Archive for the ‘Healthy living’ Category
With the state of the world, and I suppose also the state of my life (really, really not so very bad, but next year’s work situation shook me a bit), I’m feeling a little like shrinking away. It’s not a great feeling, probably because it’s a survival mechanism, and I’d like to get away from the shrinky feeling now and out into the world again.
But, sometimes if you’re not open, I think life can pry you open. I’m not so sure I’m up for prying right now, though, I think that giving in and opening up, rather than trying to get smaller and and further away and more closed off is the more productive way to go (and quite possible the most interesting and useful as well. So instead of shrinking, I’m trying to be open. It’s not always easy – sometimes it’s downright hard – but I think it will be worthwhile in the end, especially after this odd initial feeling passes on through.
Open means a few different things here, some of which are easier than others.
Open to opportunities other than those that I initially expected – smaller contracts, other cities, new countries.
Open to new ways of living – more frugality, less consumption.
Open to challenges – finding the best ways to manage in somewhat uncertain times.
Open to gratitude – looking for the positives anywhere I can.
Open to being open – I’m rather fond of control, and being open can be…well, a bit of a stretch.
No telling where I’ll end up on the other side, I suppose, but I’m looking forward to trying this openness out a bit more and seeing where I wind up and whether anything changes.
I’ve always liked walking, but haven’t always walked as much as I like. It’s convenient, easy, provides some exercise, requires no special equipment beyond comfortable shoes, and is remarkably low energy.
Recently, The Boy and I have started walking together a few days a week. We go out a few times a week, sometimes to run errands, but more often just to get out in the world now that the weather’s a bit more tolerable, the sidewalk a bit more walkable, and there’s the odd robin to see hopping around on the slightly thawed ground.
Honestly, it’s become one of my favourite things. Don’t get me wrong, I like walking alone, and frequently head out on my own for errands, or even to campus. But alone usually means something more along the lines of by myself and listening to music. When The Boy and I are out, though, we talk. Sometimes we tell stories, sometimes we discuss issues, sometimes we dream or plan what we want in the future. Sometimes we’re serious, and sometimes we just laugh and laugh (we laugh a lot, the two of us). But no matter which way we go – on the walk or in conversation – we just have a great time together, and I’m really appreciating the break in my days, and the chance to get out a little more.
There are days that feel like sandpaper. Every little thing, no matter how small, snags and grabs and pulls a bit until suddenly, sometimes without warning, you’re rough or raw or feeling just a bit thinner than you did before.
After a week in which I had more than a few rough spots over things that, really, weren’t worth having a rough spot over, it was time to slow down today. There was a bit of work that needed to be done at the start of the day, but then there was a run outside in the snow, and yoga at home to stretch out and breathe. There was a lunch of yogurt and homemade granola, a large pot of soup and homemade bread for dinner, and a big pot of rooibos tea. There was a movie with The Boy, reading in my most comfortable chair, and watching a wonderful documentary. Soon, there will be more reading in bed, meditation, and sleep under a deep pile of covers.
After a week of sandpaper, today felt like something I can’t quite define yet. But it’s been a both a balm, after a week that was not really so great, but also hopefully a way of developing some buoyancy in order to be better able to stay afloat when things aren’t going so well, or a shield for when the sandpaper shows up again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about food recently – sourcing it, growing it, eating it – and this article at Salon couldn’t have come at a better time. An examination not just of how food is accessed in an immigrant community, but the social pressures and even shame that go along with it, it speaks to different elements of the current food system at large, and the expectations of us as consumers within it.
First, it deals with the shame that can surround not food itself, but the processes of raising and getting food that are outside the mainstream. No matter how useful, sustainable, healthy, or financially viable they are, in many areas there are still limits – some formal, but many not – not only on what we eat, but how we get our food. Processed and packaged in a grocery store is fine. Growing on a balcony is not so much. Even if they’re not voiced, there are sometimes social exprectation, and certainly always social norms, around what it is that people eat and why.
At the same time, it also begins to look at the benefits of local foods, and the ways in which families made use of what was available to them in terms of space and resources to access what they needed. Despite what seem to be some less than ideal circumstances, food was obtained in a variety of productive and even creative ways. Sharing meat. Planting vegetables in available lots. Using grass clippings as fertilizer and mulch.
But there’s also an element of community here – bartering, helping others, and working together to provide. Maybe it’s just where I am right now, but I don’t see a lot of this on any level, even with something as fundamental as food. Everyone goes to the grocery store and gets what they need to bring home and cook alone. Even the borrowed egg or cup of sugar from days of yore, as it were, seems to be a thing of the past.
There’s also a loss of identity when people lose their ability to produce and eat food in ways to which they’re accustomed, which is what struck me most here. While the people here lost of way of living to which they were accustomed, I wonder if there’s a fundamental need to produce. I suspect that even with those of us who haven’t known a lifestyle that included raising or producing food in some way, shape, or form have lost something by not being more connected with what we eat and where it comes from.
These are just some of the reasons I want to and am trying to move more into being responsible for my food, either by growing what I can, or making sure that I’m aware and responsible for what I eat. I don’t have all the solutions yet – although there are some great ideas in the article – but I think it’s incredibly important that it’s something that we start getting back to, even if on a small scale, whether or not it’s a life with which we’re already familiar.
…of the somewhat loose variety.
Despite not generally going in for resolutions, this year I sat down and drafted a whole long list of them. A too long list, I think, and probably a list that was just made for failure.
So, I scrapped much of the list, and now I’m keeping it simple with three general resolutions (in no particular order).
One: Take care of me.
I’m kind of lousy at taking care of myself, so this year, I want this to be more of a focus. Less anxiety. More sleep. Less stress. More exercise. Less crap food. More whole food. Less TV. More meditation. Less stuff. More space. Less spending. More saving. All the stuff you’re supposed to do, really, for a healthy mind and body, but not really in any set ways that require tracking. I simply more want to be in tune with what I need and try to work with that.
Two: Take care of work.
Basically, this translates to finishing the dissertation. I want to be done by the end of the year, and I think it’s do-able. That said, I also need to do some job-searching, apply for courses for next year, and generally keep on top of things, but I want work to be a significant but manageable focus this year, with a PhD in hand by the end of it all.
Three: Take care of the world.
I plan to keep up with making my life as sustainable as possible, and adding in a few new things as well. I want to keep cooking, baking, walking, bringing my own bags, reducing my consumption, recycling, using public transit, biking, knitting, growing, turning off lights, taking short showers, and buying used. I’d also like to add in some composting, additional growing, and sewing to the mix.
Now, I know I’m breaking the cardinal rule of goal- making – other than taking caring of work and the culmination of the dissertation, this is all rather not-measurable (therefore making it difficult to tell when, say, I’ve actually accomplished something.) But I want things simple this year. I want to go largely on gut reactions. I want to get a sense of when things are working, change them when they’re not, and have the flexibility to do so. A lot has changed last year, a lot will change this year, and I look forward to seeing what it all brings.
With a bust schedule, I didn’t quite accomplish everything that I wanted, but I did pretty well, all told.
With my little 10×30 project, I got the requisite number of things boxed up and ready to go out for donation. There’s still a lot more to do, but a box of books and many bags of clothes later and the apartment feels a bit better. I’m looking forward to doing more, and am considering having a repeat performance this month.
For The Anyway Project, I had a few successes as well. The kitchen was cleared out further, and some clutter was removed from the apartment. We had the landlords come in and do some weatherproofing, which will hopefully make it less draughty in here.
Financially, I managed to save about 45 percent of my income this month, up from the 20 percent that I was aiming for. This won’t be possible every month, but this was a good start. I cut back even the limited shopping that I already do to accomplish this, and I’m pleased with the results.
Tracking resource consumption has been somewhat more difficult than I thought, so I’m still trying to figure this one out, and considering ways to lower it even when there isn’t an actual measure available to work from. I’m also still a bit stumped on taking on extra work, both in terms of what to do and how to fit that in right now, but I’m looking into some opportunities.
Family and community took a bit of a beating this month as I didn’t get out that much for various reasons. On the up side, though, I have been more focused on spending money locally, which I hope is helpful from a community perspective.
I’ve managed to keep outside commitments to a minimum in order to keep focusing on the most important things right now – dissertation, teaching, and job search. I have started a few of my own projects that mesh well with my values, though, so that’s a nice break at the end of the day sometimes as well.
And finally, in terms of time and happiness, I’ve been working on eating a bit better, exercising more – I walk to campus a few times a week now – and taking more time just to rest and relax.
Up next? Planning out what I want to work on for the next month. While December’s usually interrupted by holidays and a visit home, I’m considering ways that I can keep up with working through this life that I lead a bit more.
Okay, okay – I know no one really wants to think about this yet (sorry!), especially since fall is barely upon us. But by planning now for what needs to be done to have a relatively comfortable winter, it’s possible to save a bunch of time and headaches.
Depending on situations, there are a lot of ways to prep for winter. My list isn’t actually that long right now, and some items are more necessities than others, but I want to get a clear idea now of what I want to do and need to do as the days keep getting shorter and cooler in this neck of the woods.
The biggest things for us right now is planning to keep comfortable. It gets cold here, and this apartment is neither well heater nor well insulated. This year, we want to start prepping for the cold early by caulking and insulating the windows and doors, and looking into low-cost, energy efficient heating solutions that we can try.
The next big thing is cash flow. I’ve got some savings, and although I’ll still be making enough to cover basic expenses, my income is about to drop off a bit more. While we haven’t exactly been spending the big bucks, some further belt tightening will be in order to ensure that we stay in a relatively comfortable financial position. I haven’t been as tight about spending as perhaps I could be, and a few tweaks will make some difference in our cash flow, so that’s in the works right now.
Also this year I’d like to get a plan in place for growing some more food. In the past, I’ve missed deadlines for planting seeds, and wound up buying a few starter plants here and there. This year, I’d like to know what needs to be started when, and come up with a better plan for how to fit things in better outside, and make the most of the available space for a bit of food production. There are limits, of course, but getting the planning startednow should help to really get some good use out of what we’ve got.
Finally, this year I’d like to keep a better eye on what I eat. From a health standpoint this makes sense, but also from a financial one. I have a lot of food stored here, and given the relatively high likelihood of moving sometie in the near-ish future, I’d like to start working through what I’ve got here. I’d also like to set up some easy to follow menus. I get sidetracked a lot during the week, which wastes time and, in a lot of cases, food. Knowing what I can make with what I have on hand seems like a good way to use up food I’ve already bought and improve our diet.
These are the big ones for now, although I’m sure there are other projects that will come up, and other things that need to be done. For now, I’m going to sit down with a seed catalogue and start planning out when to start planting some seeds, and where they’ll wind up down the road.
Yesterday, I bought my food from local farmers. I asked how they were doing, said hi to their kids. I used my reuseable bags to hail hom leeks four feet tall, brussel sprouts still on the stalk, sausage from happy and hormone free pigs, and peppers picked just the day before.
Today, I walked into the grocery store and looked for “Product of Ontario” listed amongst all the other products stamped as being of the USA, Peru, and Mexico. Beyond the produce section I faced down aisle after aisle of heavily processed, over salted, corn based, not-quite food.
This has, admittedly, been the pattern through the summer. I buy a lot at the market – as much as I can, really – and then get things that aren’t available there like rice and beans and spices (okay, and chocolate) at the grocery store.
But yesterday was the last day of the market for the season. And, as I stepped in the store today, the reality of the store really sunk in. I realised that for the forseeable future almost all of my food will be coming from the grocery store, and not directly from the farmers. I am, of course, looking into other options. The food co-op isn’t so far. There’s a boxed fruit and veggie delivery service that I may make use of. There are , as there usually are, options. But today was a harsh realization of how much better the market feels, and how important it’s become for me.
On a good day, my skin tone bears a marked resemblance to uncooked bread dough. On a bad one I can be positively ashen. This is not a look that I cultivate, but it is one that I actively seek not to change. While I could tan myself to a lovely brown colour of the summer – with careful planning and possibly some judicious product use – I have always choosen not to, fearing the repercussions down the road that tend to afflict those of us of the pasty persuasion.
This summer, in an effort to manage my tendency towards worry in a drug-free way, I’ve been spending more time outside exercising – running, biking, and walking. Coupled with the fact that I’m trying to walk and bike more, I’m outside a lot, and frequently in the sun. Given my suddenly more outdoorsy life, I need ways to keep my skin protected from the sun. Trouble is, I’m allergic to most sunscreen. Using it results in chemical burns or rashes that can last for days, which is remarkably unpleasant. In addition, many sunscreens are filled with all kinds of nasties that just don’t sit well with me.
I asked my doctor what he would recommend. His answer? Sleeves. Not a bad idea, except for the heatwave that makes such efforts almost unbearable. But, I do have a few solutions for managing the sun in ways that let me be outside without having to suffer too badly. There’s also the old favourite of keeping out of the sun, but sometimes that’s just not possible, and I needed ways to manage sun exposure when I did have to be out in it.
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide – this still falls into the category of sunscreen, but the blocking agent is mechanical rather than chemical, meaning that particles in the sunscreen reflect light away from skin. it’s not a perfect solution, and one that I only use when really necessary, but these sunscreens are far less irritating and moderately less of an issue than their conventional counterparts. That said, be sure to check brands – some are far and away better than others, and it all depends on what you get.
Linen – linen in the summer is one of the few fabrics that feel tolerable – to me anyway – to completely cover up with. Loose long-sleeved linen shirts and pants are breezy, cool, and keep a fair amount of sun off. Plus, they get that attractive wrinkled look, if you’re into that kind of thing. Other natural fibers can work for this as well, depending on preference, and this is one of the most common ways I keep out of the sun.
Hats – a full-brimmed hat is invaluable in the summer to keep sun off the face and neck. It’s also an excellent way to keep cool – if you feel as though you’re overheating, douse it in water and put it on – it’s like instant air conditioning.
Anti-oxidants – awhile ago I started putting antioxidants on my skin after sun exposure to help heal and mitigate what damage I may have done during my intentionally limited exposure. Grapeseed oil was a particular favourite, especially when chilled. But there’s also some speculation in the medical community that taking in antioxidents in diet can act as an internal form of sunscreen. Tea, leafy greens, omega oils, and most fuits and veggies with a lot of colour have a lot of antioxidents. Although I wouldn’t recommend relying completely on diet, it could be one way to moderate the effects a bit more, and getting more of most of these things is usually a pretty good idea.
I haven’t perfected my sun protection yet, and I have a bit of a tan this summer to prove it. But, for being out in the sun almost daily now, I’m impressed with how well this approach is working so far, and I’m certainly pleased to be keeping sunscreen and the sun off my skin as much as I can. I’m open to other suggestions too, though, and if anyone has something that works for them, I’d love to hear it.