Archive for October, 2012

October 29, 2012

The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants

This past Saturday marked the last day of the 8 Weeks to a Better You!  challenge and what a journey it has been.  If you’ve been following me throughout the challenge, you know that I shifted things slightly in the beginning to make it a Mindful Living challenge for myself.  I didn’t change the rules, I just changed my focus on them, and I’m so grateful that I did.

I started off with my sights set solely on living mindfully.  My goal was to make sure I was present in every aspect of my life and every aspect of the challenge.  Well, that became a challenge in and of itself.  I started getting messages from the universe to focus on food, but that wasn’t my goal so I kept struggling, brushing it off and trying to guide myself in the direction that I wanted to go, follow the path that I wanted to learn.  I felt like I was already eating a healthy diet and didn’t need to focus on food, didn’t need to listen.  (For your information, this is not how mindful living goes.  You don’t get to choose what you learn, you need to let go of your control, stop the power-struggles and learn what is brought to you.  It took me a while to figure that out.)

A couple of weeks into this last challenge a lot of things came about that changed my focus.  I found out that a dear friend of mine has been diagnosed with rectal Cancer, another friend from our old neighborhood has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and my mother-in-law had to have angiogram and stents put in.  Unfortunately, I’ve lost more family and friends to Cancer than I care to admit, but when your friends, people your age and younger, start getting Cancer, it’s downright scary.  If that isn’t a message from the Universe, a wake-up call to check-in on your own health, I don’t know that is.

Around this same time, I was lucky enough to have a close friend of mine, who lives in Boston, visit not once, but twice.  We started talking about our friend with Cancer.  We started talking about the other people we know with Cancer and heart problems and allergies and ADD and ADHD and more.  And when I asked “Why?”  We started talking about food.  And that’s where my journey shifted gears.

My friend and I talked and talked about food.  And we talked about movies we’ve seen.   Movies… about food.   She recommended I watch The Gerson Miracle, Forks Over Knives and The Engine 2 Diet.  I highly suggest everyone on this planet watch all of them.  They are all available on Netflix and you can even watch The Gerson Miracle for free here.  All three movies talk about what our food does to us and for us.  Some of it is literally killing us (meat and dairy), some can heal us (plants).  There is scientific research that backs up the information in all three movies and if we let go of our fear of change, acknowledge that nutrition that was taught in school in the 1950s and the food pyramid we were taught in grade school might be wrong and trust our intuition, we’ll find that plants just might be the key to our future.

Unfortunately, many of us focus our diets around meat, dairy and other animal products and add in plants like we would add salt and pepper.  Unfortunately most of the health problems we face (Cancer, Diabetes, etc.) can be tied to eating animals and processed food.  One of the films reported Cancer studies done in Norway over a period of a few decades around World War II.  In the 1940s, during World War II, Hitler invaded Norway during that time the Nazi’s took all of the animals (beef cattle, pork, etc.) from Norway for themselves to eat and left the Norwegians with nothing to eat but plants.  Ironically, prior to the invasion, Cancer was prevalent, during the time of the invasion and for a number of years after, Cancer rates dropped, significantly.  But after the war, when the animals returned, so did the Cancer.

Now here’s where I get excited (where my plant-geekiness really comes through).  In each of these films they talk about plant phytochemicals.  I know, you’re saying, “Phyto-what?”  Phytochemicals are the natural chemicals in plants that protect them from the elements, insects, etc.  and they have found that these same phytochemicals have protection and healing properties for us when we eat them.  (The more phytochemicals the darker the plant/fruit… think dark leafy greens, blueberries, etc.)  And what’s even better is that eating plants can repair damage that has already been done, even Cancer.  In 1928 Dr. Max Gerson discovered that by juicing and eating a plant-based diet that he could heal many chronic diseases, including Cancer.  Now, believe me, it makes me a little nervous to put this in print because according to our society’s standards I don’t have the right credentials to say this.  But what I can say is that it makes perfect sense to me.

I think of anything I’ve ever heard about food that was the best thing I could hear.  We often hear that if we eat this or that it will help prevent Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Heart Disease or Cancer, but in the back of my mind I wonder, “But what if it’s already there and I just don’t know it yet?”  To learn that eating the right foods, a whole group of them, not just one or two, plants specifically, can repair damage that’s already done is incredible.  Remember as a kid when you were playing and you goofed up, but you didn’t want to lose the game so as quickly as possible you’d yell, “Do over!”.  Now we, as adults, can also yell “Do over!” to our bodies.  And you can start the repair with your next snack or your next meal!  How cool is that?!?

At one point someone told me I was trying to hit too many topics with this blog, that maybe I should just focus on one… say, gardening, or mindful living, or healthy eating.  But to me, they are all intertwined, which is why the tagline is, “Living today for tomorrow’s generation.”

Eight weeks ago I started off on a mindful living journey.  When I started paying attention to my health, the health of my friends and family, I discovered I really needed to take a harder look at our food.  Then I realized that I need to limit my meat intake to just a few ounces a week.  I need to incorporate more plants into my diet.  And what’s the best place to get fresh food?  Why our own garden of course!  If we take care of the soil, don’t use herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, then we are growing food in a sustainable manner.  If we are being mindful of what we are doing to the earth, to the soil and what we are putting into our bodies, then we are living sustainably and mindfully.  You see… all connected.

The final part of my food and plant journey includes the next steps in my life.  I’m transitioning my diet to a primarily plant-based diet, which I will elaborate more on later.  But on a business note, I have decided to begin the Urban Farming Certification Program in my area, which starts in January.  What that means for you is that I’ll be adding more ammunition to my plant knowledge, specifically edibles, which will add more services to my business. More knowledge, more experience…  more food!

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.


October 22, 2012

Nearing The End of The Challenge: Lessons 1 & 2

This is it.  Week 8 of the 8 Weeks to a Better You! challenge is here.  I have to say, this challenge did not end up as I thought it might.

If you recall, I decided to use this challenge as a Mindful Living Journey/Practice/Challenge.  In the beginning I was spending a lot of time “in my head”.  Digging deeper, trying to figure myself out (and everything else).  I set out on my 8 week challenge on a mission to practice living mindfully.  I was very serious about this endeavor.  Too serious, in fact.  It took me a few weeks to realize this (okay, more like 7 weeks to realize this) but about a week ago, as I was busy thinking everything over, and over, and I realized I wasn’t happy.  I was miserable.  I was spending so much of my time and energy trying to be mindful, focusing on every little detail of everything I was doing, analyzing whether I was doing it mindfully and how I could be doing it better, that I found I was taking everything in life far too seriously.  I decided that I didn’t like who I was becoming.  I’m not a serious person.  I like to have fun.  I wasn’t having fun.  I’d become so serious that I couldn’t stand to be around myself.  Something needed to change.  That’s when I realized that I needed to take a step back, I’d been trying too hard, delving too deep.

It’s like this: Imagine you go to the beach to watch the sunset.  You sit down in the sand and soak up the warmth of the evening sun.  You feel the breeze gently brushing your cheeks, then you look by your feet and notice the sand, really notice the sand, and wonder, “How did I miss this?  How did I miss how soft and beautiful the sand is?”.  You continue looking ever closer at the granules of sand, thinking, “Here I am on the beach, made up of all of this beautiful sand, how did I never notice the shape of the granules?  They’re rocks, tiny rocks, miniatures of big rocks, all slightly different in shape, size and color but have the same wave-washed texture and they all work together to create such as soft surface…”  While you’re admiring the sand the sun is setting, the colors are lighting up the sky, but you don’t see it because you are so focused on the details underfoot.  By the time you lift your head, raising one granule of sand in your hand, you look up to the sky and realize you missed the sunset.

Bummer, right?  Well, I didn’t have any real missed sunsets on the beach during the challenge, but there were plenty of daily life situations that I kicked myself for going “too deep” and felt like I missed out.  So I realized that while it’s important be present, it’s equally important to keep things in perspective.  Sometimes we need to limit ourselves or we’ll miss out on what we really came for.

After a number of these sunset on the beach situations, it finally it dawned on me that perhaps I’d been taking mindful living too seriously.  I started to wonder, do you have to be serious to live mindfully?  Can’t mindful living be fun?  I started thinking of people I know who seem to have a good grasp on mindful living and started recalling whether they are/were ultra serious.  Nope. Everyone I could think of has a pleasant, peaceful, welcoming, relaxed disposition.  I grabbed my mindful living books, the authors had a sparkle in their eye and a smile on their face.  The Dalai Lama almost always has a smile on his face for crying out loud.

Hotei Buddha

Then, as I was watering some of my multitudes of plants, I saw the Buddha a friend had given to me.  He’s not a serious Buddha, he’s a happy Buddha (Hotei Buddha).  Ha, ha!  Again, proof!  It was almost as he was saying to me, “Mindfulness can be fun!  You can be happy and mindful.  Don’t take life so seriously!”  From that point forward, the focus of my mindful living journey has shifted.  Yes, I know, that was Week 7 and this is Week 8 so my shift was only a week ago.  And I realize that I only have a few days left of the Challenge, so I don’t have a lot of time left to practice this during the Challenge, but this Challenge is just the beginning of my journey.  I have the rest of my life to continue practicing.  🙂

Challenge Lesson 1: Live mindfully, but keep everything in perspective, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Challenge Lesson 2: Don’t take life so seriously.  (You can be happy, have fun and live mindfully!)

By the way… if you like my Buddha as much as I do you can find him, and others, at my friend Ryan’s website:  If you stop over there, tell him I said, “Hi.”


October 10, 2012

Are your cleaning products killing you? Keep it clean… safely.

We’ve chatted about choosing the safest food in Are you having pesticide for dinner?.  We’ve chatted about choosing the safest health and beauty products in Would You Put That Toothpaste On Your Lungs?.  And now the time has come to have a little chat about our household cleaning products.

Many of us grew up cleaning with products like bleach and ammonia, and we thought toxic fumes were just a part of cleaning.  You could tell if a house was clean because it had that “fresh, clean scent”.  Now we know better, that “fresh, clean scent” spells toxic.  We don’t need toxic cleaners to keep our homes clean and germ-free, but these days there are so many products, with so many different messages on the labels that it can have our heads spinning.

What works?  What doesn’t? What’s toxic?  What’s not?  What’s good?  What’s bad?  What should we be looking for?  Can we trust the labels?

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created another database, called the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to make all of this a little easier for us.  Now we can check our household cleaning supplies against the list and see how safe (or dangerous) they really are.  And if we’re using something that isn’t rated very well we can quickly find a safe alternative.

But sometimes there are no alternatives.  Sometimes we have to choose between “clean” and our health.  A couple of years ago I learned that toilet cleaner and fabric softener are two of the most toxic products we use in our homes.  I know, toilet cleaner doesn’t seem all that surprising, but fabric softener?  Fabric softener is worse.  Fabric softener is one of the most toxic items we use in our homes, it’s loaded with chemicals and carcinogens.  And what’s worse, is we put it on our skin, our most vulnerable and most exposed organ in our body.  We use it on our sheets, our towels and our poor bodies just can’t escape it. And that “sweet, fresh smell”?  It’s not so sweet.  If you change nothing else in your home, please stop using fabric softener!  If you don’t believe me or want more specific info, please read this answer to the Frequently Asked Questions on the EWG site.

So please, for your health and the health of those in your life, especially children, go over to the Healthy Cleaning Guide and check out the products you are using.  You just might be surprised what you find.  I was.

October 8, 2012

Vulnerably Me

Kate Clarity – Walnuts n Pears, LLC

I have about a hundred things on my to-do list, some in writing, some floating around in my head slipping in and out of my conscious and subconscious, but for some reason I’m compelled to write.  In my mind I had decided that I would complete the last design on my plate before writing, but my mind is nagging and my fingers are aching.

So I sit.  The sky is grey, the air is cool.  My well-worn slippers attempt to keep my toes warm.  Daylight shines in the windows beside and behind me, but there is no warmth from sun rays today.  The only warm light comes from a lamp across the living room.  The amber glow reminiscent of sunny summer days and yet calling me to light a fire in the fireplace all at the same time.

As I stepped out for a walk this morning I took mental notes as to how everything is surviving the early cold.  Some of the hardiest plants still look beautiful, clinging to their slender, burgundy leaves, but the Hydrangeas, whose colors so vibrant just days ago, have lost the battle with the frost and now hang, limp and black.

It reminds me of us.  We, much like plants, trees and shrubs, have many different characteristics.  We grow at different paces, we bloom at different times, we reach different heights and while some of us have the strength of the mighty Oak, others are delicate like flowers.  However, all of us, just like the plants, trees, shrubs and animals around us, are vulnerable.  Some people live their life protecting themselves, keeping themselves from being vulnerable, never letting others in.  In certain situations, I think that we all do.  And in some cases, keeping to ourselves is necessary, but for the most part I think the only way to connect with people is to let our guard down, take off our masks and open ourselves up and be vulnerable.

To me, vulnerability is beautiful.  It’s taking chances, letting people see who we really are at the risk of not having everyone’s approval, at the risk of getting hurt, but when we are vulnerable we also have so much to gain.  Putting ourselves out there for others to see us as we really are opens paths to true, deep friendships, it opens doors to life experiences we would have otherwise missed.

Today I looked up the definition of “blog”.  In my head I had my own definition, but had never stopped to look up the real definition of a blog.  (For those of you who care, and didn’t already know, it’s a shortened version of “web log”.)  In any case, I was stunned to find one statistic showing that in the year 2012 there are over 110 million active blogs in the world.  That’s a lot of words!  Okay, granted, some are photo blogs so they aren’t all words, but still, that’s pretty incredible.

It got me thinking.  Why?  Why do so many people blog (Yes, “blog” is both a noun and a verb.)?  Did all these people write before there were blogs?  Where?  I have journaled for a good portion of my life, and I still journal the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper, but I didn’t write out loud, for others to hear, until I started my blog.  So I wonder, did all of these bloggers (noun) have journals or perhaps other sources of outlet?  Or were they like me with their thoughts and words all tied up inside until the day they began their blog. And who reads them?  Who reads mine?  And why?  Why are we reading blogs?

I follow a couple of handfuls of blogs.  Some for fun, some for crafty ideas, some for home decorating ideas, some for organizing ideas, some for writing, but I would have to say the majority of the blogs I read, I enjoy them because the people behind them are real.  They are sincere, open and honest.  They are vulnerable.  And while I’ve never met the majority of them, I find their vulnerability beautiful.  I feel like I know them, understand them.

On the pages of my blog, you’ll see goofiness, gardening, cooking, updates on my mindful living and health journeys and various other topics.  Although I’m not sure why you come here or what you prefer to read, my goal is to always give you me.  Open, honest, me.  Each time I sit at my computer, every word I write, every typo that slips by, every thought I jot, every photo I post and every vision I share, I give you me.  As I write, as I post, I am like the mighty Oak, like the delicate flowers, like the wilted Hydrangeas, I am putting myself out there, I am taking a risk, I am being vulnerably me.