Archive for March 2010

Shopping for a Skillet, Made in the USA   Leave a comment

Shopping in our house means research, generally. I don’t research every product that we buy on our weekly grocery trips, but special purchases mean research. Today we finally bought a new skillet (yay!) and I’ll use it as an easy example of my thought process and research when shopping for something.

The prep for a purchase like a skillet was relatively easy. I knew that I needed a skillet without a non-stick finish (I’ll rant on non-stick finishes later), but I wanted something all-purpose so cast iron was out and stainless steel in. Items like a skillet don’t have considerations like organic, “natural”, or “artisan-made” (although the All-Clad website uses “artisan” as a key word in their About page). In this case my consideration was finding something made in the US. I really believe in buying goods manufactured in the US and not supporting the “race to the bottom” as companies continuously move their operations to countries with cheaper labor and fewer regulations. When there are alternatives, I cannot in all conscience buy something that I know was made by people who do not earn a fair wage and that was probably not subject to real environmental regulations. Those regulations in the US have contributed to a great increase in our societal standard of living, and I think it is wrong to force conditions that we would not condone at home just to save a few cents.

Usually I start by searching the internet, since I make most of my purchases online, but this time I started by wandering through Macy’s one Saturday after the farmer’s market. What caught my eye was the All-Clad because the boxes clearly say “Made in the USA” whereas just about everything else said “Made in China” in small print. So I started my research from there. I already knew that All-Clad is well regarded for having high quality cookware, but I needed to verify that it is domestic. I found a great website, Still Made in USA, that includes a list of companies that make kitchenware in the US. The only other cookware company that I recognized on the list was Calphalon, but when I had looked through the display at Macy’s all of the Calphalon skillets were non-stick (I know they have stainless steel cookware, but I am tired of always having to buy online and I wanted to actually buy something at a convenient physical store). I also looked at the All-Clad website. According to their information the Stainless line is made in Pennsylvania, but the lids and some of the other lines are made in China. The company was bought in 2004 by a French multi-national corporation, Groupe SEB. Since it is a multi-national company, I have to assume that it has the same environmental and social problems as our American multi-national corps.  All-Clad and Groupe SEB are not listed in Green America’s Responsible Shopper, so that was kind of dead end for researching social issues. I don’t know how to research Groupe SEB any further, but I decided that the sins of the parent company don’t really have bearing in this case and focused on All-Clad. According to the EPA’s databases, All-Clad is a Small Quantity Generator with 250 lbs of air emissions and approximately 0.75 million pounds transferred offsite for disposal. The releases are the metals that you would expect: aluminum, manganese, nickel, chromium, copper. They have no violations listed and look to have a squeaky clean environmental record. The results: “we are cleared for take-off” with a minimum of bad-purchase-guilt.

Posted March 6, 2010 by mayakey in shopping

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Centering Practice   1 comment

Right now one of the things that I am working on is centering. My new 6 month spiritual goal is to  habitually center myself periodically throughout the day. I really crave the peace of being centered during ordinary life, and yet I haven’t been able to it. I kept procrastinating, unable to make the commitment. The noise of “being busy” was too seductive. It is amazing how much of a trap busy-ness and stress are. Just think about how often people complain (brag) about  how late they were up working last night, or the all-nighter they had to pull, or the extra hours at work, or how much housework had to be done. In high school I actually kept a log of what time, to the minute, I went to bed and woke up so that I wouldn’t just be telling fish tales but substantiated stories about how little sleep I got. I keep the log as I reminder of my craziness. Plus it is one of those things that will make my kids roll their eyes, I hope. Our society is so focused on doing more in less time, and doing it louder and brighter. As my life circumstance change, I know that I need to break out of that cycle of busy – brainless – busy – brainless. And the only way to slow down, is to slow down. Centering is part of that for me.

I center on my breath. I tried centering prayer back in college (where you meditate using a specific word, and then at any time in your day you can think that word and re-center) but it didn’t work very well for me. The part where you regularly practice meditating using the specific word is where I got hung up, since I could never settle on a single word or phrase. I’ve also tried walking meditations but I’ve yet to figure out how that is supposed to work.

My basic breath meditation evolved from the counting meditation where you repeatedly count 10 breaths. If your mind wanders, you start counting at one again. In college I was able to do the counting meditation without my mind wandering. And then things changed. At some point I got fed up with never getting past “4” and decided to just think “inhale” and “exhale”. I figured that I could concentrate long enough for one breath at at time and I wouldn’t feel like a dunce when my mind wandered. That evolved quickly into not necessarily thinking “inhale” and “exhale” and just feeling them instead. I feel the breath come in my nose, fill my lungs, and lift up my entire body; and then I feel my lungs empty and my body relax. Mentally, on the exhale I go down through the first chakra (base chakra, located at the base of the spine) into the ground and into the spiritual body that connects us all, which brings me back up and into my center. At first it seemed weird to have to connect to the universe first in order to connect with myself, but now it actually makes sense. Since I’ve been practicing this for a while, it almost automatic when I think of it.

That is what my goal relates to. Not so much the meditating and centering at night, but throughout the day. Just meditating at night is great, but I felt almost like I had two separate lives. Now I want to have mini-meditations consisting of one or two breaths throughout the day. At work I have a Task in my Outlook that used to be titled “Move” to remind me to get up and stretch every 30 minutes (I just keep hitting the button for 30-minute snooze). Now I am using that to remind myself to take a short mental break and take a breath. Two weeks of focusing on nightly meditation, Mountain pose and Sun Salutation in the the morning, and periodic centering breaks during the day are already making a difference. Nothing else about life has changed, but I already feel much more at peace.

Setting Goals   Leave a comment

At some point in my life I became a goal-oriented person. As a teenager I was very resistant to the idea of setting short or long term goals because I felt that I would be limited by those defined goals. In college I started unofficially setting myself goals, but I didn’t really think of it in those terms since I was still resistant to the idea of constricting my growth by setting official goals. But after I graduated from college, those unofficial goals became overwhelming. All of a sudden I had way too much that I wanted to get done, and therefore I got nothing done. Then, with the universe’s impeccable timing, I stumbled upon an article that framed goal setting as an exercise to discover and free priorities from the morass of other stuff that fills our lives. I tried it, and I got hooked.

So now every February and August I engage in goal setting. It’s how I celebrate my personal new year (and the midway point). I usually start by free writing about who I want to be in 6 months. I rarely contemplate who I want to be at a longer time period because there are just too many variables. I am a dreamer, and my dreams stretch decades in the future. But I will not try to define those dreams because I have no way of knowing what will happen in my life in the next 10 years or so.

Based on my pie-in-the-sky free write, I narrow down to a list of realistic changes and realistic time periods. At the end of the process I set up to 6 goals for the next 6 months; and I’ll set longer term goals as appropriate. The goals are in categories: mental, spiritual, physical, and financial; and lifestyle and career. Several times I have tried to start from scratch developing categories but I always end up back with the same list. I have to admit that I don’t really use SMART goals. Realistic and time-based: check. Action-based: um, check? (is changing a way of thinking an action?). Specific and measurable: well, sometimes. “Sit for 8-hr professional engineering exam”, “establish $____ emergency fund”, “run x miles/week” are specific and measurable. “Improve posture”, “eliminate energy vampires” are not at all measurable. But is there a good way to measure improved posture? How do you measure a reduction in energy vampires? As far as I am concerned goals like that are necessary and valid, they just require self-honesty when it comes time to evaluate whether the goal was met.

I’ve been very happy with this process for years, but lately Liz (my intuitive self) has been hinting that it is no longer the best growth process for me. I just realized that one big gaping problem in my process is that I start by free writing about who I WANT to be, not who I AM.

Posted March 2, 2010 by mayakey in goals