Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy (Almost) Chinese New Year!

Stocking tonight at Universal Mama


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A New Treasury on Treasury West Featuring EtsyVeg and NaturalKids Team Members

You can find the Treasury here:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Handcrafted Easter

Want something to hide that won't fester if it's lost? Want something that last year after year but doesn't take much room to store? Would you like to hide eggs and have your kids turn them in for other prizes besides candy?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Control over other people is just an illusion; so how do we honor when we are scared, hurt, or humiliated? Do we devalue others so we can justify how we feel about them? Do we feel justified when someone fails? Or do we humble ourselves with Honor?

We raise a standard in the lives of other people through Honor, people become better people through Honor. True honor is humility for both the giver and the receiver: it builds character, integrity and relationship. The choice is up to us."

quoted from a synopsis of the message Sheri Silk

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about intimacy: with friends, my spouse, and my children. I tend to fall into the trap of impatient shouting or ordering about or stomping kind of tantrums when the world doesn't go as I expect it to. I do not like losing control.

I tend to get increasingly disappointed with my reactions and my harshness and TRY harder but it doesn't really progress. Sometimes if I behave like I have an audience all the time I keep more composed but when I am stuffing my frustrations I am not really responding in a mature way anyway.

Would you be content with a friend telling you that everything is ok if you could see on their face that their blood is boiling or they're full of shame? Would you walk away feeling resolved that the relationship was all ok?

Not that we can control the responses or reactions of others but we do have a responsibility to come to an understanding, within reasonable limits (notice not an agreement, but an understanding).

In a similar way, I shouldn't expect my children to be concerned with the character lesson I might want to highlight when I have clearly become upset with their behavior. If their primary emotional issue is that I am obviously frustrated with them or angry, they aren't able to really learn what I am trying to teach. They are learning to placate me. They are telling me what I want to hear until I appear to like them again. There is no understanding at all.

So, while there are things I want to get done around the house and with schooling and in building my children's character, I am taking it as a new challenge to respond to their behavior and not just react. To be responsible in what I can control. And the truth is I cannot control their behavior at all. If I push for control now, what happens when they decide they want to be the ones in control? If I teach them that for one to have power another has to be without it, what kind of system am I establishing in my home? I would rather that we cultivated the place of honor, where we are each free to be who we are and are learning to be responsible for cleaning up our own emotional messes.

In order to do this I need to model the asking for forgiveness and clearly communicating my feelings and needs. When I talk about how I feel I need to talk about myself and not blame others or my circumstances for why I am behaving badly. I would like to honor my children by giving them choices in how they handle situations and coming alongside them as they learn how their actions affect others and how to respond to the consequences. My primary role then is facilitating them in their own processes, within certain guidelines as I am convicted, not imposing a system I create and where they have no room to manouver and provide opinions. I want to respond to whatever situations with grace and kindness and maintain integrity even if the other person is making it difficult.

Honestly, I just can't do it alone. Both in a spiritual sense and a communal one I need others. I need to see other people model this when I feel weak. I need others to remind me of my goals when I fall short. I want to see it all in action. Even the idea of communicating beyond the superficial, of being vulnerable with feelings, assertive with honoring myself and others, can feel awkward. The more widespread in my own community it becomes, the deeper the roots will go and the more natural it will seem. I feel scared that there isn't more honor practiced in the world, and I need to feel encouraged as I try to do my part.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Chicago Mugging and a Phoenix Theft

Since this Saturday, someone else is reading my journal. Or more likely they have thrown it in the dumpster. Someone else knows about the surprise party we held for our friend Dave on his 49th birthday and when we adopted our new rescue dog. They saw the photos of our boys as they clamored to find the ipod shuffle and the 48 cents I had in my change purse. They ate Taco Bell they purchased with my friend’s American Express card and tossed my favorite bible in the trash. They didn’t know how a hat a friend made me for Christmas meant so much or that I knew where each and every item came from, the artisan who made them, and had thoughtfully considered every purchase. They didn’t know me, but I am praying for them.

Thirteen years ago I was mugged on the Chicago Subway. I always joke that I deserved it that day because I was dressed like a farmer. No reason for the costume at all. City girl dressed in overalls and a huge straw hat. I lived on the South Side and it was late, maybe 1 or 2am. The Harrison station was always closed then and so my friend and I were traveling past it to the Roosevelt station, but when we made the stop prior at Balbo the doors wouldn’t open. At that time the conductors were still on the train, announcing the stations and manually opening the doors. I suppose the CTA employee must have been in on the whole thing. My friend and I didn’t see it though. We were on a sort of spiritual high that made us giddy. It was the first time we had shared our testimonies publicly. She was several months pregnant and single and I was soon to be married and we had both come through a few pretty tough years. We both felt that the Lord had blessed us greatly and were very thankful to share our struggles with others.

When the doors of our train car wouldn’t open the couple trying to get out of the subway asked for help. We rushed over to them, happy to give assistance. By the time we helped them pry open the doors they had taken our personal possessions out of our backpacks. We were students and we kept everything in there. I had the first bible I had ever purchased with me. It was in a case that my mom had given me as a birthday gift. It was one of those thoughtful presents that meant she was trying to understand me. It was really important to me. Inside were all my forms of identification and some cash and checks too. That day, the people who mugged me also started to use my name to commit crimes. Although I changed my name a few months later when I was married, they had literally stolen my name. I was forced to return to my mother’s maiden name, my legal one, and one I had never used. As a child, I had always taken on the name of whomever my mother was married to at the time.

This weekend when I came back from hiking, I was very excited to see the car. We had been hiking over four miles with 6 children and 5 adults of all different ages. We all felt like we had accomplished something however small or large to someone else. In the mountains that day, we felt strong and proud. We had felt victorious. We were soon deflated.

We could understand wanting the purses. We had hoped as we dug in the gas station dumpsters and the Taco Bell garbage cans we might have recovered some of the stuff: that they would have left our personal items and just taken the few valuables and credit cards. We were disheartened to find nothing and confused at why they stole a bag of bell peppers and agave nectar and beans.

It has been frustrating to replace government issued items and worry about identity theft. More often than I would like I reconsider all the things we could have done differently. If we had known they would have busted open the trunk, I would have taken the cell phone which was borrowed from my pastor.

I had worked very hard swapping and trading and gifting and purchasing the specialty items in that bag. The ipod a gift for my husband: the only extravagant thing I had ever bought him and practical nonetheless since he is a marathon runner. The lotion was specially made in a chocolate amber scent in a co-op. I had made 50 dollars worth of playfood in exchange for the fingerless gloves. The journal and planner contained notes of all the cool things God has revealed to me in personal times of prayer or at conferences and classes. The hat was the first Christmas gift I had exchanged with a friend in years; she had made it to match my green eye shadow without even knowing it.

My husband told me that they couldn’t steal my joy. He is right. I can give that to them if I choose. I am deliberately responding with what I can do rather than reacting to what I cannot change. I keep crying though. I really feel violated. I keep reasoning with myself that it is just stuff. Logically I know things could have been much worse. I find praying for the people who stole from me easy. If they are touched by the Lord in some way it will all be worth it. I am just wishing the healing would be faster.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vegetarian: Because I Like Animals and Love People

I am not an animal lover. I mean I think they’re great. I am as gentle with our rescue dog as I would be with a child. I take time choosing his food and I care about his feelings and I have compassion. I like animals. I show affection for them and I want to stop cruelty in the form of torture, testing, and neglect. I do care, but I am not that kind of vegetarian. I became a vegetarian because I love people.

I was working at a relatively refined Tuesday night soup kitchen called Dignity Diner. Hungry and homeless people came to be served a meal and to spend time in casual conversation with people who wanted to listen. The Chicago Vegetarian Society prepared the food. Usually they didn’t let the college kids who volunteered into the kitchen. We were allowed to serve and dine with the people but there was a line we didn’t get to cross. They weren’t exclusive or anything, they just had a certain way of doing things and wanted to handle the food, but I soon earned their trust. I showed up weekly and I was open to hearing about the vegetarian lifestyle.

My sister was already a vegetarian and I was really a lover of food in all forms. In fact, in the previous year, when I went on a spiritual journey to find deeper meaning in life (quite a struggle for a 18-year-old who had grown up without any religious experiences at all), I used to frequent the Hare Krishna temple on Sunday evenings just for the free vegan meal. Yum! Don’t ask me what they actually served there. Some things were bright pink and purple and might have been flowers but they tasted like horseradish and love and I couldn’t get enough. As I listened and volunteered myself across the line at the kitchen of Dignity Diner, I knew I was starting a new journey that would last a long time.

I had read Upton Sinclair’s work on the meat-packing industry. I spent time thumbing through vegetarian literature at Healing Earth Resources over vegan chocolate mousse. I even went out to eat at Lawry’s Steak House and refused to touch any beef. I had made some steps. Later that week, however, I ate off the value menu at McDonald’s. I was in process, but I was open to it all.

I really didn’t need much convincing once I started listening to the man with coke-bottle glasses who was liberally tossing the salad with Spike: if the land used to graze animals was converted to growing vegetables and grains, more people could eat. It was obvious to me as I looked around at the hungry and homeless people lining up for the 100 seats at the Dignity Diner each Tuesday that this was important. Later I would figure out that food distribution and population issues would also affect any plan like this. It wasn’t as simple as that. Perhaps becoming vegetarian wouldn’t change the world right away, but there was a benefit to refusing to support an industry that so obviously catered to a certain kind of elite and caused great harm doing so.

The months of hemming and hawing came to an end. I had made a decision. I was vegan for eight years and have not touched meat in the 15 years since I made that decision. My children have been vegetarian or vegan since conception. For our thirteen years of marriage, my husband and I have never considered eating meat. He introduced me to feminist theories surrounding vegetarianism: the hearty meat being reserved for the kings first and then the men and the less desirable veggies for the women and the poor. I saw the connections between the objectification of women and the politics of the meat industry. I saw the correlation between the consumption of most dairy products and chronic health issues. I spent over ten years breastfeeding my four sons until they each weaned as toddlers, so that they would receive the benefits of the milk of their own species.

In fact, only our most poverty stricken years and our second son’s severe reaction to soy products led us to start consuming any dairy products at all. Had WIC and the Food Banks been willing to provide us with rice-based alternatives, I am not sure we would have started eating it all. Even now, we work on adding more coconut and avocado and agave to our diets and less dairy and eggs and refined sugar.

We are gentler than we used to be when asked why we are vegetarians even as we are more and more convinced that everyone would benefit from not eating meat. We have found subtle ways of inquiring about how foods are prepared while still making sure people know that there are vegetarians out there and we aren’t going to “cheat” even once. Vegetarianism is more difficult here in suburban Phoenix where there are less budget-friendly ethnic restaurants and no Chicago Diner (although we love Green and know that we are missing nothing by not having ever eaten “real” buffalo wings).

In the end, we are vegetarians. We like animals. We love people. We believe we are called to a life of loving others and this is one way we can do it. We wish everyone would consider meat-free eating and we will answer when asked about it. We like to challenge people to try new foods and we love that our children beg for broccoli and artichokes and sugar-snap peas. We think the world would be a better place if we all considered the impact of our food the way vegetarians and vegans do and acted upon their convictions. We aren’t weak. We participate in marathons and half-marathons. Our second son is a gymnast. Our children love running the two mile loop around our house. We are healthy and strong and thankful for the lesser negative impact we make with our lifestyle, one small step at a time.