Wednesday, December 31

Help For Your New Years Resolutions

I have two awesome TED Talks to share today that might prove worth pondering for anyone formulating New Year's Resolutions. 




The other resource I can't neglect to mention - for people really committed to being successful - is the book The Power of Habit. The author does a great job of explaining why it's far more powerful to invest our energy in the slow, steady process of building good habits to change our lives than to expect to be able to make something happen solely through sheer will power. Hint: Your brain likes to automate things - and once they're automated, you stop needing will power and just do them


Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!!

Monday, December 29

The Chemistry of Cookies

I thought this might be fun and appropriate to post today, as so many people find themselves between their Christmas feasting and New Year's revelries... The Chemistry of Cookies.

Very short, very well done, and fascinating. Enjoy!





On a related note, I also really love this graphic from themetapicture showing the differences in how cookies look depending on the your ingredient ratios/choices - this should be in every cookbook!

From themetapicture.com (link above)

Thursday, December 25

Merry Christmas!!



May your Christmas Day be wonderful... 
no matter how you choose to spend it!! 

(For those who don't know the reference, it is the Dr. Who 2007 Christmas Special - "Voyage of the Damned.")

Tuesday, December 23

Shiny Things

I interrupt whatever Christmas preparations you're making to bring you something shiny.  :)

I found a fancy looking wall mounted dog bowl on Pinterest forever ago, and coveted it... until I checked the price and discovered it was astronomical! So, I crossed that off my mental wish list and just kept sweeping and mopping around the water dish, trying not to let the damp or the splashing damage our beautiful hickory hardwood.

This week, my very talented husband found some unexpected free time (a rare thing) and decided to spend it making me something shiny. Voila! A wall mounted shelf made of mold-resistant cedar and wrought iron (love wrought iron!) to get the babies' water bowl off the floor and simplify my cleaning routine.  (Please ignore the fact that I didn't sweep before taking the picture...)

It looks deceptively simple in the picture, but every time I look at it I see the attention to detail and feel spoiled to have a husband who makes me wonderful things. Horray for getting a head start on 2015 projects with something as practical and appreciated as this!

(Okay, you can go back to you Christmas busy-ness now! I just couldn't help but share.)

Monday, December 22

Fun With Fats: Rendering Lard

Seemingly ages ago now (sorry for the lack of posts - busy!!), I stopped at the Farm where we get our milk and eggs. As I was piling things on the counter, my eyes lit up. There was something wonderful in the freezer case that had never been there before - leaf lard!!

(For those of you who are not crazy foodies, lard is rendered pig fat. Leaf lard is considered the highest grade, and is excellent for frying and for making decadent, flaky baked goods like biscuits or pie crust. It doesn't have any "pork" taste to it - just a beautiful, neutral flavor and creaminess.)

The lady at the Farm was super nice about my excitement, and said that although she'd never used it personally, people had been asking so she started putting it out. Yay!! 

Photo from Caveman Keto site
Obviously, I snagged myself a package to play with. Since the only stuff previously available to me was the hydrogenated crap at the grocery store, I'd never had a chance to actually cook with lard, but I've been reading lots about it and couldn't wait to try. The Caveman Keto site was nice enough to have a very simple, well laid out tutorial on how to render lard. It smelled very yummy while melting down (a someone-has-a-roast-in-the-oven kind of smell), and was beautifully clear and rich when done. 

I stuck it in the fridge, and have been happily using it to cook potatoes (and a few other things) ever since. I have been amazed at how far it goes! A little goes a very long way, and cost-wise it comes in at less than coconut oil! It coats beautifully, is fully safe to cook at high temperatures with, and provides your body with a different range of nutrients than coconut oil, butter, or olive oil. I am very happy to have made this part of my cooking, and am keeping my fingers crossed that it continues to be available!

*Important Notes*
Please keep in mind that you should only use lard from pastured, organically raised (with or without official certification) pork. Toxins and other nasty things concentrate in fat - in both people and animals!! Fat from standard, commercially raised pigs will be chock full of nastiness you don't want to eat! 

Also, remember to check the label on any lard you see in the grocery store - if it has been hydrogenated (even partially hydrogenated) it is inedible! Horrifically bad for you - put it back down and walk away!

Friday, December 19

They Finally Did Something Right!!

I would like to send my most sincere congratulations to New York Environmental Commissioner Joseph Martens for demonstrating two things so routinely lacking amongst NYS government officials - common sense and a backbone!!

I nearly fell out of my chair yesterday when I opened the news page and found the following
headline:  New York Bans Fracking After Health Report.

We live on a mountain made of shale, so it probably is no surprise that the debate over fracking has been a huge, messy deal around here. It's not uncommon for neighbors to stop speaking to each other over it, and for people to line the edges of their yards and their bumpers with signs and stickers proclaiming their opinions one way or the other.

Given that NYS is more likely to make decisions based on the money involved than common sense or health - both of which should tell you its a TERRIBLE idea to pump carcinogenic chemicals into the water table (particularly one as high as ours), I'd not held out much hope for a good decision.

So this news comes as an early Christmas present!! Thank you, Mr. Martens, for protecting the beautiful mountains in which we make our home! For choosing our healthy and safety, the safety of our neighbors, pets, food and water over the greed of corporations who would rather see us all die of horrible diseases and complications than see our nation pursue smarter, cleaner, and more efficient energy solutions that might actually force them to adapt!!


May you stick to your guns and hold your head up in pride for this choice. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 12

Free Laughs

Oh Virgina Tech, you're so funny. Do you miss having your soul? Or are you happier having traded the pesky thing for money?

Researchers at Virginia Tech gave me my free laughs of the week when they announced that they've done a study and concluded that "lunches packed at home are generally not as nutritious as school lunches."

Don't get me wrong, people can and do pack all kinds of crappy things in lunches for their kids (have you seen the latest configurations of Lunchables?).

But every a cursory reading of the parameters of the study, as mentioned in the article, makes the design look flawed at best. For example:
  • "Researchers compared more than 750 school meals with more than 560 packed meals given to pre-K and kindergarten students in three schools, analyzing them for nutritional value over five days."
Pre-K and kindergarten students are exceptionally limited in what they can do themselves. Seriously, we're talking needing help opening milk cartons and applesauce cups here. Obviously, parents are going to prioritize packing things that hold well and are easy to get into and eat. Redoing this study with older students - or even with a broader range of ages - would almost certainly change the game.
  •  As a whole, the packed lunches overall had more calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C and iron than school lunches. In addition, meals brought from home generally had less protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A and calcium than school lunches, according to the study.
Shockingly, growing children require fat - lots of it! Vitamin C and iron are pretty important too. As for Vitamin A and calcium, which are supposedly higher in school-produced meals, they don't actually count if they're synthetic, which they are almost guaranteed to be in school food.
  • To analyze the nutritional content of the lunches, the researchers used the 2012-2013 National School Lunch Program Standards as a guide.
Really people? Why did you even waste your time? These standards are universally acknowledged to be terribly skewed and completely twisted. Celebrity Chef Jaime Oliver tried to make exactly the kind of whole foods, healthy, balanced meal you'd make for your own family and couldn't serve it as planned in an American school because it didn't fit the National School Lunch Program Standards. (If I can find the link, I'll come back and add it here, because it's totally worth watching his utter frustration and disgust.)

And, finally the piece de resistance: 
  • "...actual consumption wasn't measured, only observations about the contents of the lunches. "
Pretty sure that one speaks for itself.

So thank you, Virginia Tech, for my laughs my week - this study was a really good joke!

Monday, November 10

Nature, Nurture, and Freedom of Choice


Common sense is rare in politics and governance these days, that I was really encouraged to see someone, somewhere taking such a reasonable approach!! Decisions like that should be made by an area's residents - not by a small handful of people who think they know what's best for everyone. 

More importantly, though, it provides a widespread opportunity for the real issues involved and productive discussion on what can be done to actually improve the situation. Dog attacks can be devastating and life altering - but they're almost always caused by stupid, vicious people (owners) rather than by an inherent flaw in a dog - much less an entire breed! Unfortunately for them, pit bulls - and many other breeds - are being used as tools by unscrupulous people. Tools to make money, to intimidate others, to suffer as the target of their abusive natures.

As in so many other situations in life, it is not the tool that is at fault for how it used. It is the user. I hope that Colorado sets a powerful and wonderful precedent, and that we, as Americans, start reclaiming our common sense and rejecting (and punishing) nasty people rather than the tools they use to inflict harm - whether those tools are guns, dogs, or anything else.




Saturday, November 8

Dear BBC, Thank You.

This is not up-to-the-minute news, given that my schedule has been to crazy to blog as of late, but I still thought it was worth sharing.

In response to the uproar in Europe about the new "right to be forgotten" hoopla, BBC News announced that it would "publish a continually updated list of its articles removed from Google under the controversial "right to be forgotten" rule."

The ISTJ part of my brain finds this an incredibly simple and elegant solution to a loud and messy public debate. In a world where quiet efficiency is all too often eschewed, polite, practical, and pro-active responses to conflict like this are all the more appreciated.

So dear BBC, thank you for demonstrating how simple it can be to work around crappy laws.
May we all be inspired by your example.

Thursday, November 6

The Power of What You Wear




I recently (and completely accidentally) ran across a great blog post titled Why I Am Wearing My Favorite Clothes Everyday.

(Take a minute to go read it. It's short and worthwhile!)

It's certainly not a new idea that what you wear impacts how you feel. From corporate dress codes to Raising Homemakers ebooks and challenges, it's pretty widely accepted that one of the fastest and simplest ways to change how you feel and how you approach a situation is to go change your clothes!

What I thought really set this article apart, though, was the way the author tied that idea together two other really valuable concepts: practical (and frugal) minimalism, and personal confidence/lack of unreasonable self-consciousness. In an era where we are constantly bombarded with messages about staying on-style/on-trend, but paradoxically finding ourselves facing tightening wallets, it was really refreshing to see someone come out and blatantly remind everyone that there's nothing wrong with investing in - and sticking to -a handful of high quality favorites that make you look and feel amazing. 

I tend to be pretty attentive to keeping my wardrobe small already, but that post has re-inspired me to take a fresh look at what I have, what I actually wear, and what I need to maybe let go of. So as we hurtle towards the holiday season - so often full of stress, consumption, and unhealthy comparison with others - consider taking a minute to read the article above and orient your brain to a way, less cluttered way of thinking!

Friday, September 26

Creativity


One more TED talk that has been on my list to share. By Elizabeth Gilbert, titled "Your Elusive Creative Genius."

Reason(s) I liked this: I thought she had some really insightful remarks on how our culture's prevailing view of creativity (a) is far from the only one, (b) is not necessarily a good one, and (c) may be linked to (and potentially a cause of) trends towards depression and suicide by "creative types."

Creativity and "out of the box" thinking are big topics among business, industry, and educators these days. Whatever your opinion of Ms. Gilbert's ideas, I think it is nice to see a variety of alternative ideas being spread to enhance and deepen the discussion.

Wednesday, September 24

Just For Fun


Just for fun... short video creatively looking at whether or not humans should be eating more bugs.
Believe it or not, there's a lot of scientists and foods who think that we should! (Not me though... I'm all for all kinds of creative things in the food world, but just not feeling the cricket casserole thing!)

For extra amusement, share with the kids and Paleo nuts in your life. Enjoy!   :)

Monday, September 22

"Sleepy Dust" and Other Miracle Cures

I love Pinterest. It was practically made for visual learners like me, and has been a God-send in terms of reducing clutter and organizing ideas, materials, recipes, and inspirations.

Still, I sometimes find myself wishing that there was a way to stamp warnings on other people's pins. I'd slap "Caution: Does Not Work" signs on that stupid pin that suggests you can use Parmesan cheese container caps on canning jars (I have yet to find a brand for which this is actually true). "Requires Artistic Talent" should go on about half of the DIY wreaths, furniture painting tutorials, and party food posts. Most importantly, however, the nutritionist in me is convinced that there needs to be a "Not Necessarily/Highly Conditional" warning tag on so many of the DIY "miracle cure" style posts that circulate among the nutrition, holistic health, and herbalism themed boards. (Actually, it might be really fun to have a "Danger, Will Robinson!" sign to stick onto things that are really, truly ludicrous, too...)

My sister is a nurse, and recently sent me a pin for something called "Sleepy Dust." She wanted to know if it jived with what my (holistic/whole foods) nutrition books say, since it definitely didn't match up with what her medical books and experience tell her.

According to the pin (and blog post it's linked to), "Sleepy Dust" is a combination of sugar and salt that you can keep beside your bed and stick on your tongue before bed or when you wake up in the middle of the night to help you get to sleep (or back to sleep). The author of the post explains why she thinks this works, and raves about how awesomely it has worked for her.

Unfortunately, if you actually read the post, red flags start popping up almost immediately. The post blames stress hormones for creating insomnia, despite the fact that there are dozens of potential causes. Too much sugar before bed (causing blood sugar issues), eating too heavy a meal too late (causing your body to be funneling energy into digestion instead of the restorative processes it is supposed to be focused on during sleep), disturbed sleep cycles (a huge issue in the modern era), and conflicting signals (such as light, particularly from electronics) are all documented to disrupt sleep. Obviously, you can't implement an effective solution unless you look at and address the source(s) of individual insomnia cases!

Then there's the reality that historically, people didn't necessarily sleep through the night. In pre- industrial eras, it was common for people to wake up in the middle of the night for an hour or two. Records demonstrate that people were accustomed to using the time to meditate, pray, or snuggle with their spouse, and then consistently fell asleep again until morning. So what looks like insomnia to modern eyes, so indoctrinated by corporate schedules, is not necessarily an unnatural or inappropriate sleep cycle.

Finally, the human body technically never needs straight sugar (beyond what you would get in a primal-style high fat, lean protein, and fibrous veggie diet). You also can't just "get rid of" or "turn off" stress hormones - they have to be physically processed and released/removed from your system. 

Although I am eternally grateful to live in an era in which so much wisdom and so many creative solutions are available to us with only the clicking of computer keys and the magic of Google, it is critical to remember that humans are biochemically and environmentally unique. Your body and your environment are not necessarily the same as the those of the person/expert/resource first to pop up on your screen. This is particularly true when pursuing secondary sites like Pinterest, where you can't really gauge the quality of information until you've gone to the source and done some digging. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and just because it worked for someone else doesn't mean it's right for you. Look, experiment, and enjoy, but remember that on the interwebs, as in ancient Rome, Caveat Emptor applies -  it's your responsibility to be aware and do the fact checking necessary to make sure the solutions, tips, and tricks you find are actually safe and scientifically sound!!


Saturday, September 20

The "Tyranny" of Family Dinners



I occasionally wonder if Slate writers are genuinely clueless as to how to the world actually works, or if they are just exceptionally good at intentionally twisting bits of reality into presentations that allow them to further politically correct ideas - however ludicrous or unreasonable.


Let's set aside, for the moment, the uncompromising (if apparently inconvenient) reality that research consistently demonstrates that consistently sitting down to a meal with your family in your home has powerful and positive impacts on family relationships and the likelihood that children will be successful in school and avoid drug use/criminal behavior. Instead, let's consider what the author thinks to be the primary arguments against this long-standing tradition:

  • Inability to afford fresh produce or kitchen essentials such as pots and pans 
  • Whiny, un-supportive husbands
  • Ungrateful children 
  • Too-busy wives

Am I the only one to think that none of these problems are actually the result of the "tyrranical" tradition of making and serving of homemade meals, and everything to do with unhealthy lifestyle decisions?

The inability to afford fresh produce is clearly a “straw man” argument - a tremendous variety of quick, easy, and inexpensive family dinners can be made without having any fresh produce on hand. 
Considering what you can do with a single electric hot pot, sauce pan, or tea kettle – any of which you can get from a thrift store for under $3 pretty much any day of the week - I don't find the lack of kitchen essentials to hold water, either. 

If you married a man who whines, disrespects you in front of your children, and with whom you’re at odds about family and lifestyle priorities, you have much bigger issues than dinner.  Family dinners may clearly shine a light on those issues, but they aren't the source. Cancelling family dinner so you can continue to ignore those issues only makes everything worse.

As far as kids being unappreciative or difficult, not to sound unsympathetic, but it’s called parenting. Children do not come as perfect little angels – they have to be raised and trained up. It’s why they have parents, and why being a homemaker was considered a full time profession for nearly the entirety of history. Taking the raw material that is a child and raising them to be a responsible, courteous, and wise human being is a lot of work. It’s work that happens in the mundane, every day moments over the better part of two decades. (Though most parents I know would say that you don’t stop parenting when your kid turns 18… the logistics just look a little different.) 

Before you argue that I am a militantly anachronistic and oppressive traditionalist, let me point out that many of best friends and I were all raised in households in which our mothers worked full time. 
An objective review shows that they were no less busy than modern women. They had real, demanding jobs and still somehow managed to get meals on the table every night so that we could eat as a family. We learned to eat what we were served (politely, I might add), or to go without (equally politely). Our fathers, whether directly involved in the preparation of dinner of not, modeled and enforced appreciation and respect. None of our mothers had breakdowns over this practice, and we all grew up to be courteous, well-adjusted adults who think it’s perfectly normal to continue those healthy traditions ourselves. 

I fully respect how hard the fight to protect our families, our homes, and our sanity is in this day and age. It can be incredibly challenging to balance the need for a second income against the home-based demands of maintaining a strong marriage, being a parent, and healthy living choices. It's a battle that must be fought on multiple fronts every day, and it can be exhausting.


But let’s not pretend that sitting down together and having a meal as a family is part of the problem when it is, in fact, part of the solution. You cannot face down and overcome your challenges if you don't first name them for what they are. Vanquishing straw men is a waste of time and energy, and only allows the real enemies - poor decisions, denial of reality, and self-pity - to continue ravaging our lives behind closed doors.

So throw a pot of spaghetti on the stove, dump a jar of sauce into a pan, and toss some plates on the table. Fight back against politically correct propaganda by choosing to engage in simple act of a shared meal. History and science give us iron-clad evidence of the power of this single choice, available for us to make anew every day. You don't have to sacrifice your health or your relationships to the chaos of the world and its broken perspectives. 

Thursday, September 18

The Money Myth



No ranting or philosophizing today - just an interesting TED talk to share: The Money Myth. It isn't long, and is well worth a watch when you've got a few minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16

How To Stop the Crazy Before It Starts

Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy had an excellent post recently on Trigger Points. She descibes trigger points as "metaphorical buttons" that, when pushed, consistently cause us to pretty much lose it.

Although technically geared toward a homeschool audience, I highly recommend checking out her post, because the core message applies to us all. Given that we are well on our way into Fall, with the holidays close behind, it seems particularly timely. 

Although I wouldn't have been able to articulate it nearly as well as she did, I spent a lot of time over the summer thinking about what I want life to look like and where it is not conforming. I returned to work after my few weeks off with refreshed boundaries and redefined priorities.  I've done a little revising of my strategies to help me avoid hitting my "trigger points,"  and a lot of de-cluttering, physically and mentally.

Before the holidays are upon us and we find ourselves hurtling into a new year with the same chaos, frustration, and sugar-withrawl induced depression that typically categorize that season, take a minute to read the post, and think about your trigger points. The world will never be perfect, but there's a lot we can (and should!) do to limit our craziness.

What makes you crazy?


those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf

Sunday, September 14

We’ve Been Adopted By a Cat

One evening several weeks ago, a neighbor unexpectedly stopped by to ask if we were in the market for a cat. We weren’t, technically speaking. We tried the cat thing once before. Adorable as he was, Archimedes was dumber than dirt, and frankly dumb cats just don’t survive long as barn cats. Nor can you just go to a shelter and explain that you need a “barn cat,” capable of ruthless mouse hunting and coyote evasion. Just mention you have coyotes and expect a working cat rather than an indoor companion animal, and it’s over.   

Cat. (A.k.a. Kitty Kitty)
Still, mice are never not an issue when you live “in the country,” so we went down to check out the stray who had wandered into our neighbor’s yard from a logging trail in the woods. Our neighbors are cat people, with two territorial kitties already, and couldn’t keep her, but estimated she was about eight months old. She obviously was very socialized, because she likes people and will allow herself to be picked up. Best guess is that she was part of a litter of kittens dropped along the side of the road out here weeks ago.

We seriously doubted she would stay with us, but decided to give it a try since there really wasn’t anything to lose. Much to our surprise, Cat has adopted us. After initial brief terror, she’s taken to the dogs (who are very gentle with her), and claimed the garage as her domain. She’s proven to be quite the hunter and has the common sense to stay out of the road and away from loud/dangerous things like the lawnmower. She’s still a bit on the scrawny side, but between kitty food and all the free range mice she can eat, we’re hoping to have her fattened up soon.

Time will tell how things work out, but I can’t help but wonder if we shall find ourselves much the same way with cats that the Murphys in Wrinkle in Time were with dogs – their dogs always found them, wandering in with unknown providence and simply staying. For now, we’re happy to have a mouser on hand, and Cat seems quite content with her new domain.

UPDATE: Kitty has now stayed with us long enough to have gotten herself a name - "Xena: Warrior Kitty!" She seems quite content with the new moniker... 

Friday, September 12

The Order of the Good Death

I had the opportunity to check out an advanced reader's copy of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, and loved it.

Ms. Doughty (now a mortician) tells the story of her first job working in a crematory - and all the bizarre, unexpected, and thought-provoking realities it brought her face-to-face with. In the process, she takes a good hard look at traditions and misconceptions surrounding death, modern American experiences as shaped by the entire industry built around death, and how our current unhealthy relationship with death is damaging to us individually and as a culture. It was fascinating, and absolutely something I think everyone should read. Ms. Doughty has an excellent writing voice and, although it may not be the lightest book you read this year, it will certainly open your eyes (as it did mine) to some important considerations you probably never considered (but will be glad you do).

As part of her campaign to improve Americans' relationship with and handling of the natural part of the human life cycle that is death, Ms. Doughty founded the Order of the Good Death. In addition to fascinating death-related blog posts on topics ranging from medieval "corpse toilets" to modern laws and best practices to consider when someone you love dies, the website features Ms. Doughty's "Ask a Mortician" video series. Not the least bit squeamish, she readily delves into entirely practical questions like "what happens to titanium hips and breast implants when you cremate a corpse?" and "can caskets really explode?".

I highly recommend taking a few minutes to browse this fascinating site, and picking up her book if you can.

Tuesday, September 9

The Lessons We’re Not Teaching



Not long ago, I ran across a New York Times article that deeply frustrated me. It was intended to be a human interest piece about the scheduling software many companies (particularly fast food and other service industry employers) are using to manage their labor forces, and the havoc the resulting schedules can cause in individual lives. The story was framed around the life of a young single mother with no support network who’d been forced to put her educational dreams on hold and battle every day just to function around her unpredictable and uneven schedule. The writer focused on the myriad of ways her situation was damaging to the girl’s life, her son’s life, and the lives of the aunt and uncle who were her only support.

Two things aggravated me about this article. The first, which I won’t deal with here, was that it focused on an incredibly narrow slice of reality without giving the slightest nod to the other factors and realities at play. There was no mention of why companies are motivated use such software (the precarious balancing of operating costs, taxes, and limits on what customers will pay creating razor thin margins ), or acknowledgement that most jobs such as the one being profiled (a Starbucks barista) were almost never intended by employers to be the sole supporting income of a family. It is misleading and unproductive to suggest that something like scheduling software is the root cause of so much anguish, when there’s so much more involved.

The thing the truly frustrated me, though, was the fact that there was a very stark lesson played out in the story that no one will touch: having kids before you’re relationally, physically, and financially ready is disastrous and damaging for everyone involved.

This young woman, if she had not had her son by an absent father while she was still a teenager, could have been living safely and affordably, going to school, and building a strong support network. She could have been creating the kind of stable life she didn’t have, and welcomed her son into a happily family and safe home ten years later.

We do our sisters and our daughters (and their future children!) a grave disservice when we pretend that there aren’t very real physical, emotional, financial, and relational long term costs to having children out of wedlock and before you are able to care for them.  


I have spent the last year watching a very smart young woman I know sink every spare dime into lawyers, trying to protect the daughter she had by an idiot she left years ago. They were never married, and he had no interest in the child until he found out the mother was getting remarried. Now, in what should be a wonderful time in her life, she is spending every day and every penny she has embroiled in emotional drama, court time, worry about her daughter’s safety, and the resulting devastation to her formerly happy relationship with her fiancĂ© and her job.

These stories are not the exception – they are the rule. Playing up happy stories of when someone does beat the odds and championing women’s “right” to have children out of wedlock without judgment make cruel mockeries  of the lives shattered and battered by the harsh realities of most single parents and the children they weren’t – and often still aren’t – prepared to care for.

The world is not perfect; we cannot control everything. But we can and should teach girls not to sabotage their lives, or the lives of the future children, by believing pretty PC lies or brushing the bleak consequences of bad choices off as the fault of random, incidental influences like scheduling programs. The plain, unvarnished truth is harsh, but girls deserve to know the truth while there’s still time to make good choices and change their world.

Saturday, September 6

Senior Gypsies



This article on the rising trend of retirees selling everything to travel, either internationally, via RVs, or through more unconventional options, caught my eye because we know a couple planning to do exactly that. With only about two years left (they’re already literally counting the days), they’re sorting through their belongings and unloading nearly all of them. They’re tackling various projects around the house to ensure it’s ready for sale, and exploring their RV options.

Having talked to them extensively about their plans and reasons, I found it ironic that the article mentioned nearly none of the most relevant factors. Not a peep about the steep taxes that essentially force many retirees to choose betwe
en maintaining a house and having enough money to enjoy their retirement via travel. No mention of the ludicrous code laws that make “tiny houses” and other realistic options for independent and low-maintenance living illegal in many states. (But which can often be avoided through use of a mobile small home such as an RV.) No discussion of the absurd laws and taxes regulating employment options that make flexible, part-time, on-the-books positions often more expensive for everyone than they’re worth. (Despite the fact that many organizations would deeply benefit from access to experienced hands as much as individuals would benefit from the extra income!)

I know there are many other realities at play here, but I can’t help but think how wise it would be for states to acknowledge trends like this and respond accordingly. Even small changes – like being “tiny house” friendly – could serve a state very well by making it a popular home base for well educated, well-traveled seniors. Think of the economic benefits of that!

Until such time as states decide to demonstrate so wisdom and self-control, however, I will wish my friends the best in the endeavor and hope that when the time comes they are able to sell their house without delay and embark on a new adventure worthy of the many years’ hard work they put into earning it.