A Woman’s Worth

I want to say this:  your worth as a woman is in no way tied to your reproductive capacity. 

Whether you can reproduce, whether you have, whether you choose to, is in no way a determinative factor of your right to walk the earth, to be loved and respected and admired, to hold your head high and know that you are every bit as good and worthy and valuable as the next person.

Please understand that I in no way mean disrespect to any woman, be it the childless-by-choice, the childless-but-yearning, the mother of living children, or the mother who has lost a child.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  It’s long past time that we set aside these artificial distinctions and recognize that each of us, regardless of age or reproductive status, is as worthy as all the rest.

Some women bear easily.  Some bear only after great difficulty and pain and struggle and heartache and loss.  Some never bear, despite an endless ache and longing and much effort.  Some choose not to bear at all.  Some bear, and give up their progeny to the love and care of others.  And guess what?  They’re all good.  They’re all beautiful and precious and worthy of love and respect, because your worth as a human being is not decided by your ability or willingness to perpetuate the human race.  In aeons past, it was different, but today we are certainly in no danger of extinction through lack of numbers.

Quite the opposite, in fact.  Given the seething mass of humanity currently smothering the surface of this planet, I think it’s high time we discarded outdated and outmoded notions that tie the worth of any human being to his or her ability to produce more of the same.

I have two children, both of whom I love and cherish and value far beyond my ability to express.  I have reached a point in my life where I will bear no more, both by choice and by the dictates of circumstance.  I can see both sides of this issue, and while I have never suffered the agony of unfulfilled desire for a child, I have witnessed it.  Though I can never fully comprehend it, certainly I can empathize.  So I don’t mean to imply that those yearning for a child should discard that, even if I thought it were possible, which I don’t.  What I do hope is that those who have chosen not to bear, or those who through circumstances beyond their control simply cannot bear, will be able to see past the ingrained notions of our race and recognize and acknowledge that they are worthy.  They are valuable.  They are every bit as valuable, in fact, as the woman who has borne and may continue to bear. 

Women ( I can’t speak for men, though it seems to me that the societal pressure to be a father is perhaps somewhat less than the pressure to be a mother?) have, for all time, labored under the burden of having our worth tied to our sexuality and reproductive capacity.  Youth and beauty and fecundity are prized and lauded, while the strength and wisdom and grace of age are relegated to a secondary, tolerated but not celebrated, status.  We pride ourselves on being more enlightened these days, on taking back our rights as human beings and demanding respect and equality…while we limit and shackle ourselves with the surgeon’s knife, the aesthetician’s needle, the shakes and the pills and the creams and the regimens.  At the same time that we declare ourselves “woman – hear us roar”, we buy into society’s notion of us as possessing worth merely as sexual and reproductive beings, by desperately chasing this pipe dream of eternal youth and beauty.

I find far more beauty in the woman who knows herself to be of value regardless of wrinkles, age spots, or a non-functional uterus.  I find her fascinating, liberating, strong and wise and fierce and joyful.  I love her.  I admire her.  I want to be her. 

 I want us all to be her.

Thoughts on Ayurveda: Perfect Weight (part 1)


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I got Perfect Weight yesterday, by Deepak Chopra, and had to jump right in.

The book is an approach to weight loss through Ayurvedic principles.  More accurately, it explains how to restore your body to its natural balance, which will help it to achieve its proper weight.

There’s a lot I like about it.  I like that the watchword is moderation in all things – that’s sort of my philosophy to begin with.  I like that it is based in an understanding of the interconnection of all things.  I like that it is not one-size-fits-all, but rather emphasizes the need to understand your individual body and tailor your lifestyle to suit you, not some generic ideal.  I like that it incorporates more than just eating and exercise – there is discussion of ayurvedic massages, one form of which is essentially body-brushing, which I already love; and of course meditation is recommended.  So it is very much a total body/mind/soul approach, which is the guiding principle of Ayurveda to begin with.  That is completely in keeping with my needs and my philosophies.

There are some things about which I am doubtful, though.    For one thing, a basic recommendation is not to eat breakfast.  That flies in the face not only of “conventional wisdom” (which doesn’t hold that much water with me) and what I’ve discovered works for me (which does).  But an alternative is to just eat a very light breakfast, so it’s not like I couldn’t do it.

Exercise is not supposed to be super-strenuous, and you’re supposed to tailor it to your body type, which is great.  I’ve already discovered that I do best with very moderate exercise, and I can very easily become overtrained.  So I like that.  However, I’m a Pitta-Vata type, with Pitta slightly more dominant, and the recommended exercises for Pitta types are walking, running, mountain climbing, hiking and swimming.  I hate running.  I do like walking and hiking though.  Vata exercises are yoga, dance aerobics, short hikes, and light bicycling.  I can completely get behind that.  :-)  I love yoga, and light bicycling is about all I’m capable of.

But my very favorite form of exercise is weight training, which is a Kapha exercise.  I have very little Kapha according to the questionnaire.  Which doesn’t mean I can’t do it, of course, but it surprises me that I love it so much if it’s not really what fits my type.  So that raises a bit of doubt.

He recommends going meatless two or three days a week, which doesn’t sit well with me; I’m a total carnivore.  But I’m willing to give it a try; I won’t do vegan but I can definitely limit myself to nuts and dairy for my protein on a day or two.  Then you’re supposed to, one day a week, take in nothing but liquids.  You can have anything you want, you just have to liquefy it.  This is supposed to eliminate ama (a product of improper digestion, a negative energy), strengthen digestion, and restore balance.  So…that will involve definite restructuring for me but it’s not a bad thought as I’d already considered doing a juice fast once a week or so anyway.

You’re supposed to eliminate red meat as much as possible.  Again, I can do this, but I don’t want to.  But then, as I am so fond of quoting, “If we want what we have never had, we must do what we have never done.”  Which means change.  Duh.  So.

You’re supposed to avoid cold foods and drinks.  Meals should be freshly cooked.  Even vegetables are supposed to be cooked; he doesn’t really encourage a lot of raw produce.  Some, but not a lot.  Very contrary to what I’ve learned, and I’m unsure about this as well.

He wants you to sip hot water throughout the day.  Can I just say how repellent this sounds to me?  I know people do it but I don’t like drinking water if it’s even room temperature.  Another big adjustment.

There are some basic tips that really are in keeping with what we all have learned to be smart, but I like the way he states them:

  • Eat in a settled and quiet atmosphere
  • Always sit down to eat
  • Never eat when you’re upset
  • Eat to the point of comfort, not fullness, and never beyond 3/4 of your capacity
  • Focus completely on your food
  • Eat slowly
  • Sit quietly and relax for a few minutes after you finish eating.

But he also says not to eat for at least three hours and more like six, after a meal.  Since I eat six small meals a day, this is very, very different.  It’s more like the way I used to eat, which scares me.  But then, I won’t be eating the same things I used to eat.  So I’m not sure about this one.  He does say if you must snack, make it something light like a piece of fruit.

Breakfast is supposed to be a very small meal if you eat it at all, lunch the big, main meal, and dinner light.  I’m not sure how I feel about this, either; the six small, nearly equal meals has been so good for my blood sugar and my weight.  So I’m debating it.

There’s much more to the book but the only other main thing I want to talk about is the daily cycle.  You have to understand the doshas for it to make complete sense, but the gist of it is that there are certain times of the day when certain aspects of your physiology are more dominant.  Therefore, you should always get out of bed before 6 a.m., to avoid sluggishness.  You should never eat anything heavy except between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Exercise is best between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.  You should always be in bed by 10 p.m.

This actually fits my day pretty well.  I’d have to get up a bit earlier, but not that much.  I exercise in the evening, so that works out well.  And I have always, always tried to be in bed by 10, because frankly I needs me my sleep.  :-)  The eating thing is hard though.  As I said before, spacing my small meals evenly through the day has really worked well for me.  I will have to consider this.  Although really I guess that’s not contrary to this, because none of those meals would be considered heavy…

Enough for now.  More later.

Thoughts on Ayurveda: Wholeness


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I’m beginning to study a new area (for me), ayurvedic medicine.  I’ve been introduced to the works of Deepak Chopra (yes, I’m late to the party, but that’s nothing unusual!) and am finding them very meaningful.

Today I read a quote…The healing mechanism inside us perfectly matches the one outside.  The human body does not look like the green meadow, but its breezes, its laughing water, sunlight, and earth were merely transformed into us, not forgotten.

(Journey Into Healing: Awakening the Wisdom Within you)

This speaks to me enormously.  I think that if one is aware enough, mindful enough, one feels things that are not immediately explicable.  When I have what I call a soul-feeding moment, I don’t always understand why it is so comforting, so soothing, so satisfying.  But I think this is a wonderful way of putting it into words, a good way of understanding what is happening here.  I am not separate from the external world.  I am not a discrete whole; I am merely a portion of the life and energy force that pervades all reality, but I am that portion collected into a finite package, a defined area.  So I think of myself as separate but really, I’m not.  I’m a part of that energy, that life force, and the boundaries that define what I call “me” are not solid or fixed, they are fluid and permeable.  So the energy flows into me, and out of me, and what I am seeing and feeling – the breeze, the sunlight, the play of light on water and the shadows of the trees – these are all manifestations of that energy flow.  They are affecting the energy flow within me.  If they are things with positive associations, then they are causing positive energy flow, and if they are things with negative associations, the flow is negative.

Another thing that Dr. Chopra says in that book is “We are the only creatures on earth who can change our biology by what we think and feel.” and “We perceive, which means we add meaning to every signal coming our way.”

Because we think, because we are conscious and aware, because we know and interpret and observe the energy flow, we can affect it.  We can influence it, for good or ill.  All too often, I think we influence it negatively, without ever knowing it.  My desire is to begin to influence it positively and consciously, knowing that I am doing so; to use my awareness and my sentience to create healing and strengthening energy rather than allowing my thoughtlessness and self-absorbed negativity to create weakness and ill-health in myself and the world around me.  I want to stop thinking of myself as a separate being and be aware of myself as a part of the endless flow around and through me.

This is a little scary.  It feels a little like a loss of identity and I think that is why we resist it.  But I want to learn to know it as not a loss of self, but as a greater knowing of self.  I am not separate but while I am in this life, in this form, I am defined, and that definition – though it is mutable and I can affect it – is what makes me, me.  I want to learn to know myself as both unique and individual, and still part of the whole.


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, and where it comes from, at least in my own life.

It started with one of those stupid MySpace surveys – the ones that are all so similar but somehow trigger my OCD just enough that I can’t keep from posting them anyway.  One of the questions nearly always is, “If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?”  Now, being way too introspective for my own good, I always give these questions serious thought, and when I get to that one, my answer is always, “Nothing.  Because everything happens for a reason and everything that has happened has led me here, and I am happy with where I am.”

Which begs the question of why I am so happy where I am?  What is it about my life that makes me so unwilling to change any of it?

I’m not young, rich, gorgeous, or privileged.  I’m not a social butterfly.  I don’t have everything I want, though I do have everything I need.  So what is there about my life that is so perfect, that I wouldn’t want to change it?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

I am not young…but I am still in the best years of my life.  I am so much more confident and happy in my own skin than I was when I was young.  I don’t obsess over whether people like me anymore, or whether I have made someone angry at me.  I am in touch with my inner bitch, as well as my inner goddess, and I am okay with people being responsible for their own emotions.  If they don’t like me…not really my problem.  If they do…great, but that’s not the centerpiece of my world.

I’m not gorgeous – but I am not unattractive either.

I’m not rich, God knows – but I have learned so much about the value of money – and what value it doesn’t have.  I have learned that being able to buy whatever you want is nowhere near as freeing and joyful as knowing that you are in complete accord with the one you love, and that there are no secrets or omissions between you.  Money is important, and it’s so important to be financially stable – but money is not ever going to make me happy.  Love, family, and an honest, self-responsible life are.

And that’s the center of it, really.  Because I am so blessed.  I have a husband whom I love, more than I ever even knew.  He loves me, more than I ever knew.  He accepts me – he doesn’t hesitate to call me on it when I’m being irrational or overly bitchy or irresponsible…but he’s not unkind to me.  He knows me inside out and he accepts me for who I am…and forgives me for my occasional bouts of extreme brainlessness.  And every now and then, he does something so wonderful and amazing and unbelievable that it takes my breath away.  And in between times, he brings me enormous joy every time I look at him or hear his voice or he touches me in passing…

I have two exquisite daughters, both of whom are a joy to me as much as they are a trial.  I am constantly racking my brain to try to be sure I am doing the right things with them, and often feeling that I’ve failed – but I wouldn’t trade a second of it, because they are beautiful and precious and smart and funny and I adore every thing about them.  Even the bad stuff.  It’s part of what makes them who they are, and though I do want to teach them how to control themselves and to behave properly, so that they can get along in the world without making things unduly horrible for themselves – I do not want to change them.  They are, in their very imperfection, perfect.

I have a nice home – it’s not anything extraordinary or outrageous, but it’s nicer than I ever thought I’d have, when I was younger.  I have a very steady, stable job at which I am given significant responsibility and trusted to be competent.  I have the amazing privilege of working with people I truly love and respect.  I am privileged to spend time, almost daily, with people who make me laugh and brighten my world just that much more.

My life is not perfect; not nearly.  There are things I would like to have – I would like to be completely out of debt, I would like to be able to go places and do things that are currently out of reach for more reasons than just money, I would like to be able to quit work and focus on writing, I would love for my kids to have straight As and perfect behavior in school…

But I don’t need those things to be happy.  I have what I need.  I have what it takes to bring me joy, and contentment.  And what more, really, can anyone ask for?

So it seems to me, in the final analysis, that being happy is not about what you have or what you do or what you are…it’s about what you know.  It’s about what you can see – can you see the joy in these things?  Are you looking up, or looking down?  Are you looking at what you’re striving for, or at what you already have?  Because ambition, though it can be valuable, can also be an insidious poison – if you are constantly striving for something, can you ever take the time to be happy with what you’ve already achieved?

Keeping your eye on the prize is a great thing – but sometimes you already have the prize.  Sometimes all your work and effort is really just about holding on to the prize you already have, not about winning the next one.

At least, that’s my conclusion.  I have my prize.  It’s simple, and maybe some people wouldn’t think it’s much of a prize – but I can’t imagine a better one.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Well, it’s December again, already.  It’s hard to believe; this year has flown by.  I know that as we get older, time seems to pass more quickly, but I really feel that I have just about missed this year.

Part of the issue is that when you work in retail, it sort of changes Christmas for you.  It’s hard to be surrounded by so much Christmas regalia all the time and not get a little desensitized to it.  So I haven’t had much Christmas spirit really, and the idea that it could be nearly December just seemed really alien.

Then Scott and the girls decided to decorate the house and the yard while I was at work Saturday, and I came home to a glorious Christmas panoply.  I have to say, seeing it all day is not the same as seeing YOUR Christmas decorations, in YOUR home.  Particularly when you drive up late in the evening, it’s dark, and all the Christmas lights are lit up.  It was a very special, wonderful feeling, and they gave me an amazing end to a very trying day.  Absolutely glorious.

Part of the problem, too, is just being so busy all the time.  Working two jobs, particularly at this time of the year, leaves little time for reflection or noticing the passage of time.  So even though I see the stuff all the time, it has sort of snuck up on me that, yeah, it’s time to get the shopping done.  Only 22 more days, as the girls’ countdown calendar advised me this morning.  Yikes!

So I’m thinking as I walk out the door that, you know, I just can’t seem to get in the spirit.  I can’t believe it’s December and I just don’t feel like…and then it hits me.  Literally hits me, right in the nose – snow. 

Okay, it’s barely snow.  Little tiny flakes, not even really flakes, and barely spitting down so that you have to squint and stare at a particular spot to even see it, but by God, it’s snow.  :-)  And everything changed. 

I miss snow so much.  When I was growing up in Oklahoma, we had snow every winter, lots of it.  Not all the time, and not always on Christmas, but by Christmas we’d usually had a few good snowfalls.  Here in Charleston, it doesn’t snow that often, and when it does it doesn’t often amount to much or last very long.  So I miss that.  I miss the bitter, biting cold and the Arctic winds and the honest-to-God snow.  Those are the things that I always expect from Christmas time, and I think one of the reasons that I’ve had trouble in the past few years feeling very Christmas-y.

So although I expect that we probably won’t have much in the way of snow, I am very grateful for the little spate we had this morning.   I needed that.  Maybe now I can start to have a little of that generous, loving, joyful Christmas spirit.  I hope so!

An Unpleasant Revelation

I am a coward.

I have built myself a framework – a safety net, if you will – of rules and regulations and restrictions and conventions. My job, my home, my bank account, my children’s schools, my doctors’ appointments, my online blogs…these are all a part of the framework, the safety net. They all make me feel safe, and secure, and neatly slotted into my nice, safe, normal niche in life.

I know this because:

Yesterday, at lunch, I was sitting in the car at the gas station, waiting for a friend to come back after paying for gas. I was watching the cars go by, as they entered and exited the interstate, and thinking – as I always do – about who might be in them and where they might be going. Something about the day – the weather, perhaps, which was gray and rainy and gloomy, and cold – or about my own mood, gave me the oddest sensation that these people were all free as birds, going who knew where, while I was securely tied to the earth. I did not envy them.

I couldn’t help wondering if the guy in the old red Pontiac was on a road trip, headed to an unknown destination. Was the woman in the little Toyota running from something? Had she just quit her job and emptied her bank account and taken off to points unknown?

Why would I have these thoughts? One might speculate that they indicate a repressed desire in me to do exactly that – just cut all ties and fly away. But I didn’t find them appealing…I found them frightening. The idea of being in the car, driving, but not to anywhere…not having a job I have to be at the next day, not having kids to be picked up from school, not having bills to be paid on a particular day or a home to be cared for or a paycheck to ensure…was terrifying to me.

So that led me to wonder why? Why would I not WANT that, that ultimate freedom of having no responsibilities, no one to answer to, no one to take care of? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But it didn’t seem wonderful to me; it seemed terrifying and heartbreaking and awful.

The fact that I have a job (okay, jobs) ensures that I get a paycheck. That paycheck ensures that I have a place to live and can pay my bills. If I want that security – a roof over my head every night, and knowing where it will be, and food to eat and each day a safe environment – then I must follow very strict rules and routines. Get up, get the kids to school, go to work, come home, make sure the kids are picked up, fed, etc…ad nauseam. I should feel trapped by all that – but I don’t. I feel safe and comforted.

To me, the most frightening thing in the world is not knowing what to expect. I did not realize that about myself until just now. Everything that I fear – death, old age, divorce, an empty nest, losing a job, having a serious health condition, going on a new ride at the amusement park for heaven’s sake – all comes down to that. They are all situations in which I do not know what to expect, and that is bone-chillingly terrifying to me.
It seems blindingly obvious, now, that this is at the root of my compulsive planning and organizing and list-making; I am not just a naturally organized person who has a talent for creating order from chaos (though I do) – I am borderline obsessive-compulsive because I am terrified of disorder!

I knew that I had control issues. I thought that I had dealt with them to some extent, but I find that the fear of a loss of control – of not knowing where I am headed and having no way of steering – is worse now than it ever was. It just hides now, under and behind other things. That is sobering and saddening to me, because I don’t want to be timid. Timidity is not a positive trait, to my mind. I wish I knew how to conquer this particular fear…perhaps if my faith were stronger, and I could simply trust that someone is taking care of me, I could deal with it more rationally. But as it stands, I am petrified of the unknown, to the extent (evidently) that I perseverate about it at odd times and seemingly without provocation.

Historically, having unsolicited thoughts like this has meant that an issue I have been avoiding is rearing its ugly head, demanding to be recognized. I am afraid of that, as well – my fear is so great in this context that I am afraid to even think about it, but I can’t help it. It almost sounds like it may be time for therapy again…but I dread that too. It’s never an easy process, and to get to the dawn you have to first go through the night.

I am afraid of so many things, for someone who considers herself fairly assertive and bold. I don’t like that about myself.

The Art of Weight Loss

I’ve been thinking again…

Losing weight is something that the vast majority of people in America are trying to do – whether they in fact need to or not.

Well, let me qualify that.  It is something they want to do; they may not really be trying.  More on that later.

There is  multimillion-dollar industry built around this desire, from pills and powders to gyms and clinics, online programs, books, videos, exercise tools…it’s all part and parcel of the desire of Americans to be slim, svelte, and sexy.  You can turn on your television at any hour of the day and night and, if you are willing to invest a few minutes of surfing, find a program, commerical, or infomercial discussing weight loss and how the product/program/facility advertised is the only way you are ever really going to “lose the weight and keep it off”.

(The second half of that statement is fairly important, because most of us have, at some point in our lives, been successful at losing weight.  Unfortunately, we have also been very successful at finding it again.  But that’s a topic for another post.)

So why, if we are so consumed with the desire for slim, shapely bodies, are so many of us so fat?  (Yeah, I said the F-word, get over it.  I don’t pull punches, sorry.)

There are a lot, a LOT, of excuses for why we cannot be a slim, healthy society.  Lack of time and too much stress are probably the biggest offenders, according to popular wisdom; lack of willpower and temptation-bombardment by the advertising industry run a close second; and then of course there are a lot of us who find more scientific-sounding reasons, like bad genes or glandular issues or medications we are taking.  And the truth is, most of those do, indeed, play a part in our recurring failures.

But I have to wonder – we are not, as a whole, a stupid, lazy, weak people.  We have not built an amazingly complex society and one of the richest, most powerful nations in the world by being any of those things.  Sure, we have our moments, but generally speaking we are intelligent, inventive, resourceful, and strong.

Even individually, you look at your average person who is overweight.  Yes, you may be looking at someone uneducated, someone who is subsisting at the minimum level because he or she is “shiftless” or unmotivated – but the chances are better that he or she is none of those things.  Chances are good that he or she is gainfully employed, probably well-educated, successful at his or her job and with his or her relationships and family life.  He or she probably has a good paying job, a spouse, and children who are fairly happy and well-adjusted.  None of those things come from being lazy and weak.

So what is the problem?  If we are smart enough and strong enough to educate ourselves and succeed in other areas of our lives, why can we not build a healthy lifestyle and stick to it?

I think one answer (one of many) is that weight loss is a process of deferred reward.  We, as a society, have become conditioned to expect immediate results from everything we do.  Touch a button, and your TV comes on; another button, and it’s on the station you want to watch.  Even better, it will record the show and, with another button-touch, play it back for you.  A couple more buttons will give you last night’s lasagna, reheated and ready to enjoy. (And that lasagna may well have started out frozen, or came from a local restaurant.  We won’t even talk about the chemicals it contains.)  A couple of mouse clicks, and you’re reading messages from your friends around the globe.  Immediate, easy, tangible results, with very little thought or effort on your part.

Hop in your car, drive a mile or so, and you’ve got a lovely meal right there in your hot little hands.  It isn’t a healthy one, but it tastes great, all greasy and salty and…

Weight loss, however, does not work that way.  It is a process of consistent, thoughtful application and effort.  You can afford to slip a little every now and then, but for the most part you must remain on task consistently for not hours or days, but months and even years.  You must build a new lifestyle – and you aren’t going to get great feedback on a daily basis.  Many of us who are trying to lose weight become “scale junkies” – stepping on the scale daily or even several times a day – searching for that immediate feedback, that instant gratification.  “Look, I ate a grapefruit and some peanuts for breakfast, and I did 100 crunches!  Time for some feedback from Mr. Friendly Scale!”  Only that never works, NEVER.  “Mr. Friendly Scale” all too soon becomes “Evil Purple Scale” or some equivalent thereof, because he NEVER cooperates!  Which is why most weight loss programs recommend weighing once a week; usually you can expect SOME kind of results in that time, though they probably won’t be what you’re hoping for.

We are trained, taught and conditioned to expect immediate results for our effort, and with weight loss you simply don’t get it.  We are not trained to patience and persistence, because most of the time in our society they simply aren’t needed, and therefore are not usually rewarded.  For the most part, that doesn’t cause us much grief, but when it comes to losing weight, it will cripple you and take you completely out of the game.

I think it would be a great idea if someone set up a retraining program to educate people about patience and persistent effort, before they start losing weight.  Maybe that would be a good component of a weight-loss clinic.  The only problem is, I don’t know if it’s possible.  How do you overcome a lifetime of mental conditioning?  We all know children absorb conditioning like this much more easily than adults, so the deck is stacked against us to begin with.

What also scares me about this is that this particular problem is only getting worse.  Our children are exposed to more and more immediate gratification every day, as technology becomes more advanced and refined.  In addition, we are not teaching them healthy habits and are feeding them the same kinds of foods that made us fat to begin with.  Even when we think we are giving them a healthy alternative, often it is not much better.  (Sugar, even disguised in a fruit roll-up or a tube of “portable yogurt”, is still sugar!)  Whole foods are healthy, but not generally as convenient as the processed alternatives.  I don’t think this augers well for the battle against of our nation’s “obesity epidemic”.

Individually, we need to start taking responsibility for changing this, NOW.  We need to start teaching our children not only what is healthy and what isn’t, but WHY.  It isn’t enough to say “chips are bad for you” – you have got to give them the reason behind it.  Dumb it down as far as you think you need to, put it in terms they can understand, but get the information to them.  Don’t wait until they’re “older, and can understand”.  Kids can understand an amazing amount, and you’re teaching them constantly whether you realize it or not.  Make sure you’re teaching them the right things.  And we need to find some way of teaching them the value of patience, persistence, and consistent effort.

Yeah, I know, I sound preachy, but this matters.  The battle is hard enough for us; I desperately don’t want it to be even harder for my children.  And they may be slender and healthy now – but so was I, at that age.

You Get What You Pay For


I have to disagree with this article in general, and in specifics.

The gist of the article is this:  some things you can buy cheap and it doesn’t matter.  Off-brands are just as good.

I agree with that principle, which was the whole reason I read the article.  However, I disagree with nearly every example they give.

Cleaning supplies, for instance.  The author states that the off brands are the same, just “a little more diluted”.  Well, yes…depending on your definition of “a little”!  Anyone who has used these knows very well that they are more than a little diluted, and you nearly always find yourself using considerably more to do the same job.  That is not a savings, any way you slice it.

Gift wrap I agree with, even though the off-brand dollar stuff is generally about the thickness of the outer skin of an onion – it doesn’t matter all that much unless you’re really trying to impress someone.

Snacks – again, I disagree.  These are typically off-brand, which means they are not the same product at all, and taste usually matters to people in this area.  Also, very frequently they have been sitting on the shelf for some time and are quite stale.  Also, you will often find that the same size bag may be less than $1.00 elsewhere, particularly if you shop sales – and it will be fresher.

Shampoo – couldn’t agree less!  This actually horrifies me, that the author is claiming that it doesn’t matter what is in your shampoo.  If you care anything about the condition or quality of your hair, it certainly does matter!  Particularly if you, like me, have a problem with alcohol drying your hair.  You may not need to pay $30 a bottle, but you definitely don’t want the $1.00 crap anywhere near your head!  And yes, there are differences in the contents, particularly in the amount of alcohol.

As to kitchen accessories, I absolutely agree that expensive is not necessarily better, except in the case of bladed utensils.  However, the examples given are absurd – the author is not even comparing identical items!  A corkscrew is unquestionably different from a bottle opener!  Also, many of these items are considerably cheaper than $1.00 if purchased at Wal-Mart or somewhere similar – the rubber scraper you pay $1.00 for at the dollar store can be purchased in a 4- or 6- pack for $1.99!

And that leads to my general objection – not only are the items the author compares generally not even the same, but the prices quoted are not, generally speaking, from places where you would normally buy these things.  Let’s see a comparison to Wal-Mart’s prices, shall we?  Or K-Mart?  Or a real grocery store like Kroger.  Why are we seeing Rite-Aid and CVS?  Do you buy this stuff there?  Because I certainly wouldn’t, unless I had a very high fever and someone else’s credit cards.

It seems to me that the author went out and found the most expensive item he/she could possibly consider similar, and priced it at the most expensive place that carried it, just to make his/her point.  Inaccurate, irresponsible, and annoying.

I think it could have been a great article, had the author chosen his/her examples with more care.  But again, you get what you pay for.  The article was, after all, free.


Haven’t posted in a while and thought I should…also, the change of seasons (gradual though it may be!) has gotten me, well, thinking again.

I think that there are few forces in our lives that are so simultaneously reviled and relied-upon as change.  Change is a threat to many of us, a shifting of elements in our lives that requires a readjusting of balance.  For whatever reason, we tend to prefer stasis, with all its comfort and ease and lack of the need for effort.

Stasis, however, equals stagnation, and deep down I think we all know this.  If we do not change – if our lives do not change – if the world does not change – then there is no growth, and the absence of growth indicates and even induces decay.  If we are not changing, we are dying.  I truly believe this.

So while we are afraid of change – because, after all, change brings the unknown, and we are terrified of the unknown – we also crave it, for subconsciously we recognize its value and importance.  So at the same time we are carefully arranging our lives into safe, boxy little routines, we also grow restless and initiate change – by moving the furniture periodically, redecorating the house, trading in the car, having lunch at a new place…still safe, tidy little changes.  Enough to keep us feeling that we are moving, but not enough to actually require rebalancing.

Perhaps this is a wise and civilized method of dealing with the need for change, but I wonder.  Nature would not agree – the trees do not change their leaves from green to brown and then back to green without ever losing those leaves.  Next summer’s butterflies will be completely different ones from this summer’s.  A river, when cutting a new channel, does not carefully pack away the old one just in case it decides it doesn’t like the new one, and it doesn’t save the receipt for the new one, either.  The risk that is undertaken – what if the new channel doesn’t work out? – is an inherent part of the value of the process of change.

I am not suggesting that anyone create serious upheaval in his or her life as a nod to the need for change.  I am as much of a creature of habit as anyone, probably more than most.  I don’t like change, it scares me.  Yet at times I wonder – all of the things I don’t like about myself, all of the things I wish I could fix about my life – how do I expect to do this, within the very same parameters that allowed the situation to evolve as is?  If I truly wish to change the outcome, I must change some of the variables of the experiment.

It is a conundrum, I will admit.  I don’t want my life to change a lot…but I want certain elements to change.  Yet in order to achieve one, I must endure the other.

Fall is a season of change, of putting away and letting go and setting free and quieting.  The mad, burgeoning growth of summer has ceased and the rising life force has reached its pinnacle, and now begins to drop.  Everything fades and falls and becomes still.  It is a season of preparation for rest.  It is the last stretching and yawning and sitting on the front porch watching the fireflies, before wandering off to bed.  It is the evening of the year, and it is a beautiful and glorious one, though also a bit wistful.  Perhaps that is because we know that change is in the air – that we must bid farewell to the rush and pulse of summer, and prepare ourselves for the quiet stillness, the chill peace, of winter’s long sleep.  And though we crave that change, we also fear it, and will miss what we leave behind.

Perhaps the wheel and turn of nature’s seasons is axiomatic, an enormous and inescapable example of what our lives should be?  The discarding of that which is no longer appropriate and needed, and the pulling out of that which suits our new circumstances and will further the aims of the universe?

This year, when you’re pulling out your sweaters and coats, take a moment to reflect on it – pull out some new ideas as well.  Dig out some long-neglected question or problem that has been stored away because you were too busy to deal with it, shake the dust off, and see how it fits into your life to come.  Open up some completely new area of conjecture, and resolve to spend the winter puzzling over it.

Change, though frightening, can be good. Make it work for you.


Forgiveness Is Not So Fashionable « Mr Ed Catholic

The statement in this post that forgiveness brings freedom is one of immense and mostly-overlooked truth and power.  There is nothing quite so freeing as making the mental and emotional decision that something no longer has to matter so much.  For me, that is one of the defining characteristics of true forgiveness:  I am certainly still aware of the transgression, but I need no longer base any of my actions, feelings or thoughts upon that transgression.  I am free to cease to react.

When you have truly let go…when you have truly forgiven, and moved on…a binding snaps.  A chain dissolves…a wall crumbles…a barrier erodes.  One inhibiting, restraining, binding factor has disappeared from your life and you are free to react without consideration of that factor.

I do know whereof I speak.  I have been given many opportunities, in my life, to learn the power of forgiveness – both given, and received.  I rue the experiences that made forgiveness necessary – but I rejoice in the forgiveness itself.  I will never regret that, no matter what.

Forgiveness does not mean blinding oneself to the original transgression.  It does not mean saying that it was “okay”.  It does not mean or imply that you have condoned that behavior, that you have dismissed it, or that you have forgotten it.  It means that, while aware of the action, you have chosen to move beyond it, to accept that it happened and acknowledge the consequences thereof, and to reject the further damaging of your soul by that action.  You have thrown off your bonds. 

Now, you may well choose not to give that person another chance to hurt you, and a severance of that relationship – if done calmly and with prior self-examination and reason – does not invalidate your forgiveness.  You may well have reached the conclusion, through calm examination, that even though you choose not to continue to castigate and excoriate that person, you also believe that there is a high likelihood of a repeat offense and you choose not to place yourself in the way of further harm.  If you have done so calmly, without angst, then this does not mean you have not forgiven.  It only means, simply put, that you have learned that touching the hot stove creates a burn.  You don’t hate the stove; you don’t resent the stove and lie awake thinking about how much it hurt you – you simply recognize that you probably shouldn’t touch it anymore.  Yet you are no longer holding on to the fear, pain, anger that the action engendered.  You are free.

Likewise, forgiving yourself is very freeing.  Letting go of the guilt and shame that you carry around because you think you need to, you think you deserve it, you think that if you let it go it means you don’t care that you did something bad… letting go of that can lighten your emotional and spiritual load immensely.  Once again, this does not have to mean that you have learned nothing from your mistake – it is possible to acknowledge a negative action and learn from it without performing emotional self-flagellation every day for the rest of your life.  Let it go.   Forgive yourself.  Do not excuse, for behavior that hurts another should not be excused.  Simply acknowledge that you have behaved wrongly, accept your culpability, be sincerely remorseful…and resolve to do better.  Make amends…undo some or all of the harm, if possible.  But don’t carry around that self-hate.  Forgive yourself…let it go. 

Forgiveness is one of the most wonderful experiences available to us as human beings, and it is one thing that I sincerely wish all people would allow themselves to experience.