Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Three Books

I thought I was going to be very busy today, as it's Halloween and I didn't think my kids had their costumes together. But I sewed Hibi a cape last night, and Zac informed me this morning that he's set with his costume. I thought I'd post about those books finally! And maybe make myself a cape later on. And we're looking at a house this afternoon...one that the realtor called us up about. When she does that we sit up and take notice....(she's never done that before.) I'll keep you posted!

Here are three books that I've read that are related to positive body image.

Adios, Barbie by Ophira Edut. This is the book that really set me off on my own personal revolution against the fat police (among other police...). I so highly recommend it. It's not just about fat acceptance. It is a compilation of stories from many female authors who overcame their own difficulties in their perspectives of their bodies. In addition to fat women, there were women who are disabled and getting over the fact that society views someone in a wheelchair differently than a more able-bodied one, lesbians, women who decided to go unshaven, women from ethnicities that were considered different or "exotic", small women, and even one person who has male chromosomes but considers him/herself to be a woman and has undergone some therapy to have a woman's body.

This book isn't for those who want the world to be one easy way of being, those who are happy to accept the status quo. When I first read it, even though it had such a huge impact on me, I didn't recommend it to anyone. It's stories of lesbianism and transexualism were a shock to my (conservative Republican) system. Yes, I used to be conservative. I read it in a time when those values were just beginning to be jolted, and other values were beginning to present themselves. I didn't recommend it to others because at the time I didn't want to be aligned with what was in that book. I thought others might be offended. I thought my "good Christian" facade might get tarnished. But I now stand here and proclaim on this blog that I think reading about and getting to know people who are different from you is a good thing. It won't taint you. It'll make you more well-rounded. And more understanding, hopefully. For an interesting read on homosexuality and Christianity, read this post on Andy's blog, which I read on a regular basis. For more on my own evolution on this subject, read part three of my conversion story, found here.

I not only started viewing my fat as just fine as a result of this book, but also stopped shaving. :-) Anyone who has seen my legs knows that. The argument given in the book is that shaving legs and pits juvenilizes women. They started shaving women who appeared in movies because they looked too womanly if they showed any hair other than on their heads. Of course, in Europe most women don't shave. I remember in Norway, when I was on Teen Missions (gee, that's coming up a lot lately) a couple of the Norwegian girls we got to know would spend the night with us sometimes. Once some girls were teasing them that they were going to shave them while they were sleeping. The girls were stricken--no! you can't do that! they yelled, and it seemed to me that it was not just mock horror. That kind of surprised me and stayed with me all these years.

Okay, on to the second book. Camryn Manheim, the hollywood actor, wrote a fun memoir called Wake Up, I'm Fat! She talks about her life as a fat person, overcoming her own hang-ups about being fat. The title comes from a story about her shopping with her mother. She's in a dressing room and her mother brings her more clothes to try on. She tries to put them on but they're all way too small. She then looks at the tag. They're sizes 10 and 12. That's when she yells, "Mom! Wake up, I'm FAT!" Which illustrates the point that even when you've gotten over the things that hold you back in life, other people are still hanging onto those things. I enjoyed reading this book, after enjoying Camryn Manheim on The Practice.

The latest fat acceptance book I've read (even though it was still some time ago) was a book called Fat!So?. This great book is more like a manual on practical matters. Like how to deal with a doctor that won't stop pestering you to lose weight, or even how to nip it in the bud before it starts. How it's your right not to be weighed every single time you step into a doctors office. How to deal with fat discrimination. How to deal with small airline seats. And most importantly, now to stop apologizing for your size.

So, there you have it. A good start for anyone interested in pursuing this issue. If anyone has any other resources I'd be happy to hear about them.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Follow up on Fat

Thanks so much for all your kind words--everyone, you make me teary eyed! I am indeed blessed with many good friends.

My purpose in posting what I did yesterday was threefold, though there was one main point. First, to answer Anonymous. Second, to expose what I think is the folly of allowing anonymous commenters, because I think, as a couple of you have said, we say all kinds of things anonymously that we wouldn't otherwise. But my third and most importand reason was the one that's been simmering in my mind probably ever since I got a blog--that I have wanted to, at some point, use it to discuss body image, and I think I got my point across. So, while I'm not happy with what Anonymous originally said, I am happy that it spurred me on to write what I've been meaning to write about for a long time.

That said. Anonymous read my post and left another comment on Katie's blog. Here it is:

look maybe I shouldnt have said what I did about your kid. I was disturbed however by a lot of your viewpoints displayed on your blog. maybe I went too far. I am sorry.as far as the overweight thing it was more about the fact that I was sitting there thinking that someone who is so concerned about health and stuff is missing the obvious. it is not like I hate fat people or something. I know someone currently who I care very much about who is very very obese. she admits she has a problem. she didnt admit it before because she too was healthy as the proverbial horse until recently. she has now been told to take it off or prepare to die young. I have dealt with this myself, I was not obese but I was overweight enough it began to affect my health. I too refused to lose weight because "I wanted to be accepted for me". well now its about health so its amazing how easy it is. I want to be alive for my kids and grandkids. my whole family is fat, in fact it killed my dad. some of them have lost it, so it IS possible

So, I stand amazed. I'm tempted to say something corny like look what can happen with a little compassion. I saw Anonymous get into name-calling fight with others on Katie's blog, and I knew I didn't want to do that. I think it takes some understanding and de-polarizing of the situation to really try to figure out what is *really* being said.

Anonymous, I said it on Katie's blog, and I'll say it here: you are welcome to register with blogger and comment on whatever you'd like to on my blog. Just in a non-attacking, respectful way.

I hope to see you again soon.

I'll get that book review to you soon but not today--I'm crazy busy. (I'm eating lunch at the computer as I type.) I did girl scouts this morning--drove a great bunch of teenaged girls to the prison, and after this I need to pick up my kids from their Saturday Academy classes at PSU, and shop at the Saturday farmer's market that's at PSU (the Wednesday one closed for the season so I've got this one 'til the end of December...) and THEN tonight we are honoring the memory of Fr. Elias, who was the priest at our church for 19 years and died young from cancer, and also honoring his wife who has gone on to do great work for the church, visiting shut-ins, and currently working for a young man who is in prison--looks like he has an unjustly long sentence, and she's working to get him out earlier. So, like I said, my day is crazy busy! I'll get to it when I can.

Friday, October 27, 2006


This post is a long time in coming. It's long overdue, and probably the reason for it's delay is the same old societal voices and familial expecations that have dogged me since I was a very little girl. But I am writing it now. It was spurred on by an anonymous commenter on someone else's blog. I have disabled anomymous comments, so this person couldn't comment directly here without losing anonymity. I was surprised by the level of venom and hatred there. This person found something to criticize about every member of my family, just by looking through my blog. It covers the gamit, from long hair on boys to enviromentalism/liberalism right down to the fact that I am fat.

Yes, I am fat. I am fat. I am fat. I am not "overweight", I am not "chubby", I am not "pleasingly plump" (well, maybe that last one...). I am fat. Obese, even.

I have been or felt fat for most of my life. The earliest I remember going on a diet to lose weight was at age 11. I look at pictures of me at that age, and I wonder, what was I thinking? I wasn't fat. I was...kind of awkward looking. I was going through that adolescent thing where parts grow at different rates from each other. But I wasn't fat. I felt fat, though.

Society expects certain things of us. Some are reasonable. Some are not. This anonymous commenter wrote about lots of these societal expectations, implying that my kids are freaky because they still like to dress up as people other than themselves, at age 9 and 12, especially at times other than Halloween. That is one societal expectation that I definitely would like to challenge. Why is it bad to explore lots of different ways of being after small childhood? I cannot for the life of me understand that. But this post is about body image, not about dressing up.

I want to make it clear that I am not criticizing those who have made it their goal to lose weight in a healthy way. I applaud those of you who have done this while not tying your self-confidence to weight loss. For me, self-confidence was always some pounds away. If I could just lose that weight, and be able to fit into a size X, I would feel better about myself and then I could accomplish things and be a more confident person. Then people wouldn't think I'm a slob.

I can remember, on the day that Zachary was baptized, talking with a friend about how discouraged I was that I'd gained so much weight and looked so frumpy and awful. It didn't help me all that much at the time (I still felt frumpy and awful) but what she said to me worked it's way into my psyche and perhaps started my little revolution. She said that she thinks society is awfully hard on moms. People expect them to be "back in shape" by three months after birth, when the reality is that pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing take a big toll on a mother's body. And she said I was beautiful.

I've for years pinned my change of mind on reading a book that I'll highlight in a minute. But right now I want to go to the day that Hibi was born. Carissa, she was then. (Yes, Anonymous, I even let my kids change their names if they want to.) On the day she was born, I felt so powerful. I'd been wakened at 2 am by the waters breaking, and labored hard for four hours, when at 6 in the morning Carissa was born. I did it without drugs of any kind. I did it with minimal other interventions from the doctor and nurse (though they imposed some extremely unhelpful ones...). My body had done this amazing thing! I was beyond ecstatic. I could hardly believe that this body that I'd always thought of as a burden could possibly do something this wonderful. I think this was the true beginning of my own little revolution in the body image area.

In 1999, in the spring just before we were to move away from Boston where Paul went to seminary, and Zachary was two years old (and I still hadn't lost that baby weight, and in fact had added more), I read an amazing book. It was called (at that time) Adios, Barbie. It has since changed it's name, because of a certain huge corporation being a bit upset about that title. It's now called Body Outlaws.

This book was an amazing thing for me. It made me look at my own body in such a different light. I saw that yeah, I'm fat. Fat is another body type--there are slim, short, tall, stocky, willowy, many types of bodies. My body is healthy. I have always been a very healthy person. I have not been sick very much in my life. I do not have any major health conditions, and never have. (I actually just returned from the doctor and she said that she doesn't usually see people with such negative health history--meaning nothing to report!) This book told me that I have the option to not only accept my fat--be resolved to it is what we hear from some quarters--but to love my body as it is. To love how it looks, how it feels. To see myself as a person of substance. I remembered when I was thinking about that a conversation I had with a teacher in high school. As I've recently posted, I went on Teen Missions when I was 14 and 15, and one of my teachers was asking me about the experience. He asked me about the physical part of it--the first year I went it was a physical labor team, and we worked *hard* in the hot Egypt sun. Then he asked me a strange question. Did I think that someone more frail like, for instance, Stephanie, would be able to handle the labor? I was truly taken aback. Stephanie was one of the popular girls. She was one of the girls whose body was perfect and sexy. I couldn't imagine that anyone would think that someone with a body like that couldn't handle physical labor. But it hit me while reading this book--my body is capable. My body can work hard. I found that confidence later when I was building a straw bale chicken house and I was moving around those big straw bales by myself, mostly. (Paul did help me some, especially when we got to the third layer of bales.) I routinely carried 25 pound sacks, sometimes two at a time, when I had chickens. I could do things with my body, and being fat didn't diminish that at all.

I do not gorge. Especially after I read that book and began to stop trying to lose weight. Anonymous said that if I ate some meat I wouldn't feel the need to gorge. Number one, I don't gorge. I eat very well, good healthy foods, and I don't eat huge amounts of them. And number two, I gained all this weight while I was still eating meat. I have gained, at most, 10 pounds in the time since I read that book, 8 years ago.

Am I a liability to the environment, as Anonymous asserted? Anonymous was quoting an article that was just out the day that the comment was posted, that said that fat people use up more fossil fuels. I am sure this is true. Yes, I'm sure I use up a couple more gallons of gas each year because I weigh 80 pounds more than the "average" woman. (I don't know what the average weight of women is, I'm just pulling that number out of the air.) I'm sure that tall men, you know, those that are over 6 feet tall, also use up more fossil fuels, but I don't see anyone asking them to shed some height for the environment.

Why is my body this way? I had to ask that question, once I gave myself permission to realize it's not how I eat that makes my body this way. It's genetics, first off. My mother was overweight all the time I lived with her. She's not now, and I don't know how she's managed to keep the weight off, but I don't know that she's being all that healthy about it. Some months ago there was an item in the newspaper about a suspected virus that caused obesity. That was intriguing, but I haven't seen anything else about it since.

Ultimately I don't know why my body is like this. I don't know why there is a rise of obesity in this country. But I do know that we've put an unhealthy focus on skinny bodies, a goal that is impossible to attain. Will my obese body cause me health problems in the future? Maybe. I don't know. If it does, I can try to deal with it then. Do tall bodies cause health problems? Do short bodies cause health problems? Do skinny bodies cause health problems?

I guess I'm saying that this is who I am. Society wants you to think that since I am fat, I am a slob. I am undisciplined. I should change. Well, I am not going to change just because society wants you to think that. So, the ball is in your court now. You are free to think those things, or you are free to come to your own conclusion. You know, challenge assumptions. Think.

I'll tell you some very positive things that have happened since I accepted and began to love my body. First off, I began eating in a much more healthy manner. I did used to binge, while hiding the fact that I was eating. I'd wait until no one else was around and eat then. I didn't want people to see me eating. Now, I don't worry about that, and I eat when I want, which frees me to only eat when I want, not take opportunities of solitude to eat. My focus has changed to eating very good food. My philosophy is that life is too short for bad food! I eat whole foods, I eat healthy foods. I don't skimp on stuff like fat, so I don't have the deprivation issues that would lead to my bingeing.

Confidence. Confidence is what I'm doing *now*, at this moment, not at that magical time that all the excess pounds should be off, whenever that will be. I found that I was living my life in a holding pattern, waiting to do and be all that I could until that magical time. I am now free to focus on other things besides my weight, and I'm getting a lot more done.

A moving away from self-centeredness. Keeping so much focus on losing weight is inherantly self-centered, as one is continually looking in the mirror, looking at the scale, looking at self and trying to improve self, and not focusing on all the wonderful things one could be doing outside of self. Self-improvement is good, I'm not trying to say don't try to improve yourself. But it becomes obsessive when one is constantly trying to obtain the unobtainable, or at least the fleetingly obtainable. Yes, I did twice have major weight loss in my life. The first was when I did all that physical labor in the hot Egypt sun. I lost a lot of weight and got down to a size I'd never been before. But it all came back. The second time was just before I got pregnant with Hibi. Needless to say, I also gained that weight back.

Some will argue that if it's okay to be fat, we'll all soon be 600 pound balloons. This is the same kind of thinking that causes people to say that if you aren't hard on your kids they'll be totally spoiled. That if you give an inch they'll take a mile. My body has self-regulated. I can't say how large my body would be if I had never had the kind of oppression on me that I did, but after I stopped trying to lose weight I stopped gaining it. My body has found some equilibrium. It's found a weight that it likes.

And God created this body. Who am I to try to change it?


If you're curious to read Anonymous' comment, you can find it on Katie Allison Granju's blog.

I plan to follow this post up with discussing the book, Adios, Barbie, and other books about fat acceptance. Watch for it. But not right now--that's been enough typing for now!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

House Hunting

I really thought we'd found it this morning.

We've been looking for about a month, off and on, at houses, hopefully in preparation to buy a house. Our plan has been to rent in Portland for a year and then buy, having had a chance to figure out where we'd like to live for the next umpteen years. Yes, we are hoping to finally put down some roots and stay awhile.

When we moved here almost a year ago we were so hopeful that we'd have no trouble finding a house to buy. Housing prices were *so* much lower than San Francisco's. We were used to high prices, so we should be able to find something, even though everyone was saying that housing prices were so high here. Not compared to San Francisco! we'd smugly reply.

The first house we looked at was truly cute. I could really have lived with the house itself. Just the right size, if you include the basement (which we could have fixed up cute). I loved the location. But the yard was non-existent. One of my big goals is to have enough space for a big garden. I'd like to grow most of my vegetables eventually. So, even though the house was so cute (the kitchen was really nice) we passed that one by. (Though it's still for sale, so we could change our minds.)

We've looked on our own since then, and when we want to see the inside we call April to let us in. (I always thought realtors were supposed to do the footwork for you, but it's been me finding most of the interesting houses.) We went in a huge old farmhouse with tons of character. I really loved it. Except that when we were all in the upstairs bedroom, and April jumped up and down, we all said, "don't do that!" It just didn't feel stable. And when we went into the dirt basement we could see why.

Last night I found, online (of course), a house *right off Alberta!* NE Alberta is a very hip and happening street, between 15th and 33rd. It was on 22nd. I went and looked at the outside last night. Red flags went off when I saw that the seller was one of those companies that advertises "We Buy Houses!" I should have had second thoughts, but I was willing to continue the illusion. I could also see that all of the improvements made to this house were outside, not inside, from looking in the windows. But we called April today and went and saw it. When we got there, April said that if she'd gotten there early she would have called us and told us to forget it. It was in such bad shape. It was built in 1906, and the only thing inside that had been improved were to put in new kitchen cabinets. ??? What's that about? The foundation was crumbling. I was *so* disappointed. It would have been a perfect location.

After that, we went and saw a house that some fellow homeschoolers are selling. The house is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Nice yard. Nice to not have to use realtors and have them take a chunk of the profits. But it's way in North Portland, far from the church. Not so far that if it had other things going for it we wouldn't consider it. And we are, because we like the house so much. But it's not in an urban area, which is what we wanted. It's kind of close to Lombard, which is a busy thoroughfair with big businesses on each side. Not exactly what we were looking for.

I'm discouraged. I'm not sure we're going to find a house we can afford, in an area we want to be in.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Burn, Baby, Burn

Oh, man.

Many years ago, the first time I used hot chiles in my cooking, I learned the hard way that they can burn your skin. My hands burned like I'd poured boiling water on them late into the evening the night that I handled them. Even when I went to bed, I brought a ziploc bag full of ice water, and woke whenever my hand slid off of it. I learned not to handle hot peppers without protecting my hands. This occurred while Paul was in seminary, and he went over to the dorms to ask his buddy, who'd been a pharmacist, about what we could do. He said the oil from the peppers gets in your skin and the only way to get it out would be to wash with boiling water. It irritates the nerve endings, giving a sensation of burning, but doesn't cause any actual damage.

Tonight I made chile relleno, which is one of our favorites, and I only make it at this time of year. The chiles aren't ready for harvest until late August, and maybe goes through the end of October. It requires fresh tomatoes for the ranchero sauce, and we're coming to the end of the season for those. So, I picked up poblanos and one jalepeno at the farmer's market, along with the tomatoes I'd need. I protected my hands while dicing the jalepeno for the sauce, but poblanos are mild and I never worry about them.

As soon as we started eating we felt the heat. I thought the jalepeno was hotter than usual, but it became apparent that the poblanos were also very hot. Both from eating some poblano without much sauce, and because my fingers began to tingle. And by now, they are burning so that I will probably have to get ice on them soon after I finish typing this. I'm stopping every few seconds to wave them around to cool them.

I don't know if these poblanos were just exceptionally hot, or if I accidentally pulled peppers from the wrong bin. They look like poblanos.

It sure tasted good though! But I'm in for a long night. I'm going to go try some more remedies, like lavender essential oil.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Life Soundtrack

Christina posted this....then Dawn did.....it seems corny but some of the responses are pretty uncanny so I thought I'd try it.

So, here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't LieThis is Christina's suggestion, unless you really really hate the song (in which case why is it in your library eh), listen to each one all the way thru as it plays. You might just hear something interesting about yourself you weren't expecting.

Opening Credits: Clampdown--Indigo Girls

Waking Up: I Don't Wanna Talk About It--Indigo Girls (oops, it wasn't on shuffle)

First Day At School: War (Love Will Prevail)--Three5Human

Falling In Love: Trouble--Indigo Girls

Fight Song: Gloria--Michael W. Smith (Christmas album)

Breaking Up: Caught in the Crossfire--John McCutcheon

Prom: Walk to the Water--U2

Life: Blender--Amy Ray

Career: Feast of Fools--Bruce Cockburn

Mental Breakdown: Closer to Fine--Indigo Girls (Paul and I performed this one at the Patrick's Point talent show)

Driving: Memoirs: A Trilogy--Michael W. Smith (really, the only time we listen to this album is at Christmas! It's our favorite Christmas album)

Flashback: Sweetest Thing--U2

Getting back together: Endless Deep--U2

Wedding: Oh My Soul Arise--I think this was from Frederica Matthews Green, from her church during Holy Week, put on my computer years ago

Birth of Child: All the Diamonds--Bruce Cockburn

Midlife Crisis: Cold as Ice--Indigo Girls

Final Battle: Wild Rose of the Mountain--John McCutcheon

Death Scene: Dirt and Dead Ends--Indigo Girls

Funeral Song: Vertigo--U2

End Credits: Green Green Grass of Home--Johnny Cash

I'm going to add to this: which songs did you sing along to while the playlist was going? For me it was: I don't wanna talk about it, Sweetest Thing, All the Diamonds, Wild Rose of the Mountain.

Song I wouldn't have recognized as being on my playlist (remember, I share this music library with three other people!)--Endless Deep, even though I love U2.

And I have to admit to not listening all the way through each song. I didn't have time--heh. We all slept in this morning, and here I sit, in my pajamas. I might make it to noon at this rate...I go to get dressed now. :-P

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Local on a budget

I've been simmering with Laurie's comment on my "What we can do" post, below, ever since she posted it. She asked if I had any suggestions for buying local food on a budget. I suppose I didn't answer it right away because I really don't have a good answer for her. But I've been there, done that. We lived in Boston and Paul was in seminary and taking in a part-time salary to cover all our expenses. Zachary was born in Boston and it was difficult to cover everything financially. But I didn't have the awareness yet of all the big corporations taking over that I do now. I was only just starting to think about organics, and like Laurie, I'd look at the organic section in the supermarket and then I'd look at the price tag and I say, not this time. We barely had enough money to cover the basics, not extravagances like organic groceries.

I suppose my not-very-helpful suggestions to someone in a position like that is that I think food is something that I now am willing to pay a higher price for than just about anything else. It's what goes into our bodies every day. Everything else I am willing to go second-hand on--clothes, cars, furniture, and on many of these things you can get better quality second-hand things for less than buying new. But cheap food, which you can't buy second-hand (or at least, you don't want to!) does nothing to help our ailing system. It continues the cycle of poverty. The average farm worker dies at age 49. We want to pay very little for food, which is passed on to the people who grow and harvest it.

We have been in a binge of watching The West Wing on DVD lately (though we just finished the second season and I'm ready for a break!). One one episode, President Bartlett is confronted by dairy farmers, who are upset because he signed a bill that kept milk prices low. He told them that he stood behind his choice, not because he thought they should be poorly paid, but because he felt that all kids should be drinking milk. While I am behind his desire, to feed all the children of the US, I don't believe this is the way to go about it. It again continues the cycle of poverty. The better way to do this would be to level the playing field, at least somewhat. People shouldn't have to choose between buying milk and not having enough money to pay the rent, or buying fruit-flavored sugary drink and having enough.

Paul and I were talking about Walmart this morning. I was telling him about an article in the Utne reader I started to read in a doctor's office, about yeah, you hate Walmart, as any good liberal does, but what if you found out that they're the best big business in environmental issues, in organics, etc.? Paul said he heard about Walmart going into the organics business. Their slogan was something like that everyone should be able to choose organics. How enticing! I have to admit, there is something to that. And yet, it's just business as usual. What can get people in their doors? Promising stuff that we want.

Paul said that the word "organic" has come to mean something to him--not just organically grown, but locally produced by small family farmers. Yet there is a huge industry built around big farm industry going organic. This has an appeal, in that the food is lower cost. But it is at a greater cost to all of us--less diversity, less local business, money being poured into the coffers of big business yet again. Not to speak of the impact of food being grown far away and being trucked to you, hundreds of miles of gas being used up, the pollution from all that going right into our air and drinking water.

So, I suppose the only advice I have for you, Laurie, is to buy locally produced, organic, small family farmed food whenever you can, and in whatever increasing amount you can over the years. Perhaps you could forge relationships with a family farm and barter for food, or work for food. Growing it yourself is another option.

We were talking with one of the women at the Dorothy Day House that I wrote about last month. She is a single woman who lives at the Dorothy Day House, and works as a nurse, but not all year long. She purposely earns only enough so that she can live on her income without paying any taxes. She wants to live in simplicity and also doesn't want to be funding war and other things that aren't in line with her values. We came across this concept in the book Radical Simplicity but I think she was the first person we ever met who is doing this. It's an amazing concept. I think, first of all, it's much easier to do this if you don't have kids. But also it would encourage relationships, and in fact it would be necessary to have relationships, with people who you can trade with. Now, this is actually illegal in the US but I think it's an idea that we've gotten way too far from; the idea of bartering goods and services. I think it would be less work and less money exchanged to operate in this way. Thing is, we're not set up for that anymore. We're set up to go to the major department store and buy cheap stuff rather than to the local craftsperson and trade with them for things we need. But I truly think that's the only way out of this big corporation mess we've gotten ourselves into.

So, here's my less-than-helpful wishful-thinking answer to you, Laurie. Anyone else have any ideas?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Busy Busy...

It's been awhile! I thought I'd quickly post to let you all know I'm still here, even though I have to leave for Spanish class in a bit (and still need to finish a bit of homework, as well).

First, the Greek Festival was amazing! There were SO many people. We broke all records for attendance! All the food was exceptionally yummy. Zac practically lived on loukoumades, which is kind of like little Greek donut balls, dipped in honey. Okay, so I helped him out with them a fair bit. They're delicious! :-) We also had our share of spankopita and bougatsa. We were first introduced to bougatsa in Crete, where they say the ts sound like tch instead, so it was called bougatcha. They are one of our fondest memories of Crete, and they were so good here too! I don't think I've had them anywhere besides those two places.

After the festival we were doing a Google search to look for what people were saying about the festival. Our favorite was a post on a blog of the sign on the premises, saying "No alcohol may be taken off the church grounds" and the commentary: "We should all become Greek Orthodox!" :-)

Last week on Tuesday my mother-in-law came for a visit. She was helping a friend of hers move to Salem from Prescott, Arizona, and figured she was that close, she may as well come have a visit with us. She surprised us, though, by showing up on Tuesday instead of calling me and having me pick her up on Wednesday. First we heard from her was "hi, they're dropping me off, and we're 20 minutes from Portland!" Early, too--the phone call woke me up. Of course, we didn't mind, I just had no time to clean the house before she came. (Goody! said my kids. They didn't get off that easy, though...)

She just went home today, and we had a nice visit. She got kind of a "week in the life" of our family, as she came along, or stayed home with the kids, while we did our regular things. Ah, as I post this, she should be touching down in Tucson. Hope your flight was good, Mom!

We went apple picking on Sauvie Island on Monday, and then on Tuesday we were invited to join a homeschool co-op. Their next activity was that afternoon, and it was going to the corn maze on Sauvie Island! So, we headed back again. Gladly, as it's beautiful out there, and the weather was perfect for fall--warm enough, blue skies, perfect for looking at the autumn leaves. The corn maze (maize) was great--not too easy, as I'd feared it might be, but not too difficult either. But it was *so* muddy. We all got dirty and I was afraid of slipping and falling. I did the former but not the latter, thank goodness!

It's funny how we've gone from nice warm weather, last week when Clare got here, to cooler fall weather, all in a week. It was sunny and warm then, and now it's rainy, cool, and overcast, with rain now and then. We've been enjoying all the fall treats, like apples and cider and winter squash. I enjoyed spaghetti squash all by myself, as no one else wanted it. It's so fun to eat! You just cook it whole and then scoop out the flesh (after removing the seeds) and mush it into strands. It's delicious with butter and salt and pepper and parmesan cheese.

Well, there's probably more I could say, but I don't really have Something to say, and I need to get ready for Spanish. Oh, that's something to say: I started a new Spanish class from the summer course I was taking, and I really like my new teacher. She's very feisty and knows how to teach the language.

And here's something else! I've been waiting for my camera (which hopefully should be here this week, finally!) to take a pic of Hibi. Within a month, she pierced her ears, cut her hair short, and got glasses. Picture to come, but for now you'll have to take my word for it: she looks really cute!

Friday, October 6, 2006

What we can do

On my way home from yesterday's march, I was thinking about Hibi saying that we aren't *doing* anything. I was thinking about the small, local things we can do to change the world.

Re the war-mongering corporations that benefit from war, we can:
1. Stop buying from large corporations as much as possible. Paul recently broke this down into priorities when challenged on it ("the chairs we're sitting on are from China!"): first priority to buy local is food. The number one consumable item that we spend money on is food. Where does your food come from? Are you buying from the huge conglommerates, or from local sources? Mom and Pop or huge factory farms? Farmer's markets are great sources of local, family-farm produced food.

If we stop pouring our money into the deep pockets of the big corporations, then we can start to have an impact on world politics.

Is GAP still the biggest human-rights violators in our country? I don't know if it's true now, but it was several years ago. They'd use factory workers in the Marianna Islands and pay them next to nothing, and because it's a US territory, they could say "Made in USA" on their labels. Anyway, all the clothing empire can be avoided by buying at thrift stores and consignment shops. True, you are depending on other people buying from the empire, but if there's ever a lack of used clothing from those sources, it'll be a good thing.

There are many outlets where you can get good, quality clothing that do not outsource and pay a living wage to their workers. I buy my underwear from Decent Exposures and besides the fact that they are good quality and made by women in Washington state, they are the most comfortable bras I have ever worn.

A few months ago I found Deva Lifewear which has a commitment to fairly-traded, quality natural-fiber clothing. I like their stuff, too!

I haven't got a source for new, large sized jeans yet. If anyone knows of any non-large corporation, fair-trade places to get some, please let me know. I can't find those in thrift stores, for some reason. I may have to stop wearing jeans!

For more info, go to Coop America.

2. Community ties. Do you know your neighbors? Do you get out of your economic class and get to know people? When we lived in San Francisco we made friends with our local homeless people. You know, I was realizing recently that the homeless are our modern-day lepers. You know, how in Biblical times lepers were Untouchables, no one wanted to be near them, and they were shuffled off into their own colonies? Homeless are like that. No one wants to touch a homeless person. No one wants to sit down and talk with a homeless person. It's like they aren't even people in our eyes anymore. Poor people are at least people in our perception, just down on their luck or lazy slobs (depending on our perspective) but they're still people. But we don't consider homeless folks to be people, but something to avoid at all costs. Put a quarter in their cups if it assuages our guilt, but don't make any real contact with them.

I think we need to know our community! Each part of it. When we strengthen our community ties, we strengthen ourselves. We exist in relation to other people, says Orthodox theologian Met. John Zizioulas.

3. Drive less and walk, bike, and use public transportation more. Even if it's driving a little bit less, that's better than nothing. And it's good for you, too!

Yesterday's Protest

Hibi and I were two of the 700-800 people in downtown Portland yesterday at the World Can't Wait protest. We are both somewhat discouraged. Okay, a lot discouraged.

There was a lack of excitement for this one, and a lack of focus. I read Karrie's take on the protest before I went, and I thought "Oh, I don't think so" but it was true. At the peace rallies we've been to there has been the focus of looking for non-violent ways of solving problems, and encouraging our country and our politicians to look for those ways. But what exactly was this one about? Seems it was too much about the person of George Bush. Now, I understand all too well the frustration of folks regarding our president. He's done a lot of things that are counter to what we'd like to see happen in this country. But I think we have to remember that he is not the real enemy. He is just the front guy. There is far too much greed in this country for one man to take all the blame. Yeah, he gets his, but there are plenty of others who benefit from war-mongering. And as I said yesterday, I think far too many people in this country are eager for the policies that Bush is implementing to blame it all on him.

And, because of the lack of focus, this one seemed to be a rally about whatever the individual speaker's pet project was. A little of this, a little of that.

Hibi got really down yesterday and was ready to leave when we'd been walking for a short time (which we needed to anyway, because Zac and I had eye doctor appointments). She said that she didn't see any reason for us to go out and listen to people shout slogans, and not *do* anything. What should we do? She didn't know, but feels frustrated with this as it doesn't seem to accomplish anything.

I think I agree with her on this particular march. But I will still march in peace marches because of the reasons I stated yesterday. I feel a deep pessimism that our country is beginning to slide into fascism. If it does go the way of Nazi Germany, I don't want to be one of the many to say "oh, I could see what was going on but I couldn't do anything about it." Or worse, "I had no idea! It was going on all around me but I didn't know." I won't go down without a fight. A passive resistance fight, that is.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

The World Can't Wait

And in other injustices being done to this world.....

Tomorrow the Big Greek Festival in Portland begins! This'll be our very first one here. I'm told it's a Big Thing! I'm looking forward to it.

Paul was to go on a radio morning show this morning to promote the Greek Festival, but there was a mix-up and he was not able to be interviewed today. But while I was listening, waiting to hear his spot, I heard about a rally and march today, under the name of The World Can't Wait. The idea being that we can't wait for this regime to be over in the US--the world is suffering now as a result of our policies. It seems to me that this is overtly an "Impeach Bush" rally, which I really don't believe in, as we've voted him in fair and square (this time, at least). But I believe that my voice must be heard, because to quote the website, "Silence at a time of torture is complicity." I suppose the real reason I don't believe in impeachment is that I don't think it will work. I think too many US citizens believe in the tactics of George W. Bush to make impeachment work. I hope to go out there to march today in order to say that I don't believe in what is being done in my name. I will be one to stand up and say that this is injustice. We've heard much about people in Nazi Germany just sitting by and letting things happen because it wasn't affecting them. I believe it was subtle and that many didn't really realize the injustice because they were not able to question status quo. Well, here's to questioning.

The World Can't Wait. Click the red banner to find locations near you.


We watched this movie last night. I had heard that it was good, but didn't know anything about it except that it was set in India.

India, in the time that the teachings of Ghandi were becoming popular, and his following increased; as he traveled from city to city, many would come to hear him say a few words.

The movie starts out with Chuyia, who is around 7 years old. It shows Chuyia and her parents transporting a very sick man. Then the father waking Chuyia to ask her if she remembers getting married, her saying no, and the father telling her that her husband has died. Chuyia's beautiful curls are cut off, her head shaved, her garments stripped off her and the white rags put on her as a symbol of her widowhood. She is taken to a home for widows, to live among the other girls and women who were married off at very young ages and may not, under Hindu law, be married again.

That's just the beginning of the movie. The story chronicles injustice after injustice, sadness after sadness. This movie is not one to watch to escape the troubles of life, but one to know the troubles of other parts of the world.

I wish we'd seen this movie in the movie theater, because on our little 13 inch screen the beautiful vistas were not nearly as beautiful as I'm sure they were there. It was a visually appealing movie.

But I was left with a feeling of deep sadness, and later anger. Anger that for every religion, vast injustices can be committed and justified by religious law. This has happened in ancient times, and it happens now. Ghandi began the revolution that did much for freeing India from colonialism and it's own demons. But he couldn't do everything for India. The people of India have to be convinced that they do not face damnation for turning around injustice.

One of the widows in the movie asks another main character, why is this happening in India? He answers, "One less mouth to feed, four less saris, and a free corner in the house. Disguised as religion, it's just about money."

"The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." --Jesus (Mark 2:27). If religious laws are being made that encourage injustice, it is time to take a hard look at those religious laws and right them. Jesus' teachings expect us not to use Biblical law in order to commit injustice, but to proclaim justice.

What injustices are being committed in the name of your religion?