Friday, March 13, 2009

This week's preparation goal . . .

Was to find out places where I could safely fish that are close by. It seems that fish caught in the wild are very toxic and the emphasis is more on sportfishing than on fishing for food. That is a real shame. I'm turning my focus to beans and legumes.

Here are some emergency preparedness/self-sufficiency/survival resources:
Survival Podcast
Causubon's Book (I added a gadget to my sidebar: 100 Ways to Prepare for Peak Oil)

I like both of these because they appeal to your common sense and intellect.

Book Review: World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler


I read James Howard Kunstler's blog and from reading that, I was not necessarily interested in a work of fiction by him (his style can be a bit caustic and overly sarcastic) but my library had it so I borrowed World Made by Hand. I was a bit cautious because I really don't need any more gloom and doom predictions but it was okay in that regard. I can't say that the book is a great work of literature but it was interesting and problematic in ways that are difficult for me to overlook and, unfortunately, will forever color how I read Kunstler's other writings.

When we read we bring our own identities and experiences to what we're reading so of course I kept that in mind. But as a woman, the book was highly offensive and as a Black person, it was equally offensive. In this work that imagines a post-oil future, the world has returned back to the way things were in the early 1800s. Women are only good for sex and domestic duties. This is a male-dominated world where women are only valuable for what their bodies do not for who they are. Even to this day, this is a struggle women are still fighting but without all the modern living distractions and societal emphasis on inclusion, equality and political correctness, it just intensifies things. Apparently, no female doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, engineers or high level corporate executives have ever existed or else they were all wiped out by the flu. Hell, even a women being able to skillfully angle a fish gives the main character some pause. Women are notable because of their beauty (or once being beautiful) and their ability to bake bread and cook well. Black people are only relevant as participants in race wars. Seriously, there are NO BLACK PEOPLE whatsoever in Kunstler's futuristic imaginations. So, the only people who really matter in this futuristic world are White men.

Otherwise, the story was just okay. It lumped along in some places and beleaguered some points to the point of exhaustion. Kunstler keeps on referring to "the old days" and trying to remind the readers how totally different this world is from the one we are living in today. Unfortunately, for any of us who have traveled to third world nations, especially if we've visited remote villages, the world Kunstler imagines is one that already exists there. Maybe a tad bit better. In this town, at least, there's running water and the soil is fertile enough where anyone with some gardening know-how can grow something. Electricity is not a given but it flickers on every once in a while (eventually it goes out permanently). I was not impressed by "difficulty" of this world Kunstler imagines and, as the main character states toward the end, things did fall back into normality. To be fair, it seems that this town where the story takes place is one of the more fortunate areas of the country where some semblance of order exists. Elsewhere there is pure chaos, violence and, of course, race wars. (Ah, those pesky Negroes.) But this town has held their little society together and at the end seems to be on it's way to getting better.

I couldn't help but to draw comparisons between Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and this novel. Parable of the Sower is ten times more brutal yet, in my mind, the writing is much more artistic and skilled and inclusive. Even though these books both imagine a world so totally different than the one I live in now, it's just so interesting to me that White male privilege would still carry over in Kunstler's futuristic world while in Ms. Butler's futuristic world, those privileges are hardly relevant anymore. It seems the futures we imagine are informed by our current realities.

Some interesting similarities were, of course, the obvious absence of cars. In WMbH, all cars have been stripped for their metal in the "Great Collection". In PotS, they're just gone and the protagonist marvels at a world where one person had to have a 3 car garage to house the cars. In both stories, self-sufficieny in food production is a must. The fruits and vegetables they eat, they plant and I for one, take some small joy in the fact that in both these stories, the Earth is still giving, still producing. The meat they eat, they catch or raise and butcher. Ironically, in both books, wheat is a difficult grain to come by. In WMbH, the people substitute corn bread for wheat bread/cakes and in PotS, there really are no substitutes except for acorn bread which it doesn't seem many people know how to make. In both books, community is essential to survival. Those who are not part of a strong community are doomed--no way around it. Community is the only thing that provides safety and some security. Another interesting similarity is that religion and questions about God feature regularly in both books. In WMbH, there's an enigmatic, ultra-religious sect that moves into town with plenty of loyal, hard-working followers. In PotS, the main character is obviously going to be the originator of a brand new (and equally enigmatic) religion, builds followers and eventually settles on some land that will clearly be the religion's headquarters (I haven't read the sequel to PotS and I'm not sure I will).

I enjoyed World Made by Hand for what it was. It was a creative and well-rounded story despite its problems. It was funny at times (like when the main character tries to describe to a young child what a car was) and made you really think at others (because there was indeed brutality and violence and makes you hope that the changing times will bring out the God in people and the Devil in them). Overall, especially compared to Parable of the Sower, the futuristic world of Kunstler's is not that bad. It's livable or at least I could imagine myself living in it. Not so with Butler's future world where gated communities provided a only a semblance of security. That security only lasts for about a quarter of Butler's novel and we are plunged right into the violent, chaotic world outside of the gates. Kunstler keeps his entire story, for the most part, close to the fairly orderly town.

Anyway, I'm ready to read a novel that imagines a post-oil future that hasn't gone to hell in a hand basket. I hope to stumble across one. Maybe I'll have to write it. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ahimsa


Tuesday, the hubby's official day off and one of the very few that he didn't pick up an extra shift, was a busy day for my family. We moved around a lot. By the time we got around to our last stop, Home Depot and Costco, we figured the best thing to do was to split up so as to save time and get the boys home. So the hubby dropped me off at Costco with Z2 and took Z1 with him to Home Depot. At Home Depot, they were getting planks of plywood to build the raised boxes as well as potting soil and other things we need for the garden. At Costco, I was getting fruits and greens. We finished around the same time but the hubby was having a difficult time getting everything to fit into the car so I was waiting for him at the eating area trying to keep Z2 amused. He wasn't amused. He was cranky and tired and wanted to go home. In a few minutes, he turned from just being whiny to all-out crying. I did all I could to calm him down but he wouldn't be consoled.

Eventually, the hubby finished up and drove over to pick me and Z2 up. Then we got to share our stories. While the hubby was shoving planks of wood into the back of the car and trying to corral Z1 or otherwise get him to stop talking so he could focus, a guy was standing there talking incessantly about the great deals he was able to get at Home Depot Expo which is going out of business. Never once did he offer the hubby a hand or try to keep Z1 amused. While I was waiting at the eating area, a lady kept giving me stink looks as if somehow I could control Z2's crying anymore than I already was. In fact, one more stink look from that chick and I'm almost 100% sure I would have gone off on her.

From our experiences, we both marveled at how these days, there seems to be a sore lack of compassion. People see someone doing their best, trying their best and it doesn't stir up anything in them, doesn't make them think, "Hmmm . . . if that were me I would appreciate if . . .

Personally, I've been meditating on yoga philosophy, specifically the Yamas and the Niyamas, powerful principles to live by. A lot of the principles are not new to me but for some reason these days, they are more penetrating, more real. I can clearly see how they can lead to a more fulfilled life and, not to sound corny or anything, a peaceful world. Now, I know not everyone is willing to strive to live these principles but I can actually visualize the changes that would happen if we all did. Maybe one day we all will.

The Yama or Wise Characteristic of Ahimsa (literally translated as "nonviolence") is compassion for all living things came to my mind immediately as I thought about these situations that the hubby and I dealt with. Why? Because even though those two folks weren't exactly compassionate to us, we weren't compassionate to them either. Maybe that dude who was talking the hubby's ear off doesn't have anyone else to talk to. Maybe talking helps him to take his mind off some awful situation in his life. Maybe that chick who was giving me the stink looks had a raging headache or had such a difficult day that all she wanted to do was eat her pizza in peace and there Z2 was jacking everything up. We've all been in funky places where our behavior was less than stellar.

What about if we had enough compassion on ourselves to have ample compassion on others?

And it is clear to me that compassion is not the same as pity. Most people do not want pity. But we all need and want compassion. Why? Pity looks down. It comes from a place of superiority. Compassion, on the other hand, looks at and comes from a place of equality. Compassion doesn't mean that we give folks free passes to do foolishness to us, be abusive towards us, or put us in harm's way (because the most important compassion is towards our own selves). Compassion doesn't give people a free ride just because we can understand where they are coming from/where they are. Compassion does not mean we do not exercise proper judgment. But people feel compassionate energy. I've noticed with my children that when I'm compassionate to their frustration, anger or other emotions that cause them to do things they're not supposed to do (in Z1's case that's usually to throw something; in Z2's case that's usually to bite), I'm much more successful in getting the negative behavior to turn into positive behavior--much more quickly. I stumbled upon that realization when I was teaching too. In trying to help others, in trying to uplift others, having compassion and emitting it freely goes a long way in establishing that we are genuine and true. It goes a long way in turning the negative into the positive because we are able to be at (not get down to) the same level, the same wavelength.

How can we cultivate compassion? For those of us who enjoy meditation, there's the practice of Tonglen. On a more basic level, we can choose to actually listen to the experiences of others (even if they're not explicitly telling you their deal). We can take a moment to reflect upon situations (past or present) and infuse those situations with compassion simply because we have all been there and done that. Simply because we are all connected even if we don't like to admit it.

I'm working on a daily basis to cultivate the Yamas and the Niyamas in my life and trying to find ways to give these powerful principles to my children.

Image from commons.wikipedia.org: The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes . . . Ahimsa, meaning non-violence. The word in the middle is "ahimsa" in Sanskrit. The wheel represents the dharmachakra, to halt the cycle of reincarnation through relentless pursuit of truth.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kemetic Yoga


A sister who reads my blog hipped me to the practice of Kemetic Yoga. I had never really heard of it before but my interest was certainly piqued. I know I'd really like to take formal yoga classes (and belly dancing classes too) at some point soon. After reading a little, a Kemetic Yoga class would be phenomenal to take.

"Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in many cultures throughout the world. It is most commonly associated with the culture of India. A fact that is coming more into the common knowledge is that Africans in Kemp (Ancient Egypt) practiced Yoga many years before the evolution of the culture of India. KEMETIC Yoga is expressed in the artwork and spiritual writings found in the ancient tombs and temples. On wall paintings and sculptures we see figures in positions that we now know to be Yoga postures. In the ancient texts we are able to read about the principles and techniques of physical and spiritual perfection that the KEMETIC people aspired to.

From the earliest times it was known in Egypt that there is only one GOD, the One Truth. This is why a deep study of the many religions, mystery systems and myths around the world reveals ‘similarities’ in philosophy and symbolism; it is due to the one common source of them all. It is our duty to enquire deeply into the nature of that truth since knowing the exact truth is the basis of our well being."

Here's some other sources of info I found on this type of yoga:
What is Kemetic Yoga?
Kemetic Yoga: An Ancient Art for Modern Living
Demystifying the Art and Science of Yoga--A quote from this article:
"The conscious alignment of the country woman’s spine as she gracefully carries baskets on her head and the meditative state of trance guided by traditional drum playing are more examples of yoga practice."
In Nigeria too you can still find that many women carry loads light and heavy perfectly balanced on their heads. I'd never thought of that in terms of yoga!

I'm very grateful to have been introduced to Kemetic Yoga. I'm very new to the practice of yoga and what I have found already is that often there can be a disconnect between the spiritual and the physical if one is not careful. There are plenty of yoga DVDs and instructions only aimed at the body with a cursory nod to the spiritual (of course, you can modify your own practice). What I find is that in trying to make yoga palatable to Westerners, it has been watered down and indeed disconnected. It is so wonderful, in my mind, to find a yoga that goes all the way back to Kemet, all the way back to the root. I hope to find a class/instructor of Kemetic Yoga nearby. This would be the yoga class I'd be angling to take first.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thought this was interesting . . .

Wonderwash--a portable washing machine that uses no electricity but claims to get clothes as clean as a conventional washing machine.

Wonderwash

enlarge image

Description

Why Use the Wonder Wash?

  • Washes a 5-lb. load super clean in just a couple of minutes.
  • Has a patented pressure system that forces detergent into the fabric at high speed for a fast, efficient, economic and very easy wash
  • Is ideal for campers, single persons and even for the housewife with small frequent loads like hand washables and diapers.
  • Is ideal for delicates such as woolens, silks, knitted dresses and cashmere garments.
  • Uses far less water than even hand washing.
Pretty cool.

Tomato, Tomato!

Even before I entertained the idea of getting a garden going (today we are going to pick up supplies, by the way), I've always thought of growing tomatoes especially after seeing my sister in law growing them easily in pots. I use a lot of tomatoes in my kitchen and I could easily spend $20 on organic tomatoes alone (just a couple of pounds at that). When we were part of a food coop, some weeks we'd get so much tomatoes I wouldn't know what to do with them. It was tomatoes this and tomatoes that. In fact, it was those tomatoes that made the whole coop worthwhile (actually the tomatoes and the fabulous eggs). Those tomatoes we got were some of the most delicious tasting tomatoes ever. They made store bought tomatoes (even the organic ones) taste like cardboard. I had always thought I didn't like raw tomatoes but those coop tomatoes? I could eat them like an apple. I wish I had thought about preserving and such back then. We could have enjoyed those tomatoes for so much longer. But now that preserving is where my mind is, I'm even more eager to get some tomatoes growing. I want to make tomato sauces and tomato pastes and I'm hoping to have enough tomato products to preserve for our use right through next winter. The Bell Blue Book of Canning definitely describes how to do it but you can also find great resources online for canning tomatoes.

One of my favorite blogs NYAM! Adventures in Cooking and Eating gave me one excellent tip about saving tomato paste. I would always open a can or jar of tomato paste, transfer it to a storage bowl and come back a few days later to find it moldy and unusable. What a waste! Last night I was using tomato paste to cook and once again thanked Anaylli for this wonderful tip. The tip? Put the remainder of your tomato paste into a freezer bag (Ziploc), try to eliminate as much air as possible, flatten the tomato paste, and then seal the bag. Store it in your freezer. It will keep a very long time. When you need some tomato paste for a dish, break off a piece. If you're making a stew, just toss the frozen tomato paste in. If you need soft tomato paste, just leave it out to defrost. Come to think of it, if had a deep freezer, I'd definitely be considering freezing as a good way of "putting up food".
Photo Credit: "tomatoes squaredcircle" by Muffet on Flickr.com
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This morning I did Denise Austin's Get Fit Daily Dozen: 12 Move in 12 Minutes. This DVD was just OK. I wasn't bowled over by it although I did get my heart rate up and sweat. I did two of the twelve minute routines (Cardio-Athletic Blast and Cardio-Kickbox Burn). I was going to add on the 12 minute yoga stretch but I was bored to tears. I like when I'm so into a workout that my eyes are not glued to the DVD timer counting down to when it's over. Overall, it's a good DVD especially if you're really tight on time and/or just starting out. The routines were varied, i.e. you weren't doing the same move for too too long. Maybe I'm just to used to Denise Austin to appreciate her anymore. Her Blast Away 10 Lbs., though, is still the best that she's done to date in my opinion and it's one of my favorites.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ooooh-weee!

Just wanted to report that this morning, my legs are on fire! This is as a result of yesterday's workout. I'm glad too . . . it means I worked something that I haven't been working on.

I am seeing results, by the way. I'm losing weight slowly but I'm also getting toned up. More than all of that, I feel strong and energetic.

I'm not sure if I can get my stomach back to being the way it was pre-children because there's a lot of stretched out skin. I can feel the muscles underneath are getting more toned but overall, my stomach doesn't look much different. That's a bummer but oh well. I'm surprisingly comfortable and accepting of my stomach the way it is because it reminds me of what my body did.

On another note, I was looking in The Reader's Digest Back to Basics book (which has everything you ever wanted to know about back to basics/off the grid/back country living) curious about how to make perfume at home. Very interesting if not gross. You use lard to make it. You can get your scent from flowers or herbs/spices. Basically, you take lard that has absorbed the scent from the flowers and mix it with alcohol. That's back-to-basic perfume. I'm not so sure I can get with that. But then again, lard was originally used for making soap.

I woke up an hour late today I guess making up for the hour that was lost. I'm not sure if the boys will sleep till 7:45/8:00 today because of daylight savings or not so I'm off to try to squeeze in Radiant Heart Yoga before they get up.

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It's 7:11 right now and everyone is still asleep. I just finished Radiant Heart Yoga by Shiva Rea.
Since I've been learning about the chakras (currently learning about the throat chakra), I was intrigued by this DVD which focuses on the "heart center" or heart chakra. Overall, I feel this is an excellent offering by Shiva Rea who has a very peaceful and detailed way of instructing. The poses/moves she uses were at times challenging for me so I did the best I could. It is definitely not a DVD for pure beginners. My only qualm with the DVD is the way it was shot. I get that they wanted it to be artsy and the background to be calming (it was a very beautiful background indeed) but it was kind of dark and shadowy and I had a difficult time seeing what Rea was actually doing. That's my only real complaint.

Okay, so this DVD is not necessarily something I'd add on as part of my fitness routine. It's more of a moving meditation and a powerful one at that. She incorporates the chanting of "Aum" into the routine and the sound "Ha" in the sun salutation part. I enjoyed this DVD but not because I felt like it burned calories or toned me up. It was perfect to do after yesterday's workout and the soreness I am feeling today. This yoga is all about the heart center (chakra) and focusing energy and healing towards the heart while calling up positive characteristics such as love, compassion, and forgiveness. I could feel love all around and inside me while doing it and even right now. So I would say that in doing this routine, my heart chakra opened up. Shiva Rea achieves what she set out to do. It would be so nice to find other yoga DVDs focused on specific chakras.

Anyway, today's practice left me feeling energetic and bright even though the day is quite dreary. I'm ready to start my day feeling positive and joyful. While I don't think I'll be purchasing this DVD, I'm adding it to my wish list and I'll definitely check it out from the library on a regular basis.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Back-to-Basic Ways to Keep Yourself Looking Good

One thing that's generally clear about women cross-culturally is the desire (or maybe even need) to feel lovely, beautiful, flawless. Most women like to walk into a room and have heads turn. We do all sorts of things to achieve this (especially pre-marriage and pre-children when we are free to focus 100% of our energies on us). Now that most of us are tightening our belts, we've had to chuck a lot of the things we may have been doing to help us achieve that sense of outward flawlessness. I know at Whole Foods the other day, I had to put back some very nice soaps that I wanted because my grocery bill was way over what I had on hand to spend. As I read folks' blogs, I hear ladies talk about cutting out manicure/pedicure visits, learning to do their own hair (and sometimes stumbling along the way) or going longer periods of time before paying the hairdresser a visit, and eliminating other things (they don't have to be huge things either) that used to help us achieve our signature flyness. So I got to thinking: if the shit really hit the fan and we were suddenly thrown into chaos, what are some practical ways that we as women could retain a sense of flyness? It's important to our survival as whole women (not just physical survivors).

Now, I'll be the first to admit, with a three year old and a one year old, and with only one household income, it's a challenge to make sure I feel good about how I look when I step out. It's much easier to throw on any old thing and go. But it's a challenge I at least try to meet just because for me personally, feeling positive abour how I look changes how I approach the world. If I feel good about how I look, even with two kids in tow, I have a spring in my step and I can turn heads. Wanting to feel good about how I look drives my physical fitness efforts. It's what makes me choose a pretty headwrap and make the effort to wrap it instead of tossing on a hat.

I've been getting into World Made by Hand recently and the words that come to mind are "stark" and "difficult". I think to myself: I already have limited resources and limited time . . . what if I had even less? What if most of the resources and time went into physically surviving? First off, would I even care how I look? Secondly, with nothing to really work with, if I did care, what could I do about it?

So I thought about it and came up with at least one way to feel beautiful despite whatever is going on: rose water. Out back we have an old rose bush that the hubby's grandmother used to tend. It no longer flowers but back when granny attended it, it was beautiful, so I hear. I don't know if it will happen this year as my focus is on vegetable gardening, but I am going to get that rose bush back to flowering (if not plant a new one). Why? Because it looks beautiful and being surrounded by beauty helps us feel the same but also to make rosewater. If you've ever smelled rosewater, it's divine. It is rosey but not overly so. And it's not too hard to make at home. You can use it as a toner/refresher or as a body spritz or as a linen spray. I buy commercially made rose water now but it's good to know that if I had to, I could make the stuff. I've tried my hand at making rosewater lotion (emulsion of rosewater and jojoba oil I think) . . . not so good.

You know, every time I hear a story of disaster or difficulty, what often strikes me most is people's desire to feel human. For women, one aspect of our humanity, it seems, is beauty. Often you hear that for women who have been through hard times, a little perfume or nail polish goes a long way to alleviate the suffering.

(I'm editing this post 03/10/09 in the interest of keeping my blog positive and not catty.)

I am interested in being the best we can be especially in difficult times. I'm not talking about being 100% perfect--no one is. I'm talking about you feeling good about how you look (really doesn't matter how anybody else feels). Ms. Erykah Badu sang one of my most favorite songs (Cleva) and I love how the words always apply. It's acknowledging that your dress may be $7 and your hair may not be quite right . . . and so what? I'm.still.flyy.

We hope for the best always but in the event of the worst, it's helpful, in my mind, to think about ways that we could still feel gorgeous in spite of. To me, a big part of emergency preparedness (aside from physical survival) is keeping your mentals intact so why not incorporate this aspect? It's imperative to meditate or pray or do whatever you do to ground yourself but it's also important to me as a woman to think of little back-to-basic ways to feel good about how I look.

One-on-One Training with Jackie

Look, I just have to rave about One-on-One Training with Jackie, which I borrowed from the library to preview. It is the bomb! It is an excellent strength-training workout that is varied and never boring. There are three 20-minute long workouts: upper body, lower body and core. Today I did upper body and lower body. I was never bored. The routines are varied and challenging yet not overly so. And I can't say enough about Jackie Warner. I really like her style. She is not brash or loud. She provides just the right amount of encouragement without being patronizing. And she's all about form so she takes time out to say what position each part of your body should be in as you do the exercise. I sweated and breathed hard but I feel really good. Initially, in fact, I was only going to do one routine today but I loved it so much, I did another. If I had more time, I would probably do the last one! I give this one five stars for sure and I'm actually looking forward to doing the core routine.

I have two other DVDs on hold that I'm yet to try: Shiva Rea's Radiant Heart Yoga (I'll be doing that tomorrow) and Denise Austin's Daily Dozens (I'll be doing that Tuesday). You know, I'm not terribly fond of Denise Austin's style but I will say she is encouraging and comforting.

I bought Hemalaya Behl's Yoga for Urban Living on Amazon.com Marketplace. The first copy refused to play through and then I noticed it had a scratch. The seller sent me a second one. Now this one is acting up. Uggh. I hope it's just a glitch as I really like it.

And it's daylight savings time!!!!! Yayyyy!!!!

Oh, we had a blast at the birthday party yesterday. It was at an arcade type place with all kinds of games and prizes. Zion had a free pass to go on all the rides and he enjoyed himself tremendously. And, to my great surprise, when I told him it was time to go, he willingly came along.
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