Archive for February 2011

Don’t Worry, Be Happy   Leave a comment

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:24-34)

I always wondered about this passage, and then this Sunday it dawned on me that, at least in this translation it is “worry” not “plan”. Definitely good advice. And I think it is good to differentiate between planning and worrying. Planning for tomorrow would include working, paying bills, planning meals, etc., so that we don’t find ourselves homeless, starving, and dressed in dirty rags. Worrying comes from fear. It can be a fine line. I used to be a worrier, but at some point realized that it isn’t worth it. So now I’m a part-time worrier. Haven’t managed to completely kick the worrying habit.

Since buying and moving into a new house worry has been much harder to keep at bay. I keep telling myself that there’s no need to worry, and then I feel better for a bit, but I haven’t been able to cut it off completely. The root is a fear of what people will think, which is really a horrible fear both for its ridiculousness and its pervasiveness. So what if we don’t have dining room chairs yet. So what if the sofa is super saggy and has stuffing coming out, and the living room curtain wire is attached by staples in one place where I couldn’t get a screw to go in the wall. For some reason I feel so much pressure to have the house look wonderful from Day 1, no matter how much I fight that pressure. I don’t believe that that is the case, and nor would I want to do everything at once and miss the fun of slow planning and anticipation. In generations past people didn’t generally have a perfectly decorated house when they first bought it, so why is there so much pressure for that today? I may be slower than some people because I refuse to leave a balance on a credit card and I don’t want to deal with the externalities of buying the cheapest, mass produced stuff so that I can have it all today. Instead, I would instead rather take time to develop a design, find quality stuff that brings good energy into my home and into the world, and enjoy my home for what it is now, today.

Posted February 28, 2011 by mayakey in frugal living, home, musings, quotes

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Okay Okay, I Get The Message, Visualization Is Important   2 comments

For last month or so I have literally been getting the same message repeatedly and from many different sources. The message is that if you can’t visualize something happening, it won’t; or conversely that the best way to make things happen is to visualize it. I know why I’m getting these messages, but it has taken me an unusually long time to actually GET the message.

The issue is basically the complete and utter lack of visualization that I have been able to do about getting pregnant. Before we started trying I had managed to “create” the conception story and pregnancy story as my naturopath instructed me as homework. But it wasn’t very strong visualization, and collapsed as soon as we started actually trying to get pregnant. In fact, I ended up following the tactic of not thinking about it at all in an attempt to shield myself from the potential heartbreak of trying to get pregnant. Apparently the universe disagrees with that tactic. When I first started receiving these messages my response was along the lines of: “women get pregnant without visualization all the time, it would be arrogant to think I could make it happen by wishing.” And I kept getting the messages. Eventually I realized that while it may be true that visualization doesn’t matter for someone who hasn’t used it regularly as a tool, the story might be different for someone who has used visualization regularly in the past. Then I started actually paying attention to my energy flows and realized that by deliberately not thinking about trying to get pregnant I was essentially directing my person energy flows AROUND my second chakra. Again, that might not matter for someone who doesn’t care a whit about personal energy flows, but I normally care very much and have a very minor ability to sense the flow of personal energy. In a weird way it makes sense that visualization might not make any difference for a person to whom it doesn’t matter, but might make a world of difference to someone like me for whom the act of visualizing is generally important. Or as I just explained it to my husband, for someone who uses visualization regularly, deliberately NOT visualizing something is akin to willing it to NOT happen.

In my experience, visualization is an incredibly powerful tool, but it is also very hard to do. I think most people figure it is just about making a picture in your head of what you want to happen. But for it to be really effective, the image has to be fully sensory. Whatever you are visualizing needs to feel real; you need to be in the image. Visualizing giving a presentation? Feel the muscles of your legs holding you up, feel your feet pressed against the floor, feel the coolness of the table against your hands, hear the whir of the projector’s fan, see the dust flecks in the beam of light, feel yourself get nervous with tight stomach and sweaty underarms, and then feel yourself take a deep breath and feel the tension go away, imagine looking at the audience as you talk and seeing their reactions, and imagine yourself presenting and doing a darn good job at it. It’s like a mental rehearsal. The challenge for me was how do you visualize the unknown? That’s where my visualization broke down. I could barely visualize being pregnant, but didn’t have enough knowledge of fertility to visualize getting pregnant.

Wikipedia to the rescue! It took me a while to find it but their prenatal development page has an awesomely detailed explanation of fertilization and embryonic development. Just what the doctor ordered (which is actually in this case just what the doctor ordered).

Posted February 25, 2011 by mayakey in centering, pre-pregnancy, psychology

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What Exactly Is Junk Food?   4 comments

While developing goals for the next six months in the shadow of my junk food weekend, I contemplated making one of the goals to completely eliminate junk food from my regular life. That made me wonder, though, “what is junk food, specifically?”

The dictionary defines “junk food” as food that is high in calories and low in nutritional value, which is a really vague definition. Wikipedia and a variety of blogs define junk food as chips, candy, gum, “most sweet desserts”, fried fast food, and sodas. But it seems to me that there is some gray in even the more specific description. So at what point does something qualify as “junk food?” Please add your two cents in the comments. I’m guessing the definition is slightly different person-to-person.

The first things that come to my mind when I think “junk food” are chips and candy. Undoubtably all chips are junk, even the ones made from bananas, apples, or beets, because they are slivered, fried, and salted. The salt and oil content outweighs any nutritional value inherent in the chip-ed vegetable/fruit. Things get a little more fuzzy to me with candy. Most broadly marketed candy is pretty much flavored sugar, and would indisputably be considered junk. But I always here people lament that they can’t give up their chocolate, and I’m not sure where that really falls. In my opinion Hersey’s is junk, but what about a small square of a 70% or 82% cocoa fair trade chocolate bar that contains approximately one teaspoon of sugar in the entire bar? To me the square isn’t junk because it is low in sugar and not high fat, but am I justifying a quasi-daily chocolate habit? If one square is ok, is half a bar ok or does that cross the line? And then there’s the issue of substitute candy: dried fruit. Hand me a bag of dried tart cherries, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries, and I’m as happy as any kid in a candy shop. But those dried fruits are LOADED with sugar, and should probably be categorized as junk food when eaten alone, despite the fact that they are fruit and therefor contain at least some nutrients. I did buy dried tart cherries for my junk food weekend because they ARE my candy. Where does ice cream fit in, too? It is after all frozen sugared fat. Even sorbet and sherbet, marketed as healthy because they are low fat, contain lots of sugar.

The next thing that comes to my mind are cookies. And again I may be making excuses for myself. Oreos: junk, circus animals: junk, Fig Newtons: ?, graham crackers: ok?, home-baked Toll House cookies: junk? home-baked oatmeal cookies loaded with nuts and dried fruit: ok? Every Christmas when my mom makes that last item in the list, the cookie recipe she tweeked for me when I was in college, I refer to them as “breakfast cookies” and feel absolutely no guilt eating them any time of day. I gave them an extra boost when I made them this year with 100% whole wheat flour instead of white flour. But while those cookies are relatively low in sugar and relatively high in health ingredients, they are still based on wheat flour. White wheat flour might as well be considered sugar since it converts to sugar really quickly during digestion. So if cookies that are high in sugar and white flour are junk, what about scones and cakes, or crackers that are high in salt and white flour? I would say so, especially after the experience of overcoming my personal cracker addiction and switching to vegetable snacks a couple of years ago. Crackers just have no real nutritional value by themselves (other than the fortified flour). But what about bread? Is there a difference between crackers and bread? While I would consider Wonder Bread to be junk, a good loaf of pugliese is one of my weaknesses, and I’m loathe to call it junk.

So my personal summary list of junk food is chips and other fried snack foods, candy (except for low-sweetening dark chocolate), cookies (with a few exceptions), store-bought white flour scones, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit that has added sugar (so excludes raisins, apricots, and peaches), sodas, french fries not part of a meal, ice cream beyond one small scoop, and any other packaged food that contains ingredients that I can’t picture in my mind. That’s a challenge.

Posted February 24, 2011 by mayakey in food, goals

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They Really Don’t Have Recycled Content?   Leave a comment

Here’s a great example of how you can’t make assumptions when it comes to “conscious living”.

For years now I’ve made the assumption that when buying something made of metal there is a good chance that some percentage of the material is recycled metal. Given that metal recycling is fairly common and makes business sense (can be cheaper than mining), it seemed to make sense that the recycled material would make it into the general material stream. However, I’ve recently encountered a case that indicates my assumption is wrong.

I’m in the process of getting curtains for our master bedroom. As a starting point for the hardware, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond’s website and browsed to see if it was even possible to do what I had in my head. They had lots of options that would work, but before I ordered anything I decided on a whim to search for “recycled metal curtain hardware”. Lo and behold several websites popped up! As I looked at several of them I started wondering how much of the “eco” claims by these retailers are just marketing spin, or if they really are offering a different product. Remember, I was assuming that the rods in BB&B’s stock would have some recycled content as well. So I sent an email to BB&B asking if their curtain hardware contains any recycled metal content. It took a few days since they had to relay my question to the buyer, but the final answer was a simple “unfortunately no.” I was surprised at that, but I guess now I know that even when it comes to easily recycled metals there is no room for assumptions. It is entirely possible that my assumption is correct and each curtain rod has maybe 2% recycled metal content, but if it is not tracked and verified it does not really matter (for marketing anyway). Without some degree of tracking, someone could easily claim 90% recycled content when the reality is 9%. Sheesh, I just reasoned my way into having to figure out how to make sure that I’m not falling prey to greenwashing claims before I buy anything.

Posted February 20, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, home, resource use, shopping

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The Aftermath Of The Junk Food Weekend   3 comments

I wasn’t planning to participate in Rhonda Jean’s “On my mind…” but this morning as I walked past the garbage can I was reminded that there is a single image that captures what has been on my mind all this week: the garbage can stuffed with the packaging from my junk food weekend last weekend.

It’s been on my mind all week because I didn’t enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed not having a to-do list for two days (even if it was very hard for me to let go of being busy). What I didn’t enjoy was the junk food! Several years ago, the last time I did one of these, junk food was a special treat. Apparently when you make enough lifestyle changes, (certain) junk food can go from being a special treat to being something that isn’t even desirable any more. Maybe next time even the chips won’t be appealing any more.

The specific thing that struck me when I walked by the garbage was just how full it is. We just use a bucket as our kitchen garbage can, and even then it doesn’t usually fill up in a week. But with all of the junk food packaging in there, it is overflowing now! This is oddly comforting to me, since I generally feel like we produce way too much garbage normally. I guess as we’ve cut down on the packaged foods that we eat, I hadn’t even noticed the reduction in our total garbage volume. (I’m not the one who empties the garbage cans every week.)

Posted February 18, 2011 by mayakey in food, resource use

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Drinking Water in Winter   Leave a comment

One of the things about living in a house where the thermostat is set to 60 degrees F is that you learn what works to keep you from being too cold. One such thing is the importance of drinking water. During the summer we all know that we need to drink plenty of water to help us feel cooler, and so that our bodies’ cooling systems can work. It’s less obvious that drinking water in the winter can help to stay warm. I’m not talking about hot beverages here, I’m talking about any temperature of liquid.

The realization came after lots of self observation, and then experimentation. Some days I felt really cold, others weren’t so bad, even though the house temperature and probably the effective temperature (accounting for drafts, etc.) were the same. But when I felt really cold and then drank a lot of water (cold tap or room temperature water), I started to feel more comfortable. This was most apparent in extremities like fingers and toes.

Not being well-studied in anatomy and physiology I can only offer conjecture as to why this would be the case, but I’ll give it a shot. My guess is that when the body is not fully hydrated, blood circulation is not as efficient and so transfer of heat throughout the body is not as efficient. After all, cold fingers are used as a symptom of poor circulation, like for Raynaud’s disease.

So if you’re like me and can’t manage to finish a cup of hot tea at home before it gets cold, drink it anyway knowing that it’ll help you keep warm. Although, holding a nice hot cup would be much more pleasant.

Posted February 17, 2011 by mayakey in food, health

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Goal Time   Leave a comment

Being that it is February, for me it is time to re-evaluate goals. New Year’s resolutions make no sense to me since it is a number on a calendar that has no real natural basis. Birthday and half-birthday goals? That’s more my style. As usual, my performance since August has been a mixed bag, with some unfortunately big important goals on the loser side.

There were some great successes: Reaching a total of 8 miles per week running, and no longer eating dinner in front of the TV.

There were some acceptable successes (short term goals) and progressions (longer term goals): Staying on track to get my husband’s car paid off before the end of this year, “finishing” my second chakra evaluation, getting in the habit of taking my prenatal supplements and smoothie, and making our yard a refuge even by just spending time each morning standing in the window and admiring the frost or going out and taking pictures of whatever looks nice.

There were some failures: Not getting a solid 1 month emergency fund re-established (replacing the water heater and having to replace all the tires on one of our cars could have had something to do with that).

And there were some spectacular failures: My meditation and centering practice and journalling both decreased over the last 6 months instead of increasing. Instead of feeling more at peace, I am less at peace. Ugh.

So now it is time to look forward. A healthy pregnancy is high on my wish list, as is becoming more at peace in my core. And I’m totally obsessed with getting the car paid off. Wish me luck!

Posted February 14, 2011 by mayakey in goals

Day of Sad Excesses   2 comments

Several years ago I was doing a site investigation in a site used as a homeless camp. The field work started on February 15. When I pulled up to the dead end street that we used to access the site that morning, the street and the sidewalk were covered with large piles of roses and carnations. It was baffling at first. I think it was my subcontractor that pointed out that they were the discarded leftovers from the street corner flower vendors on Valentine’s Day. At the end of the day the remaining stock has zero value for the sellers, and they dump it on the way home. I wish I had had a camera on that morning because it was such a striking image. Imagine a typical dead end into a vacant field, with the normal debris and weeds, and piles of beautiful looking long stem flowers. Since they had been dumped at night, and I arrived shortly after dawn in the morning, they still looked perfectly fresh. It took all of my discipline to not pick up a bunch off the street and put them in my car to take home. In the afternoon when most of them looked a bit wilty it seemed like they made an even more stark image with the fading beauty in the trashy setting.

That image has stuck with me for five or so years (I don’t remember exactly what year this job was). To me the image is a sad symbol of excess. I’ve never been a Valentine’s Day hater; in fact I used to love the day as a day for celebrating friendships of all types. But after that year, Valentine’s Day took on a darker side for me. Now I look around and I see excessive consumption, not necessarily celebrations of love. Love is such a beautiful thing and should absolutely be celebrated with things of beauty; but I don’t ever want to forget  that in order for me to get that one perfect flower or whatever, there are several that go to waste to provide me that choice. Knowing that changes the choice considerably.

Posted February 13, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, musings, resource use, unshopping

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Junk Reward   Leave a comment

“Everything in moderation, even moderation.” That’s one of my personal mantras. So this weekend, in reward for meeting my goal to no longer eat in front of the TV, I am splurging in a junk food weekend. Truthfully, I didn’t completely manage to stop eating in front of the TV. Just meals and a significant reduction in snacks. And there’s nothing better to celebrate not eating meals in front of the TV than to spend a weekend eating junk food and having no to-do list or commitments. I used to do this one weekend every year or two, but haven’t  in several years. In fact, I think the last time I did this was when my husband and I were still dating and he was going to be gone one weekend. So it was an entirely new experience for him to put “junk food for Maya” on the shopping list. Not that we don’t ever buy junk food in small quantities. Coming home with Double Stuff Oreos, mint Oreos, shortbread, Chessmen, frosted cookies, dried cherries, crackers, Boursin, potato chips, and Terra chips was a new experience for him. (And I can say that my eating habits have improved because I found that I can’t eat as many Oreos in one sitting as I used to; I might not be up for the challenge of the junk food.)

The goal to stop eating in front of the TV is a goal with many roots. The first is that TV just sucks up too much of my time and makes my head spin. Even though the vast majority of the programming holds no interest for me, there is just enough to keep me drawn in. Time gets lost that I could be using to read, or work on any of the many projects always in progress. Theoretically, not eating dinner in front of the TV means I’m less likely to lose an hour or two in an evening to the magic box. Realistically it means some nights the TV stays off and some nights I need a fix.

The second reason is because I’d like to eat healthier and lighter, which is easier to do when eating without distraction. Food is more satisfying when you are actually paying attention to it. Plus, when one pays attention to one’s food, one is likely to eat it slower and fill up on less. Of course, unappetizing food is best consumed with distraction and in a hurry; but who likes to eat food that doesn’t taste good?

The third reason is that, like many people in decades past, I grew up eating dinner with my family around the dinner table every day. That’s one of the best ways for a family to bond, and I have to say those family meals are very fond memories. I want to be able to do that with my future family. Shutting off the TV and sitting myself down in the dining room is the first step.

Posted February 12, 2011 by mayakey in goals, self-care

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Homemade Mouthwash   Leave a comment

Mouthwash is one of the easiest products to make at home, saving money, raw materials, fuel, and water in the process. I’ve had dentists and dental hygenists tell me that using mouthwash is one of the most important things that you can do for your mouth. I absolutely believe them just based on my own observations of dental health when I use vs. don’t use some type of mouthwash. I’ve also had those same dentists and hygenists tell me that in order to be effective, mouthwash needs one ingredient: warm water. Extra stuff like salt or antibacterial agents are just bonus points. Apparently what makes rinsing with a mouthwash effective is really the physical swooshing action in the mouth, flushing the crevasses of the mouth out with water and dislodging anything left behind by brushing and flossing.

That being said, I like going for bonus points. For me it is peppermint oil for the anti-microbial properties. I think I started making my own mouthwash about a decade ago, although it’s been so long I really don’t remember. At first I just mixed up my batch in the small store-bought mouthwash bottle that I had just finished. That worked until the empty bottle got tipped into the garbage by accident. So I cleaned out a 200 mL vinegar bottle and started using the measuring cup from an old bottle of medicine. For the 200 mL bottle I used 1 or 2 drops of peppermint oil. Eventually I got tired of having to refill my mouthwash almost every weekend and went in search of a larger bottle. So now I’m using the 750 mL bottle from an Isle of Jura single-malt Scotch. The bottle is very elegant; the little plastic medicine measuring cup perched on top not so much. Oh well. The 750 mL bottle uses 3 or 4 drops of peppermint oil. Note that this is a great example that essential oils don’t scale linearly. In some cases it doesn’t matter, but peppermint oil should never be used directly on skin. It always needs to be diluted. When I started using the larger bottle I started with 3 drops, which was fine; then I tried 4 drops, and that was fine; then I tried 5 drops, and my mouth cried uncle. Start small and work your way up, don’t risk irritation or other problems.

The original driver for me to make my own mouthwash was the alcohol. I was constantly battling swollen gums, and I was afraid that the alcohol in store-bought mouthwash was making the problem worse. Since it’s been so long I don’t remember if ditching the alcohol made a difference. Recently, though, I started adding 20 drops of tincture of myrrh for gum health. (I tried 30 drops once and since at that concentration I could taste the alcohol of the tincture, I decided that was too much.) It’s hard to say if it has made a difference since we’re talking about small changes to something that is subjectively measured and constantly fluctuating. Anyway, I’ve been doing that for a while with no problems. Then a couple months ago I noticed some biofilm on the bottom of the bottle, which I had never noticed before. So I cleaned the bottle and made a fresh batch, and had the same problem. This time I cleaned the bottle and then refilled it with water and peppermint oil only. I’ll do some trial and error to figure out the problem, and my first thought is that it is the myrrh (after all I’ve never had this problem before in almost a decade of homemade mouthwash). I might also see if I can find abstracts/articles about the efficacy of myrrh for gum health, because if it doesn’t really matter why continue to use it?

Posted February 9, 2011 by mayakey in frugal living, personal care

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