Friday, December 9, 2011

Reflections 2011: Belief

9. Which beliefs did you re-examine this year? How did your beliefs stand up against this re-examining?

I stumbled upon an article about fair trade via the internet. I didn't save the link, unfortunately. However, the main point of the article was this: fair trade creates an artificial shortage in the local supply of some agricultural products, making it extremely difficult for the poor to purchase these products. The example from the article was quinoa -- it has become a "fad food" in America, which means Americans are buying substantial amounts from Bolivian (I think) farmers who used to sell it cheaply to their neighbors. Since Americans are willing to pay more, farmers are selling almost none of their crop locally. Another issue stems from the fact that whenever a particular crop sells for a high price, overproduction usually comes after it, lowering the prices once again. Few crops can continue to sell at a high price unless they are extremely specialized -- for example, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee always sells at a high rate because it is only grown on Jamaica's Blue Mountain, but crops that have multiple growing areas, like citrus fruits, will fluctuate if one growing region has a bad growing season.

I feel like I need to do more research into this subject matter before I declare "fair trade" a total failure. I also have to wonder if enough research has been done in general into this side of the fair trade issue. I did find it pretty shocking that fair trade could possibly be hurting the very people it is intended to help, though. I've done a bit of searching, and there is an article from The Economist, written in 2006, that delves into the criticisms of fair trade. However, I can't access it without purchasing an online access pass or becoming a subscriber. I may have to look into using an online database through a public library, or combing their physical magazine collection to read this article.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reflections 2011: Goodbye

8. Who or what did you say goodbye to this year? How did this separation affect you? What did you learn from it?

MSG. Monosodium glutamate. I've made a point not to buy anything with MSG in it. I learned this past year that it is a neurotoxin, known to cause headaches in some individuals. I learned from a nurse that it is a cheap additive that will make anything taste good - even dirt. Because of this, MSG can be linked to obesity rates because it makes unhealthy food seem extremely palatable to the consumer.

Because I am prone to headaches, I felt that cutting MSG from my diet would be a positive change. It definitely has been. Saying goodbye to MSG has meant the purchase of less junk food, less processed frozen food, and less impulsive food purchases. It does mean that I'm more likely to buy name-brand products, too - Lay's Potato Chips don't contain MSG, while our store brand's comparable flavors do contain MSG. I know there is still a lot of junk in my diet (processed sugars and diet sodas, for example), but I feel like eliminating MSG has been good for me.

Over the past year, my headaches have been few and far between. There are fewer "random" headaches -- the majority can now be traced to seasonal or hormonal changes (or a missed can of caffeinated soda). I don't want to let anyone think that I was completely cured by eliminating MSG - I still get a couple headaches a month, but it's far better than the 4-10 a month I had before. I also visited urgent care twice last fall because of these headaches. The second visit sent me home with prescriptions for 10 days of amoxicillin followed by a five day azithromyacin course, and I noticed a marked decrease in my headaches after that. Honestly, though, it wasn't until the MSG was cut from my diet that I really, truly felt better.

Of course, it isn't completely gone. I'm sure MSG is in a lot of the food I eat when we go out. I know it is in Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, which is one of my favorites. I don't think it's in the organic version, so we might start eating that in our house instead. However, the important lesson I learned this year is that saying goodbye to junk in my diet can yield some major results. I'm thinking 2012 will see another "bad for me" item phased out of my diet, but I'm not quite sure what. Given the recent concerns about BPA in canned soups and tomatoes, I think canned foods might be next.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflections 2011: Prompts 8-14

8. Who or what did you say goodbye to this year? How did this separation affect you? What did you learn from it?

9. Which beliefs did you re-examine this year? How did your beliefs stand up against this re-examining?

10. Traditions are established through repetition. What did you do this year that you hope to repeat until it becomes a tradition? What made this experience worthy of becoming a tradition?

11. What traditions in your life might need re-examining? Why?

12. List the roles you currently play in the lives of others. Elaborate on these roles if you wish.

13. Review the list of roles you created yesterday. How might this list change in 2012? Will you be adding or subtracting any roles to this list? Explain.

14. Describe someone who has played a significant role in your life in 2011.

Reflections 2011: Goals & Obligations

7. What are your goals for 2012? What are your obligations in 2012? How can you mesh the two of these together?

My goals for 2012 are these: 1) Run a 5K. 2) Paint the inside of my house. 3) Hang up decorations in my house. 4) Purchase furniture to finish off the house. 5) Pay off another student loan ahead of schedule. 6) Complete my final class for Georgia teaching certification.

My obligations for 2012 are these: 1) Make monthly student loan payments. 2) Serve as matron-of-honor in my sister's wedding. 3) Teach for seven weeks while I cover a maternity leave. 4) Serve at church. 5) Keep up the exterior areas of our home to meet the HOA covenants and restrictions.

When considering how to mesh these two groups of things together, I think about a forwarded email I received in college. It was a long, drawn out unrealistic scenario about how a person was asked to fit golf balls, pebbles, and sand into a jar. They began in reverse order, and couldn't do it. The person requesting the task's completion then showed the proper way to do it: the biggest things go first, the medium-sized things come next, and the sand falls into place around them. This short scenario was meant to illustrate that if we place the most important things first in our lives, everything else will just fall into place around them. This is my plan for the coming year. I will put the important things first, and everything else should fall into place.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reflections 2011: What held you back?

6. What held you back from achieving your goals in 2011? How can you make sure it doesn’t stop you in 2012?

Procrastination. Feeling sick. Time. Money.

I feel like these four things together stopped me from doing everything I wanted to do this year. I have a poor concept of how much time things will take to be completed. I tend to procrastinate by doing things online - Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, reading blogs. When I combine those two things, I find myself with too little time. And then there's the whole sickness thing. Three times this year, I got so sick I was pretty much worthless for awhile. Two of the three turned out to be allergies, which is frustrating because there isn't much I can do about those allergies, short of moving away.

In 2012, I'm not going to play time wasting Facebook games. I'll probably still do the other stuff I do online, but I'm going to scale back on it. I think I might utilize a timer to help me stay on task. I also think using a to-do list and keeping my work spaces clear would help me be more productive. Organization is key, I'm learning.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflections 2011: GO

5. Where do you want to go in 2012? Is it a vacation spot, a new direction in your work or hobby, a new restaurant, or something else? Describe where you want to go. Tell us why you want to go there. How could you - or your creative life - benefit from going somewhere new?

I want to go through the finish line.

Yes, there are so many other places I choose to say I want to go to in 2011. I want to go back to Jamaica. I want to go to Europe. I want to go anywhere. But for 2012, the finish line is the goal.

I want to run a 5K next year. I've neglected exercising for years. YEARS. I don't do well with sweating or being out of breath or feeling uncomfortable at all (unless it's being uncomfortable in pretty shoes - that's something I'm great at). Two weeks ago, I bought running shoes. I have a few 5K races in mind right now, and my goal is run one sometime next year. I just can't imagine how great it will feel to complete the race, to cross the finish line for the first time.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reflections 2011: New Place

4. Did you go anywhere new in 2011? Where was it - a new grocery store, a vacation spot, a new class, a new website? Describe this new place.

There were several new places I visited this year. I took my first trip to Trader Joe's. I I took my first class at Big Picture Scrapbooking, entering the digital classroom for the first time. I visited for the first time. I also visited two new states for the first time - New Hampshire and Ohio.

New Hampshire left the biggest impression on me. I'd been watching the TV series The West Wing with Trevor for over a year via Netflix discs. President Josiah Bartlett was a native of New Hampshire, and the character often spoke about the beauty and wonder of New Hampshire on the show. It was everything I'd hoped it would be.

We stayed at the cabin Russ inherited from his grandparents on Sand Pond Lake. It is a pristine lake, home to loons and trout and red newts. Mountains surround the clear water. The granite mountain tops are covered in wild blueberry bushes. We picked several quarts of the berries while we were there, and I still have about two cups in my freezer.

The cabin is a huge old house. It has been in Russ' family for about 100 years. His great-grandparents honeymooned there and loved it so much that they bought it. His grandfather lovingly cared for it for many years before leaving it to Russ when he passed away in 2009. Russ' grandmother passed away the following year. A granite bench bearing their names faces the water outside the cabin -- their ashes have been spread over the mountains and the lake.

What struck me about the cabin was the overwhelming sense of peacefulness there. No television, no air conditioning, no internet, no computers, and sometimes, no cellphone signal. While I was raised in the country without those things for many years, the cabin was on a whole different level. Perhaps it was because I've become acclimated to the metropolitan life, where I always have a cellphone signal. It was just so amazing to be living without those distractions for the three days we were there. It felt like a week, but it was simply three glorious days.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reflections 2011: Accomplishment

3. Which 2011 accomplishment are you most proud of? Why are you proud of that accomplishment? Can you build upon that accomplishment in 2012? If so, how will you do so?

Buying our house is definitely the accomplishment I'm most proud of. I'm proud because we did it on a single income, and we made significant sacrifices to do so. We haven't had cable since the end of February, when we decided that was an expense we didn't need to worry about while we were in the process of purchasing and moving into a home. We don't eat out as much, and we only went to one movie this year. We've also decreased our shopping.

There are so many ways we can build on this accomplishment in 2012. First of all, we have an empty dining room. There are still a few places where we need to put some furniture. We certainly need to hang some decorations on the walls. Speaking of walls, we need to paint. Every room is still the same almond color it was when the house was built in 2010. I think it's time for some color. :)

Reflections 2011: The Next Word

2. At the end of 2012, which word would you like to be able to say represented the year for you? Why do you want that word to represent your year? What actions can you take to make that happen?

Good. I just want to be able to say at the end of 2012 that I've had a good year, that I am in good health, that I have a good marriage, that I was a good friend, and that I did good things.

The actions I can take towards making that happen seem so simple: just do it. Do the right things, the good things, and everything else will fall into place. I think what it comes down to is being mindful of my choices, and probably even more importantly, mindful of the consequences. For example, keeping a quart of ice cream in the freezer and two gallons of root beer in the fridge probably isn't a choice that contributes to good health because the consequences are a) me consuming lots of floats and b) me gaining weight.

Good probably isn't my One Little Word for 2012, just so you know. I don't think I can commit to using something so abstract for OLW. Also, I tend to choose verbs, and I'm not sure I want to break that pattern, either.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reflections 2011: One Word

1. What word best represents the year 2011? Is it a word you chose in advance, like the “One Little Word” project, or did the word “find” you during this past year? Why does this word represent this past year, and what did you learn in relationship to the word during 2011?

I chose a One Little Word last December. It was move. I chose the word because it represented a number of things that I wanted to do this year. I wanted to move out of the apartment we were living in. I wanted to exercise, to move more. I wanted to move through the unread books on our shelves, and move through the books of the Bible. I wanted to move towards getting my Georgia teaching certificate. I wanted to be on the move, as in travel.

I really didn't meet many of my goals. I haven't officially started exercising, but I did visit my doctor because I'm a good little girl who follows the cautionary "consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program." Also, I bought a really pretty pair of silver and pink running shoes. I also read a lot more this year, but by no means did I clear our bookshelves of unread books. That might have something to do with how many are still in boxes, though. I definitely didn't read the entire Bible, either.

But what did I do? I did move out of that crappy apartment into a beautiful new house. I took a big step towards my Georgia teaching certificate -- I actually called a college and found out what I'd need to do to enroll in the class I need to take (but circumstances prevent me from enrolling right now). I also did some traveling, too. I didn't go anywhere super exciting, but I did go to Kennedy Space Center on Endeavor's launch morning. I went to New Hampshire and saw the most incredible views along Sand Pond Lake. I also went to Ohio to support a friend whose mother passed away.

What I learned about the word "move" this year is simply this: "move" simply means to be in motion. It doesn't mean to finish. It doesn't mean anything about reaching a destination or completing a task. It simply means to be in motion. When I look at my goals for 2011 in that context, I feel very good about what I've accomplished. I am simply in motion.