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The Damage it Does to Families to Report them to CPS January 23, 2009

Filed under: parenting,personal growth,social interaction — Thinking Woman @ 11:46 pm

Today, I finally had an opportunity to discuss with the other mom who was wrongly reported to CPS what it is like. We both have had close to a year to distance ourselves from this evil thing. We both feel so very suspicious and  bitter over this. We both changed from being completely forthcoming and joyous, very out and about moms, to much more private, isolated, suspicious moms. For the first time, we compared notes on who we thought might have done this. We both felt highly suspicious of two people in particular. Not good! Not knowing means that the suspicion is still being directed towards some innocent people and the underlying hostility we both try to keep in check is undeserved!

Our children have most certainly suffered. Were there good intentions for us having been reported? Not really. Did anything we do in the way we parent change? Not exactly. Certainly not in the way the reporter must have intended. We just keep our precious children more in, more to ourselves, which is a shame for them and a shame for those that miss out on their company. A loss all around.

What horrified me even more than the fact that we were wrongly accused for malicious reasons is that other people were spreading around a few rumors, one of which was that I made the report on the other family and then lied about my family having been reported. What sort of people are women that they could be listening to crap like that and not shutting it down? I checked around and found that and another few rumors to have been quite widespread. This group is about as safe a place as one could expect and it deeply disappointed me to finally realize that this is just how women are. I aspire to be better than that. Gossip is some nasty business.

It’s not all that easy to be the most positive parent you can be when feeling bitter and suspicious. I would like my children to feel they have a loving and joyous mother. I have only just reclaimed my joy in the last month or so. I finally put my foot down and made a decision to focus on joy and have joy now and I really do feel the difference, thank goodness. It’s been, in so many ways, an unnecessarily rough year.


Compost Pile: Going Native January 22, 2009

Filed under: organic gardening — Thinking Woman @ 10:19 pm

I’ve been feeling like I had to organize my compost. At first, I secured a second hand black plastic composting bin. You put stuff in the top, and, in theory, compost comes out this nifty door at the bottom. Only, in actual fact, that is not what happened.

According to the “Humanure” book, which should be read for the wealth of composting information, even if you don’t plan to compost your own poop, it is absolutely not a requirement to turn your compost. There is no point discussing this with any gardener who thinks otherwise. As with people who practice straight line gardening as compared to square foot gardening, some people are entrenched in what they (think they) know. So no. Clearly it’s not necessary to turn compost as evidenced by the fact that when I poured my bucket out today, its contents were steaming. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Composters feel you must have some sort of a bin. But when I was growing up, we dumped everything on a huge pile, which, magically, stopped growing. I absolutely adored taking food waste and putting it on that pile next to our garage. I expected a mountain with all the stuff I was stealthily scraping off plates (I was a very picky eater) but in fact no mountain ever materialized. This mystified and disappointed me then. Now I think it’s wonderful! It fully demonstrates that compost works all on its own and does not require being dug nor turned nor, in fact, fussed with at all.

Back to my foolish bin. Knowing I didn’t need anything that turned and that I would eventually have compost, I happily added to the top and waited for rich compost to come out the bottom. I took the temperature a few months ago and was disappointed to find only one hot spot; the rest was at air temperature. And when I managed, with much effort, to slide the door at the bottom open, I found it crawling with large scary insects but the stuff did not in any way resemble ripe compost. As I have some fruit trees that will go in the ground in the spring, I really am needing my compost to be ready sooner rather than later.

After a great amount of struggling, interspersed with running away because of the big scary bugs, I managed to lift the compost thing off my heap of compost. Much to my relief (composters do get excited about strange things, don’t we), I did observe some steam rising off the lower parts as the pile slid apart. Most of it was too solid and absolutely disgusting for me to even think of using a pitch fork or in fact anything to muck with it. So I simply used my handy dandy rake to gather up some leaves from around my garden and bury the pile. I have learned from the Humanure book that if compost smells offensive, all that is required is to cover it. They recommend sawdust but I can’t see the logic of spending money and I am not composting poop, so I use what’s readily available: leaves. This works brilliantly. My plan with this pile is to simply leave it a few more weeks and see how it goes. I expect it’s zipping along nicely under its cover. All those bugs tell me good stuff was going on.

Meanwhile, because I need something within a few months, I started a new pile so I can leave my current one undisturbed. I have heard from a few sources that a great way to make a nice pile is to take four pallets and wire them together to make a cube. That is a very large cube! And then, perhaps, a second cube so there are two piles going; one to use and the other in progress. But really? Must compost be contained? And if it were contained in an open structure like this, how would you get the cover material on top which so nicely cuts down the odor?

I am going native. I didn’t have the four pallets so I kept putting off starting my new compost pile. Then time ran out when I had the looming deadline of the spring tree planting so I just started a pile in the back corner of my yard under a tree. Of course it stank the first time I dumped my bucket so I put an extra rake near it. I dump my bucket about once a week, it seems. It takes a few extra minutes to rake some leaves on top of the pile. As I dumped the contents today, I saw lovely steam rise up. I bedded it all down nicely with natural (and free!) yard waste, and with some time and some luck, this pile will mature nicely by the time I need it. Starting a new pile will be a matter of choosing location. I see no reason to do anything other than help it keep its shape. I certainly don’t feel inclined to try to haul things up and over the top of sideways place pallets and especially not yard rakings. And I most certainly don’t intend to go buy sawdust to put on my compost to keep the odor down.

Perhaps large scale operations need neat and tidy bins. But for just our little family, the pile seems the way to go. I can’t wait to be proven right!

By the way, the buckets I am using are brilliant. When I bought the Humanure toilet (as insurance in case, for whatever reason, we ever find ourselves without plumbing, not because I actually intend to use it), it came with four or five lovely large covered plastic buckets. I am using one of these for my compost and it’s much better than the previous container I had which attracted a house full of flies when used on the counter, filled my freezer when placed there, and was just too darned small to be convenient. Plus it required me to keep buying foolish compost liners which may well be biodegradable, but still, they cost money! The buckets I now use hold five gallons. I simply rest the lid on top so it’s very convenient to add to it. The mouth is wide so it’s easy to scrape plates in without missing. The handle is comfortable so I don’t mind lugging it outside when it fills. Brilliant! And we are blessed with occasional warm days even in winter so I am able to keep up with it. But as I have 4, I know I have the option of starting up a second bin if I need to. I could see that happening in the long muggy hot summer or during the rainy season when I won’t want to muck in the mud.


Zero Waste

Filed under: environment — Thinking Woman @ 6:13 pm

No, we are not achieving Zero Waste, nor are we even close. But we are inspired and making changes.

When we moved into our house a year ago, my husband signed us up for trash collection services. They asked our family size and supplied us with a large bin. At first, we overflowed the bin (much to my chagrin). I made daily trips to the local  hardware store for necessities and these items came with a ridiculous amount of packaging. I don’t know that I had any alternatives and some of them I was not willing to hunt around for and do without while setting up house.

Once we got settled in, my husband  noticed we were no longer filling the bin. He called the city and asked to downsize. They refused as we were still a family of four. He managed to convince them to go down one size. After a few weeks, he saw that we were still not filling the bin and he got back on the horn to see about getting a smaller bin. Reluctantly, they agreed to give us the smallest bin they offer. They were seriously annoyed because they were certain that we would come crawling back asking to go to the largest size again.

We have not. We have been many, many months at the single person bin and we don’t fill it. We still have a glut of those stupid plastic bags that they insist upon giving you if you are not careful (or if you are my husband who doesn’t think to refuse the bag). We put out about two bags a week. We put our junk mail in the recycling bin and recycle glass, plastic and metal in the other bin. I compost what I can and do need to compost more; much of what we are throwing out is paper toilet paper wrappers and the cardboard inners. I have got to get  my husband to install the bidet I bought and then I will be switching over to dabbing dry with a wash cloth. Hopefully, the girls will do the same and that will be about half our trash eliminated!

I am not at all sure what to do about our vegetables. We have those delivered and they come in plastic bags. I reuse them whenever they look fine but I do need to ask if they are biodegradable or if perhaps I could supply my own ones – the reusable green ones that are supposed to make greens last longer. I look forward to growing all my own greens but I will still be needing deliveries of fruit and veggies. When I go to farmer’s markets, I shop with my own cloth bags and have them weigh up what I get before I pop it right into my bag loose (which never ceases to shock them – all those intermingling fruit and veggies!)

Other than food, we don’t buy a whole lot of anything any more, really! That is our single largest expenditure, and it is a large expense as I insist on organic as much as possible.

I just did a huge bulk order of meat at discount prices. I don’t know where to put my focus. This meat is all what I’m looking for; the beef is grass fed, the chickens are free range organic, it’s all local. My needs for being a locavore and saving money were satisfied but not zero waste. I needed it individually wrapped for long term freezing. How else to do that but with the plastic in which it came? Not very nice plastic though; I highly doubt that can be recycled. (Don’t know for sure, though.)


Fitness is a Slippery Thing!

Filed under: health — Thinking Woman @ 4:03 am

When I was in my mid-20s, I got fit for the first time in my life. Fit, as in seriously fit.

I had managed to do absolutely no exercise whatsoever until adulthood. In college, I lifted weights one semester and relished being strong, but had no concept of retaining fitness. One summer, I biked for over an hour every day after work and then for a few hours on the weekends. I didn’t understand anything at all as I was always gasping for air and took that as a sign of not being fit. I was gasping for air because I was competitive (mainly with myself but definitely with any other biker who dared share the road) and so always raced at full capacity. I had no idea that anyone would be winded working that hard.

The next semester of college, I biked in the fall but once the frigid winter temps came, I continued eating the same amount and put on about 20 pounds. It was all very confusing to me at the time. Luckily, the resilience of youth allowed me to lose the weight quite easily and I don’t even recall how I managed.

And then I slid back into being weak and unfit.

After a long and rather dull relationship finally ended, I found myself startling heavy and in need of a new start so I joined a gym, which, to my ex-boyfriends surprise, I attended every day for 1-3 hours for years. I became very, very fit indeed.

After years of going to that gym, finding a new boyfriend who I later married, and moving, I found myself a member of a gym I didn’t love quite as much. Also, it was just a bit inconvenient to get to, and frankly, often being forced to park across the street in a dark lot scared me. So I went less and less and my fitness level became merely good, not outstanding. The habit faded.

Then kids.

We tried. We really did! We both discovered and embraced the Body for Life challenge when our baby was around a year old. My mom says I’ve never looked better. But at the end of those 12 weeks, we walked away from our last workout and our last day of 6 meals and didn’t look back. Thus ensued years of not really even pretending we were the kind of people who worked out.

It was demoralizing. Waistlines increased. Busts and tushes sagged. Energy levels sunk. Simple activities became burdens. Laziness became a deeply entrenched habit. We each made the occasional comeback attempt but nothing stuck.

So it feels great that we are both back at a gym and it’s working for us!

Only, is it?

Yeah, sure, I can see improvements. Not the one I was most concerned about; my belly is still carrying toxic fat and just doesn’t look right. But yeah, much slimmer all around and I see I am getting stronger. My husband, I don’t know. I stopped working out with him a few months ago because I felt he was dragging me down. We were doing our weight workout together and I still like to follow a lot of the principles of Body for Life. I wasn’t doing it to the letter, but I do like the very short rests and pushing hard through the workouts with elevated heart rate and hitting some highs – sort of like interval training. I am convinced that it is important when working out to push and back off a few times. He kept sitting around and zoning out. So yeah, I ditched him for now.

He certainly looks stronger. But his belly is still, um, well large. And he’s a lump. And a grump.

We should be energetic, accomplishing lots with a great attitude, right? And we should both have gorgeous flat tummies.

Today, I tried one of those crazy boot camp kind of classes. I have watched many a Wednesday through the window but knew I couldn’t do it. Today, I decided I could. And so I did, mostly. Yes, sure, I was drenched with sweat and turned purple. My older daughter was quickly advised to not say anything insulting when she saw me. I don’t know why I turn purple for an hour after a hard come-back workout.

Why is it a come-back workout though? I have been a lump? I thought I was really pushing myself. But no. I guess I didn’t really look at it. I need to do some more aerobic crap and get that heart racing. Crap.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

I made it through the class! That’s something! I have had to leave classes maybe 15-20 minutes into the class during previous come-backs. This time, I was able to back off and follow my own instincts when I needed and then jump back in. Some idiot instructors push you too far and don’t allow you to trust your own pace. Or they stop everything and come running over if you try to take a break. This dude was cool so I know I’ll be going back. At the start, he said to take as many breaks as you needed. Not that that influenced me, but it was nice to know I wasn’t going to be harassed.

I suppose there could, perhaps, be some validity to the theory that as we get older, it becomes more difficult to see the same results as when we’re younger. I know that when I was 26 and I hit the gym, not even having a clue what I was doing, I was in some good shape by 2-3 months in. By 6 months, I was exceptional, and by 2 years, well…

This has not been like that. And I’ve been researching like mad. All the research I have done tells me that I don’t need to futz around with long, steady cardio, nor do I need to lift for 1-2 hours (which, if I’m honest, I never really did, as there was so much sitting around between sets or chatting). I believe what the experts currently say; that even 3 45 minute workouts a week will do wonders. I also know I am getting a six-pack and that even if it can’t be seen, it’s getting there. I just wish it were quicker!

Maybe this boot camp class is a short cut.


The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup January 21, 2009

Filed under: health — Thinking Woman @ 5:33 pm
Tags: ,

The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup

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The Top 5 Healthiest Fat-Burning Foods January 20, 2009

Filed under: health — Thinking Woman @ 3:15 am

The Top 5 Healthiest Fat-Burning Foods

by Mike Geary, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Specialist
Author – The Truth about Six Pack Abs

I love Mike. I believe everything he writes and I have been getting his newsletters for some time. And when he recommends someone else, they are good too. I have subscribed to a few newslettters of people he has recommended.


I’m Gorgeous and I’m Vain! January 13, 2009

Filed under: personal growth — Thinking Woman @ 8:30 pm

Yes, that’s right. I’m gorgeous. And I’m owning it. And I’m vain.

Now, usually, I would not mention those things. But since you can’t see me and I won’t be posting any photos, I figured I’d share that lest you draw the false conclusion that everyone into the things I am thinks it’s more important to be gorgeous on the inside. I’m that too, don’t get me wrong. And it’s critical. But I also am one of those people that feels people should make some effort to work with what they have. Put your best face (and body) forward. Work on your appearance. No, not for hours and not in a hugely fake way (big hair, can’t leave house without makeup), but yeah, do try!

My hair is highlighted! <shudder> I used to get my hair done very often and I missed it. I not only missed the whole looking better, I missed the experience. Hair dressers are (or can be) special people. I have always looked forward to my visits in part because of the person I was seeing. I have had fewer long-term hairdresser relationships than boyfriends! I am on my third, actually. And the last one only ended because we moved away. I still miss Javier, a gorgeous, sexy gay man who we (yup, my husband too) spent a lot of time with after years of building our relationship. He touched our heads! How personal is that! We attended many small events at his house and even spent the night.

My current hairdresser says she loves that she helps women (she mainly works with women) with their self-esteem. She’s helped me own this. It’s totally true! This wise young woman has been through a lot and she’s come away strong and empowered. She’s lovely and empowering to women. I have shared stuff with her that I just don’t talk about. It’s therapy!

After a few visits, I decided I was ready to keep up with hilights again and she promised to keep the chemicals away from my scalp – she knew! I went out and bought a hair iron because those things rock and I totally look better with my hair straightened. She taught me how to use it. I look so much better now. I have lost a few inches off my hips (my belt is 2 notches smaller and if I don’t wear a belt, my pants fall down all day) so probably have slimmed down everywhere else as well. The scale would have me discouraged so I am glad I am using the belt as a measure.

People respond differently to you when you’re put together better. And when slimmer and hair done, it doesn’t even matter all that much what you wear. Jeans and a t-shirt just look better on you when you’re a better you. A friend I hadn’t seen in a few months was noticeably  more attentive to me the other day. No surprise; I myself am finally interested in the reflection in the mirror again and willing to spend more time there. It’s been years! I am getting myself back!

I always intended to grow old gracefully. But I didn’t really realize that takes work. Now I’m doing the work. It’s worth it!