Archive for the ‘Living a Healthy Lifestyle’ Category

I Think it’s Time

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

”I think it’s time,” my friend Kathleen said as she looked at the wilted tangle of vines hanging from the basket on my patio. Last summer, they were a lush tumble of bright blue morning glories. The thought of now chucking the whole shebang into the compost bin felt a little harsh to me. After all, I had known these vines from the time they were little seeds in a packet!

I know I’m not alone in sometimes hanging on to things that no longer add any value to my life. Some of us stay in relationships way past their shelf life, others stubbornly refuse to lose the spare tire ’round our middle, and others fiercely hold on to our big hair like it’s 1987. Instead of making way for the new, we rationalize our resistance with all kinds of excuses: ”If I lose weight, I won’t be able to wear all my beautiful clothes.” ”If I rip out these dead vines, I will admit defeat as a gardener. (Besides, it’s not like the whole plant is dead. Every morning, there’s one blossom that looks great.)” But for someone who has always followed William Morris’ words ”Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” since when is 99.9% dead a keeper for me?

Mother Nature’s got it down with spring. There are no stuck places in Nature. Everything runs its natural course, so there’s a beautiful flow that ultimately results in new life, new beauty. But what do we do? We hold on, even when what we have is 99% ugly. We hold on to our pain, anger, and resentment, and we wonder why we experience headaches, depression, and possibly even cancer?

We need to welcome spring into our beings. As Kathleen says, ”I think it’s time.” Let’s ask ourselves what it’s time to let go of. Spring is the perfect time to say goodbye to everything from that volunteer job that no longer brings joy to that 4-year-old jar of capers left over from the company picnic.

My hanging basket is once again an object of joy and beauty, this time with orange nasturtiums and blue and white allysum. I don’t miss the 1% of beauty my one lone morning glory blossom brought me. My basket reminds me of the importance of letting go and clearing space for the new. And if I feel this good after replanting a hanging basket, cleaning out my bedroom closet could very well catapult me into nirvana. Wishing you all a springtime of release and renewal!

Choose Love, Not Fear

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Recently, I stayed at the house of some friends to take care of their animals while they were on vacation. I was working away when I heard their cat’s cries coming from the garage. The garage is Muffin’s private place where she can eat in peace and not have to worry about the family’s two dogs wanting to sample any of her feline fare. She was now signaling me that she wanted to rejoin ‘the family’ in the light and warmth of the house.

Of course, I happily came to her ‘rescue’ and opened the door for the now nearly frantic cat. Judging by her plaintive cries, I expected her to leap into the house the moment I opened the door. Instead, she stopped crying and just sat there in silence. ‘Come on, Muffin,’ I encouraged her. But it was a no go. So, I shut the door and returned to my work. Within minutes, the cries began again; this time, even more fervent. Once again, I stopped what I was doing and went to open the door. And, once again, Muffin just sat there, motionless, not making a sound. I began feeling annoyed, but not as annoyed as when we had done this dance perhaps another four times. There seemed to be no logic to the steps in this dance. Clearly, the cat wanted to be in the house instead of in the garage. Who wouldn’t? The garage was cold, dark, and musty smelling. The house was warm, cozily lit, and a virtual haven for any self-respecting cat in need of an honest catnap. After the third go-round, it became apparent that Muffin’s reticence was due to her fear of the dogs. Mind you, she lives with these dogs day in and day out; they have never harmed her in any way (well, except for their innocent curiosity regarding those little cans of Tasty Trout Dinner). But the point is these were not wild dogs from the Barrio — they were family.

Finally, Muffin made a run for it and settled down on an easy chair in the family room. The dogs hardly even acknowledged her entrance, and I thought, ‘All that time wasted on an irrational fear!’

I can’t tell you how many times I experienced the ‘Muffin Dance’ this past week. There was the woman in my support group who had been complaining about her job since I joined the group six months ago. The scenario seemed all too familiar to me: to remain in the cold garage and complain about it or to take some action that would enable her to experience light and warmth. Amazingly, like Muffin, this woman chose to stay in the garage. Her wild dogs came in the form of ‘not being able to deal with rejection right now,’ which might occur if she were to look for another job.

With the New Year approaching, I began exploring the musty garage experiences in my own life. What ‘wild dogs’ are holding me back in fear? And, more importantly, what choices will I make in response to my fears? What thoughts will I choose to enter my mind? What thoughts will I choose to release? And, more importantly, what action will I take in hopes of enhancing my life experience? I can choose to be a victim in the dark or I can choose to live abundantly in the light. One thing I know for sure is that when doors open before me in 2010, I’m leaping inside at the first opportunity.

Safety or Insanity: What the Press Didn’t Tell You

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Remember the lead-in-toy-paint scare during the Holiday season of 2007? While we all remember the recalls, the most significant offshoot of the situation is a law known as the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Information Act) which Congress passed the following year - an election year. A well-intentioned but deeply flawed law, it has resulted in the demise of many small businesses and cottage industries and economic hardship for all but the most enormous of companies.

As written, this law made felons out of handcrafters of one-of-a-kind children’s items, including organic and natural wooden toys and baby afghans sold at craft fairs (unless the finished item had been tested — often redundantly — by one of a handful of accredited labs in the US at a cost of several thousand dollars or sent to overseas labs, both of which typically result in the destruction of the item itself). Incredibly, the law also has the potential to make criminals of anyone having garage sales and reselling anything (clothing, bedding, toys, books printed pre-1985, etc.) for children 12 years old and younger if any item is found to be out of compliance with this law. For a short while, libraries and schools were anticipating having to dispose of, in hazardous waste fashion, all of their books for children 12 and younger. There are still storerooms of boxes filled with books printed before 1985, which are currently banned as children’s products.  Schools and libraries are no longer planning to dispose of post-1985 printed books, but science programs are still being held hostage by the rigid regulations, resulting in at least one school using posters to teach geology rather than using real rocks, and leaving others without access to items like microscope bulbs due to the necessary lead solder used to make them. The absurd fact is that CPSIA law covers virtually anything — not just toys — for children 12 and under — even shoes. Using the logic that made CPSIA a law, we should never let our kids go barefoot outside because the lead content naturally found in dirt could easily exceed the legal allowable lead content for anything intended for kids 12 and under.

Keep in mind that there were already laws in place concerning lead in paint in toys when the 2007 situation occurred. What we were seeing and hearing about at that time were toys that were not compliant with existing laws and should have never ended up in the U.S.  What would have made sense to ensure child safety with regards to lead paint would have been to enforce these existing laws. Instead, in a knee-jerk and politically-driven reaction to public concern, our legislators passed a law that has been, and will continue to be, tragically, the undoing of many makers of the very best and safest in children’s products. What started out as a law with bipartisan support has now become good ol’ politics. Congress has continued to push back scheduled meetings about the CPSIA, leaving everyone involved scratching their heads and guessing how to best move forward to comply. (There are more interpretations of this law than you can shake a stick at.)   On top of all this, there have been 11 proposed amendments that are going nowhere.

This is a law that is so monumentally extreme and cumbersome and, in our opinion, misdirected, that it will benefit few but huge retailers and toy manufacturers, and most importantly, not parents and children. Ironically, many of the toys we want for our children - those that are lovingly hand-crafted, inspire creativity, are made with the purest of materials, and won’t end up as landfill after several months of use - are now unavailable to us because of CPSIA. Ironically, what will make a toy CPSIA-compliant are expensive material and component testing that is cost-effective only in vast quantities — which brings us back to toys “made in China” in most instances. A bizarre turn of events, eh? And while European toy safety standards have typically been recognized around the world as the most stringent, many of these toy manufacturers have discontinued doing business in the U.S. because this law is so clumsy and unnecessary, safety-wise. It is a sad day when Grandpa in Minnesota, who crafts wooden toy trains in his garage, has been put out of business because he can’t afford several thousands of dollars of component testing, while factories in China the size of football fields - many with questionable regard for workers’ health and the environment — spew out toys made of plastic because they can afford the testing.

While this law has squandered literally millions of people-hours of those interpreting it, researching it, communicating about it, and attempting to be compliant with it, it has little to do with safety. Ineptly reported by the media, and passed in knee-jerk fashion by Congress, CPSIA is changing the landscape of items we can offer our children. Our legislators have created this mess and parents should be aware that their choices for items they purchase for their 12-and-under kids are being drastically reduced.

For more information about CPSIA, please visit the following sites:

http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html

http://learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/

http://www.whatisthecpsia.com/

For the Salad Days of Summer, a Couple of Our Favorites

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Try out a couple of summer salad recipes from our Eat, Drink & Be Chinaberry cookbook (sorry, out-of-print).

SUMMER IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SALAD
This makes enough for an army of hungry eaters or for a few days of yummy salad eating.
-Patti Pitcher; Seattle, Washington

1 lb flaggolet beans (the small greenish Italian bean-very yummy)
3 giant tomatoes, diced
2 large cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
Small handful of each: basil, dill and oregano-mince
1-1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I use sheep feta-Valbreso)

Cook beans until deliciously tender. Add minced herbs, diced vegies and crumbled feta. Dress lightly with equal parts of:
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Add:
One clove garlic, minced (or more if you love garlic)
Salt and pepper to taste
Stir and eat.


CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD
A perfect choice for a cold buffet; not peppery.
-Joan Barasovska; New Orleans, Louisiana

1 chicken, cooked, meat diced
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 cup chopped green grapes (seedless)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 T lemon juice
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
Salt to taste
Chopped parsley to garnish

Cover chicken with water, bring to boil, skim foam, reduce heat, simmer one hour, remove from pot, cool, remove chicken from bones and skin, dice and place in large bowl.
Add celery, scallions, grapes.

Mix mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, curry, spices in a small bowl until smooth. Pour over salad, mix gently, refrigerate several hours.

Multi-Tasking Mama Syndrome - It Can Happen to You

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

I had 2 leg injuries last year from falls (and I’m only 45). The female doctor said injuries are actually quite common among busy moms. I decided this “disease” needed a name so I named it Multi-Tasking Mama Syndrome. Do you have it too? I think we need a support group — the meetings should take place at a medical facility. Make sure to bring along your laptop, cell phone, kids, diaper bag… 1-800-555-MTMS

Super Sports Disks

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Why are these sports disks one of my top five favorite toys of all time? For one, they encourage kids to get outdoors and get physical! I’ve used them with my 4-year-old grandson as well as with my own friends, and we’ve all had a blast. The foam-ringed disks have a high-strength mesh net that makes the ball catapult off it, enabling you to catch and throw balls up to 150 feet. They’re perfect for the beach or pool since they won’t sink, and on scorching hot days, use them with water balloons! Both sizes are suitable for 4-year-olds and up, but the larger ones are easier for younger ones to use (I actually prefer them myself!), progressing to the smaller ones after a little practice. Each size comes with 2 disks and a 2-inch rubber ball. Winner of the 2007 Parent’s Choice Award. (Colors may vary.) 4+; $39.95. Mini Sports Disc also available.

Review by Janet at Chinaberry

Keeping an Open Heart in the Presence of Pain

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I can remember my father sitting at a restaurant table, years ago, quizzing my husband and me about current events and voting issues. We were young and absorbed in our new life together, and keeping up with the news was the last thing on our minds. More accurately, we’d made a somewhat conscious decision to not keep up with the news because it all seemed to be bad and what’s the use and how could our votes really count, anyway? Much to my poor father’s horror, we actually articulated this opinion to him, sending this very politically knowledgeable man into a tailspin of incredulity and, I would guess, disgust.

Since then, in fits and starts, I have become more politically aware and attentive to the news. I know enough of what’s going on to be conscious of the fact that there’s a lot more going on than what we’re being told. I don’ t think anyone would argue that unless a sensational spin can be applied to the latest current event, it’s generally not considered to be newsworthy. It ’s that ratings thing, you know. For some weird reason, the bad news, not the good, tends to get our attention and so we’re dished up even more and more of it. A twenty-minute dose of current events is sometimes enough to make you want to crawl into a hole and wait out whatever it is we, as humans, are collectively going through right now. Or would it be saner to just opt to remain ignorant of these happenings over which we have no direct influence?

I don’t know for sure, but I do know that lately I don’t have to turn on the news to hear of sadness. It seems as if there are tragedies hitting closer to home and to loved ones than ever before. And I know that I’m not alone in my opinion. Friend after friend expresses the same sentiment. There is just a lot of grief not only “out there,” but “here” as well. It’s strange. And I often find myself struggling to stay balanced enough to keep on keeping on. If I allow myself to linger under whatever dark cloud is floating above me, I somehow find myself merged with that dark cloud, which then, I believe, in some way gets bigger because I am now part of it.

In the midst of what seems like a steady barrage of stories that could break my heart or make me angry, I have found that being active is so much more helpful than being passive. The bottom line is that I must make a conscious decision every day - sometimes every few minutes - to soften my heart and refuse to partake in judgment and hate. I’ve always known - but have to remind myself more often now, it seems - that I have a choice. I can just dwell on what is horrible. Or, I can be aware that there indeed are unspeakable tragedies going on even at the other end of the block (not to mention on the other side of the world) and keep my heart open and light and always ready to find joy, no matter how small that joy may seem.

I don’t know why I’ve changed. Maybe it’s because my children are older now and I have seen some of the ways life has challenged them, and I’ve seen how strong they are when they stand up to face these challenges. Or maybe it’s because life has changed me through trials of my own, honing me, polishing me, and gentling me in the process. It’s hard to tell. But what I do know now is that when all else falls away, one thing remains: the fundamental human need we all have to be connected to each other. And through consciously seeking this connection, I am learning to make space in my heart to hold the pain I meet in life and to embrace every ounce of joy that comes my way. My goal is now to enlarge my cup, so I can hold all that the world has to offer and greet each experience with compassion. The larger my heart gets, the more I can experience. It puts me at risk (for the world does hold tremendous pain), but without that risk my ability to seek and choose joy is severely limited. And without joy in my heart, how can I face the day?

A Billion Simple Acts of Peace

Peacejam: A Billion Simple Acts of Peace

Peacejam is an inspiring book/DVD about young people who teamed up with Nobel Laureates to create projects of real change and healing for the world.

Jog-a-Thon School Fundraiser

Thursday, June 11th, 2009


About one week ago, my girls’ elementary school had their first jog-a-thon fundraiser and it was a big success! Our school raised a lot of money and because the PTA organized it without help from a fundraising organization, the school got to keep all of the money raised.

The kids seemed to have a great time as well. It was set up so each grade level had their own separate area for running. I went down and cheered on the first grade joggers, including my two girls. The older children ran for the longest period of time. Besides being a great way to donate money to the school, jog-a-thons also helps promote a healthy lifestyle.

I had the girls “train” for the event by running laps around our house & doing various exercises. One day I even set up an obstacle course in our yards, which challenged them not only physically, but cognitively as well since they had to try to remember all of the instructions (I could barely remember them myself, and I was the one who made them up!). It’s not easy to exhaust my girls (huge understatement), but I managed to do it at least for a few days.

Getting back to the topic of school, I think I’ll ask the principal if the school might consider starting a before-school running program. Most of the schools in our district that have started morning running programs, have had a lot of success. One big benefit is that the kids who run seem to be calmer and more ready to learn in the classroom.

So, whether you’re promoting jogging for a school fundraiser, a way for kids to get into better shape, or a way to help kids begin their school day, it seems as if it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Has your kid’s school done a jog-a-thon? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad talks about babies and boarding

By Kirsten Flournoy, Editor of San Diego Family Magazine.

Mention the name Tony Hawk and one thing comes to mind: skateboards. But the man who transformed skateboarding from a rogue street sport to a lucrative competitive industry is also a devoted dad to Riley, Spencer, Keegan, and Kadence.

A San Diego native, Hawk attended Torrey Pines High School. Since turning pro at age 14, he’s traveled extensively and inspired kids around the globe. An astute businessman, Tony is an entrepreneur, designer and philanthropist on top of the world. He’s made more than 130 appearances in fi lm and on TV, and won six gold medals at the ESPN X-Games.

Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam was a sold-out success. The punk- and rock-driven touring showcase featured the world’s best skateboarders, BMX and Motocross riders. Hawk shares his expertise in books, DVDs and a series of highly rated videogames, and he designs skateboards and a kid’s clothing line for Kohl’s. The Tony Hawk Foundation has given more than 2 million dollars to help build 390 skate parks in lowincome areas across the United States. Despite the celebrities, awards and accolades, what’s most important to Tony? The answer isn’t surprising. It’s family.

Tony’s wife Lhotse Merriam is a skier, former publicist and boutique owner, and the former Vice President of the International Free Skiers Association. She met Tony in Colorado, where she promoted extreme skiing events.

Married in 2006 to live music by the band Rancid, Lhotse and Tony spent a year and a half year trying to conceive using in vitro fertilization. IVF can be a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment.

“It’s a pretty rough road,” Lhotse says. “I really admire everyone who goes through it and goes the distance. We were pretty lucky on our fourth try.”

Their daughter Kadence Clover was born in July 2008. Lhotse and Kadence now accompany Tony on his travels. When we spoke to the Hawks, they’d returned from visiting four countries in just three weeks—business as usual for this dynamic family.

“There is no typical day in our household at all. If we’re not on the road, we are at home,” says Lhotse. “Tony’s usually in the office or an interview. [He] tries to get in skating three to four times a week at the warehouse or at home because we have a skate park in the back yard.”

(more…)

Connecting with Each Other

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Our family had the most wonderful Sunday afternoon together recently. We headed out in the late afternoon and brought some dinner to one of our favorite parks. We spread out a blanket and some chairs and feasted on some great food. Afterward, we continued one of my favorite family traditions: playing croquet. We started this years ago when the kids were younger, and often we set aside time on a special day  to go to the park and play croquet together.

Instead of worrying about catching the latest show on TV, we focused on each other and, of course, trying to hit a little ball through wire arches, which often results in a lot of laughter. This confirms one of my suspicions: Getting out of the house is one of the best ways to connect with my kids. Gone are the distractions of phones, TV, and computer, enticing us to while away too much time. Instead, we can focus on each other. Being somewhere else just seems to free us up to connect with each other better.

One family we know takes their kids to the beach in the late afternoon every Tuesday night during the summer. They do this without fail, walking on the beach, eating a relaxed meal, jumping in the water, connecting with each other. My friend says that this is her favorite activity, because it is low-key, relaxed, and something they can all do together.

Now if going to the beach or the park won’t work for you because of either time or distance, maybe a walk around the neighborhood would be a better fit for your family. The other night we went for a walk after dinner and ended up finding a wonderful area with lots of purple flowers blooming right under our noses. Had we not ventured down this particular street, we would have missed the beautiful colors and, most importantly, the beauty of our conversations. And what were we missing at home? Absolutely nothing.

Today’s children are losing touch with the natural world. Rarely do they feel free to wander in woods, climb trees, or build forts and tree houses anymore. There are too many safety issues, rules and regulations, and the urban destruction of green and growing places. Children are meeting nature ”virtually” on the Internet and television instead of running outside and encountering the world sensually for themselves. One fourth-grader told the author, ”I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”

When children (and adults) are separated from nature, their health and well-being suffer. So do their souls. Louv offers studies that reveal how much playing in nature can stimulate creativity, imagination, vitality, and joy in our children. Schools that allow outdoor play in natural places find increased learning skills and greater concentration in their students. Parents of attention-deficit children often find time in nature to be as healing and as helpful as any drug. And yet our children are spending most of their time indoors, and when they do venture outside, it is only in controlled settings like team sports — not the same as letting children explore and experience nature for themselves. Louv has written a book that is both a blessing and a challenge. Please, please, read this book, and give it to every parent and teacher you know. It feels profoundly important — essential — for the health and well-being of our children and for the survival of the planet we call home.

Review by Lucinda Herring