Archive for January, 2012

January 31, 2012

Your stuff has feelings too…

I come from a long line of “savers” (and a “thrower”).  Growing up, the “throwers” in my life always made me nervous.  They seemed so wild, uncaring and while they didn’t give it a second thought when they tossed something out, the muscles in my body would tense, I would fight every urge to try and catch things as they were catapulted out of their life and to the street.  It seemed so easy for them to just toss stuff without any concern of the feeling, the thought that went into the item to begin with.  For years I felt this way.  Many, many years. But then, I also experienced what it was like to save for a lifetime.  When my Grandfather passed away and my Grandmother moved out of their house, the house they lived in, raised their kids in, empty nested in and had grandchildren visit, I was there to help clean it out.  The house and the garage were full.  And when I say full, I mean full.  To the gills full, even the rafters were full, the spaces between the studs in the walls were full.  I knew then, in fourth grade, when we were throwing piles and piles of stuff into dumpster after dumpster, that I never wanted to have so much stuff that it became a burden.

So this is not to say that my house is anywhere near that, but I don’t want it to get to that point either, so like I’ve mentioned before, I would just like to have less stuff in order to have more time to be able to enjoy life.  But, before I made my resolution for 2012 to reduce, reduce, reduce and have fun I did some reading.  I needed a plan as to how I was going to make this change in my lifestyle and make it stick.  So I did a little research.  In the past I’ve read a number of organization books.  I don’t want to offend the authors or their methods, so I won’t mention them specifically, but they didn’t work for me so I kept looking.  Then I found “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston.  Regardless of whether you believe in Feng Shui or not, this book makes incredible sense.  In this book Karen Kingston describes how stuff, things, the objects in our home all contain energy and…. feelings.  (Ha! I knew it!) And she describes how energy can hold you back.  Sounds crazy at first, but think about it.  There’s a story or a memory to go along with everything we own.  Whether it’s where you bought it, who you got it from, or what was going on a the time you got it, there’s a memory.

I’ll give you an example.  It’s Christmas 1980-something, you’re 13, you’re into Cyndi Lauper and Madonna and Prince and … okay, so maybe that was just me, but anyway you’re 13 and trying to dress so you don’t look like a “nerd” (this is obviously before being a nerd or a geek was hip).  Then you get your gift from your Grandmother.  You’re so excited, your Grandmother is so excited, it must be something good.  You tear off the wrapping paper to find exactly what you were hoping for… a white sweatshirt with an iron-on appliqué of Santa outlined in glitter!  Yes!  Oh, wait… no.  No, that wasn’t what you were really hoping for.  So now what?  You don’t want to hurt Grandma’s feelings so you tell her you love it and tuck the beloved sweatshirt into your closet just in case Grandma comes over.  You hang onto it for years and years and years.

Or there’s the time your parents take a trip to California, cross the border into Mexico and buy you a leather purse. (Gentlemen, bear with me.)  A purse you loved and appreciated, but as time goes on you have a hard time using it.  Why?  Because that purse reminds you that while your parents were in California, you stayed with your best friend.  But during that time frame instead of having a blast, your friend decided she could no longer be friends with you because you didn’t have the right skin color.  She spent the entire time that you could have been having fun on the phone with someone who was becoming her new best friend because she did have the right skin color.  Sadly, the cool purse your parents bought you carried those memories with it.  You didn’t want to get rid of the purse because your parents bought it specifically for you when they were on their trip and it’s not like they can just run back and get you a different one, so you hang on to it.  But every time you look at it, it brings your right back to that week when you were 13 and the feelings of losing your best friend.

Now don’t get me wrong, not everything has bad energy or memories or feelings, but those that do are prime candidates for moving on to a new home.  And when that “stuff” leaves, guess what?  It takes with it the negative energy with it.  Makes sense, right?  Bad feelings associated with an item, item leaves, bad feelings go with it. So, when you do this over and over again clearing clutter item after item, you’re releasing the bad/stuck energy,which opens up space for new, fresh, good energy for the things you want to achieve.  Pretty cool, huh?

So, by keeping only the things you love and ditching the things you don’t, you’re surrounding yourself with good memories, good feelings, good energy and love.  Eat a few raisins with this and I’d say you have the recipe for happiness!

By the way, if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend the book “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston.  It’s an easy read, makes perfect sense and makes letting go of stuff much, much easier, especially if you’re a recovering “saver” like myself.  If you’re looking for more frequent insight, Karen Kingston also has a blog you can follow here: Karen Kingston’s Blog | Space Clearing, Clutter Clearing & Feng Shui

Kate

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January 27, 2012

Are you having pesticide for dinner?

In a perfect world, all the food we put into our bodies would be organic, but as we all well know, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Organic food, although more readily available than say, 15 years ago, still isn’t the main supply and sometimes, depending on what the product or produce is, the cost can be up to double the cost of conventional for the same product.

In a less than flourishing economy, like we’re living in now, we all have to watch our spending and need to make sure we’re getting the best value for our dollar.  Realistically not all of us can afford to buy absolutely everything organic.  So how do you decide?  How do you choose what to buy organic and what to buy conventional?  How do you know what’s “worth it” and what’s not?

A few of years ago I ran across the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website and found the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce also known as the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists.  These lists show the results of a study done from 2000 – 2009 by the USDA which ranks pesticide contamination on 53 of the most popular fruits and veggies.

The Dirty Dozen list shows the worst foods to buy conventional due to the amount of pesticide contaminants and the Clean 15 list shows the foods with the least amount of contaminants, or in other words the safest to buy conventional. Everything else falls somewhere in the middle. You can read more about the methodology of the study on the EWG website.  I would highly recommend it because it goes more in-depth about the findings and you can see the full listing of all 53 items tested as well.

If you’re thinking “I don’t need that, I wash everything before we eat it.”  The reality is, we do need it.  The majority of the produce in this study was tested after being rinsed or peeled.

So what do you do?  If you’re like me, when I first read this study, it scared the pants off of me.  I had no idea that “the apple a day to keep the doctor away” I had been eating is the worst offender in pesticide contamination.  Great.  Here I’ve been making an effort to eat well and instead I’ve been pumping my body full of pesticides.  My initial reaction was fear.  I needed to stop what I was doing, throw out all my produce and completely switch over, only buy organic.  But, realistically, I knew my bank account would last about four nano-seconds if I did that, which is exactly why the EWG put the Shopper’s Guide together.  So instead what I do is as I make my grocery list, I check the lists.  (The EWG site has a nice pdf list you can print off and hang on your fridge or bring to the store with you as a reference sheet.)  If I need apples I note “org” behind them so I know when I’m in the store that I needto buy that item in organic.  If I’m buying bananas I either put “c” or “conv” or leave it blank so I know that I can either buy conventional or organic.  Everything in the middle (not on the Dirty Dozen, but not on the Clean 15) I leave blank as well leaving myself the flexibility to buy whatever looks good at the store.

Next, I check my packaged goods (cans, jars, etc.) to make sure that anything I’m buying in this category or is made from these items follow the same guidelines… applesauce “org”, tomatoe sauce “org”, and so forth.  The same goes for frozen veggies…

So there you have it.  A practical guideline to help navigate whether or not to buy organic produce and where to get the most bang for your buck.

Happy shopping!

Kate

January 26, 2012

Whatcha eatin?

Ahhh, food.  It’s a hot topic lately.  It’s causing chaos and uproar.  People are picking sides likes its West Side Story.

It’s all pretty funny when you think about it.  We can get so emotional about food.  Food is the stuff that nourishes our bodies (or is meant to anyway), yet we attach so much other “stuff” to food.  Emotions, the smell of apple pie on a late fall afternoon or fresh bread baking in the oven conjure up memories of mothers and grandmothers everywhere. Certain flavors or smells bring me right back to the days in college when I lived in Austria.   Swedish Fish (not really a food per se) brings back childhood memories of going to Sears with my grandfather and stopping off at the candy counter on the way out.  Food is even associated with sex, considered aphrodisiacs either by how they appear or how they react with our bodies while or after we eat them. But in the grand scheme of things food is what keeps us going.  It’s what our bodies need to keep running efficiently.

I’m not sure when the tides turned and people started realizing that not everything that is on the store shelves is good for us, but it seems that recently there is a heightened awareness to what we have done.  Perhaps it’s because America has labeled obesity as an epidemic.  Perhaps it’s because organic food is more readily available making people question what was wrong with what they’ve been eating.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve come to realize, the hard way, that all the chemicals in “food” are actually hurting us and eventually it does catch up.  Whatever the case may be, I can say that regardless of which team you’re cheering for, I’m glad for one thing.  We’re talking about it and to me, that’s progress.

The school my son goes to is a part of the Farm to School Network which if you aren’t familiar with it, is explained like this:

Farm to School is broadly defined as a program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Since each Farm to School program is shaped by its unique community and region, the National Farm to School Network does not prescribe or impose a list of practices or products for the Farm to School approach.

In any case, he’s been at the school for 3 years and in that time-frame I’ve noticed a difference, a shift for the better.  I’ve been trusting in the program and talking to my son when he takes “hot lunch” on occasion to see what is offered and what choices he makes.  So, today, when a friend posted on Facebook that the school will be adding Dominoes pizza to the lunch menu, I was alarmed.  Her post was followed by a phone call, we chatted about what’s going on and are both pretty upset about the change.  Just to make myself clear, I’m not opposed to pizza every once in a while, but what bothers me is that it appears as though pizza is going to be a daily offering.  I also need to note that I’m not 100% positive that this is going to be a daily offering, and I’m looking into this a little more, but the concept of it being offered to children every day really bothers me.

Moments after finding this out, I read a post on Facebook from the author of 100 Days of Real Food.  She described a situation where a neighborhood child came over to play and brought Pop Tarts for a snack.  Her point was that kids will eat what we offer them.  If you offer them Pop Tarts, they’ll eat Pop Tarts, but if you offer them for example an apple and raisins, they’ll eat an apple and raisins.  Sadly, her point was missed, she got blasted from a ton of parents about the subject and felt that she was judging the other parent.

That’s when I realized I’ve probably said some things that have come across as “judgie” without intending it to be that way.  For me, food is a big deal.  I believe strongly in eating organic food when I can, making good food choices as often as possible and eating everything in moderation.  I don’t ever mean to sacrifice people for their choices.  We live in a free country, we should all be allowed to eat what we want, right?  But it’s not that simple.  Our choices have led to obesity, and more medications and increased insurance claims and premium costs.  We’ve put many, many band-aids on our health rather than dealing with the real problem. So really all of our choices affect everyone else.  But, with that said, I also believe that many people don’t have a clue what’s wrong with our food.  And I don’t think they realize that most of the things on the store shelves truly are not good for us.  We trust that what’s in the stores is okay, right?  Unfortunately, not.  I strongly believe that we’ve missed the bus on teaching children, and grown-ups for that matter, what health really looks like.  I honestly don’t think a lot of people even know what food really tastes like.  I mean it.  If you were to strip it down, take off the seasonings, the sauces, the dips, the processing and “added flavors”, do they know what it tastes like? (What the hell does that mean anyway, “added flavors”?  What kind of flavors?)  I’ll give you an example – today, I opened a container of what I thought was egg whites.  When I went to pour it in the pan, it wasn’t clear or white like egg whites should be, it was YELLOW.  I’m sorry, but the last time I checked, I thought egg whites were white.  That’s when I read the back (which I obviously should have done earlier).  It contained 99% egg whites, coloring, salt and garlic powder.  WHAT? What’s wrong with egg whites?  I wanted egg whites, they were labeled as egg whites and I got yellow egg whites with salt and garlic powder.  Wow.  I must not like white egg whites and I must not like my eggs to taste like… eggs!

So what do we do about it?  We all love food.  None of us like to find out that we’ve knowingly or unknowingly been putting nasty stuff into our bodies or our children’s.  And worst of all we hate when someone else points out that we’ve done it because, well, we feel kind of dumb about it and get defensive, and now that we know we’re expected to do something about it.  BUT, if we all take a step back and quit judging each other or getting defensive and come to the party realizing we all become aware of things at different times meaning just because we know something today doesn’t mean the person next to us knows the same stuff and even if they do, they have the choice as to what to do with the information.  We all have the choice as to what to do with the information we receive.  But a lot of people never receive it.  It seems that it’s very slowly getting to the general public or maybe they just don’t care or think it’s not their problem. But we need to care about our kids!  Not my kid or your kid, but all of them.  We need to care what we’re feeding them.  Some kids get one meal a day, and it’s at school.  If we feed them junk at school, that’s all they will know.  Instead, we need to teach them the truth about food.  We need to offer them good food and teach them to make good choices.  We need to show them what happens if you treat your body well and what happens if you don’t.  We need to offer kids foods that nourish their bodies and minds.  And we also need to give kids some credit, we need to stop feeding them “kid food” because we think they aren’t mature enough to eat “real food”.

We need to keep sharing information with each other.  Share what we know.  Share our weaknesses in what we don’t know.  Ask questions of each other and support one another.  We need to care about more than ourselves because our future and our kid’s future depends on it.

Kate

January 17, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

A friend once told me I’ve had more major career changes than anyone she knows.  Well, guess what?  Here we go again!

After giving it a lot of thought and weighing the options, I’ve decided to make yet another change in my career path and venture out on my own. I’ve decided there’s really no better time than the present to take a chance on me.

Over the past couple of weeks, two people I know have passed away, and their departure has made an impact on me.  Although I wasn’t extremely close to either one of them, they always had presence in my life whether they knew it or not. It’s always hard when someone dies, regardless of how well you knew them, at least that’s the case for me.  I always question, Why? Why them?  Why now? In this case, both of the men who passed away left something behind.  Something huge.  They made an impact on all the lives they touched, and are leaving behind a legacy.

That started me thinking, what would happen if tomorrow was “my day”? All too often I think “some day” I’d like to do this or “some day” I’d like to do that.  These deaths reminded me that if I keep waiting for “some day” it might not happen.  That’s when I realized that I need to make a change.  I can’t keep waiting for “some day”.  Although I enjoy some of the things I do at my current part-time job, it’s not really “me”.  It’s not fulfilling.  And for something to be “me”, I need to feel like I’m making a difference.

So after mulling it over a while, I decided that I need to make a change and do something that makes me feel good, because as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Or my little twist is that the life is about the journey, not the destination.  We all come to the same destination, so we need to make sure we’re making the most of our journey.

I have a few days left to wrap up some of my projects with my other job and then I’ll be on my way to my new adventure.

My plan right now is to do consulting in variety of capacities, all tied into landscaping, gardening, sustainability, health and well-being.  I’ll be doing some writing, some marketing, some designing, some creating, some selling and possibly even some teaching.  Sounds like a lot, I know, but they are all surrounding a subject I love.  And if I love what I’m doing, I’ll have fun doing it.  Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years it is that I hate to be bored and having many irons in the fire makes me happy.  So off I go, making more changes.  Traveling on a path unknown, but excited about the possibilities ahead.

By the way, remember a while ago when I mentioned that I was on a quest to find my inner spark?  Trying to find that girl who isn’t afraid to chase her dreams?  Guess what?  I found her!

Kate