Election Year Personal Facebook Hiatus

Hey guess what? I voted this morning!

If you are Friends with me as a person (not a blog page “Like”er) on Facebook, I will be taking a personal Facebook hiatus effective RIGHT NOW until 2 days after the election is over. Don’t worry, I will still be checking my blog Facebook page, so please feel free to leave me comments there. I’ll be posting a great wheat bread machine recipe later this week. Let’s have a conversation about something other than Republicans and Democrats! Canadian readers?

I did the Election Year hiatus in 2008 and it was a great idea. It made me stop wanting to punch everyone in the face because we don’t always agree on politics. Back then most of the political things came via email, not Facebook, so it was actually an email autoresponder. Nowadays, Facebook is the culprit.

Here is the thing: you are not going to change my mind and I am pretty sure I’m not going to change yours based on some infographic or quote you shared. I have firm beliefs and convictions in these areas which, no, I don’t want to discuss. I am OK with everyone else having their convictions because this is a free country.

I will leave you with this verse from the Bible which I think is a good sentiment even if you aren’t a Bible-believing Christian:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Eph. 4:2-4

P.S. It is not my general policy to delete comments from people who disagree, but if there are any negative comments I reserve the right to delete them and turn off commenting on this post.

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.

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.

All the Drama on the Internets Episode #2

Every so often I like to give you a bulleted list of some recent “green” stories in the news and why half of the people are excited to hear about the news or study and the other half are super offended by it for some reason. DRAMA ENSUES. Almost 100% of the time, I am somewhere in the middle. I just figured that some of you might want to know what’s out there and read for yourselves. Just in case you aren’t already immersed in social media 24/7 like I am…

All the Drama On The Internets

There are other things, but my head is going to explode soon, so I’ll stop there. The important thing is for us to be aware of what ways we are not protected by laws, and protect ourselves. Remember, you can’t go wrong making your own {fill in the blank} or buying handmade {fill in the blank} from someone using natural ingredients. Let’s lean that way, in order to keep our earth and our kids safe!
*climbs down off soapbox*

Happy Independence Day 2012!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Independence Day being thankful for all the great privileges we have in this country, and remembering that we must all be conscious of how we use these gifts to honor others, the earth, and our own bodies!

Last night, we attended KaboomTown in Addison, which is my absolute favorite fireworks display EVER! If you have never been, put it on your calendar for next year!
KaboomTown Addision 2012

I wanted to let you know about some of the great posts I’ve found (and written) elsewhere, both patriotic and not-so-much:

And here, to end our day, are randome pictures of cuteness courtesy of my kids and our HOA’s annual 4th of July parade and party at the park!
4th of July 2012

RHOA 4th of July

It’s my problem-free philosophy

How to build blog traffic conscientiously without too many advertise-y promotions and without supporting companies who I do not believe to be socially responsible? It’s been a challenge and a conundrum. What I need are better “numbers”. Without these magical scores of readers, I supposedly cannot approach advertisers. Google AdWords won’t even respond to my request to be an affiliate.

I’ve been around in the blogosphere long enough to know what makes the numbers soar: controversy. The Mommy Wars. Saying something inflammatory about breastfeeding, formula feeding, staying-at-home or working moms, spanking or not spanking, raising religious or non-religious kids, or making some kind of highly opinionated political statement.

I hate that stuff. I hate reading it and I refuse to respond to it. Sometimes I feel like a moron for not participating in something that would probably help my writing career, but let me explain.

how I feel when I think about the blogger Mommy Wars

We’re not all coming from the same place.
Not all of us believe the same basic tenets. I believe in God and the Bible, but not everyone does. Why would I expect an atheist to follow the philosophies in my literature of faith? Some of us have personal faith in God, some of us do not. Some of us are politically liberal, and some are conservative. Some of us have kids and some don’t. Some have more money than others. All of us were raised in different ways in our families of origin, and in hugely different geographical and social contexts. This means we are not looking through any issue through the same lens. So when we blast out a blanket statement detailing exactly what someone else should or should not believe, feel, or do — we aren’t even coming from the same place.

We don’t all have the same kids.
And, like I said, we don’t even all have children. Yet we all think we can weigh in on discipline, breastfeeding, or how someone else’s kids should be educated? You don’t feed your child dairy or gluten – great! But my child refuses to eat meat of any kind, so we have to use dairy and gluten to get some food into him. Your child loves co-sleeping so you feel like it’s the answer to all our sleep problems, but both my kids HATE sleeping with anyone else in the room. Different kids, different solutions. Pointless to argue.

We can’t use our faith to dictate others’ behaviors.
While I’m at it, even those of us within the same faith are caught up in foolish arguments about things that don’t matter.  I am talking to you, Christians who flame each other on discussion boards. Just this week, I was reading 2 Timothy where Paul admonished Timothy three separate times not to get involved in foolish arguments with others of the same faith. Since the Bible is my literature of faith, I’m going to take that as permission (and even justification) for not getting involved in some of these ridiculous Mommy wars online.

Obviously, I am not discouraging open and honest discussion. I love it when I post a problem I’m having with my kids and I get a bunch of wildly different suggestions from my readers and friends. It’s eye-opening and helpful. I think that is an example of how we should be using our online platforms. We should be supporting each other, offering helpful advice, shining a light on things that need to be changed in our society, but taking ourselves a little less seriously. If I don’t take your suggestion in raising my children or I don’t agree with your political opinion, that’s OK. It doesn’t mean I think your opinions are dumb. It doesn’t mean we need to get in a huge Facebook argument.

That’s my rant about… ranting. So where are we in relation to my blog? Well, I guess we’re probably the same place we’ve always been. I won’t be blasting out some kind of controversy for my 5 minutes of internet fame. We’ll just keep plugging along together, learning about living more conscientiously. Are you with me?

National Hunger Awareness Month

 Did you know that June is National Hunger Awareness Month? The month of June is a notoriously slow month for food banks, but one of the highest months of neediness. Kids who relied on free school lunches are out of school and not able to depend on those meals anymore. But those of us who are not in need are going on vacations, spending time at the pool… we don’t tend to think of donating to our local food banks outside of the holiday times.

My church is participating by holding one of our twice-annual food drives supporting local DFW food banks (North Texas Food Bank and Brother Bill’s Helping Hand), and also showing the documentary film “Food Stamped” at 7PM on Tuesday, June 7. I’d love to attend but we don’t have childcare available. Hopefully the film will be on Netflix soon. I’d encourage everyone to attend this movie screening if you can! View the trailer here.

In addition to those activities, many families are participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. The Challenge is to commit to only spend $3.70 per person per day on all food and beverage for at least one week – the same amount of money given to a family of 4 on food stamps.

When I heard about the challenge, I wanted to try it. I spent time over the last week trying to find recipes I could make and food we could buy that both met our family’s ethical and nutritional guidelines and was within the limits. The result was, we couldn’t do it.

Here are the rough guidelines we typically follow when purchasing our food:

  • Avoid “The Dirty Dozen” – the 12 fruits and vegetables that absorb the most toxic pesticides when not grown organically
  • Avoid any processed food that contains partially- or fully-hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
  • Avoid any processed food that contains high fructose corn syrup (read more on my reasons for avoiding HFCS)
  • Buy whole grains
  • Eat vegetarian except for fish
  • Only nitrate-free hot dogs and lunch meat (for Little Sir, who keeps refusing to eat meat but needs the protein)
  • Only organic dairy products, therefore avoiding the artificial hormones given to conventional cattle and poultry

I could not make even one meal – breakfast – without going over the $3.70 limit and still keep to our family’s nutritional commitments. 

Here is an example of a normal breakfast for us:

Regular whole wheat bread (not organic but does not contain HFCS) –  $1.99/loaf = 9 cents a slice
Banana, conventional (non-organic) – $.49/lb = 15 cents for 5 oz banana
Organic free-range eggs – $2.99/dozen = 25 cents apiece
Orange juice (not organic, no sweeteners, not from concentrate) – $2.83/2 quarts = 35 cents a glass
Little Sir’s YoBaby Organic yogurt – $3 for 4 containers = 75 cents
Fruitful O’s Organic cereal – $3.50/box = 18 cents for Little Sir’s serving
Organic free trade coffee – $9/bag = ?? 50 cents?
Organic half-and-half for coffee – $3/carton = 20 cents

4 slices of toast, 1 banana, 4 eggs, 2 glasses of juice, yogurt, cereal, banana, coffee = $3.84

This isn’t including the organic peanut butter or organic jelly I put on our toast some days, or the lowfat yogurt Christian eats sometimes, or the occasional addition of oatmeal with brown sugar and organic raisins that I have instead of toast because I wake up STARVING every day!

I was really bummed about not being able to participate in this challenge after I did the math, but we talked about it and we are not comfortable giving our kids non-organic dairy or processed foods with trans fats and HFCS or any of the other toxins that we know are in the things we would need to purchase, even for a week. Little Lady isn’t even 4 months old and I’m breastfeeding. At 19 months, Little Sir isn’t old enough for his body to be able to handle those toxins. If either of them choose to eat differently when they’re old enough to leave the house and purchase their own food, that’s fine. But while their little bodies are forming and we are feeding them, we cannot bring ourselves to damage their health for a week just to make a point about which we are already convinced.

While I was bemoaning the fact that we couldn’t do this and therefore I would never get to blog about it, Christian pointed out that we’ve already experienced the point of this challenge.

Points to ponder as a result of this exercise:

  1. We may feel sometimes like we can’t afford some of the things we want, but in reality, we have FAR more than many people even a few miles from our own home.
  2. We are blessed, in our abundance, to be able to make food choices that are healthy.
  3. Our country and our agri-food industry is severely messed up to make healthy food so expensive. (see also Food, Inc.)
  4. Regardless of your political affiliation, pretending that people CAN eat healthfully on food stamps is unrealistic. What we are doing is making poor people unhealthy and at risk for a variety of obesity- and toxin-related illnesses with these laughably low supplements. Then again, if you fix #3, you fix this point too.
  5. What are we doing on a personal level to help “fill the gap” that the government and big agri-food are leaving for the poor?

An additional step our family takes when we donate to food banks is that we buy only products we would use ourselves. Meaning, I don’t buy food with trans fats just because it’s cheaper. I don’t buy canned goods with high fructose corn syrup. 

Obviously not everyone is going to donate to a food bank as a result of this post…
Then again, why not?
Would you consider contacting your local food bank via FeedAmerica.org and helping them out in this month of low supply?
Who can you call in your community to help you with this effort?

Food for thought.

    I have already voted

    I have set the following auto-responder on my email, I would appreciate all of my friends and family taking the time to read and respect my request:

    Thank you for your email. Please note that I have already early voted in Texas and I am happy with my choice of candidates, so please stop sending me videos or email forwards regarding who I should have voted for, or how I am not a Christian because I did not vote for your candidate. I believe very strongly in my choice. I do not believe in engaging in futile arguments with my brothers and sisters – I am not going to convince you and you are not going to convince me.

    “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called”

    Eph. 4:2-4

    The economy and the radio

    In case you haven’t heard, apparently the economy is in the toilet. One of the things I had to become accustomed to when I married my sweet husband was constant NPR. I’ve really gotten to like a lot of the shows – Morning Edition, Fresh Air, Marketplace, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, A Prairie Home Companion, and CarTalk are some of my favorites. However, with the onset of this economy trouble, I found that listening to the constant reports of how everything is going to crash, we are all going to go broke, no one knows what to do about it, really had me in a constant state of worry. I was seriously thinking about investing in gold dubloons. I don’t even know if that is spelled right! Craziness!
    Since I realize there is no action we can actually take to change anything in the economy, I had to take some action of my own. I had to cut off listening to KERA altogether. I asked that we be allowed to change our clock radio from NPR, where had been since we were first married, to the Christian radio station so that I could hear a positive message when I wake up. I am listening to either that station or the local Mix station in the car. I listen to the iPhone or Pandora when I’m at work. I’ve also been listening to podcasts from Walk In The Word by James McDonald or MidDay Connection by Moody Bible Institute. I highly recommend both those podcasts for anyone who needs a little encouragement these days! You can find them both in iTunes by searching.

    Saturday night

    Hey friends, I know that politics might not be everyone’s favorite topic, but some of you said I could write about what I want…

    And if you’re going to vote, here is a good opportunity to be informed. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church is hosting a Civil Forum on Saturday night (tomorrow) live on CNN where he will interview both Barack Obama and John McCain separately. Here are a few links:

    It will be aired live on CNN, I believe the time will be around 7 PM Central time.