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It’s true that I really didn’t want anything this year …but… the simple pleasures, not to mention, nostalgia, prompt me to post about the ubiquitous, useful and always in demand wall-mounted pencil sharpener. When we moved into this 150-year old farmhouse there it was and still remains- mounted on the back of the door to the basement. It’s got to be 40- years old or even more. It never breaks- there are what, 2 moving parts? But my pencils sharpen just a little off-center. I am wondering if I could splurge for a new one. What about the kind that sit on the desk and you flip a little lever to make them suction on to the table surface? Do those really work, I can’t remember. Maybe it’s best to screw them down somewhere. Little handheld plastic thingies are not fulfilling.Who doesn’t know the sound the smell of grinding down the point of a yellow pencil and emptying the sawdust mixed with graphite, making a mess as you unscrew the well? Ghosts of 7th grade math class flicker ’round me. What are your pencil sharpening memories? Don’t you want a sharpener, too? Check out your local stationary store. Price point around $15. Shop local, now.

via: CTGreenScene.com

Clutter Clearing Part Deux

December 28, 2008

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This afternoon the family trooped down to the basement with garbage bags and boxes. It took a much shorter time than I had imagined. We sorted through all the miscellanea (is that a word?) and organized in four ways: toss, give away, use or repack/store. So happy that we gave away Micah’s skates, but we did not give away the mini bike, any of the dozen skateboards, skis or snowboards. But at least the sporty stuff is all in one place and we are all aware of what we have. My music books and lyrics somehow got wet- how did that happen in my waterproofed basement? So I will have to pitch them. Some of the music has notations from my childhood- when I was learning Gershwin and Chopin, etal and some of my earliest songs are in a damp folder. May have to take them to be photocopied, those are keepers. So it is a wonderful feeling to get lighter, send stuff off to the thrift shop for those who can benefit, send that box of glasses from Ikea home to Brooklyn with Jonah and for hopefully a long time not have to think, “oh, what a mess” when I go down to the basement.

Next stop, the attic.

Eco-Christmas Light

December 25, 2008

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All this talk about these dark times. And turning off the lights to save money. Well here is a great gadget, especially for the miserly who are afraid of the dark. The After-Lite is a little chargeable disk that attaches to the bottom of your energy-saving lightbulb. When you turn off the lights the disk continues to power your light dimly and gets progressively dinner over a few hours. Great for kids who want the light on when they go to sleep, or for finding your way around in the dark and even emergency lighting in a storm- giving you time to find your flashlight, anyway.

via: http://www.coolest-gadgets.com

Attitude of Gratitude

December 25, 2008

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Thinking about all I have to be grateful for is a simple and profound practice. I don’t remember where I learned it but there have been times when I have kept a gratitude journal and at the best and worst of times would list at least 5 things, and sometimes many more, per day that I was thankful for. Now when I wake up in the morning I always think about how lucky I am that I have a comfortable and warm bed, a roof over my head, a wonderful family and a group of friends that I love and who love me.

Today is Christmas and this year my boys have requested no gifts because they have everything they need. We will give to others who have bigger needs. The having all we need versus having all we want is the key to the kingdom for our society in this crazy time of economic shift. I am grateful that my boys are learning that we do not have to always be acquiring things, that we can be be comfortable with what we have, and that being together and spending quality time is more valuable than stuff.

Many people teach about creating an attitude of gratitude and the health benefits. I found a beautiful website describing a nice way of creating a gratitude journal. I know that the world starts looking different, hopeful and shinier when I recognize and appreciate what a great life I have, how wonderful my family and friends are. Of course the ups come along with the negatives and the downs. Let these vintage but spot on lyrics by Johnny Mercer run around your brain while you listen to Bing sing:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum

Bring gloom down to the minimum

Have faith or pandemonium liable to walk upon the scene.

No Hokey Pokey

December 22, 2008

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Study’s author Thomas Skalak

Magnetic Products have become very popular and widely accepted among consumers. You can find magnetic wraps at the hardware store and in the drug store, too. The $5 billion dollar a year industry may not have total scientific backing but it surely can’t all be placebo.  

Most doctors have not had a personal experience with magnets and only rely on medical studies in their decision making process about products like magnets, yet lay people who have had life-changing experiences easily share the power of their stories by word of mouth. This alone drives the market. Even without studies it is clear to everyone that eating well, exercising and leading a healthy as preventative lifestyle is the key to good health.

I don’t need my doctor to tell me that. In fact I think medical professionals who are trained to work with disease and sickness are often the last to recognize simple ways of being healthy because they weren’t necessarily taught about common sense, diet and lifestyle in medical school, were they? So when it comes to acupuncture (around for 1000 years or so-think it might work?), or yoga or organic grains and beans (traditional foods), people think and choose for themselves although recently there have been more scientific looks into the alternative arena.

Science is catching up not only with nutrition and meditation; a new study finds that powerful magnets do, in fact, have the ability to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. An article in The Week from January 25, 2008, reports that researchers at the University of Virginia applied powerful magnets to the paw injuries of rats, and measured blood flow to the area. They found that through a mechanism not fully understood, the magnetic field opened tiny blood vessels, thus increasing the oxygen and nutrients supplied to damaged tissue, and reducing swelling by a very significant 50 percent. If the same result occurs in tests on humans, study author Thomas Skalak tells ABCnews.com., doctors will have to embrace magnets as another tool in the arsenal for treating sprains, bruises, and other injuries. “Let’s say it takes you four or five days to recover from a given injury,” Skalak says. “If by preventing swelling you recover after two days, you’ve cut the healing time by a factor of two.” ” 

 

Cleaning Green and Cheap

December 21, 2008

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Lately I have been buying wonderful green cleaning products in the supermarket that are actually mostly edible, and could be easily concocted in my kitchen for pennies instead of dollars. Using lemon juice, white vinegar, baking soda, borax (don’t eat this one), you can create you own brand of glass cleaner, scour powder, disinfectant, wood preservative and more. Check out the Alameda County’s Stopwaste.org site for wonderful alternatives to hazardous household products. They have compiled excellent resources including easy and safe cleaning recipes.

Here’s one for a glass cleaner for pennies:

Glass Cleaner 

1 quart warm water 

1/4 cup white vinegar (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice) 
Mix ingredients and store in a spray bottle.

(Dip a wet sponge in baking soda to clean a glass oven door.)

Use your previous glass cleaner spray bottle!

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Song du Jour

December 21, 2008

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Going Home Lullaby

This is a heartfelt, comforting and grounding piece written for the somewhat happy ending of the film, Against the Tide.

Grinch or Not

December 20, 2008

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This is the season where a simple phrase like “Let it snow…” will set my brain into running a song over and over. Bill teases me by singing the first line of “Chestnuts roasting on…” and off my brain will ramble. These songs are so deeply programmed that I find it close to impossible to turn them off or ignore. They are everywhere. Haunting me in the supermarket, on the radio and internet then following me home, while I work and while I sleep. Please, please can the holidays be over sooner than later?

There are music greats who have capitalized on the holiday and have written terrible songs but because of who they are, the song gets played. Case in point:  “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney. What happened to his great writing like “Yesterday” and “Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”. Play those songs a lot. I could listen to those songs forever.

My bottom line is that  although I know I am in the minority, I don’t want holiday songs foisted upon me in public spaces even if I do get the warm and fuzzy of it all. Random Connections rants about XM radio’s devotion of an entire channel to Christmas music and it’s not the classics, it’s doggies and meowing cats and strange original songs, Twisted Sister singing “O, Come all ye faithful? Please give me a break.

Although I don’t like the repetition and the constant reminder of Bing Crosby or Frosty the Snowman, I am taking a deeper and more generous look at the songs this year and this has reminded me of powerful yearnings we all have to be merry, to bring light into the early darkness. There is the warmth and closeness I love when I am together with my family around the fire, laughing and celebrating our health and good fortune.

Along the same lines, this year we are not giving gifts, we are making donations to support others who are less fortunate and we are going to spend me ore time appreciating our friends an family verbally and through written notes. Micah has written a letter to all his friends encouraging them to do the same.

He says: ” This season of giving, I wish to be the change I want to see in the world.  For me that means instead of buying things for myself or my family, I will write them letters. Cards and note are personal – objects are meaningless. I don’t plan on writing one-liners, or buying hallmark cards, I plan on telling people I love them and that I’m happy to be present with them and some things here and there. I will donate some money to a charity or two that can do some good. If it’s not about the gift and it’s the thought that counts, then screw the gifts let’s share our thoughts and our feelings. Spoken words, and written letters are more powerful than shiny iPods and colorful shoes. This is a chance for me, for us, to spread love and happiness and laughter and togetherness”. 

I couldn’t agree more. Let’s just choose great music.

Pat Head Rub Tummy

December 18, 2008

Chewing gum and walking-easy for most people, patting your head an rubbing your tummy- harder, doing the Dance of Shiva-hardest? Check this out:images_gif_siva5 It’s one of the many moves that are part of the Shiva Nata. Apparently the more you practice, the better you get at recognizing your patterns, breaking them down into their components and building something entirely new to take their place.

Andrey Lappa’s Dance of Shiva (also known as Shiva Nata ) — is a unique and visually stunning, flowing yoga movement form that restructures the brain and facilitates hugely exciting moments of understanding in a safe and systematic way. Havi claims you will make personal breakthroughs in a very short time, usually within 24 hours. There must be creation of new neuronal pathways from the new movement patterns and the mid-line crossing movements. She says, “It’s like a dancing puzzle that sparks forehead-slapping moments of “Ohmygosh!” over and over again as you open to your own potential.” I’m open to that. Certainly would never get bored because it looks fairly impossible to master the movements. I’m going to begin to learn it and will let you know.

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Being Nice

December 17, 2008

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Sometimes being nice may not be healthful. Doing things because they are the right thing to do or because it is expected of you can be stressful. While being nice to co-workers and other business associates can be a good long-term strategy, what about in day to day life with acquaintances? How about the person you feel obligated to invite over for a holiday party that you have no relationship with, you haven’t seen in a year and has not invited you anywhere- but is a friend of your other friends? So to be nice, you invite, yet you resent opening your home to them?

Dr Carol McCall used to call being nice, niasty- being nice when you don’t really mean can easily be read as nasty underneath the sugar-coating because that’s what it is, isn’t it? How can we mean it? I think we can learn to be compassionate towards ourselves as well as towards others.

I remember a birthday party when I was maybe 7 or 8? My mother “made me” (do we have choice as kids?) invite everyone in my class to my party. In retrospect I think it was a good move and intended to keep peace. I had to see those kids everyday and there were only around 13 of them. There was one girl who I didn’t resonate with at all. I ended up having a meltdown at the party because I so didn’t want her there. Now I’m at an age when it is unseemly to have a meltdown- so where does one stuff the resentment and how to release what gets stuffed? Maybe not making it mean so much, not connecting it to a big story is a good start.

I hear and have many stories about the stresses of this holiday season. What do we buy into that we can avoid? Obligations to buy gifts that we perhaps don’t feel we can afford? My son, Micah, is suggesting to all his friends that the biggest gift one can give is directly letting someone know how you appreciate them by writing a letter to telling someone. That is a huge gift and I know that is what we’ll be doing in my family this year.

Havi and her duck have some interesting views on her blog post www.thefluentself.com. Things you can try to remember to do when confronted with family issues, rude cousins and the like at holiday get-togethers. I like the one about locking yourself in the bathroom.  

Other experts suggest listing your resentments and looking for the key cause. Most likely what you can be experiencing is an expectation that the present is like the past. BUT, it isn’t. Every moment is new and an opportunity to make your relationships and your life fun, joyful, fulfilling as well as forgiving of your self as well as others.