Friday, September 26


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:
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at:
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at:
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at:
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at:
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at:
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at:

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 fiancé 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.

Wednesday, September 3

Library Remodeling & Life Editing

Very little about this summer went the way I’d anticipated. (As is probably well evident from the  stark lack of posts over the lack couple months. Apologies.) Despite the changes in plan, we actually got quite a bit accomplished.

The Library when we first saw the house (pre-
purchase). Note the hideous carpet and factory primer

In July, as we waited (somewhat less than patiently) for other projects to come together, we decided it was time to finally renovate our library. One of the last remaining hold-outs, it had gotten a beautiful spice colored bamboo floor at the same time we did the one in the guest bedroom, but that was pretty much it. Still dingy factory primer on the walls and doors (the way every room was when we moved in), it had a history of finding its way to the bottom of the to-do list for a variety of practical reasons: the window had to go, the bookshelves would have to be emptied and come down, the closet would have to get emptied, etc. Although seemingly minor, they added up to a rather large project that would need some serious time, elbow grease, and overflow space.

In progress: cream and purple paint, shiny new window,
treadmill in a good corner, and one set of shelves on the left wall. 
We’d agreed that we wanted to split the walls with a chair rail, putting a lighter color on the bottom to help reflect sunlight and brighten the space and a darker, bolder color on top. We went with a rich, marshmallow crème and a beautiful, grape-y shade of purple… each of which took multiple coats, naturally. For the chair rail, doors, and trim we went with a clean, bright white.The old window was a mess - leaking air and dry rotting at the edges, so we bought and installed a new one. (That was a bit of an adventure unto itself!)

The paint alone made a huge difference, of course, but I think I was most surprised by the massive improvement made by seemingly minor reallocations of space when we moved everything back into the room. Moving the treadmill from an interior corner to the far one made the entire room feel remarkably brighter and less cramped. Relocating the bookshelves gave the room a proper library feel, and created a more airy ambiance. My talented husband tucked a light under the bottom shelving unit for me, so that my ironing board (primarily for quilting fabric) is now well lit, making it much easier to see what I’m doing!

The room remodel also resolved our standing photo problem. Picture frames all over the house give me a cluttered, claustrophobic feel, so I have a tendency to just not hang up photos, even when I enjoy them or think they’re worthy of display. After moving shelves around, we had an entire free wall on which to gather all of our neglected photos and framed mementos in a way that felt intentional and artistic rather than cluttered. Whoo hoo!

As an added bonus, the process of emptying the room, its shelves, and its closet and then putting everything back gave us a strategic opportunity to do a little “life editing” – sorting through all of our stuff and letting go of the things that are no longer a good fit for our needs and this seasons of life.  No matter how hard we try to be aware and discriminating about what we let into the house, things just seem to mysteriously pile up. A thorough cleaning out felt good, leaving us with more breathing room and efficiency, both physically and mentally.

Although we hadn’t planned it that way, doing a little life editing in August set us up to enter the Fall with a refreshed perspective that I’m very pleased with. It is also a wonderful feeling to have this long-postponed project completed. More on our other summer projects soon!