Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sunday Afternoon

Our neighbor's yard, across the street and to the left.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that if I banged my elbow on the doorway or stubbed my toe on the bed frame, that meant that God was punishing me for some bad thought or deed. (My mom, a disgruntled and lapsed Catholic, was probably simply repeating something that her mom had told her.) I grew up with this hazy idea of a God that could reach his hand down and directly punish you for your misdeeds, bad language, impure thoughts, etc. He was listening and watching, that was the important part. Ours was a very secular-with-odd-religious-overtones kind of a house. Things like prayer were never discussed. 

As a consequence of the above and the fact that I didn't attend church regularly (that means not at all), my idea of prayer is vague. As an adult, when I wanted to learn how to pray, I really had nowhere to begin. The only place I had to start was back in my childhood. God was listening, I knew that much. He might punish you for calling your brother a bad name (or in present day terms, silently cursing the garbage man who has upended your can three weeks in a row, that S.O.B.!) But how did you communicate with Him?   And honestly, my belief in God was shaky to begin with, so I didn't know exactly how to proceed. Things have gotten better, they are evolving, but still, it seems funny to pray. Awkward I guess. 

Except this last Sunday, it wasn't so awkward. It was downright desperate. I prayed hard as I stood in our driveway watching our neighbor's field go up in flames. I prayed as the firemen and other first responders showed up to battle the brush fire. And I prayed as my husband walked to see what was going on. What did I pray for? I'll admit that my first thoughts were childlike, selfish, and pleading: Please God, make this stop. Make the flames go out, make this fire go away, protect my home, and protect my family. I fell back on what I knew.

I suspect that in drastic and dire situations, like the one above, we are drawn instinctively to familiar ways of thinking and acting. This includes prayer too. We fall back on what we learned in childhood or as a young adult. These are the ideas and routines and rituals that are deeply embedded within us. Even though we do the mental work to advance beyond childlike thoughts and actions, we still rely on them from time to time, particularly in a moment of crisis. It can take some conscious work, over time, to respond differently and to change behaviors. And to pray differently as well.

With some conscious work, my thoughts on prayer have changed over the last several years. As I learn new things, I add those ideas to what I already know and then discard what doesn't work. Lately, I have begun thinking of prayer as a sort of a faith based chit-chat with the Almighty. It's conversational in the sense that my inner dialogue just isn't between me, myself and I. It's between me and whatever power is listening. And I do believe that some power is listening. That is the faith based part. Call that power whatever you want, I call it God, and I think He/She/It knows what's up! 

It's kind of a practical way of viewing things to know that someone or something is always listening. It seems dependable but it's different from the bang-your-elbow-God-is-punishing-you idea that I mentioned above. It's more indirect I guess. I believe that God acts through every one of us, including the men and women involved in Sunday's fire. It's easier for me to imagine people utilizing their skills or offering help or kind words as a way for me to sense God's presence. Those are the sorts of things that I pray about and wish for when I settle down to talk with God. 

But even the best intentions go awry. I can say that as I stood in my driveway last Sunday, feeling my heart pounding in my chest, I quickly fell back on what I knew. I admit I prayed for God to stop the fire. But even as I did so, a large part of me knew that God was not going to intervene directly. I wanted Him to and prayed for that intervention but that is not my current view of how things work. (And I don't mean disrespect to the millions of people who fervently believe that some power, however it is called, does intercede directly on our behalf.  I would never take away from anyone's beliefs or faith.) I feel fortunate that I was able to correct the course of my prayers. I began to pray for the firefighters and support crew to do what they were called to do. I prayed for them to use all of their skills to stay safe and to effectively put out the fire. I prayed for the safety of my neighbors, that they would use their common sense to stay back and to guard their families from harm. I prayed about and for the animals that live around me, wondering how they would be free from harm. And I thanked God that so far, we were all safe. Things were looking OK. For now.

Thanks for reading and commenting,
Libby




Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Spoonful of Sugar...


This week has been a full one for me. I had a lovely hike with friends on Monday and met with my cousin and aunt Wednesday for lunch. Thursday I picked up my new orthotics and on Friday I watched a documentary on Netflix. In between those things, there has been the standard housework (laundry, cooking, etc.) and I have done a fair amount of Internet reading. Hey, you might ask, what have you been reading? Well, let me tell you!

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed that my coffee has seemed a little sweet. I am pretty liberal with the sugar, I admit. From past research I know that the recommended amount of added sugar per day for women (barring any medical conditions I would add) is 6 teaspoons. There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon so that adds up to 24 grams of added sugar per day. Added sugar consists of sugar (any kind, doesn't matter what) that you yourself add to the food you prepare, bake or cook and sugar that is added to prepackaged, prepared food like from a supermarket or restaurant. (This is separate from naturally occurring sugar contained in fruits, vegetables, some beans and legumes, and other whole foods.) Since I am The Curious Housewife, I was, well, curious! How much added sugar am I really consuming each day?

Since I love reading food labels, I got right to work in my pantry and fridge. First, I listed all of the prepackaged foods that I eat that contain some type of sugar. (Remember to read the label and ingredient list!) There aren't that many products but there are some: chiefly, a few types of granola bars, vegan yogurt, my favorite bread, and Vegenaise. (I didn't count things like ketchup since I rarely use these types of condiments and I didn't count anything that Rich eats exclusively.) The hemp and almond milk that I drink is unsweetened so good news there. I do eat chocolate chips so bad news there! That was kind of it. But it was enough. More than enough in fact!

I was dismayed when I added up the amount of added sugar that I eat in a typical day. And in fact, I was irritated with myself for allowing such a lax approach. Then, I got a grip on myself and turned things around. How could I do better? Does it matter? (It does matter, and yes, I can do better.) The first thing I did was take the monk fruit and stevia sweeteners out of the cupboard and dusted the boxes off. These were going in the coffee instead of the sugar. (I didn't go cold turkey here. I still allowed a teaspoon of actual sugar for my coffee and grains and this has been more than enough.) That move cut down on 2 tsps of sugar right there. The other thing I did was to get real about those granola bars. I have been treating them as part of my dietary pattern rather than what they really are, which is a treat like dessert. (Or something to be eaten while on the trail, ahem!) The yogurt is really the same issue as the granola bars since it has about 17 grams of sugar per serving. That is about 4+ teaspoons of sugar! You wouldn't eat that straight up right so why is it OK in the yogurt? 

I was glad that I did this roundup. It may seem a little neurotic and perhaps a little too exacting but honestly, I have not read anything that says too much added sugar is good for you. (Let me know if you have, OK?) Nowhere is it written that added sugar in foods has any health benefits. It doesn't take a scientist (or any links) to suggest that sugar is just damn good and makes food quite palatable and pleasurable. Any child can tell you this as well as every adult. Sugar makes many things better. 

So what do you do if you would like to cut back? Or maybe just learn a little more about what sugar does in your body? Or maybe even why you might want to up your fruit and veggie intake to enjoy some naturally occurring sugar? Remember earlier that I mentioned doing some reading this week? Have I got some links for you!

Want to know some basics about added sugars? Here is a good link from the American Heart Association and also one from Harvard Health Publishing. This link from the New York Times talks about why we like sugar so much and how to wean ourselves off of it. I also enjoyed this link from Familydoctor.org. It's a little more in depth than the above two articles. And lastly, from the same site, is this link on sugar substitutes. 

I got excited about a few other things that I read this week. Maybe not excited in a good way, (like yippee!), but more in an agitated kind of way. I read this post from VeganRD about body shaming in the vegan community. I don't spend much time in this arena, with other vegans online, and so this post came as a surprise to me. I thought the author's "points to remember" were really good for all of us. Kindness and sensitivity never hurts. Ever. 

In line with the above topic, the author of Vegan RD (Ginny Messina) provided a link to a podcast that I listened to. It's on food and body shaming. It's 45 minutes long and worth the listen. I say this because I am certainly guilty of doing both things. I want to improve in this area so that I can understand and accept people better. If you are like me in that regard, this podcast is a good place to start.

I really did have a lot of things that I wanted to write about this week but finally settled on the above items which are somewhat related. I mentioned a documentary in the beginning. I recommend that highly if you have Netflix and want to be horrified about sugar consumption in the US and Australia. It's a white knuckler-jaw-dropping kind of experience. And I wanted to say this in closing. Many of the posts that I read this week had comments attached. They were amazing. People seem to want to argue; seem to need to drive their viewpoints home and steamroll other people in the process. It's careless in my opinion. I write about veganism because that is what I am interested in but I know it isn't the only viewpoint. I know that others do things differently and I hope to be respectful of that even if I disagree. I would only add that no matter what your diet is, no matter your size or health situation, kindness and understanding will always win. Be compassionate to those around you (yes, even the animals!) You won't go wrong! Now go forth and have a good weekend!
Libby

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