Friday, October 24, 2008

More articulate than I am

The New York Times published their endorsement of Barack Obama in the opinion section, and I find it to be a thoughtful article. These are the reasons that I'm supporting Obama.

(And for what it's worth, I get a lot of my news from The New York Times and The Seattle Times, but I cross-check it with Fox News and because I want to see all sides of the issues, not just "my" side. I believe that the NYT generally supports a more liberal viewpoint, TST represents a more local viewpoint, and FN represents a more conservative viewpoint. is nonpartisan, and a good place to verify various claims.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Political talk and families

The country is really, truly divided over the issues of politics. I am so passionate about my own politics - socially liberal, fiscally conservative, pascifist (even while recognizing that war is out there and needs to be dealt with) - that I have to work hard at reminding myself that the other viewpoints are not evil, merely different.

That's how divided it seems: a battle between good an evil. How medievil of me, of us! The world is rarely that black and white, and politics are certainly no exception to that rule. It is so difficult to remember those distinctions of gray when one's heart and mind are set on a particular viewpoint.

It's hard for me. I pride myself on my open mindedness, and on my compassion towards others. Never is compassion put more to the test than with a difference of opinion. It is easy to feel sorry for someone who likes you and behaves like you but is having a hard time; it is harder to feel compassion towards someone who holds utterly different values, who doesn't like you, who doesn't behave like you.

This, I think, is the true test of compassion. Of course I feel compassion for my daughter - I love her deeply and her welfare impacts me at every level. But it's harder to support those who drive wars that I see as unjust, or who try to remove personal rights like pro-choice, supporting same-sex marriage, or other hot buttons of mine. I believe in separation of church and state, and I'm open to the idea that all religions have valuable lessons for us. I'm not opposed to regulation, or universal healthcare, and if these make me have the label "socialist" than I will accept that label. (And oh, just look at the bundle of worms I just opened....!)

The best way for me to look at this is to examine my family. I'm the most liberal person perhaps on either side of my family - the family I was born into, and the family I joined through marriage. I learned a long time ago how to make myself busy in the kitchen when political conversations came up, or to find a need to attend to with Tessa, or to find someone else in the room who wasn't talking politics. I know where I stand on the political spectrum.... and I know where my family stands. I don't feel a need to convert anyone, especially when I see that their passion is equal to my own and frankly they're not looking for conversion.

But you know what? I love my family. As individuals, they support me, love me, and share their lives with me. I do not always share their viewpoints, but this is okay. I know that they love their children, that they honor their families, that they do their best to do their best. I also know that one person's definition of 'best' is different than another's.

I do not judge them - or I try very hard not to - because I do not wish to be judged.

I know who I am, and I know what I believe in, and I feel good about those things. I am confident in my faith, in my politics, in my social, political, and religious viewpoints. I try VERY hard to live according to my own values, and to reach out to those less fortunate to myself, and to be a positive influence in my own small circles, offering smiles, friendship, and compassion to everyone in my path. I don't always succeed in this, of course, but I try to remember that nobody's perfect and to learn from my mistakes.

I have to learn the lessons over, and over, and over again. I make a lot of mistakes.

Anyway, in this election, there are many hot buttons to vote for, or against. It drives me absolutely crazy when people make their vote based on gut reaction, rather than facts, but that is their perogative. I also recognize that some people will look at the same facts that I'm looking at and draw different conclusions.

There are many McCain supporters in my life, and I love them, despite my distaste for the McCain/Palin ticket. Whoever wins the election, some people in my family will "lose," seeing their value system get voted down. This is tragic in so many ways, but it is a reality of democracy - it's impossible for everyone to win. I will try to remember that if Obama wins, and I'm cheering and happy, that those on the other side will still need love and tenderness and listening. And I hope that those who vote for McCain will behave that way towards me if McCain wins instead.

Family - ahhhh. Such a complicated mess. Somehow, though, we have managed to stick it out this far, to continue to respect one another, and to refrain from engaging one another in debate about our hot buttons when we know that we ought to refrain. We could debate each other into the ground, but it would serve no purpose, so instead, we love one another even if we do an occassional roll of our eyes when we get home.

This gives me room to be hopeful.

And into recovery...

I looked at the clock a few minutes ago and realized that, if I'd stuck with the plan, at this moment I'd be getting wheeled out of the OR and into recovery.

Based on my horrible dreams about surgery last night, it's probably a good thing that I didn't have surgery today. I wish that it was over with, and behind me, but if dreams are omens then my dreams were telling me to back off! In my dreams they did the surgery and when I woke up I had returned to double mastectomies, and they told me that it was impossible to fix anything and that this time it was permanent and I'd never have any kind of breasts or breast mounds ("foobs") again. I woke up feeling terribly sad and panicked, relieved that it was just a dream.

I do wish it was behind me, though.

Instead of surgery today, I have carpooled to school with another child (in addition to Tessa), volunteered in the classroom, done chores at home, and now I'm getting ready for a baby shower.

Life goes on.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I can hardly wait....

...for November 4.

It should strike nobody here as a suprise that I will be voting for Obama - I don't hide my liberal light under a bushel.

Of course, I'll be glad when machines stop calling my telephone to tell me who to vote for. I'll be glad to stop hearing "he said she said they said" stories in the news about the candidates.

But mostly, I will just be glad if my candidate wins. I really, truly, deeply believe that the Obama/Biden ticket is what this country needs right now, and that Obama is a candidate that I can believe in. I believe that he will promote peace, that he will work for all American people, and that he will repair some of the damage done to the US in the eyes of the world under the reign of G.W.

I think that if I see "Obama wins" I will weep genuine tears of joy. Our country needs a change, desperately, and I think that Obama is that change. The polls are in his favor right now, and I'm very hopeful.

And don't even get me started on Sarah Palin. She frightens me - enough said.

Fingers crossed and praying....

So I'll try to quit complaining

Today I was driving home from Alki and I saw a man at the side of the road who had fallen out of his motorized wheelchair. I pulled over, and ran back down the sidewalk to help him; another woman saw it as well, and she was there when I reached him.

The man had hit the curb as he tried to get off the road he was crossing and back onto the sidewalk, and it had thrown him from his chair.

He was an amputee on one leg, and his shoe had been tossed in the fall, revealing a diseased foot on the other leg; I immediately suspected diabetes. His pants tore to skin his knee, and his hands were bleeding, too; his skin was pretty fragile looking everywhere I could see it, and not just because of the fall.

He was more embarrassed and annoyed than anything, and by the time I'd parked the car and reached him, he'd lifted himself back into his chair; I suspect he's had this experience before, and he knew how to handle it. I got the impression that he was grateful for my help (which, actually, he didn't need) but was also embarrassed by his public fall and wished I'd I did, once I was sure he would be okay.

Except... though he was set to rights and off and going in his chair, I don't know that he IS okay. I suspect some pretty serious health issues and a lack of money to go with them.

So, I have a little perspective today as I clean my house, bake cookies for a friend, and go about my day. Gratitude in my heart for my life, and prayers for this stranger.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Junk Mail

As part of my plan to save the planet and to save my pocketbook, I'm trying to cancel all catalogs.

When I get the mail, I almost always have catalogs. This year, I'm taking a moment to cancel each one before sending it to recycling. I figure this will cut back on the immense quantity of junk coming through my house - if I don't get the catalog, that's one savings; if I don't look at the catalog, I'm not tempted to buy things I don't need. (If I needed things, I could look them up online.)

Let's see if this works. Yesterday I dropped 2; today I dropped 3.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Green & frugal grocery shopping

Okay, so I've learned a thing or two in the past year or so as I've tried to green up my grocery shopping, buying sustainable, local food that reduces packaging waste, plastic, etc. Maybe you knew all of this, but here are some of the tips that I'm using:

- Eliminate cooking spray. I have a little silicone brush that I use instead - I just pour a dab of oil (very little) and then brush it around. This means that that nasty aerosol can doesn't go into the garbage, I don't get additives in my oil, I spend less. I have one of those Misto sprayers but mine always sprays in a stream and it is kind of a pain to use, so I like the brush method better.

- Bulk bins are your friend, and they're even better if you bring in reusable containers. I can buy organic oats for $1.33/pound, and there's no packaging if I bring my own bag. Even if I don't bring my own bag, and opt for (gasp!) a plastic sack, it's a lot LESS plastic than the plastic lid on the oatmeal container. Whatever container you use, it tends to be cheaper in bulk...especially because you can buy the quantity you need. (E.g. I used to buy a bag of pine nuts, but some would spoil before I could use them. Now, if I need a 1/4 cup, I buy a 1/4 cup.)

- Bulk spices are mega cheap compared to bottled ones. I reuse my old bottles, and refill them from the bins, and keep my old bottles out of the recycling bin (reduce, REUSE, recycle).

- Seasonal local produce is often the cheapest thing in the grocery store - it's not trendy/elitist at all. To the contrary, it really is eating like our grandparents did. For example? Local, organic, Cameo apples were $1.99/pound, and same for local organic Bartlett pears. They were the two cheapest fruits available to me in the store today (organic fruits, anyway - I no longer look at conventional prices because it's depressing!).

- Cooking from scratch tends to be greener AND cheaper. Yes, it takes more time, and not everyone can do this. But it's greener because there's less packaging involved, it's usually healthier because there are no preservatives etc, and it's cheaper because you're not paying for labor.

- Meat is expensive. Period. I'm learning ways to reduce meat intake, which is better for the environment as a whole, as well as better for my body. I'm not going vegetarian any time in the foreseeable future, but I'm learning to use a little. More veggies and less meat in the stirfry; moo shu pork instead of pork roast; eggs instead of meat in an entree; lentils with just a bit of sausage.

- Read labels for locations. When two products look exactly the same, I read where they're from. If I have a choice of made in the US vs. someplace far away, I choose the US product. (Funny, that sounds patriotic. Hmmm!)

- It's cheap and easy to make granola, and to make bread (with a bread machine). Save on packaging and processing and make your own!

- I shop first, and then make dinner menus second. Unfortunately, this usually takes two grocery trips: one for the main items, and then one for the fill-in-the-gaps items for the recipes. This allows me to buy seasonal (greener) local food but not break the budget. The second grocery trip is usually just for a few items.

- Repeat items. On the week that apples are in season, we get apples in our lunch every day. We eat a lot of strawberries in season. We're about to enter squash season, and we'll eat a lot of it, prepared in different ways. We get a ton of diversity throughout the year, but not necessarily within the seasons. Insalata caprese is an end of summer dish; leeks are a winter dish. If broccoli is on sale, we eat broccoli all week. This is a major change for our family - we've eaten according to our whims in the past.

- Buying larger, not individual, size portions. With yogurt, I think that this cuts the cost and the plastic packaging substantially, for example.

More to follow - gotta cook dinner!

Edited to add: I'd really like to hear your green, frugal, healthy food ideas. My grocery bill is still higher than I'd wish, and I know I still have a lot to learn.

Tips from another:

Another whirlwind week

Monday morning, and all is well.

Ryan is at work, Tessa is at school, I've done some grocery shopping, and I'm confronting my "to do" list at the moment. Okay, with a little blog break.

Fall weather has hit full force -there is a damp chill in the air, and it's rained quite a bit today. I'm wearing my down vest INDOORS because my house is at 66 - this really better be impacting the environment and our heat bills positively, because I'm positively chilled. I'm determined to stay the course, however, and I can put on another sweater if necessary!

Yesterday we enjoyed a nice church service (Tessa got to learn about Thoreau's time at Walden Pond), and then our family did lots of chores. Ryan got rid of old fence boards at the dump, I baked banana bread to use up some bananas that were going to the dark side (and Tessa helped), and Tessa and I weeded the vegetable garden and pulled out the dead tomato plants etc. The bonus of weeding was that we discovered some veggies left over! We got two acorn squash, a number of patty-pan (starburst) squash, a dinner's worth of carrots, some onions, and even a few ripe tomatoes.

Last night for dinner we put our garden crop to good use - I made a stir fry with chicken (organic chicken breasts at TJs for $6.99 a pound!), tamari, white wine, ginger and garlic, and I used all these fresh veggies from our garden, in addition to some broccoli I'd already planned on using and some brown rice (organic from the bins at PCC). It was delicious and oh-so-satisfying -simple food that tasted fresh. Ryan's got the leftovers for lunch today.

And today I'm doing chores, planning for a busy week. Tessa has yoga today and ballet tomorrow; Wednesday Ryan and I are attending our first of six Sanity Circus classes (a silly name for a great parenting class - it's a positive discipline approach to parenting for elementary aged kids)....the week will be busy.

And now, off to the races.