately, a question has been laying on my mind, and reading your article (which was very interesting and congrats on being published by the way) made me think you would be an excellent person to ask. First of all, this is not a religious based question, to me it seems to be more of just a logical question, at least in my mind. I have many friends who are very concerned about the environment, being green, health conscious, vegan, etc....along those lines. Yet, they use the birth control pill, which are riddled with chemicals. Please allow me to stress the fact that I am not even beginning to try to assume that I know what you do or do not do, I just know others of similar mindsets to yours that do use the birth control pill. Isn't this a bit hypocritical? Or maybe not as extreme as hypocritical, but definitely goes against the natural ways in other areas of their lives that they preach? Just thought you would be able to give me a good opinion on this topic. Thanks!

      You raise an interesting point, and I think some of your logic is quite accurate on its face. There are two sides to my response:

      On the one side, I agree. I don't like hormonal birth control as I feel it is introducing unnecessary chemicals into my body and disrupting my natural hormone balance.  I have used hormonal forms of birth control, and I did not like the way they affected me, particularly with respect to my moods.  For a few years now, I have used a non-hormonal (copper) IUD, which I love.  Whether you want to consider copper a chemical or otherwise unnatural is a judgment call for the individual.

      That said, I wouldn’t necessarily call someone of my - we'll say "green" - mindset a hypocrite for using hormonal birth control in the same way I wouldn't call them a hypocrite for taking an OTC headache painkiller. While the goal is to introduce as few chemicals into your body and the environment as possible, that is a goal, and for many people it can be a nearly unattainable one.

      While this isn't a religious question, I think religion presents a useful analogy. In the same way that a Christian strives to avoid sin but sometimes fails - sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly - the same goes for those who try to avoid chemicals or abide by similar "green" standards – they sometimes fail. Where a Christian might say that the world and our culture are rife with sin, so a “Green” person might consider the world (and our culture in particular) to be rife with chemicals and other non-green conveniences. To avoid any of these things, one would have to remove themselves from society completely.
      So we try. We do the best we can, and we make amends when we fail. Also similar to religion is the fact that what is considered "green" varies from person to person and group to group. Baptists and Catholics classify sin differently. Vegans and Locavores have differing views on being green.

      My use of the word green is admittedly general, as I think you'll agree. I see calling myself green as vague as you might see calling yourself religious or spiritual as opposed to Catholic, but the idea is rather clear.
      Not every item I buy is free of preservatives, pesticides, or artificial colors, but I do my very best to avoid them.  I am usually successful.  But once in a while, I drink a Pepsi Throwback or buy some conventional produce if I can’t find what I need organic.  Lucky for me, my way of life is not a religion (though it sometimes feels like it ;-)).  I may feel guilty knowing I’ve used a chemical cleaning product because we ran out of vinegar, but there’s no threat of eternal damnation.

      I’d like to make one final caveat, which is to say that there are many who would consider medical decisions to be a very significant exception to certain standards of “natural” living.  There are religious sects that consider any type of intervention to be against God’s (or another diety’s) will, but by and large, most religious people accept medical care, with occasional random exceptions (biting my tongue here).  I would guess the same goes for most of us “green” or “natural” types.  While I use a lot of natural home remedies – teas I grow and make myself, special soups, herbs and poultices for various maladies – if those don’t work, I would rarely hesitate to use western medicine.
This is not cut and pasted directly from Facebook.  I fixed both our spelling errors, and I reworded my response a little bit because I had typed it on my phone and done brilliant things like leaving out words.  The bulk of it, though, is straight from our Facebook exchange minus any personal information.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blog Evolution

      I finally got around to writing my What is Ethical Eating? post.  Have you read it yet?

      Things are evolving slowly but surely at this little blog.  I think this new blog is still finding it's voice, so to speak.  I don't know if I'll ever give over fully to a single topic blog, even though this one is a lot more focused on one particular area.  I like to keep a personal feel to my blog.

      And, truthfully, I like to rant and rave and brag on my blog.  That is, after all, why I originally started blogging WAY back in 2003.

      I wish I had more time to devote to this blog.  I haven't really pulled together the layout all the way yet, and I haven't marketed it at all (anyone want to host a guest post or in some other way pimp my blog? - I mean really, it's not often I allow myself to be pimped).

      Well, there goes the professionalism...

      Anyway, in the midst of stressing about resumes and jaw surgery (who freaking knows when THAT's going to happen now, erg) and life, I've been nursing blog thoughts in the back of my mind.  I have a LOOONG list of posts to be written and ideas, but little time to write them.

      Oh, and the entire structure of the Marine Corps Legal System is changing - the WHOLE THING.  Top to bottom - by 1 August.  I may be getting a completely different promotion than I thought.  Which might be cool.  We'll see.  At this point it's just more on my plate, more confusion and more responsibilities on top of an already doubled caseload.  And yes, I'm complaining, but don't let that make you think I don't love my job.  I do love my job, I just wish I had more time, or personnel, or resources to do more to help my clients.  It's frustrating.

      For the blog, I've been trying to develop a logo.  I roughly have what I want in mind,  but since I suck at art (and design, and creativity), I'm having trouble getting it out of my brain and onto paper and/or a computer screen.  This is made more complicated by 1) the fact that the blog is getting one final name change that I'm not yet willing to disclose for legal reasons, and 2.) I am completely unwilling to pay for a new logo for a blog I don't use to make money or even promote my career.

      But, hey, if you know anyone who might be up to kick around some logo ideas, send them my way!

      Father's day is Sunday.  The day after I stand duty all night long (not to mention all day Saturday).  I will get home from duty at around 0800 Sunday morning, just in time to kick off all MacGyver's Father's Day fesivities.  And Punky is really relying on me to help her make it great for him.  So I suppose I'll be sleeping at work on Monday.


      Oh, and the gifts I ordered for him haven't arrived yet (correction, they came last night, I hid the box, and just remembered that; I still haven't even opened it).  And I still should get him at least one more gift but I haven't the faintest clue what (or when!).  Well, I have some ideas, but I'm really iffy on them.  Erg.  Feel free to weigh in on the Pinterest board MacGyver Gift Ideas.  I'm excited to make Father's Day great for him and also dreading how much this weekend is going to drain me.

      I'm still deep in the baby fever.  So much so that I'm considering cancelling the aforementioned jaw surgery.  I have an appointment this month.  If they won't schedule me, I may just say screw it.  I'm sick of having my life on hold for this ridiculousness.  And I'm pretty sick of having braces, too.  I also thought I was pregnant last month.  I was exhausted, easily nauseated, had a bunch of other little signs, and was "late."  It's good that I'm not pregnant because I have an IUD, but still, I was saddened by the negetive test - irrational as that may be. 

      And it's not just baby fever, I'm also having anniversary fever!  Being on Pinterest hasn't made it any easier to try to resist planning the 5 year Anniversary party and vow renewal/handfasting.  There's a Pinterest board for that, too.  I am telling myself I won't start planning until after our 4 year anniversary in August, but it's so hard.  Next summer is going to be INSANE.

      Flintstone learned a new word this morning: Xena!

      I loved Xena when it was originally on when I was young, and I had a renewed love affair with the show when it was on syndacation every morning when I was in law school.  I would sit in bed in the morning, drink tea or coffee, and watch Xena while waking up before going to work.  I still love that show, as does Punky (though there are episodes I won't let her watch).  Sadly, I almost never get to watch it because we don't have TV, when we do watch anything on the projector it's almost never Xena (currently it's Daria - another AWESOME classic - which Flintstone often wanders around singing the theme song to), and the only time I'd really like to watch it is in the mornings, but MacGyver and Flintstone are both asleep when I'm getting ready in the mornings.  So, very little Xena for me unless MacGyver is out of town, then I put it on in the mornings.

      So this morning, MacGyver and Flintstone happened to be up while I was getting ready.  MacGyver, being the best husband anyone has ever had, put on Xena.  There was much playing with the Flintstone - hiding under blankets and other antics.  He didn't really want to leave when it was time to go; he wanted to stay and play with Daddy more.

      I took Flintsone out to the entryway, put on his shoes, turned around to pick up my bag, and he was gone.  He took off down the hall, reached up, turned the doorknob to the bedroom (for the first time), threw his little hands up and triumphantly declared "Xena!"  Too freaking adorable. 

      Times like that make me REALLY want to call off work.  Like that's an option...

      The gardens are doing great, though some of the plants are suffering from the heat.  My herbs (except the dill which cooked in the sun) are going GANGBUSTERS.  The chickens are as hilarious as ever - like a pack of odd dogs.  The actual dogs and the cat are neurotic as ever.  Our house is swarming with tree frogs - it's awesome.  Except that the cat has caught at least one, which I rescued, but I'm not sure if he was in a survivable condition when I released him.

      The koi pond for Flintstone's room is in, we just have to pick up the koi some weekend.  We're also putting a fishtank in his room, but MacGyver still has to build the special case for it.  Kid freaking loves fish.  And then we move Flintstone into the room.  I'm a little nervous about how that's going to go.  He currently sleeps on a mattress on the floor in our room, but he'll be 3 months from today, so it's time.  Plus it's sad to have such an adorable room for him but it's only a playroom right now. 

      So much going on that I just want to chat about, but just no time to do it.  I've been tyring to hit up all of your blogs a lot more regularly.  Annnnd just as I was getting ready to post this, the power went out and the backup failed, so what was supposed to be posted yesterday is getting posted today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What is Ethical Eating?

[Can someone please explain to me why blogger won't let me publish posts with pictures anymore?]

      I've mentioned Ethical Eating a number of times on this blog, and I wrote about it a good bit over at Cheap Wine and Cookies.  The Ethical Eating phenomenon is spreading fast around the world, but many people are still in the dark as to what, exactly, this movement entails.  I am here to tell you.

      Ethical Eating is NOT a diet.  It is not a "never eat this;" "only eat this;" "carbs are the devil;" "grapefruit is the answer;" or any other random consumerist weight loss phenomenon.  Weight loss is completely off the radar of Ethical Eating.  It isn't a goal; it isn't a discussion point; it barely even figures in.  Except that, when practiced with any degree of devotion, Ethical Eating does result in weight loss and increased health, but that is more of a bonus than an aim.

       Ethical Eating is a lifestyle of mindfulness of the effects our food choices have on us and the world around  us.  It is at once simple and exeptionally complicated.  It's simplicity is in it's personal nature.  You don't need a book or a kit or an app (though there are plenty of apps you can use to help you out if you want; I've downloaded a couple, but always forget to use them).  You just think before you eat - or, I should say, consume - because really the decision should come even before you purchase the product,  not only before you eat it.  You look at the food and you are mindful of everything that went into bringing that product before you, and you consider whether you feel it is ethical to consume it based on those circumstances.

      The complexity comes in trying to wrap your brain around just how much STUFF there is behind every food or beverage you might consume: the health consequences for you and your family - is it covered in pesticides? Is it processed? Full of extra sugar, fat, salt, colors, and preservatives?  Has it been artificially ripened or had the nutritional value otherwise stripped away?  What about the producer?  Was it produced by a major corporation?  A sustainable farmer?  Local or far-flung?  How far was it transported to get to you?  How were the farm workers involved in it's production treated?  Were they paid a fair wage?  Were they exposed to toxic chemicals?  Were they children?  If it contains animal products, how were the animals treated?  Were they tortured and pumped full of chemicals?  Were hundreds of thousands of baby chicks thrown into a grinder alive in the egg factory?  All that sort of fun stuff.

      And then the headache sets in.  This apple is local but not organic, but this one over here is organic, but was shipped from Mexico...

      Don't worry; it's not quite as mind numbing as it seems at first.  And once you actually start practicing Ethical Eating, you find yourself wondering how you ever consumed some of the things you once did.  It becomes second nature.

       And yet I still haven't given you a great definition of Ethical Eating.  Truthfully, there isn't one overall definition.  I haven't even been able to find a reliable source for who invented the word, but it is clear and largely accepted that the UUA is responsible for fleshing out, implementing, and popularizing the Ethical Eating movement (in addition to probably coining the term).  They even published the FREE comprehensive Ethical Eating Guide - an beautiful Ethical Eating resource and the first step for anyone looking to eat more ethically.  Seriously, it's free, and it's amazing.  Download it now.  I'll wait.

      Got it?  Ok, on we go...

      The UUA is the go-to source for Ethical Eating in formation.  It is not the only source.  Ethical Eating is not a fad or a consumer product, and as the movement grows, many people and organizations are jumping on board and adding their own take, but for my part - and I've been actively studying Ethical Eating for years - the UUA is the first and most complete source for Ethical Eating information

      It's about mindfulness of food choices.  And it is a really beautiful thing.  It's not a hassle.  It's not a chore.  It is a to be more closely connected to your life, to your health, and to your world.  What starts out as a simple contemplation of where your food comes from opens doors to a connection with life many  "average Joe consumers" never contemplate or experience.  And it is different for everyone - another beauty of it!  Whether your food conscience leads you to be vegan or to visit your local pig farm, it doesn't matter, the point is the awareness.

      I challenge anyone - everyone - to try it, wholeheartedly, for one month.  I promise it will change the way you look at a whole lot more than food.  And if you're eating like "average Jane consumer" right now, you'll probably get that added bonus I mentioned above (a slimmer waist).

      Some people feel like Ethical Eating is restrictive.  They get all focused on the "can't."  "I can't have meat."  "I can't shop at my regular grocery store."  And all sorts of similar nonesense.  And none of that "can't" is true.  We still eat meat about once a week.  We are just very mindful of where it comes from.  We shop at a regular local grocery store, we just don't buy things we think are unethical there.  We shop at the Farmer's Market because we love it, not because it is some sort of "rule" of Ethical Eating.

      Some people worry that Ethical Eating will be too expensive.  It's not.  Or, I should say, it doesn't have to be.  I'm currently working on a much longer post on the ins and outs of Ethical Eating on a Budget, but for now, I'll simply say that people who believe Ethical Eating is expensive are focusing too much on one part - whether that be organics, local, Fair Trade, humane meat, whatever.  They forget that by combining and balancing all those factors, Ethical Eating can actually be cheaper that standard consumerism - especially when you figure in the amount of nutrition you get from Ethical Eating compared to many of the alternatives.  And there are also reduced medical costs, but there will be more on that in the future post.

      This is taken from the UUA's Ethical Eating Statement of Conscience:
"We acknowledge that aggressive action needs to be taken that will ensure an adequate food supply for the world population; reduce the use of energy, water, fertilizer, pesticides, and hormones in food production; mitigate climate change; and end the inhumane treatment of animals. These steps call for an evolution of our eating habits to include more locally grown, minimally processed whole foods. We acknowledge that this evolution must respect diversity in cultures, nutritional requirements, and religious practices.
Some of us believe that it is ethical only to eat plants while others of us believe that it is ethical to eat both plants and animals. We do not call here for a single dietary approach. We encourage a knowledgeable choice of food based on understanding the demands of feeding a growing world population, the health effects of particular foods, and the consequences of production, worker treatment, and transportation methods. We commit to applying this knowledge to both personal and public actions. [...] Therefore, we affirm that the natural world exists not for the sole benefit of one nation, one race, one gender, one religion, or even one species, but for all. [...]
As individuals and as congregations, we recognize the need to examine the impact of our food choices and our practices and make changes that will lighten the burden we place on the world. We also recognize that many food decisions will require us to make trade-offs between competing priorities. These priorities include: taste, selection, price, human health, environmental protection, sustainability, adequate food supply, humane treatment of animals used for food, and fair treatment of farm and food workers."
       Please, please, visit this page for a plethora of Ethical Eating resources and mountains of information (most of it in simple, "bite sized" portions ;-P).

      Ethical Eating has it's detractors.  There are people who (usually without doing any actual research into the subject) like to proclaim that Ethical Eating is elitest, hipster, hippie, or philisophical blather.  I've never found one of these people who actually gave Ethical Eating and honest try, or really did any actual research into it.  They read some book reviews, maybe maybe watched Food, Inc. and were made so insecure by the implications of it all, that they strike out against it.  Mostly, I feel sad for these people.  They are people afraid of change.  Afraid of truth.  And usually blatantly insecure about various things.

      And it is to those detractors in particular (as well as to everyone else!!!) that I recommend this enlightening and skillfully crafted article by Alan Richman.

      Alan Richman was not a detractor, but he was far from a believer.  He believed Ethical Eating to be elitist and hipster.  But instead of attacking the movement blindly or simply ignoring it as a fad, he took the 30 day challenge:
"I wasn't seeking audiences with our Aristotles, writer-philosophers such as Michael Pollan. I wanted our artisans. My plan was to listen to them, ask to be led through the riot of morality that has overwhelmed this seemingly honorable cause, find a way to sort through a dizzying and growing array of ethical beliefs: local, seasonable, sustainable, organic, biodynamic, green, environmentally friendly, nontoxic, grass-fed, and labor-friendly, to note most. In addition, I decided that for the thirty days of my trip, I would try to eat not by whatever feeble guidelines of ethical eating I might have picked up in the past few years—primarily avoidance of mushy farm-raised fish—but by paying attention to those I met. No matter where I went, I asked this fundamental question: What does ethical eating mean to you?"
       The article is a wonderful read.  And come on; it's Alan Richman.  Go.  Again, I'll wait.

      So that, in a nutshell (a really, really big overstuffed nutshell) is what Ethical Eating is.  In the future, I'll be writing about what Ethical Eating is to Me, how Ethical Eating Ties in to My Religion, and Ethical Eating on a Budget - for starters.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to send me any questions, either as comments to this post or email them to CheapWineandCookies [atsymbol] gmail.

      I will leave you with this.  For those of you who think Ethical Eating is simply a trend or a fad, the global implications and the amount of suffering - human and animal - that is tied up in our way of eating is lost on you.  Ethical Eating is giving a name to a very old movement:

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better.  It's not." Dr. Seuss
"Vegetarian food leaves a deep impression on our nature. If the whole world adopts vegetarianism, it can change the destiny of humankind." Albert Einstein
The American fast food diet and the meat eating habits of the wealthy around the world support a world food system that diverts food resources from the hungry. A diet higher in whole grains and legumes and lower in beef and other meat is not just healthier for ourselves but also contributes to changing the world system that feeds some people and leaves others hungry.
-- Dr.Walden Bello

"Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." Thomas Edison
"We don't usually think of what we eat as a matter of ethics. Stealing, lying, hurting people - these acts are obviously relevant to our moral character. In ancient Greece and Rome, ethical choices about food were considered at least as significant as ethical choices about sex." Peter Singer and Jim Mason.  
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Mahatma Gandhi
"I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." Abraham Lincoln
"We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs as our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear."  Robert Louis Stevenson
"People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times." Isaac Bashevis Singer
The fact is that there is enough food in the world for everyone. But tragically, much of the world's food and land resources are tied up in producing beef and other livestock--food for the well off--while millions of children and adults suffer from malnutrition and starvation.
-- Dr.Walden Bello
"Alas, what wickedness to swallow flesh into our own flesh, to fatten our greedy bodies by cramming in other bodies, to have one living creature fed by the death of another! For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap the joy of love." Pythagoras
"Those who, by their purchases, require animals to be killed have no right to be shielded from the slaughterhouse or any other aspect of the production of the meat they buy. If it is distasteful for humans to think about, what can it be like for the animals to experience it?" Peter Singer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Less Than a Year

      There are some adorable pictures that go with this post.  But stipid effing blogger isn't cooperating and won't let me post them.  To see them, check out my new Instagram account.  My name is CheapWine42.

      It dawned on my yesterday morning - in one of those moments where reality suddenly fills the room with a whooomp and knocks the breath out of you - that it is now less than a year until I expect to get out of the Marine Corps.

      Except the part where MacGyver today said, "Well, if X, Y, and Z, maybe you should stay in."  Yeah, well, the Marine Corps doesn't usually make garuntees, so I'm thinking I'll probably still be getting out.  We'll see.  The future, as always, remains flexible.

      But less than a year.  That's big.  I STILL have not written my résumés, or started my packages to resign and enter the reserves.  I haven't launched the mediation and new guardian ad litem programs in Legal Assistance, nor have I written the 5 or 6 new web pages I plan to have up before I transition to MOJO (Military Justice = prosecution).

     Oh, and did I mention that I'm supposed to be getting in touch with people about the position I was offered with the ABA a couple weeks ago?  Yeah, haven't even had time to think about that. 

      I don't think less than a year would feel like quite such a squeeze if the busy-ness factor didn't continue to ramp up.  June - and I'm still thoroughly in denial that it IS June - is already jam pack scheduled.

      And so, even though it will make for a rather un-entertaining post, here is a chaotic and disorganized rundown of what's going on and what's coming up in my little Earthworm world:

      Last week was a short week because of the holiday, which made for a mad short week anyway, but that was exacerbated by the fact that I had to stand duty (a 33 hour shift with almost no sleep) during the week, too, and had to pick up Flintstone from daycare early one day because he had diareah.  (Don't know what caused it, but he was fine, and happy to be out of school early).  And all hell broke lose with something I had been very excited about involving Punky and now I don't know where that stands, but there won't be any details here until everything's final - whatever final happens to mean for this case.

      Friday came before I even realized Wednesday was over, and we were off to meet some friends for a Potluck.  That turned out to be a really wonderful and fun night.  We got into a conversation about religion and Kevin Smith (I LOVE KEVIN SMITH - LOVE), and ended up back at our place watching Dogma (one of my favorite movies of all time).  On VHS.  It was epic. 

       When I was 16, Dogma literally changed my life.  But that's another post.

      Sadly, because we ended up being up so late Friday night (and because Flintstone slept in until almost 9 Saturday!!!!), we missed the highway cleanup we had been looking forward to helping with.  We needed to get some new clothes for the kids for summer and maybe some stuff for Flintstone's new room, so we spent the rest of the day Saturday hitting up the thrift stores - not just cost effective, but better for the environment, too!  I was super excited when I disovered that one local thrift store we had wanted to visit for a long time but never made it to had an amazing book selection.  I only got 4 books that trip, but there WILL be more trips there soon!

      Sunday morning church was awesome as always, and inspired what I hope will be a post sometime in the near future.  Sunday afternoon was "relaxing," meaning cleaning, cooking, gardening, etc.  It wasn't all work, though, there was a good chunk of time devoted to some kiddie pool fun.


       And just when you think the weekend is over, a weekend function rears it's head on a Monday night.  Last night (because I wrote this post yesterday), we went to a wonderful meet and greet function for a local organic farm.  The function was hosted by a wonderful organization here in town that attempts to bring together all the local, organic, sustainable producers.  It was a lovely and informative evening, and we'll be attending another soon.

      This week, I've been knocking work down pretty fast and shrinking my insane pile of cases.  I even organized my office again (something I do about once a month to make up for the fact that I am not at all organized in between).  This morning I have court for a few hours, but I think I'll have to deal the case out.  The judge, I'm told, is a total hammer.

      Friday afternoon, I have a work party at the beach.  Two hours after that, MacGyver, the kids, and I are heading over to spend the night with some homeless families for Family Promise again.  On Saturday, aside from trying to get stuff done around the house, we also have another local food lecture to attend.  Sunday morning, after church, we will be attending the river cleanup that we had planned to do Mother's Day, but which was postponed due to rain.

      The weekend after that, I stand duty again - on a Saturday!  And I won't get to sleep at all when I get home Sunday morning because the church service will be special for Father's Day.  Then the Father's Day festivities will begin.  Which I still have to plan!  AAAAH! (Real Monsters

      Oh, and my old boss should be leaving around that time and I should be getting a new boss.  So that will make work - different - for a while.

      Then I have the Gas Chamber - Marine training where - you guessed it - I get gased, ugh, coming up again. 

      And at the end of the month - finally! - we're going on vacation.  Camping in Wisconsin with a few stops on the way up there.

      So yeah, June is looking pretty crazy.

      Oh, and did I mention that we also got an offer on the house?  And we decided to sell it, then we started to get everything together for that and changed our minds.  In case we move back to that area.  But that thought stresses me out even more because that house doesn't have enough land for the farm I want.  But MacGyver thinks it does.  We'll see.  It all depends on where I get a job.

      If I ever write my resume...

      Sorry for such a stress laden post!  If it makes you feel any better, I'm actually really, really happy.  I'm just very, very busy - but it's all good stuff!  With the possible exceptions of standing duty and getting gassed.  The kids are happy.  Flinstone's genius continues to develop - though we had a potty training setback because the potties at his school are autoflush.  Erg.  Otherwise, he's smart, helpful, sweet, and happy as a clam.  Punky made honor roll again, though one of her grades dropped to a B, so she missed straight A's by thismuch.  Still pretty darned awesome even though I know she was a little disappointed.  MacGyver's energy and drive - especially on the pro bono community projects he's working on right now - continue to amaze me.

      All the animals are happy and healthy, and soon we will be gifted three 9 year old koi fish.   So the other day, Flinstone and I spent a couple hours digging a big hole to put the pond in.

       Now, as it turned out, MacGyver had changed his mind about where he wanted the pond...  But Flintstone and I - and a couple of the chickens - still had fun digging the hole.  Plus, the new location for the pond is right outside the window of what is soon to be Flinstone's new room.  He is SOOO excited.  He loves fish.  Loves.  Just like MacGyver.

      Ah, there is so much to tell, and no time at all.  I was supposed to leave for court 8 minutes ago.  I miss you all!  Visit you soon, I promise!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Tomatoes in the Fridge: Produce Storage Guide

      We've all been through one of those sad moments; finding that once beautiful bunch of greens, those plump perfect blueberries, now more of a brown stew in the back of the crisper.  Fridge clean out days can sometimes feel like tossing money down the drain (or to the chickens in my case).

      A 2002 University of Arizona study found that the average US family throws away 470 pounds of food a year - roughly 14% of all food brough into the home!  What a tremendous waste!

      There are a lot of things you can do to avoid having your perishables perish.  Making meal plans, taking leftovers in lunches (both grown ups and kids!), learning to perserve, and proper produce storage.  Look for future posts on using meal plans to avoid food waste and on quick and easy methods to perserve foods.  Today, I'm going to run over some very handy, and often little known, food storage facts.

      With just a little bit of thought into where and how you're storing your various produce items, you can drastically increase their life expectancy.  How do you store your produce right now?  If you're like most US Americans, you throw all your fruit in one drawer in the fridge and all your veggies in another.  Sometimes they're in bags from the store, sometimes they're not.  The bananas might hang on a hook or sit near the cereal.  Some fruit might go in a bowl, apples, bananas, maybe some grapes or other fruits, all together on the table. 

      Did you know that there are some items that should not be stored together because they will go bad faster?  Apples, bananas, and pears all together in a fruit bowl?  Only if you want black bananas and mealy pears.

      Tomatoes in the fridge?  Not if you want that fresh tomato flavor.  The same goes for peppers.

      And that big bowl/bin/basket of onions and potatoes?  Bad idea.  The potatoes absorb the onions' moisture and cause them to go bad faster.

      Then there's ethylene.  Ethylene is a gas produced by ripening produce, which can, in turn, ripen or speed decay in other produce.  Have an underripe plum?  Put it in a paper bag with a ripe banana.  The ethylene given off by the banana will quickly ripen the plum.  This is also the reason that avacadoes and tomatoes can be ripened just by sitting in a paper bag - they are both big gas producers.  It is also why you don't want to put high ethylene fruit like apples, bananas, and stone fruit together in a bowl - especially with lower ethylene or already ripe fruits.

      Now, all of this can seem like kind of a firehose.  Who really has the time or the space in their brain to remember specific storage instructions for every different produce item you might store throughout the year?  I sure as heck don't.  That's why I've put together this handly little chart of what goes in the fridge, what doesn't, and low ethylene foods that should be stored away from high ethylene foods.

For more information on produce storage, check out:
Farm Fresh to You - excellent list of produce with detailed storage instructions.
Cornell Food Storage Factsheet
Vegetarian Times Article

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Attachment Parenting and The Continuum Concept

     I'd like to say that, having a degree in Antropology that I try to keep up on, or being the vigorous homebirth advocate that I am, or reading as much as I do, I already knew about this book.  But I would be lying. 

      I "heard of it" from an attachment parenting Ryan Gosling meme on Pinterest.

      I find the Ryan Gosling things really amusing even though (*gasp*) don't really know who Ryan Gosling is or why people attach all these grin-worthy feminist and AP taglines to his (admittedly super hot) pictures.

      Anyway, I can't find that particular Gosling pic now, but it was something along the lines of the one above, but involved tea and The Continuum Concept, and I thought, "how have I never heard of an attachment parenting book well known enough to show up here?"  And I immediately Googled it.  And I had ordered the book in the space of an hour (sadly, it was not available in ebook format so I had to wait for it to be delivered).

       As soon as it arrived, I excitedly dug in.  And I was not disappointed.  At first.  Then I was.  Then my faith was restored.  Only to be dashed again - but once again resurrected ...  And so on.

      In short, I'm up and down on this book.

      The basic precept, the concept I totally and completely get behind, is honoring and abiding by the instinctive needs of an infant.  The essentially equates to an "in arms" phase for the first 6 - 8 months of the baby's life during which the child's ancient and inherent need to be carried and touched is respected.  The baby is carried around with the caregiver most of the time and also sleeps next to her/his mother.  Once the child starts becoming mobile, the child is allowed to explore and progress at their own pace - neither restricted nor pressured.

       The overarching focus of this all being trust in the instincts of the child.  This makes perfect sense to me, as I believe that many adults in our culture feel out of touch with their parenting instincts - hence the rampant reliance on parenting books and gurus.  I think a much better answer than the book of the moment is to look to the child who, by virtue of their developmental state and lack of awareness of the pulls of the culture, is much more in tune with their own insticts.

      Babies know what they need.  They need protection (touch) of a caregiver.  They need food when they are hungry (not at arbitrarily scheduled times), they need to be clean and at an acceptable temperature.  They know when they are ready to creep, crawl, and pull up, it it would never occur to them to question the timing of this.  So rather than waste time worrying about what some book or guru says, the wisest place to lay your trust is with ancient and nearly perfect instincts of your child.

      That concept, what I feel to be at the very base of The Continuum Concept, I truly and thoroughly believe.  Indeed, I believed it even before I discovered this book.  If you need convincing, there are some passages in this book that will completely tear at your heart and SHOW you what it feels like to be a child deprived of your basest need for near constant contact.

      That is, if you don't get sidetracked by the other stuff in this book.  The Continuum Concept was first published in the '70's, and that comes through in the book.  The author, Jean Liedloff, references psychology doctrines that have long since been largely abandoned.  She makes some statements about homosexuality that made me reach into the book and shake someone.  Her style of writing can get a little hauty and overthought at times.

      Essentially, at every point where she is talking about babies, I'm pretty much on board, but when she tried to translate those concepts to adults, I think she failed.  As far as I know, Ms. Liedloff was/is not a trained as a psychologist, sociologist, or anthropologist.  That doesn't mean her work isn't still impactful and insightful, but the great flaws in her attempts to translate her revelations about infant care to the pains of adult life bear witness to a certain lack of - roundedness.

       Ms. Liedloff's inspiration for the book came from spending a cumulative 2 1/2 years among the Yaquana tribe in the Amazon river basin.  She was astounded by the difference between the children and babies of these tribes and the behaviour of infants and children in our own culture.  The children in these "primitive" cultures were calm, quiet, content, and had an inherent confidence and happiness that she had never before witnessed. 

     Ms. Liedloff credited, quite rightly, I believe, these peaceful, happy traits in the children to the "primal" methods of care observed by the Yaquana - a complete in-arms phase where babies are in near constant contact with their cargivers, moving around, observing, always safe, but not coddled.  They are protected and touched without being the center of attention.  As they begin to move about on their own, they are given unrestricted and undoting freedom coupled with an unerring availability of the caregiver should the child feel the desire.

      There are points when she took it a little far (in my opinion).  She related stories of watching babies crawl around near deep pits and play with knives and fire as examples of trusting a toddler's inherent instincts toward self protection.  She posits that children hurting themselves is basically a self-fulfilling prophesy put forth by the parents with statement like "you'll cut yourself."

       I am torn on this concept.  On the one hand, I see the benefit in allowing a child a wide lattitude of freedom, avoiding undermining the child's responsibility for self protection with overbearing watchfulness.  Especially that - letting the child feel that the child is resonsible for her/his own safety so as to maximize awareness of risks.  BUT I do not think that justifies allowing small children to enter into inherently dangerous situations like playing with knives or being unwatched.  I also think that Ms. Liedloff failed to take into account some of the differences in culture (like kidnappers and dangers that children never see adults deal with, so do not understand how to avoid).

      The author also took the concept of the "Noble Savage" a little too far, striving to classify any exception to her notion as something caused by encounters with other cultures.  I do feel that there is MUCH to be learned from cultures and individuals who exist in a manner that might be called more in line with our evolutionary path - or something more sensical and eloquent, but basically less distorted by globalization, mass media, self-help books, and a culture of second guessing.  However, I think it is not only misguided and self disparaging, but also very disrespectful of these other cultures to speak of them as if their way of life is primitive or solely creditable to their isolation from our culture.

      For all it's flaws, I think this work - the portions of it dealing with the Continuum and the in-arms phase - gains much from continuing revelations and discoveries about child rearing and the needs of babies.  Ms. Liedloff's understandings of the importance of contact, in-arms involvement, lack of pressure on very young children to develop at a particular pace or in a particular manner, and responsiveness to a baby's cues are all strongly and continually born out by studies in skin-to-skin contact, after birth interaction, breastfeeding, bedsharing (by mothers not using alcohol or drugs), infant development, and a myriad of other topics.

     In that way, this book fit in perfectly with the growing body of wisdom supporting "natural" or "attachment" parenting.

      I could go on at length about many of the concepts and intricicies of this book, both the ones I liked, and the ones I didn't, but I feel I have gone on enough.  I do not recommend this book as highly as I might some others, but I DO recommend it for soon to be parents and anyone interested in child development and natural or attachment parenting.  Take some parts with a grain of salt and the knowledge that this book was written in a different time, but pay very particular attention to the author's skillful and stirring description of the young lives of babies.

     The long and short of it is this:  Trust in the unpolluted instincts of babies.

      For more information, including excerpts from the book and many other articles and interviews by the author, visit the Continuum Concept website.