Balance – to me

IMG_3294The point for me in starting the blog wasn’t the blog at all, it was the changes I needed to make in my life.  The blog was a way to capture the process for myself, to think out loud to process my experiences and to share the journey with others.  To date, that has meant that my updates on the blog have been inconsistent, although my attempts to create a healthy balanced future have continued steadily.  In the past two years I’ve accomplished some pretty significant changes.  I do wish I’d posted more of them, but as part of my problem is in having very limited time, this blog has not been a huge priority to me.  Maybe that will change this year as I have had more success in streamlining my life.

  1. Clean Food – I have made a lot of progress with food.  We eat organic, hormone-free, whole foods 60% of the time.  Eight years ago I saw nothing wrong with cooking every meal out of a box in the microwave and even powdered potatoes counted as a vegetable. This was no small task.  And I still struggle with sugar, carbs and pizza.  As a single mom who works full time, shortcuts and conveniences are sometimes a matter of sanity.  It happens.  I don’t get too bent out of shape.
  2. Removing toxins – This step was easier but more expensive as it required simply replacing many items with other items.  Habits stayed the same but the tools changed.
    1. Replaced my non-stick cookware with stainless steel
    2. Donated all my old plastic food containers and replaced with glass
    3. Removed all toxic, chemical cleaners, detergents, soaps and skin care products for me and the kids
    4. Installed a water purifier to remove toxins in the water
    5. Ditched fluoride
  3. Reduced Stress- Reducing stress is hard.  For me it required a new mindset where I would let things go.  This did not mean making excuses for myself.  This meant simply letting go of anger, resentment, fear and that feeling of obligation.  It meant saying no to requests that did not meet my own personal goals.  It meant letting go of friends or acquaintances who were toxic or who did not reciprocate what I had to give or who were just draining me.  It also meant increasing the good stuff; increasing fun, increasing joy, increasing solitude.  Making time for nothing is something when you are constantly on the go and being pulled in different directions, but I’m getting better and it is paying off.
  4. Increasing exercise – Letting go of the obligations I made for other people opened up space for me to do things that were for me alone.  So, I’ve made time for more exercise which includes running and weight lifting which are my loves but I branched out and tried yoga which I am also enjoying.  These all feed back into #3.

So here’s the thing that has happened to my thinking recently, my definition of balance has changed.  Balance to me used to look and feel like a gymnast on a balance beam on the best days and on a tight wire on the worst days.  The point was to get to the other side without crashing off.

Now, my idea of balance does not look like that.  That sounds stressful! My definition of balance has changed to look more like an ecosystem with many various parts that feed off of and fuel each other.  Some things like clean foods are like the water in an ecosystem.  Essential for life and health but made up of complex smaller parts.  It has taken me a long time to get the water right and sometimes I do have to scrape some scum off the top and do some serious tweaking to get the water right again.  Stress can be like a big fish suddenly thrown into the water that needs to be tamed or a storm that troubles the waters and I need to wait it out. OR it can be like an invasive vine attacking my plants and threatening the whole ecosystem and I have to go to war to kill it off.  The toughest part is not training the big fish, waiting out the storm or battling the invaders; it’s sorting out which kind of threat and responding with the appropriate reaction.  But as with any skill, with practice, I am getting better.

So, with this in mind, I’m hoping to continue to nurture my ecosystem of life and add in a few more tropical plants without upsetting the balance.  My goals this year are to:

  1. Grow as much of my own food as possible
  2. Write more
  3. Travel more
  4. Read more
  5. Find more silence and solitude
  6. Include my kids in more of the decisions about this ecosystem. After all, they live here too.  And they are old enough to have a say AND to lend a hand.

It’s been a great journey so far and is well worth it.  I hope to post more of my progress this year (see #2… stop laughing that wasn’t intentional!) And hope to hear more from you what changes you are making.  And what does balance mean to you?

Thanks for reading!

Kathryn

Simple Tricks We Often Overlook

One way I try to keep my kids healthy is to keep fresh, accessible snacks at eye level in the fridge. Here I have cut celery, baby carrots and sliced watermelon. On the table, I have washed fruit. What are your tips?

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Banana Bread

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1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Blend together

Add 2 eggs

Add dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix well then add
1/2 cup sour cream
3 frozen then thawed ripe bananas
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Bake in greased pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees

A Post About Helping

I really don’t try to tell people what to do because you can do what you want! And me too! But, I can’t help myself today.

Yesterday, I was driving home from dropping the kids off at day camp.  It was nearly 8 am and I’d been up since 5:30 getting the kids ready, giving them food, quickly checking my work email and appointments, feeding the dog and then racing out the door.   As I was driving home to start my day (yes, even after all that my day hadn’t started) I noticed that two houses on my street, across the street from each other looked abandoned.  For the past couple years there have been 3 single moms living in my neighborhood. Me and two others. These two houses belonged to the other two single moms.  I knew one had moved in with her mother with her 2 kids because our kids used to play, but I didn’t know about the other one, with overgrown grass and a front door covered in letters and notices, presumably from the bank.

It makes me sad and above all, it makes me extra mad because I have a neighbor across the street from me who is harassing me about the state of my house.  He complains that my trash can is in the wrong place and I have parked my (second) car in the wrong place.  It was parked on the grass next to my fence so that my kids could play in the driveway instead of on the street.  (And I’ve been trying to sell it for a year so if anyone wants to buy an old suburban with over 200k miles that runs great just let me know!)   I am completely within my rights to do what I’m doing and it really (in  my opinion and others) it all looks fine and is acceptable.   But my neighbor is trying to sell his house.  He wants the neighborhood and all the homes in it to look as pristine as his.  He wants potential buyers to buy his house and buy into the neighborhood. He wants to sell the myth that if they buy his perfect house they will be buying the perfect neighborhood with the perfect neighbors and even buying the perfect life!  Sounds nice. But he’s living in la la land and I’m across the street living in reality saying, “Give me a break!”

He is retired and mows his grass weekly on a riding mower.  He pays a landscaping crew bi weekly to edge and trim and weed.  And in all the free time he has from outsourcing this work he has been writing me letters and having his law office write me letters about where I put my trash can.  (This is true).

June 23 091This bothers me first because it is just wrong and there is nothing wrong with my trash can; he has singled me out. My trash can sits next to my garage.  My house is on a corner and his house happens to face my garage and it is his opinion and also the opinion of his realtor that the location of my trash can is “negatively impacting the marketability of his house.”  You can’t make this up!

It also bothers me because my house to me looks very nice and takes a lot of work. I am proud of my house and I do the best I can but in truth when he insults me and my house he is also insulting my friends, because while I am a single mom, I do not do all this alone.

So, here is why I am posting.  I’m getting to the point!  I hear from people a lot that I make it look easy to be a single mom. I want to let you know the TRUTH! It’s NOT EASY! I have a lot of help!  I have a TON of super awesome friends who help me in ways that may seem small to them but are HUGE to me!  I have an awesome friend who has come over and mowed my lawn and trimmed my bushes several times this summer.  And another one who helped me jump my suburban so I could move it when my neighbor was freaking that I had it parked on the grass – MY grass. And I had yet another one check out my car before my road trip and let me know my tires were starting to show the treads (dangerous!) and told me to go get new tires. I have friends who have taken my kids to the beach and to the pool and to the park on teacher work days when I’ve forgotten there was no school but still had to work.  And I know I’m totally capable of doing this stuff, but sometimes I forget and sometimes I’m just too tired to change a lightbulb.  It’s true! I’ve had friends walk up to a dark porch then come in, grab my lightbulbs and a ladder, change the bulbs and then we go out.   Same for my air filters.  Am I lazy? NO. Am I overextended? YES. Do I have the best friends in the WORLD? YES YES YES…

So, here’s the point.  Life is NOT pristine. Even with lots of help. Even with a good job and good friends and a pretty house. And, even more  it is NOT easy to be a single mom. And it is also not easy to be a parent (even in a coupled household) of young kids.  SO… if you happen to know a single mom, or a family with any children under the age of 5, I can guarantee they would love a little help.  And a little help from you might actually take them a few steps back from the edge, might give them a moment to rest and avoid that nervous breakdown that very seriously might be around the corner.  I’m not being dramatic here, it is THAT hard and I have lived in that space on the brink of losing it both as a young mom with a husband who was always out of town AND as a single mom who was suddenly doing all the parenting (which was not new) but ALSO suddenly had a new 20 hour a week hobby called legal divorce paperwork. Can I say it again, this is HARD and it is draining. And when a person is DRAINED emotionally and financially and physically, the tiniest crumb of help or encouragement or thanks is worth a million bucks.

So, as I passed these two abandoned homes I felt very grateful that my situation is what it is and also wished there was more I could do for others. Well, I’m going to do what I can to help people struggling and if I can do it, you can too! So… if you happen to know a single mom or dad, a parent to a child under the age of 5, or an older person or someone suffering from a chronic illness, do something to help.  Here are things you can do without being intrusive.
1. Mow their lawn.
2. Change their oil
3. Invite their kids to dinner (not them.. if they go they will be on high alert trying to make their kids behave and have manners… let them stay home and take a nap on the couch)
4. Tell them you think they are doing a good job

Yard work for single parents and parents of very young kids is particularly hard.  I could always get stuff done inside, like laundry, sweeping, cleaning, etc. But when you have a toddler to chase, there’s really no good time to go outside for an hour to mow.  Not even if they are taking a nap, because you never know if that is going to be a 3 hour nap or a 3 minute nap.

But the point is, if their porch lights are out and their hedges look like Einstein’s hair and their trash can is sitting at the end of their driveway for 4 days and their leaves are all over their yard and their grass is sprinkled with wildflowers and their car is covered in dirt and pollen, don’t write them a letter to point this out.  They already know.  Write them a letter to ask if you can help them.

End.Of.Rant.

Non-GMO Picnic

I am a huge fan of the picnic. And by picnic I just mean eating out of coolers on the go, whether you are at the beach, a park, the pool, a sports event or just going about your business avoiding fast food.

Here’s a list from GMO Insider on finding non-gmo alternatives
http://gmoinside.org/gmos-the-uninvited-guest-at-your-picnic/

Losing Prop 37 Might Be the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to the Food Movement

Photo via Food Babe

I did everything I could, even from as far as North Carolina, to support the Yes on 37 Campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in foods. I posted links, I wrote blog posts, I talked to friends and family and I even volunteered for the campaign to cold call 10 people in California to talk about the issue and let them know how they can get involved. I’m as frustrated as anyone that we’ve had these ingredients in our food for so long without adequate research on their health effects. In my opinion, they are unnatural, foreign products and deserve safety testing. There is nothing I’d like more than to have them out of our food system. But I also know that sometimes small victories create a false sense of achievement that results in a cause stalling out before it truly matures. For this reason, I think the best thing that could have happened after the successful and far reaching campaign, was for it not to pass.

Before you get mad, keep reading. I will put this in perspective. I’m a goal focused person by nature. But I have also learned that sometimes the goal I set is not the best — or even the main — goal in the end. And I’ve also had enough experience falling short of goals to be able to appreciate the successes along the way.

What was the goal of Prop 37? To get food companies to label products that contained GMOs.

That was the immediate goal of the campaign, but the goal of the crusade is bigger: To raise awareness that a great deal of what we eat looks like food, tastes like food, but isn’t food. And might actually be poison. We don’t know.

This is an important crusade for many reasons. Obesity, cancer, diabetes, immune disorders are all on the rise. These diseases are largely preventable but diet and exercise are not working. People aren’t just giving up and ignoring their health. People are actually trying their damnedest to lose weight, subjecting themselves to dangerous surgeries, crash diets, fad diets, etc. While some are losing weight, there are a lot more who are trying their best and still not losing weight– maybe the are even gaining more! On top of that, people are getting very sick at younger and younger ages, with no reason behind it. Something is going on and we don’t know what it is.

Why? Why all these health problems?

1. We have lost an understanding of what our bodies need to function properly.

2. We have lost the knowledge of how to feed ourselves for our health vs. for our enjoyment.

3. We are eating, breathing and absorbing a grotesque amount of chemicals every day.

Companies are taking advantage of our trust and using ingredients that have not been researched for safety. If we want to make choices for ourselves, we need to know what we are really choosing between.

As far as I’m concerned, the campaign made great strides at raising awareness of these issues. The conversation about food, food politics, the real food movement, Big Food, GMO’s, and sustainable agriculture hit the big time with stories in big news outlets including Michael Pollan’s article in the New York Times Magazine.

The campaign also helped propel some real food leaders, like Michael Pollan, Robyn O’Brien and the Food Babe to celebrity status. Celebrity cred is worth more than street cred, and the non-GMO movement has earned plenty of both by now.

Additionally, new organizations like Food Democracy Now, Just Label It, and the Non-GMO project have built strong foundations of supporters and are positioned to build on the momentum of the campaign.

The campaign itself was a massive success. It was executed brilliantly, using social media, grassroots efforts and individual volunteers to spread the word to others. This aspect of the campaign is the most exciting to me as it inspired thousands of people to step out and volunteer for something they believed in. These people became advocates and humanitarians, volunteering for the cause — and not the check– at a time when interests with big money were trying simply buy people’s minds.

The simple fact is that food-industry groups wouldn’t have spent as much as they did if there weren’t so much at stake. For them. For us. The amount they spent bought them another 5 years at least. But it buys us a kind of credibility we never could’ve bought ourselves — RESISTANCE. Think about it: every time one of their paid-for ads told people to “Vote No on 37!” someone, somewhere asked “so… what’s proposition 37 all about?”

And there’s more good news. Our opposition spent ALL THAT money just to fight a little bit of labeling. And a little bit of labeling is only the beginning of the solution. Real change doesn’t come from words — either here or on a little label — it comes from awareness. I wonder how expensive it will be for them to resist the whole shift in consciousness we’re ushering in!

Of course, the conversation needs to continue, and I believe it will, with or without food labeling. First of all, the companies that are responding to the consumer demand for non-GMO foods are already submitting their products for certification with the Non-GMO Project. And the consumers who desire clean food are buying it. Voting with our ballots happens annually, voting with our forks happens three times a day. And we are voting. We are doing the daily work.

The failure of Prop 37 illustrates that when people come together to fight for the common good, there is no such thing as failure. Prop 37 missed a target… that target was a label. But it succeeded in reaching several important goals, those of raising awareness, inspiring people to get involved, creating passion and energy around an issue and taking it onstage in a national debate. People who did not even know that food was genetically modified are now changing their behaviors, eating organic, and cooking at home.

So all those things are good, but why do I contend that it is great for the movement that GMO’s were not, in the end, labeled?

Here’s why:

Reaching the goal of food labeling would have created a false sense of accomplishment because food labels have little to no impact. Food labels do not protect human health. Food labels will not require food companies to be honest about how those ingredients affect the body. Food labels will not require Big Food to assure us the products are safe, nutritious or sustainable.

Labeling is simply, and obviously, the right thing to do, but it is such a small part of the picture. Food labels won’t protect anyone.

There is already a long list of approved additives, preservatives, fillers and other ingredients that are questionably safe in our food. Many of these are plainly labeled on the box. Most to all of these are completely ignored by the majority of people.

Simply labeling doesn’t ward off the dangers. It doesn’t make it easier for companies to study the health effects of the foods. It doesn’t do anything to change behaviors. It simply adds a label, a piece of fine print, that won’t get a second glance by your average consumer.

The real heart of the non-GMO movement is in educating others about how to kick the dependence on processed foods. How can we start cooking at home? How can we eat more whole foods? What do we use to substitute the ingredients we’ve been using for years and decades so that we can still eat the foods we like? How can we introduce new foods into our routines? How can we support more sustainable practices and habits?

These goals can only be achieved by the individuals who are excited and motivated to share this information from the goodness of their hearts, with others. These are the volunteers, friends, family members and acquaintances who have a whole food lifestyle and are willing to help those around them who are beginning on the journey.

Avoiding GMO’s isn’t easily achieved. It’s not like avoiding the sun by staying indoors, or like avoiding caffeine by buying caffeine free soda. Avoiding GMO’s requires an education in a new lifestyle. People must research, plan, prepare foods from home. They need to study labels, not just read them, to find out what the contents are in different products. They need to learn how to prepare foods from scratch. They need to open up time and space in their schedule for the extra learning, shopping and cooking they will need to do. Avoiding GMO’s is a process in changing the way we eat, one meal at a time.

Thankfully, those of us who are concerned about GMO’s have all been on the same journey. There are very few of us who were raised on organic farms with no processed foods. Most of us, even some of the most “healthy” of us probably ate a lot more processed foods than we’d like to think about. We’ve probably consumed far more GMO’s than we’d like to think about. And we probably had someone along the way to help steer us in the right direction.

The Prop 37 campaign created a huge force of individuals who are passionate about food and willing to stick their necks out for something they believe in. They are modeling the behavior and eager to help teach the habits that can change lives and health outcomes. They are devoting their spare time, spare energy, and if they have it, spare money for something they believe in. In addition to the health rewards, they are likely reaping tremendous spiritual rewards as well. There is really no greater satisfaction than in extending a hand to help others. And now we have a huge movement where we can pass it on. We have our momentum. And we may be defining new goals to take the movement further. But the burn of losing the campaign is going to do more to activate and accelerate it than a win ever would have.