Guest Post: A Holy Yoga Instructor’s Journey

A Holy Yoga Instructor's Journey | Living Consciously Blog As you may know, I have been meditating upon the next step in my yoga journey for the past 6 months or so. Within the last 2 months, I think I have found the right path for me, but it is something I really never expected. Honestly, I laughed when I first heard the words “Holy Yoga”. I thought, “Is this like Testamints or Christian waffle mix?” (Christian waffle mix is really a thing, as insane as it sounds — I deeply regret not taking a picture of it when I saw it in the Lifeway holiday catalogue last fall. OMG. Literally.).

But it is not as weird as it sounds, not at all. I’ve been attending classes sporadically, as my schedule allows, connecting with current Holy Yoga instructors in my area, and following Holy Yoga on Instagram. I stumbled across the blog of Amanda Dean, a Holy Yoga instructor right here in Richardson. She is such a gifted writer that I reached out to her, even though we had never met, to ask her if she would use her gift of words to describe how she felt when she first discovered Holy Yoga. I thought perhaps she could describe to you how I have been feeling about this endeavor more eloquently than I could. AND SHE DID. I teared up when I read this post in my Inbox, because it so accurately describes what I have felt over the years but not been able to put into words. I will let her speak now, please post any questions that you have for me or for Amanda in the comments. I will be following this post with a post next week about my own journey and some FAQ’s.

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About ten years ago, I stepped through studio doors, feeling anxious yet excited.  My first yoga class was about to begin and I had little knowledge of what to expect.  As a former gymnast and dancer, I was familiar with all things pointed toes.  Yoga was a foreign language.

I unrolled my borrowed yoga mat and listened as our instructor walked us through the deep breath.  The “yoga breath” was new and strange.  I noticed right away it was hard to sit still.  (Stillness has a way of inviting all kinds of mental noise doesn’t it?)  As I focused more and more on my breath, the inner clamor began to quiet.  She spoke words I had never before heard.  Sanskrit” she called it.   I watched and did my best to move my body into each asana (posture).  Some felt natural…some not so much. 

I walked out of class feeling lighter and just better.  I can’t tell you I fell in love right away, but I found myself back on my borrowed mat the following week.   I explored different styles and instructors, some filling the space with sounds of chanting and Tibetan singing bowls.  Some with the sounds of Sheryl Crow.  Over time, my body began to crave this breath and movement and I settled in with my favorite teachers.

I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember; I practically grew up on a church pew.  That’s where I met my Savior and have known him ever since.  Truthfully, I wasn’t familiar with the controversy surrounding yoga and Christianity.   I wasn’t afraid to walk into a class because I knew He walked with me.  In fact, it made sense to me, this yoking together of the breath and movement and rest. 

Yoga classes begin with setting an intention.  Some teachers talk about the energy around or within us.  Some speak of the “third eye.”  From the very beginning, Truth rose and resonated from within.  I started dedicating my practice to my Abba early on, trying to breathe Him in with each inhale.  There was never an emptying of the mind as far as I was concerned.  It was actually the opposite.

I remember the first time my practice felt like worship.  I closed my eyes in Warrior 1 and lifted my hands high.  Prayer and praise come from the heart right?  Since my heart was already there, my body simply followed.

When I set out to become a yoga instructor, I tried to find a Christ-centered program.  With little luck, I settled for a secular teacher training called YogaFit and completed my Level One Certification.  I started teaching right away and tried to incorporate scripture and praise music.  It wasn’t until I discovered Holy Yoga almost two years later, and I knew this was what I had been searching for all along.

Holy Yoga is “100% Yoga and 100% Jesus.”  Training culminates in an intensive immersion retreat and that was where I attended my first Holy Yoga class.  It felt like coming home.  Tears poured down my cheeks as I truly experienced the presence of Jesus on my yoga mat.   It was yoga, but it was so much more.  It was grace and freedom in bare feet and yoga pants. 

In Holy Yoga, we invite God into our practice-whatever that looks like.  Whether the practice is gentle or sweaty, we ask Him to meet us where we are.   And my friend, He is always faithful to show up.  I honestly feel that Holy Yoga is a vehicle for more of Him…more of His healing.  More joy.  More peace.  More presence.  And the physical benefits of yoga are just an added bonus. 

Brooke Boon, founder of Holy Yoga says, “It’s not about the yoga.”  She’s right.  It may start out that way, but finding Jesus on your mat leaves your practice forever changed. 

For more about Holy Yoga, please visit www.holyyoga.net

Amanda Dean is a lover of Jesus, yoga, dessert and words.  She is a Registered Holy Yoga Instructor in Richardson, TX.  Amanda has also completed training in Holy Yoga Touch Therapy and is currently enrolled in her Master’s training.  She is a contributing writer to Mindfull Collective and Cedar and Soul  Find her at www.mandajoy.com and www.mandajoyblog.wordpress.com

Get started with clean eating: Superwoman Detox Giveaway!

I get a lot of questions about how to get started eating more “cleanly”. Personally, I abide by the 80/20 rule of eating clean 80% of the time and eating not as cleanly 20% of the time or less. I don’t go overboard or eat junk during that 20%, but sometimes when I got to restaurants, for example, I don’t know exactly what oils they used to cook their food and I can’t guarantee that the produce is organic or non-GMO. I let those instances fall under the 20% of less-than-clean-eating.

However, if you are new to clean eating, you might only be eating cleanly 20% of the time and are looking for a way to get that percentage higher without your head exploding from too much information and without agonizing over what to buy at the grocery store. I have a solution for you! And you’ll be helping a friend of mine expand her health-focused and woman-owned small business at the same time.

I’m so excited to be teaming up with Kristen over at MIX | wellness solutions for a balanced life and some of my favorite bloggers to give YOU the chance to reclaim your inner Superwoman (or man) and WIN a coveted spot in The Superwoman Slim Down: A Real Food Detox & Cleanse for Real Women (a $347 value!) – (affiliate link)! Read all about it here.

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This is NOT your average detox. The Superwoman Slim Down is a fully-supported “done-for you” 21 day 100% REAL FOOD, hunger-free program led by experienced registered nurse, certified health and wellness coach, and certified specialist in fitness nutrition, Kristen Boucher! She will teach you step-by-step how to feel better than you ever imagined in your own skin, while eating delicious, nutrient-dense, metabolism-boosting foods and (finally) making your health a priority!

Superwoman Whats Included

Included in the program:

  • Three recorded training calls with Kristen to listen to at your convenience delivered over three weeks so that you are updated each week with what to do next  ($300 value)

  • Sample Menu Plans complete with 3 meals per day & list of snacks that you can eat to keep the hunger at bay ($100 value)

  • Preparation Checklist with a list of suggested items to have in your fridge, pantry, and home to follow the plan ($100 value)

  • Recipes For Radiance Cookbook which includes over 75 delicious, whole food recipes outlined in the Menu Plan ($50 value)

  • Detailed Detox Guidebook with all the info and resources you’ll need and then some ($100 value)

  • Workbook and personal assessment guide that will serve to show you how far you’ve come once you complete the program and help you to play detective to learn if you have any food allergies or sensitivities ($50 value)

  • Cooking and Food Preparation Tips and Tools Guide ($10 value)

  • Toxin Reduction Tips and Tools Guide ($10 value)

  • Meal Planning and Shopping List Fun Sheets ($10 value)

  • A 4-Week Detox Calendar laying out every step of the program, what to, and when to do it ($10 value)

  • Email support during the cleanse ($100 value)

  • Lifetime access to all materials, including updates for future programs ($100 value)

  • Bonus #1: Private Facebook community available to you 24/7 that is moderated by Kristen to ask questions (and get answers), share your insights, challenges, and experiences, and make a few new friends along the way ($100 value)
  • Bonus #2: Exclusive 3-video “Yoga Detox” series created exclusively for the Superwoman Slim Down by Be Yoga ($100 value)

 

Check out what these former Superwomen have to say about it here.

You can purchase this program at any time using this link (affiliate link, which I’ll be placing in the right sidebar), or you can enter to win it for FREE below!

Giveaway Details

One winner will receive FREE ACCESS to The Superwoman Slim Down: A Real Food Detox & Cleanse for Real Women (a $347 value) (affiliate link).

How to enter the giveaway:

1. Sign up for the MIX | wellness solutions for a balanced life email newsletter.
2. Like MIX | wellness solutions for balanced life on Facebook.
3. Use Rafflecopter (below) to log your entries and unlock bonus entries.

***Be sure to visit all the blogs responsible for this giveaway to unlock more chances to win!***

The Crunchy Moose
Good Girl Gone Green
Kula Mama
Overthrow Martha
Life Sanity
Loula Natural
Homegrown & Healthy
Refocus On Being
Happy Healthnut
Cheerfully Imperfect
The Healthy Honeys
Yogi Mami
Real Time Mama
Don’t Mess with Mama
Happy Mothering
beautyandthefoodie.comThe Darling Bakers
MIX | wellness solutions for a balanced life
Coco’s Well

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Fine Print

The giveaway ends at midnight ET, June 30, 2014. I will announce the lucky winner on July 1, 2014. Once contacted, the lucky winner will have 48 hours to respond with his/her full name and email address. There is no purchase necessary to win. This giveaway is open to everyone except where prohibited by law.

Tips for Summer Adventures: Travel or Staycations

This month’s blog sponsor is Allstate 21st Century Prosperity agent Shawn Spalding. Since I know that Allstate has dozens of years experience in auto claims, maintenance, roadside assistance, and that Shawn is probably an expert on saving money (since he’s a financial planner!), I asked him to share some of his best tips for summer adventures, whether you are on the road or not. It might seem a little early, but I asked him this because our family has already planned several road trips for our summer this year! How about you?

Summer Adventure Tips: Travel or Staycations | Conscientious Confusion

Road Trips

  1. Get your car checked!
    A tune up is a good idea. Low tire pressure or dirty air filters can reduce a car’s gas mileage
  2. Save on Gas!
    Use an online calculator, like GasBuddy.com’s Trip Cost Calculator, to help you estimate how much you’ll spend on gas: use your route and your car model’s gas mileage.
    Then use Allstate’s Fuel Finder – fast, easy-to-use gas price locator can help you find low prices at nearby pumps. All the preparations add up to money that stays in your pocket.
    Go easy on the accelerator when the light turns green!
    Keep to the speed limit. Promotes safer driving and more fuel efficiency, but it also helps prevent you from getting a speeding ticket, which can put a dent in any vacation budget.
  3. Pack your roadside emergency kit
    Items to include: snacks and bottled water, plastic trash bags for wind protection and car sickness, first aid kit, cellphone and charger, flashlight and batteries, blankets, waterproof matches and/or a lighter, properly inflated spare tire, jack and lug wrench, jumper cables, signal flares, pocket knife, atlas and state/local road maps, extra quart of high-quality motor oil, hand cleaner, and paper towels.

Can’t head out of town? Plan a Staycation!

Some of the benefits? Saves time (no traffic/no security check-in lines) & saves money (no expensive plane tickets/no checked bag fees).

Get the whole family involved. Encourage everyone to write down an activity on a slip of paper and choose out of a hat.

Activities that are eco-friendly and local

  • Camp out in your backyard
  • Take a walking tour or hike through a local park (I recommend Trinity Audubon Center!)
  • Visit a museum or spot of cultural interest
  • Use public transportation to see the attractions (saves gas and is good for the environment!)
  • Plant a garden
  • Build a composting bin (my post on composting)
  • Organize a Taste Tour (check Dallas Moms Blogs best restaurants for kids here, here, here and here!)
  • Cook new, destination or theme oriented foods at home. Make every evening an entirely different theme-inspired gustatory adventure! (try Central Market Cooking Schools for how-to: Plano or Dallas locations)

Note from Allstate 21st Century Prosperity: We gathered these tips from articles available on the Allstate Blog.

If you have any questions, you can always reach Shawn and his office at 972-980-0865 or shawnspalding{at}allstate.com.
Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

Thanks, Shawn and his wonderful office staff! And, happy travels!

How to do a cleanse: beneficial or scary?

Since I’ve seen the resurfacing of some old stomach issues and skin problems (cystic acne, which is actually a symptom of the issues in digestion) lately, I’ve been considering doing some kind of cleanse to detox my body of whatever is problematic. The key word here is “considering”. I can’t decide: is a cleanse beneficial or scary? How do I prepare 3 meals a day for my husband and children and then just “not eat” for myself? Especially since I teach and work out at 5 Megaformer Pilates classes per week and burn calories like you would not believe. I sent an email to my friend Rebecca with some of these questions, because she is the Cleanse Queen. For the past 13 years, she has done anywhere from 1-3 cleanses per year. Some including her husband and others on her own. Instead of pretending I know all the answers, I am going to give you her guest post here, for your learning and my own consideration. Good luck!

How To Do A Cleanse - 3 versions from Easy to "The Lexus of Cleanses" | Conscientious Confusion

How to Do A Cleanse

1. Very Easy

If you have never done one and you are not sure how you will react the first option is to do a 3 day weekend cleanse of really clean eating of just salads, fruits and vegetables, and brown rice. No sugar, juice, caffeine, dried fruits, etc.

2. A Little Longer (but using things you already have)

Another option would be a 10 day cleanse. The one I like is from Dr. Stone’s book “Health Building: The Conscious Art of Living Well” (affiliate link). In this one, I do:

2 days of salads and 2 servings of brown rice
2 days of just salads and fruit (lots of papaya)
2 days of fresh juice from a juicer

Then back yourself back out

2 days of  just salads and fruit
2 days of salads and 2 servings of brown rice

Every day of this cleanse you wake up and have 1-2 cloves of raw garlic, chased by 2 TBS of high quality organic olive oil with fresh squeezed lemon/citrus juice to help it go down. 2 hours after that have a quality vegetable juice.

This one might feel a little harsh because of the garlic, but it’s only for 10 days and for some reason it’s much easier to do when you know it doesn’t last long. Also, you already have everything you need. You don’t have to go buy a bunch of supplements that are expensive and take 30 pills a day. That brings me to my favorite…

3. The Lexus of Cleanses

My husband and I have had huge success (by that I mean that we always rid ourselves of old, bad eating habits and adopt better choices each time) with the Standard Process Purification Cleanse. The premise of this cleanse is to nourish your body with whole foods so that your body is better equipped to detoxify. I don’t believe in “The Master Cleanse” of just drinking lemonade and cayenne pepper for this reason. If your body goes into starvation mode, it will not function to detoxify rather it will do everything it can to stay alive! I starved myself for a couple of years and suffice it to say it did not bring good health. Our ultimate goal in cleansing bring better health.

To give you a summary of this one so you don’t have to read the whole pdf : you feed yourself whole foods, twice as many vegetables as fruit in a day. Eat protein once or twice a day (I included one egg as one protein and freshwater fish is good, since I know you don’t want to eat chicken), and one to two servings of brown rice. The thing about this cleanse is that there are supplements, but to some extent I really feel like this is what makes it work so well. The whole thing is about $180. Included in all of the supplements is a canister of a protein powder (find out if you need a protein powder) that you mix into a smoothie 2-3 times a day. Honestly, you will not get hungry or feel like you are starving during this cleanse (except the first 2 days when your body is getting used to the routine). This one lasts for 3 weeks.

The only disadvantage is finding a distributor, since it is not sold online. You will most likely need to use the Health Care Professional Search on the Standard Process web site. If you are in the Dallas area, you can get it all locally at the Health Food Shop in Richardson on Coit and Beltline.

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So what do you think? Should I try a cleanse, and if so, which one?

 

NOTE: I was not paid by anyone to mention any of the products in this post. In fact, if I do a cleanse I’ll be paying THEM money. The link to Dr. Stone’s book is an affiliate link so if you buy it, I get like 2 cents. Thanks in advance!

Guest Post: What is embryo adoption?

What Is Embryo Adoption?

When I found out that my friend Merritt was raising money for her embryo adoption, I had no idea what that even meant. But when I found out, I thought it sounded like such a great idea for everyone involved. I asked her to do this guest post with the original idea of helping her raise the money they will need for the first stage of the adoption, but they’ve met that goal! However, I still really want to a) answer the question “What is embryo adoption” for all of you who, like me, didn’t know, and b) put her story out there because they are not finished with the financial part of building their family! There are still many other steps for her and her husband, Todd, to take and I’d love for you to follow their story going forward so that you’ll have the chance to participate too, if you choose. Here’s Merritt!

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Hi! My name is Merritt! When Jenny heard about our need to raise nearly $10,000 for our embryo adoption, she wanted to help! She offered her little piece of the blogosphere so I could share our story and ask for your assistance in spreading the word about our fundraiser.

But wait! {insert record-scratch-sound here} In just under a week we’ve surpassed our goal! Yes, that’s right, our adoption is funded! So, I’m not here to ask for your money, instead, I want to share the fascinating journey toward embryo adoption, which will—hopefully—grow our little family of two into something more.

First of all, you’re probably asking, what is embryo adoption anyway?

An embryo adoption is a legal transaction. A family chooses to donate their frozen embryos to an adoptive couple, the embryo(s) will be implanted in the wife’s uterus and she will have the opportunity to become pregnant. When the baby is born, he or she is legally the child of the adoptive couple.

Who would choose embryo adoption?

Embryo adoption can be a source of hope for couples who have been unable to conceive through natural means or who have had several failed infertility treatments.

Where do the embryos come from?

Embryos are not created for the purpose of adoption. Instead, they are available because couples who have struggled with infertility have pursued IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments. The couple’s doctor will harvest and fertilize several embryos for their treatments. Oftentimes more eggs are harvested and fertilized than are needed for one IVF cycle. Those embryos are frozen until they are needed for subsequent treatments. Our agency, Nightlight, calls those little babies “Snowflakes®.” There are currently 600,000 embryos in frozen storage, but not all of them are available for adoption.

How does embryo adoption benefit the genetic parents?

When the couple is finished growing their family (or if they run out of funds or time to continue fertility treatments), they have four options for their remaining embryos:

  1. Thaw & discard (destroys the embryos)
  2. Donate to science (destroys the embryos)
  3. Do nothing (embryos remain frozen indefinitely, but the family continues to pay storage fees)
  4. Donate for adoption (saves lives and gives hope to a family)

Couples can chose to give their children the gift of life through adoption by a family like ours. We understand their decision is not an easy one; it’s truly a sacrificial choice to allow another family to give birth to and raise their genetic children.

Our Story

Although we married in our late 30s, it was still hard to imagine we’d have trouble conceiving. We’re both pretty healthy, but after a year and a half of dedicated “trying” a fertility specialist told us we had a miniscule chance of conceiving on our own.

I felt a great deal of pressure to pursue infertility treatments in an “everybody’s doing it” kind of way. But we knew we weren’t prepared for the costs (physical and financial) of IVF. We were just beginning to test how my body would respond to fertility drugs when I got pregnant in March 2012. However, a few weeks later we lost our baby. We were devastated. After our miscarriage I couldn’t imagine going back to the doctor for more pokes, prods, and tests that would put us back on that roller coaster.

By January 2013, I had begun seriously looking into adoption. That’s when we learned about embryo adoption. I’d really been struggling with the fact that I might never experience pregnancy, childbirth or have the chance to breastfeed our baby. Those things always seemed like a given to me, even when I was a young girl. In addition, my husband and I are believe life begins at conception, meaning all those little frozen Snowflakes are babies just waiting to be born. We believe God created each one of them individually, gave them a soul and a hope for their future. And we are grateful to have the opportunity to take part in giving them life and a loving family.

Although we investigated domestic adoption (adopting from a birthmother in the U.S.) and international adoption (adopting an orphan from overseas), embryo adoption is often more affordable and has a shorter wait time. Our hope is to be matched with a donor family by the end of the year.

If that donor family is interested in maintaining some sort of relationship with their genetic children once those babies are born into our family, we have already agreed that our kids can meet them and their siblings as long as it’s a healthy arrangement for everyone involved.

After so many painful years of waiting to be married and then trying to get, some days it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever have children running around our home. But we have faith that our prayers will be answered in one way or another.

If you’re a praying person, we’d love your prayers for us and our hoped-for-family. You can watch a few videos of us on our Pure Charity fundraising page. Details and progress of our adoption can be found on our blog, On Becoming Parents, or check out our newlywed blog to read our love story. If I can answer any questions about our experience, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @merritto.

What is a Naturopath?

Conventional wisdom holds that we go to a dentist for our teeth and an optometrist for our eyes, but what is a Naturopath? When would I visit a Naturopath and how could a Naturopath help me? Fortunately, Sharon Krahn, a Traditional Naturopath in Dallas and owner of K6 Wellness Center, is here today to help answer those questions with a guest post.

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Sharon Krahn, Traditional Naturopath, DallasI am often asked about the scope of my practice as a Traditional Naturopath. There seems to be an abundance of confusion as to what Naturopathy entails. Jenny and I have had a handful of interesting conversations and I am delighted to have this opportunity to address some of the most common questions surrounding my field.

Q: What is Naturopathy?

First, let me begin by outlining what Naturopathy is NOT:

  • Emergency trauma care – including the ability to reattach severed limbs
  • Anti-technology
  • Dream interpretation
  • Fortune-telling
  • Forsaking all fashion sense and deodorant
  • Casting spells
  • Killing chickens
  • Cauldrons
  • Other spooky practices

What it is:

Naturopathy is the broad study of all natural healing practices and principles as related to physical, emotional/mental and spiritual health. This includes: nutrition, lifestyle modification, herbs, homeopathy, various forms of bodywork, emotional therapies, energy work (physics, not voo-doo), and exercise. While its focus is mainly on healthy living and disease prevention, Naturopathy also offers natural solutions to infections, chronic diseases, addictions, obesity, and many other health challenges.

Q: Why should I use a Naturopath?

I cannot speak for every Naturopath, so I will speak for myself and my practice at K6 Wellness Center. I am trained to work with people to prevent the occurrence of disease and to help people already suffering from many forms of heath issues including allergies, diabetes, heart disease, autism, obesity and auto-immune diseases. Using today’s technology (in the form of electro-dermal screening) we can detect potential issues early and help you develop a plan that will allow your body the resources it needs to heal and to effectively avoid future recurrences.

At K6 Wellness Center, we see clients of all ages for a variety of issues. It is a rare treat to get a new client that is healthy and is simply interested in having a resource for help should the need arise. More commonly, we see people who have reached the end of their “rope” and have been forced to look outside the medical box for answers to their health problems. I delight in these cases because I am deeply committed to discovering the root cause of their problem and correcting it rather than covering the symptoms with a natural “band-aid”. Every person is a unique individual with unique needs. Naturopaths do not dwell on a diagnosis, nor do we diagnose disease. We educate our clients about their unique situation and make individualized recommendations as to how they can resolve their health problems.

The human body is not a series of compartments that have limited interaction. It is a wonderfully designed organism that functions in the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional realm – simultaneously. Naturopathy considers this and addresses each person as such. If you run to the doctor every time you have a sinus infection or if you are “managing” the effects of a chronic disease, consider consulting with a Naturopath to see what the root cause of the problem is and how it can be corrected naturally.

Something to Think About:

Two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese – causing us to be world leaders in Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and other conditions of “affluenza”. American health care is really more disease management – it has very little to do with health. If you are truly interested in being healthy, go see a Naturopath!

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How about you — have you ever visited a Naturopath? Do you have more questions for Sharon to answer either here or on the K6 Wellness Center blog?

 

Green Sisterhood: All about arsenic in rice

Last week I briefly mentioned a new story about arsenic in rice, but didn’t elaborate. It’s a very important issue to our family, though, because we do eat a fair amount of rice. As you may or may not be aware, I’ve recently joined forces with some amazingly powerful green female bloggers, most of whom I met in person at BlogHer 2012 this year in NYC. We have joined together to form Green Sisterhood, a collection of green bloggers who work as a unit to create change and promote green living. One of these bloggers is Anna Hackman, who is kind enough to guest post today to give my readers more information about arsenic in rice and what we can do.

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Anna Hackman is the organizer of the Change.org arsenic in rice petition and thanks everyone who signs and gets the word out about the petition. She is also a sustainability consultant, co-founder of the Green Sisterhood, editor of Green Talk a green living and business blog, and obsessed gardener. But her most important job is being a mom of four boys.

Arsenic in rice is back in the news again. The latest report is from Consumer Reports’ study that revealed dangerous levels in both rice and products containing rice. The Consumer Reports study joins a long list of several prior studies, which includes the recent Dartmouth study. Despite all the studies, the FDA and the European Union have failed to act. This inaction prompted a petition calling on the FDA and EU to regulate arsenic in rice and by-products. We are all at risk. It is not simply a baby, gluten free or ethnic food but its byproduct is in many foods.

How did Arsenic get into rice in the first place? Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in the soil. However, inorganic arsenic is found in the soils that were contaminated by arsenic based pesticides and fertilizers, industrial districts or mining areas, municipal waste, or contaminated water.

Eighty percent of the rice is grown in the US is from the south central area on lands that were previously sprayed with arsenic pesticide to reduce cotton boll weevils. In addition, arsenic laden manure has been used as fertilizer. Arsenic remains in the soil. Due to the nature of how rice is grown in flooded waters, it sucks up the arsenic from the soil.

What is the danger? According to the EPA, the ingestion of inorganic arsenic can lead to cancer of the skin, bladder, liver, and lung. There are no studies of low levels long term arsenic exposure in food; however studies relating to low level arsenic exposure in water have shown increased likelihood of diabetes 2 and poorer neuropsychological functioning.

According to Michael Harbut, M.D., chief of the environmental cancer program at Karmanos Institute in Detroit, he suspects “there is an awful lot of chronic, low-level arsenic poisoning going on that’s never properly diagnosed.”

Why should YOU be concerned? You might be thinking, “I don’t eat rice so I can’t be affected.” Not true, since many products contain rice and its by products. Look for rice flour, brown rice syrup, and simply rice in the crackers, cereal, cereal bars, baby food, gluten free food, energy bars, and energy drinks just for starters. Worse yet, babies eat a lot of rice products such as cereals and needless to say, they are more sensitive to chemicals like arsenic.

Does it affect all rice? No. However, 80% of all rice grown in the US comes from areas where inorganic arsenic is an issue. However, this takes some legwork to know which rice products are safer than others. And It doesn’t matter if you only eat organic rice since arsenic is already in the soil before rice is planted.

What can you do to reduce Arsenic level? Consumer Reports recommends certain guidelines to limit your rice intake. But simply, wash your rice first and cook it in 6 parts water to 1 part rice. The Consumers Union has more information, different grains to source, and how agricultural changes can reduce the problem.

But we need to change regulation by urging FDA to change the standard. Sign the petition asking for regulation. We should not have to agonize over the ingredients so that we don’t exceed the daily rice limitations recommended by Consumer Reports. And please share the petition with your friends and family (ten per day) right on the petition page. You can also share on Facebook, Twitter, and email. It takes a village.

Zombies Can Eat Your Brain, but Can They Save Your Soul

A review of the book The Christian’s Zombie Killers Handbook, Slaying the Living Dead Within Written by: Jeff Kinley  Review by: Millie Minor-Gibson
** Please note this is a guest post although I think it is awesome and I wish I did write it! **

Over the years zombies have fluxed in an out of popular culture and have been part of folklore since around the 19th century. There are two main types of zombies: 1) the crazy, brain munching, soul-less reanimated corps that bite people turning their victims into a crazy, brain munching, soul-less reanimated corps, like in Sean of the Dead, Zombieland and all those George Romero  movies.  2) Someone dead or alive who is controlled by a sorcerer or Voodoo priest. The 2nd kind isn’t as popular, but was used in 1932’s White Zombie staring Bela Lugosi. (Personally, I feel #2 is a great metaphor for the way we allow sin to control our lives.) There is also interesting zombie folk lore regarding the Haitians and some very potent pharmaceuticals used on patients in the 1930’s. Some say Haiti is where zombie lore originated.

Since the reanimation of zombies in pop culture (pun intended) there have been zombie flash mobs, zombie parades, zombie proms, zombie walks, zombie movies, zombie TV shows, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and now a Christian Zombie book. It was only a matter of time before the Christian market monopolized on the popularity of zombies in pop culture.

It has always been a pet peeve of mine when Christian pop culture monopolizes off of whatever is popular in secular pop culture, but will not fully commit to it because it is too secular. Zombies are still popular, but defiantly on their way out; much like flash mobs, at least this is what the cool kids are saying. I suppose a zombie flash mob would be the most passé thing you could do, other than being really into Lost, (that’s a joke, for all of you who are like, WHAT?!? Lost, Flash Mobs, Zombies…they are still cool!)  I feel that if the Christian market would come up with original, creative, mind blowing ideas the secular world would sit up and notice. Great example, Veggie Tales; Yes, it has been around since the mid 90’s, but it is still great and I know even non-Christians watch and enjoy the talking vegetables with Christian morals.

So, here we are with a The Christian’s Zombie Killers Handbook by Jeff Kinley. This book alternates between a zombie story and a Bible study. I will explain a bit about the story later, but first I I want to start with the Bible Study portion. I had never heard of Jeff Kinley before, but with a bit of internet research I have found that he runs a ministry on www.mainthingministries.com and has written around 15 books. This book is intended to be a study guide, or a devotional of sorts. There are even packages you can order for a church youth retreat. Jeff Kinley has a lot of good things to say. As a Christian devotional writer he writes in a manner that is honest and easy to understand. However, I felt the metaphor of “the zombie inside us” was unnecessary for the message he wanted to convey. It was a gimmick; something to get the “on the fencers” who love horror and zombies sucked in. I get the monster inside of us that is trying to destroy and sabotage who we are intended to be in Christ, message. However, I am not sure the metaphor of zombie was best used here.  I found the metaphor to be distracting and somewhat confusing; as if the author couldn’t fully explain it himself. I also did not understand how the story, described below, fit in with the Bible study portion. It seems they just both talked about Zombies.

The other portion of the book told a story about Ben Forman: A normal guy who doesn’t have a relationship with God, is living in a world of zombies and is engaged to a woman named Crystal who he loves very much. The author goes into a bit of detail about the zombies: Some people are bitten and some people have the gene living inside of them since birth until one day, POW! You are a zombie. There are a few story developments I do not want to ruin in case anyone want to read the book that were mildly intriguing.  Despite other comments I read about this book this story is not horror. Yes, it is a zombie story, but it is not graphic, it is not scary, it is hardly suspenseful. There would have to be enough character development to become invested in the characters for you to be scared for them. The main character, Ben Forman, had a difficult time believing in God, but his struggles seemed undeveloped and watered down. I am a Christian; most of my friends are not. The author’s depiction of non-believers in the story and in the devotional part seem unrealistic and one dimensional. In the end he depicted non-believers to be something you should run from and fear, like a brain munching zombie. How are we to be a light to the world, if we are not out there influencing it?  I suppose that is a different topic for a different Christian book. Tinker Bell type fairies maybe.

Conclusion: This would be a fun book for a church youth retreat taken around Halloween. Jeff Kinley, though I don’t agree with everything, has many good things to say. I hope this book has touched someone less critical than me. 

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NOTE: This book was provided to me free from BookSneeze in exchange for a review. I made Millie review it because it seemed so completely ridiculous to me that I was unable to read it myself. Obviously, the free product did not influence either of our opinions.

How to Compost with or without Worms

Today’s post is a guest post that I have really been looking forward to! Years ago B.K. (Before Kids), I tried vermicomposting and failed. Because we have always rented, I have never tried “real” composting because I never knew when we’d move, and most landlords look poorly upon storing decaying matter on their property. As we continue pondering whether to buy a house, I dream about one day composting for real (unless someone gives me a NatureMill Composter – anyone?). Meanwhile, Merritt is here to tell you all about how to compost!
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Merritt Onsa is a fellow blogger and friend who recently moved from Dallas, Texas to Colorado where she and her new husband are soaking up the cooler temps, mountain views and big blue skies.

Why I Love to Compost

I love to compost! Maybe it’s because I grew up with a dad who recycled anything he could and wascomposting in our backyard long before it was cool or “green.” I’m definitely my father’s daughter, sowhen I moved into a real house with a real backyard, the first thing I wanted to do was compost. Dad bought me an upright container, and I went to town putting in fall leaves, summer grass clippings and every fruit and veggie scrap from the kitchen. It wasn’t long before I had abundant lovely, lush compost to share with all of my outdoor plants! And boy did they love it!

Then, a few years ago I learned about worm composting from my friend Heather at the Texas Worm Ranch. I met Heather at Dallas’ White Rock Local Market. She was demonstrating her worm bins and showing every child that walked by what Red Wiggler Worms looked like (and letting parents smell the bin to prove there was no odor). I was hooked. But I was also newly married and needed to make sure the new husband was game for keeping a worm bin in our laundry room. He came one weekend to the WRLM and Needless to say, the answer was yes, but they would be my deal. Hey, that was fine with me.

A few things I love about composting:

  1. Compost becomes nutrient-rich soil for my plants. In fact, it’s better to use compost than it is to put chemical fertilizers on your garden, lawn or other plants. Plus it’s free!!
  2. Worm castings (yes, that’s a nice way to say worm poop) have tons of beneficial microbes. If I have a plant that’s suffering or just needs a little extra love, a handful of worm castings on top of the soil really does the trick. It’s nature’s fertilizer.
  3. Less waste in the landfill. Because they breakdown without oxygen, food scraps in our landfills contribute to greenhouse gas emissions (yes, they become methane). It’s good for the environment.
  4. Teaches me about nature’s processes. I enjoy figuring out the ratios, stirring the bin and watching the critters that are naturally drawn to my garbage. My yard was free of chemicals for more than five years and boy, did the geckos came out to play! They ate their fill of bugs in the compost, and I witnessed their cuteness on my visits to the bin.
  5. Composting inspired me to start gardening. And having my hands in the soil was good for my soul. Plus having a few home-grown veggies isn’t anything to laugh at either!

Now, I can’t say I’m an expert, but I have learned a few things along the way. Here are some tips if you want to get started on either version of composting:

Composting

Outdoor Compost:

  1. Microorganisms do most of the work in your compost pile; your job is to fill the pile with the things they need for proper decomposition.
  2. The carbon to nitrogen ratio in your pile determines how quickly it breaks down. It should be somewhere around 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.
  3. High carbon items are known as “Browns,” like leaves, newspaper, peanut shells, etc. High nitrogen items are known as “Greens,” like coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, grass clippings, garden waste, manures, etc. Add these items as they become available and stir or turn to combine.
  4. Composting doesn’t require a bin; you can easily make a pile in your yard wherever you feel comfortable keeping it. Determine your preferred method based on how you wish to manage the process.
  5. Your compost needs to be turned at least weekly. If you’re really serious you can buy a compost thermometer to find out how “hot” your pile gets. The hotter the pile the faster the breakdown.
  6. Do NOT put animal products (no dairy, meat, bones, grease) in your compost. It will smell bad AND attract rodents.
  7. And, no, you cannot put cat, dog or human feces in your compost. Or used kitty litter. Sorry!

Worm Composting, otherwise known as Vermicomposting:

  1. Red Wigglers are the best choice for vermicomposting.
  2. This is a great alternative if you don’t have a place for an outdoor compost pile. Store your worm bin in the garage, laundry room, basement or even under the sink. Just be careful of extreme temps in any of those locations (between 40-80 degrees F is best).
  3. Worms need the right amount of air, moisture, oxygen, food and bedding. Otherwise, vermicomposting is very low maintenance. Your bin can be left alone even for a few weeks at a time.
  4. Keep your worms on a vegetarian diet along with moist bedding of paper, cardboard, paper towels, newspaper, paper from your shredder (it’s the safest way to dispose of documents containing personal information – let your worms eat them!)
  5. Harvest the castings from the bin every 6-8 weeks, and you’ll end up with nutrient-rich compost your plants will LOVE!
  6. Contact Texas Worm Ranch for more information and helpful resources.

Fruits of composting

Guest Blogger: Galit Breen – Balance

I just had a baby! While I am out on maternity leave for a few weeks or so, I have begged some of the bloggers that I stalk most admire to contribute guest posts to this space so it won’t be lonely. The posts are so awesome that I am afraid you won’t want me back.

The goal of these guests posts is to bring new and different insights to this space. Viewpoints that I am unfamiliar with, advice from those who have been where I have not been, and ideas that might seem foreign to myself and my readers but are important to consider.

Galit Breen is currently freezing her tushy off in Minnesota. On any given day she can be found juggling her husband, three kids and new-ish puggle. She has an affinity for chocolate, mojitos and books. Indulging in all three at the same time is a dream come true. Galit writes monthly columns at TC Jewfolk and World Moms Blog. Her writing has been published at fabulous places such as Scary Mommy, Jewesses With Attitude and Bring Me The News. You can find her blogging at theselittlewaves.com, e-mailing from galitbreen@gmail.com, tweeting at @galitbreen and facebooking at http://www.facebook.com/galitbreen. She is excited to be here at Jenny’s place with you!

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A few weeks ago I announced to the world, well my Facebook world, that I had just had the most perfect weekend. EVER. My wonderfully amazing girlfriends immediately asked the obvious question: What happened?!
Feeling more than slightly embarrassed, I realized that it did indeed look like I had wanted everyone to ask so I could announce…something. Something amazing. Wonderful. Life changing, even. Except, you know what? I didn’t actually have anything to share.
I did have a perfect weekend. A girls’ night. A date night. A big, huge messier-than-necessary project with the kids. A day filled with good food and good friends enjoyed together as a family. The house was clean(-ish). We had eaten healthily(-ish). And I felt totally and completely content. Not in-want or in-need of anything. At all. I didn’t have any big news. What I did have, was balance.
It really is that rare to find balance that it warrants the words BEST and EVER. In all capital letters. Life balance, where your schedule, mind and heart are all filled with the right proportions of absolutely everything that you need. That can be tricky to achieve. But it is within reach, within grasp. And you know what? I want it.
I’ve been striving for balance for a long time now. Before we had kids, Jason and I were the quintessential co-dependent couple. Before you roll your eyes at us, remember that this was post-what had seemed like forever of being long distance; so we clung close. Teaching was the other part of my identity that I threw myself into. Late nights, deep attachments, creative projects, homemade gifts. And when Kayli was born, I followed the same throw-myself-in philosophy. I just wanted to be a mom and truly didn’t think that I needed anything beyond Jason and Kayli and didn’t seek a whole lot else out. 
Fast-forward just a few short years later, and today our family is probably a bit over-committed. I’m still really protective of our family time. I feel truly rejuvenated with it and completely depleted without it. But I’ve learned how to carve out time to read books, go out with friends, volunteer, connect with our family and outside of it.
But it doesn’t come any more naturally. I actually have to consciously do it. Allowing ourselves balance is a necessary life skill. Especially as women, as care-takers, we don’t often gift ourselves the time to find our spark. We push our energies to support everyone around us. There’s so much give and take with time and commitments, that sometimes, we lose ourselves.
I also wonder about Jason, and his balance. He works long hours and when he comes home I hardly hand him a drink and the remote. More like a kid (Or two!) and the plea for help with dinner.
By the time our kids are asleep and there’s a semblance of order to our home, we’re both ready to pass out. It’s hard to peel ourselves off of the couch and go out with friends. Or each other.  Or curl up with a book. Or craft. Or write. Or exercise. But I do know that when I dig deep and find that energy, I have two-fold the next day.
I hope my kids find balance. With friends and significant others. Family and community. Must-dos and want-to-dos. As I’m learning this skill, I hope that I’m also modeling for my children that it’s okay, that it’s a must, to sometimes put yourself first.
While still a work in progress, for sure, I’m so much more aware when I’m sans balance. On days when my house is spotless, but I haven’t played with my kids. When we’ve been outside all day long, but no one has any clean clothes to wear. When I’ve been out late with friends, but I have no idea how Jason’s work day was. I know, and I refocus.
So far, today has been a good, balanced day. I won’t make that my Facebook status, but I will tell you. Chloe, Brody and I splashed around in rain puddles and they played with worms (I, however, did not). We made air-pop popcorn, cuddled up and read oodles of books in our comfy-cozies. They played cars while I put the laundry away. We picked Kayli up from school and ate lunch. Now, they’re all napping or resting. 
I’m completely by myself.
Writing and enjoying a chai latte.
And no one is trying to dip their nuky in my cup. Nope, no one at all.
Balanced, indeed.