Monday, January 30, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Inspired by Green Cleaning: Natural Hints and Tips--a book I picked up at Barnes and Noble, I've been gradually phasing out the chemicals in my house in favor of baking soda, vinegar, lemons, salt and essential oils.

This week I decided to try a recipe I found online for homemade laundry detergent. Apparently, this is now "a thing" since when I went to Walmart for supplies, they were all located beside each other on the laundry aisle.

The recipe.
3 cups Borax
3 cups Washing Soda
3 bars of soap (The site I saw suggested Fels Naptha--which is what I tried, but the scent is strong, so next batch I plan on Ivory.)
About 15 drops of essential oil for scent. (I used lavender.)

The bars of soap have to be grated--so I broke out my Salad Shooter in order to do 3 bars quickly. Then I simply mixed everything together in a big bowl and put in an airtight jar. 

As the book I read suggested, I used distilled white vinegar as a rinse agent, and I have two dryer balls--which I use instead of fabric sheets. 

The results were better than I'd hoped.  The towels smelled really clean as I pulled them from the washer and I liked the way they felt coming out of the dryer.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

I learned I was a terrible person...

Any month where there is a 5th Sunday, Crosspointe cancels regular services and does something practical in the community.  (Which is where I learned I was a terrible person.)

On this particular 5th Sunday, Crosspointe called an organization we often partner with and offered our congregation for a day of whatever they needed done in their thrift shop. I was assigned to the team tasked with matching donated shoes.

Being a bit of a germaphobe (John, stop smirking) I balked at having to pull flip flops that looked like they'd been through every disgusting path of land from here to El Paso out of a bin of other things that had been on people's feet and putting them together. To match them, I had to touch tennis shoes that smelled dreadful. (I thought terrible thoughts about the person who donated those shoes.) And worse, very few shoes were tied together, so it was bin after metal bin of playing the memory game. (To be fair, there were many, many shoes that looked like they had hardly been worn, and I suspect that the thrift store in only interested in those.)

After that experience, I've learned a few things I wish to share that quite frankly never occurred to me before this event: 

1) Don't donate shoes that are gross. (Flip flop girl, I SINCERELY hope you are reading this.)  These shoes aren't being recycled, they are being donated to people. I don't care how poor you are, no one wants to put filthy shoes on their feet.

2) Fasten the shoes you donate in pairs. You can rubber band, tie shoetrings together, or use one of those plastic hoohas designed to keep cables together. The hours our team spent matching shoes could have been spent stocking shelves or sorting clothes into sizes.  

3) You probably have stuff in your closet collecting dust that someone could be using right now.  I went home and got rid of all the shoes that I didn't love. Those that fit "okay" but not great.  The heels I kept to go with a single outfit that only got worn once a year. The reality is they had dust on them from lack of use. 

If you live in the North Dallas area and want to be part of one of Crosspointe's 5th Sunday events the next one is this Sunday, January 29th at Theatre 166.  We are making sandwiches to stock The Soup Mobile. Just show up with a package of cheese and lunch meat at the venue at 10:30 AM. For details check the Facebook event page

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Jewish law and resource management

There is an ancient Jewish law in the book of Leviticus that says: "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you."

And so I was thinking about that. Other than the obvious philanthropic intent, why leave the margins? Why not simply harvest the whole thing and give a certain amount away?

It occurs to me that the law is worded like that because developing a habit of leaving margin is important. What if what works in fields and on pages works in life?

What if we've missed something if we live in a way that uses everything up completely?

And so I started imagining what life would look like if we left some around the edges. Would there be time unscheduled, food left on our plate, money in our accounts? If we did that, would we have more to share?

 It occurs to me I need to think more about margin.

Monday, January 23, 2012

First weekend of In-Depth Yoga Studies

This weekend was my first with Shanon Buffington to kick off the In-Depth yoga studies. There are 29 of us and the commitment is intense. To complete the course and become certified, we are expected to attend all weekend sessions (~once a month Fri, Sat, Sun for the next nine months), complete 50 hours of homework, attend 20 hours of classes and maintain our personal practice.

And guess what? I loved it!

Shanon began the class saying that yoga--when you get beyond just the physical practice--is about accessing that 90% of our brain's potential that scientists say goes unused.

As we went around the circle at the beginning of the weekend, and introduced ourselves, it occurred to me that unlocking potential was the reason we were all there.  People shared stories not only of where they lived and how they got into yoga, but also of who they wanted to help by going through this program. Stories of how they loved being students.

So I find myself excited not only about the content, but also about being in a room with 29 people on a quest of becoming. (Even if the first four months are going to be spent on anatomy--which after reading the book, I'm pretty sure is going to kick my a** way more than an Ashtanga class. )

Friday, January 20, 2012 vegan nemisis

It all started when I walked through the mall and passed a store the color of Barbie's convertible. Over the doorway it said, Sugar Queen.

"What's the deal with cupcakes?" I asked John as we walked through the mall.

"I think there's a show on Food Network."

"There are stores popping up everywhere. It's like it's a 'thing' now."

John didn't even glance at me and kept walking.

"Seriously, it's like cupcake stores are the new Starbucks."

John stopped and raised an eyebrow. "You want to try one don't you?"

Six dollars and fifty cents later he came out with two and handed me one on a napkin.  I am not kidding--it was one of the yummiest things I've ever put in my mouth. And, the sheer deliciousness of it...and compulsion to stop each time I passed the pinkety-pink counter put a serious dent in my quest to be vegan.

But as of today, that stops! Because today...this arrived!

Moskowitz and Romero--who brought me my beloved Veganomicon--produced a cookbook designed to save me from my plight.  There is still a small hitch to work out. I don't actually bake.  So I bought a muffin pan sized for my toaster oven deciding that it would be less intimidating.  After is only six cupcakes, so if it turns out to be a disaster, it is a limited one. 

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On context

One of the great gifts John gave to me is a love for superheroes and sci-fi. Not growing up with brothers that world completely passed me by in high school.

I've caught up.

One of the things about the ordinary-man-in-extraordinary-world and extraordinary-man-in-ordinary-world plots that drive these genres is that it lets you explore life in a different context--and that change in context can provide extraordinary insight.

Fiction gives your mind permission to see things in a new way--"willful suspension of disbelief." When you step outside your world into a new one or experience a character with powers we don't normally possess, it changes our perception of what is possible in the world we live in.

I recently saw the sci-fi movie "In Time" with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. The movie is about a world with no money--there are only minutes. The rich--those with lots of time--become immortal.  The poor work hard to get enough time just to live another day. That change in context made me see the real world differently. We tend to equate money with things.  So people either have a lot of things or few things. But in a world where the currency is time, the issues are about life.  The lack of resources makes each day a life/death situation.

There were lots of insights in the movie, but the one that struck me the hardest was when the bus fares were raised causing Olivia Wilde's character not to be able to afford the trip. She had to run to her destination to get more minutes.  Since she couldn't make the trip in the time she had left, she ran out of time and dropped dead in the street. It occurred to me that poverty is really that desperate. 

Another recent move that contained a powerful story line was an indie film called "Another Earth." The central storyline is about a girl who made a mistake with tragic consequences and her battle with trying to come to peace. But the change in context of the situations that are caused by the appearance of "another earth" mean that our brains don't automatically predict/qualify/classify. We watch the movie as something new and because of that we can see new things...not just about the characters but about ourselves.

So thank you, John, for introducing me to a world of stories. At best, it has given me insight...and at the least I now get the references on the Big Bang Theory.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Taking joy in the mundane

There are tasks that are repetitive and tedious but must be done. Normally, I try to do them as fast as possible without complaining.  Rush through and check the box.

But Saturday, when I painted the bathroom and went grocery shopping--I decided to take my time.  To see if there was joy in the mundane. I slowly and deliberately took off wall plates and removed the curtains. Found the supplies in the garage.  Rolled and edged. The results were beautiful. (I've wanted to change the color ever since I painted it the first time.) But not only that, I enjoyed the process.

The afternoon was the same. I didn't rush. I rode my bicycle to the grocery store near the major intersection closest to our house. (I have a "beach cruiser" which is like the bike I had at 6-years-old, upsized.  It has baskets on the back--which when shopping for two seems to be enough if I strategically balance an extra bag across the back.) I slowly browsed each aisle rather than clipping through my list.

This slowness--which normally would have frustrated me as taking up time that could be spent reading or getting something else done--was actually nice. I enjoyed it.

Maybe this whole idea of intention in 2012 won't be so bad after all...

Friday, January 13, 2012

On Doubt...

Doubt is the worst type of fear. Maybe because it isn't big.  Instead it is small, nagging...insidious.

I'm not talking about the kind of doubt that people have sometimes about facts and figures.  I'm talking about the kind of doubt that makes you question your life.  Are you in the right marriage, job, faith, etc.? I believe that most of the times those doubts surface because we would prefer to externalize the more dangerous doubts about ourselves...Am I loveable, talented, enough...?

Doubt is a type of fear that can destroy--not in a big, grand gesture, but in a tiny chipping away. The weird part is that it questions what is by proposing that it might not be.

Dale Carnegie said, "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage."  I"m not sure in what context he said this but it occurs to me that the thought is true. You can move forward silencing the inner critic of your soul and that act of forward motion can free you.

But maybe a more important ally than action is hope. Hope that the higher things in life are real. That we are more than we seem to be. That the most beautiful parts of reality--and of ourselves--are often hidden.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Simply Vegan | Green Smoothies

Even vegetarians have a hard time getting enough green vegetables in their diet--especially in the winter.  One of the things the Blissful Chef taught us during our consultation was about how to make green smoothies. Here are the ingredients:

1c unsweetened almond milk or coconut water.
Huge handful of spinach leaves, mixed greens, kale or other greens.
1 peeled cucumber (optional)
1- 2  frozen bananas (the secret ingredient to make it taste great)
2 c. frozen fruit (peaches, berries, mango, etc.)

To assemble, put the greens in the blender.

Blend down, then add the fruit and blend again until smooth.

Easy, huh?  Plus smoothies are highly portable and easy to take on the commute.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Worthwhile pursuits | Memorizing poetry

Nancy-the-Insightful and I decided to take Dr. Oz's 28-day Challenge. One of the challenges was to memorize a poem. I chose this one by Emily Dickinson.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reading for growth...

In 2003, multiple members of the team from my day job attended Leadership Network's Camp Improv and heard Jim Collins speak. It inspired us all to read Good to Great. The book was transformational to our language, methodology and thought processes. But more than that, we learned just how much a good book can impact growth...and we began reading.

This process has bled from my professional life to my personal one. Reading for entertainment can be a great way to spend a weekend, but reading for growth is something different. I usually get my titles from the reading lists of people I respect or I surf Amazon in topics that interest me. I have a few friends--including my pastor--who occasionally recommend "dangerous" books...which are always fun.

In looking over what I read in 2011, it was interesting to me that I averaged two a month. Given that 2012 is a year of intention, I'd like to set an intention to read more classics. Maybe poetry.

As for the list of what I read this past year, I'm including it. Not because I think you will read it  <grin> , but because I don't want to forget...

Communication and Interaction 
The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides by Garr Reynolds
Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
Architect's Essentials of Negotiation (The Architect's Essentials of Professional Practice) by Ava Abramowitz
SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham
The SPIN Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Methods, Exercises, and Resources by Neil Rackham

Human Journeys 
Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom by Dayna Macy
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Living Yoga: Creating A Life Practice by Christy Turlington
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
Poseranity, Unmasking the Poser Within by Tony Brown

Yoga Curriculum
The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T. K. V. Desikachar
Science of Breath by Swami Rama
Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries by Susi Hately Aldous
Royal Path: Lessons on Yoga by Swami Rama
Four Chapters on Freedom: Commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Life Skills
Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
Quitterby Jon Acuff
Reworkby Jason Fried
Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Richby Duane Elgin

Inspiration and Spirituality
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics Seeby Richard Rohr
Read. Think. Pray. Live. (TH1NK)by Tony Jones
Perseveranceby Margaret Wheatley

Books that Just Seemed like They Would be Interesting
Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals by Temple Grandin
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (currently reading)

So, what do you plan for your reading list in 2012?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Really enjoying the Hipstamatic App

It shouldn't be this fun. And in fact, there may come a day when I regret having used it to take all of the Christmas photos this year, but I've had a blast with the Hipstamatic App.  It's designed to give you all of the joy of your old cheap film camera without the expense of developing a ton of film.

The digital photos I get now are mostly perfect. (And if they aren't, I can just fix them in Photoshop.)  But back in the old days (ha!) there used to be some spectacular photos among the terrible ones created through a bounce of light, a grainy texture or other imperfections that came in your roll of 24.

Here are some of the images I captured when I was playing with it:

This is John.

My Dad

Chase and Bethany


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Theme for 2012

New Years resolutions just made me feel like a dismal failure as I bummed myself out with expectations I could rarely fulfill, so each year...instead...I come up with a theme. It gives me focus and sets trajectory.

For me, 2012 is a year of intention. The phrase is used in yoga a lot as the instructor asks us to "set an intention for the practice." In thinking about this as a theme, I decided to look it up. From Merriam Webster:
Definition of INTENTION
: a determination to act in a certain way : resolve
: import, significance
a : what one intends to do or bring aboutb : the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered

The idea for me is to place meaningful focus on everything I engage in. To move to more intentional living. To act with purpose.

There is a lot of structure in place already in 2012 to support this. I am signed up to spend the next 9 months in Advanced Yoga Training (200 hours) with Shannon Buffington; I've purchased a year of 6am classes at my local yoga studio; I'm committed for six months of executive coaching via my day job; and John and I have four nights each week committed to the intimacy of simply coming home and being together. 

But maybe more importantly are the moments in the unstructured times.  The minutes rather than the hours.  

While I have absolutely no control over the upcoming life events of 2012, I do have control over who I I choose to engage.  (And I want to be fully engaged!)

If you were to pick a theme for the year, what would it be?