It Begins with Me

Posts tagged ‘life’

Sustaining Progress

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I’ve been on my new diet now for five months. I have gone from 330 pounds to 277 in that time frame. I still suffer from reactions and hunger, tiredness and overall crankiness, but overall I feel better than I have in a long time.

My jeans are loose but still fit.

I am hungry often but nothing looks or tastes all that good. I tend to push eating out of my head and often go all day without eating more than an apple or some corn chips with a Naked juice.

My end goal was not to lose weight, but to feel better – less bloated, less painful, and less nauseous.

The moment I stray from my diet, I suffer from all three.

I drink a lot of peppermint tea.

I am tired a lot. My pain levels are higher than I would like but diet has little to no effect on that as long as I stay away from Nightshades.

When I eat regularly, I stop losing weight almost immediately. I gained 2 pounds when I had Lactaid ice cream or snacks like sweet potato chips. Cheating is apparently not allowed. I also bloated up and felt generally icky the next day – signs that I should not veer off track. sigh.

I have been struggling with depression and anxiety in high levels for the last few weeks. I have had a headache during that time above and beyond my daily level. I am having a hard time dealing with the constant pain and bleh that goes with all of this, and I miss my comfort foods.

I don’t miss them enough to go back, however. It just sucks.

I stopped seeing my shrink around the time of my last entry, which likely isn’t a coincidence. My depression, anxiety, and mood swings returned almost immediately but my insurance will not cover it and there’s nothing to be done about that. I will not put my family into debt or take away food from the budget so that I can find some stranger to talk to about crap in my life that will never change.

Pragmatism.

Summer is upon us and I will be spending a great deal of time and energy getting my house clean, fixed up, and in better shape than it is currently. My children and I will be doing that adventure together. I am putting my weekend job on hold for now so I can focus on the weekends on all the things that need to be done.

I plan to write here more as I progress, and show pictures and write about all the things happening – good and bad. I look forward to that.

My blood pressure is normal.

My cholesterol is fine.

My blood sugar levels have been constant and within acceptable ranges.

I need a mammogram and other tests for my age.

Oh, and I turn 50 tomorrow. Meh.

More later as I find it… stay tuned.

Jaz

Shopping for Six Plus

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We have four growing boys, 8 cats, and 2 dogs as well as 2 adults in our house. My husband and I strive weekly to fill the larder and keep everyone happy, healthy, and well fed. It’s a goal and we do a pretty good job.

First, I should say I never wanted 8 cats because I know you went O.O at that. So do I – daily. However, I used to rescue cats and nearly always had nearly a dozen in and out between cleaning them up, getting them healthy and friendly, and finding them homes. I learned early that cleaning house often, having plenty of kitty pans, and keeping those pans cleaned every few days was the key to a non-smelly house. However, this batch was not my idea and the boys and their father tend the cats, their feeding, and the litter chores. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Well, 1 monkey likes me. The rest? Meh.

We spend roughly $500/week on food and supplies for the house, which keeps us in kitty litter, pet food, boy food, snacks, and balanced meals.

In the process of balancing this large active family, I have learned how to make lists. Not only that, I have learned how to actually use them. This is probably the more important talent, to be honest.

First, my free plug of the day.

One of the best tools I have ever stumbled upon is a shopping app for my phone. It’s shareable with my spouse’s phone (and anyone else really), updates when either of us makes changes (on all phones and devices hooked to the service), and allows me to make detailed shopping lists so that all that I need is done in one very carefully orchestrated and organized shopping trip (on Fridays).

What tool is that? https://www.ourgroceries.com/

I love this app. I highly recommend it for any busy family. Also, it is free or it’s available for very little. It’s worth the pittance it costs and pays for itself quickly in saved gas from extra trips and frustration of not having your needs in an easily made and easily managed place.

In order to fully manage a large family and a strict budget, I make meal plans. Our menu is set out for the week and items are purchased for that plan. Here is an example:

Dinner Menu:

  • baked chicken, butternut squash, mixed vegetables
  • baked pork roast, baked potato, baked carrots
  • beef chili with biscuits and potato wedges
  • beef meatloaf, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables
  • brats-n-kraut, mixed vegetables
  • noodle bake with vegetables inside
  • tacos, baby carrots

Lunch Menu:

  • school boys (3): shaved ham, sliced sharp cheddar cheese, and a loaf of bread with baked beans,  pineapple tidbits, and canned carrots/peas
  • school boys (3): hard salami slices, sliced sharp cheddar cheese, and a loaf of bread with baked beans, pineapple tidbits, and raw baby carrots
  • school boys (3): shaved turkey, sliced sharp cheddar cheese, and a loaf of bread with baked beans, pineapple tidbits, and baby cucumbers
  • school boys (3): (x2) summer sausage, chucks of sharp cheddar cheese, corn chips, baby carrots with dip, and apple pieces
  • home lunch: sausage patty with tater tots, a slice of cheese, green beans, and apple pieces
  • home lunch: beef patty with tater tots, baby carrots (wheels), sliced cheese, and orange pieces
  • weekend lunch: leftovers

Desserts:

  • pineapple upside-down cake
  • cookies
  • fruit crisp

Snacks:

  • meat sticks
  • cheese (string) sticks
  • pepperoni
  • leftovers
  • can of vegetable choice
  • baked beans
  • sweet potato chips (make yourself)
  • potato fries (make yourself)
  • tortilla and cheese (or peanut butter honey)
  • apple
  • orange
  • banana
  • baby carrots and dip
  • salad

The boys are allowed to make some simple snacks as long as they clean up afterward. Both the 14 and the 12 year old are capable of it, although the kitchen is usually a mess afterward. Sigh. The 6 year old isn’t allowed to do more than watch and help as he learns. The 22 year old is handicapped and in a wheel chair with the mind of a 1 year old child, so he has to have everything prepped for him to eat.

The boys have learned over their lifetime that you do not eat anything out of the ordinary or off the list without asking first. Nothing makes Mama angrier than going to make dinner and find the locusts have consumed something she needed as an ingredient. I am pleased to say it doesn’t happen very often.

Because of my dietary restrictions, I cook my own meals separately from the boys’ meals. This means that the boys ALSO ask when they find something that looks yummy, because if they eat MY food it will mean no tech and an unhappy Mama. I am not pleasant when hungry.

Our grocery list consists of ingredients, some snack foods that I deem acceptable, some easy prep foods for the boys to snack on, and pet supplies. I strive to buy foods for my boys without high sugar, simple starches, red40, or corn syrups. I avoid Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in all its forms, gluten in all its forms, “low fat” items (high in sugar), food coloring, and fake things such as artificial sugar, artificial or synthetic fats, sugars, and materials, margarine and hot dogs. Gluten free is more expensive, so our grocery bill is roughly $125 more a week than the average family of 6 shopping in this manner.

I allow them three “bad” things weekly: one candy (for each boy) of their choice from the .99 aisle, ice cream that is as close to natural as I can get (Breyers, one container), and the meat sticks that I had to search to find so that they were not as horrible as they might have been. They are also allowed one soda every now and then.

I strive to stay between $400-500 a week for all our supplies and groceries. The more ground meat we use, the lower the cost for the week – but the boys get tired of it and there’s only so much you can do with ground meat. I enjoy a variety and so do they, so it’s worth a bit more now and then.

I will be continuing along this vein for a while, to show how we function day to day in our healthy diet and lifestyle goals.

Jaz

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Eating for Tomorrow

“Eating healthy is too expensive.”

How often do I hear that? All the time.

One of my friends that reads this blog, asked me to do a blog on that issue, to explain how I do it, and how I feed a family of four kids and two adults, 8 cats and 2 dogs on the money we spend.

Before I start, I should say that I don’t shop at Aldi or any half price anything. I don’t grocery shop at WalMart although I do buy supplies there for the household. However, were I given a small town choice, that carried what I need, I would take it. Sadly, living in Rural Iowa, that simply doesn’t work much of the time. While a quick “oops need that” run will suffice at the small town stores, they simply don’t have enough selection to justify me shopping there weekly like I do otherwise.

“Why don’t you shop at Aldi?”

  1. The food is green/unripe/damaged, picked over, packaged in groups that are not useful to me usually, and tends to spoil faster for all of the listed reasons.
  2. The food really isn’t that much less expensive in the long run, mostly for the above reason.
  3. Their food is lower quality than I prefer to feed my family.

“Why don’t you use coupons?”

  1. Coupons are typically for items that I do not buy, or for quantities that I will not use in time to make it worth the money to buy.
    • coupons entire goal is, as an advertisement, to get you to buy their product and buy MORE of their product than you intend
    • I resent being used that way, and keeping track of cost and waste has made me choose, for me, against couponing. If it works for you? Grand.
  2. I used to be a cashier and I HATED coupons. The instilled resentment is probably coloring my opinion – won’t lie.
  3. In all my years of clipping and using coupons (about 3 years during a determined stage of my life) I never saved any long term money on anything. I did the math and when coupled with my personal dislike of stray bits of paper and clutter, it really just didn’t work out for me.

“Why shop at Hy-Vee?”

  1. They are “employee owned” … which I don’t completely understand but I know the workers there have been there a long time and seem very happy. I see a lower turnover than other stores.
  2. Their produce is well tended and handlers are trained – no bruised fruit here.
  3. Their prices are competitive.
  4. They offer a member card – certain purchases earn me pennies off my gas prices which adds up quickly.
  5. The “friendly smile in every aisle” is no joke. I enjoy my time there.

So there’s my free ad of the day for Hy-Vee.

I spent roughly $67 on apples (2 bags), pears (1 bag), oranges (2 bags), spaghetti squash (1), 2 boxes of fresh sliced mushrooms, baby carrots (1 lg bag), carrots (2lbs), shredded lettuce (4 bags), 1 lg bag of potatoes, and some corn husks (tamale style).

Last week I bought green onions, onions, mushrooms, apples, oranges, fresh curly parsley, 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash, and a bag of cranberries. For roughly the same cost.

I typically buy all of the above and sweet potatoes, bananas on sale, grapes on sale, cabbage heads (red and green both), cucumbers, and occasionally squash.

As I have stated before, it comes down to using these things before they spoil. And as aware and careful as I am, I still sometimes lose items to waste. IF I was a single woman, that $70 would buy me a month supply of the same veggies listed. That’s not bad at all.

In comparison, processed food costs more to feed the same number of people the same day. It just seems less expensive – even when it’s not. It’s easy to eat and prepare. It doesn’t go bad if you forget it. And it tastes “good” to you. But in reality, once you go to raw food, you’ll never be able to go back to that cardboard tasting stuff ever again.

When you stop buying processed foods, you’ll discover you eat less, not more. This is due to there being less sugar and less chemicals that are designed to make you eat more. Chewing your food also changes how you feel after you eat it. Raw food requires you to chew it up and the process of chewing is satisfying. It’s why we like potato chips. If you are serious about your health and weight loss, try the following things for that crunchy and satisfying snack:

  1. slice up celery into bit sized bits to snack on in place of chips
  2. use snow peas or sugar snap peas in place of unhealthy snacks
  3. baby carrots are easy to eat and satisfying to chew
  4. baby cucumbers are a thing – try them!
  5. cut up broccoli and cauliflower as a healthy snack
  6. cut fresh fruit into slices to eat as finger food
  7. pineapple tidbits or chunks are a great ‘sweet’ treat

There are also healthy alternatives to chips such as sweet potato chips that you make yourself. Slice up a sweet potato into slim wheels and lay on a sprayed cookie sheet (I use olive oil spray). Spray lightly with oil and bake for 15-20 minutes. Or, as an alternative, place pepperoni on each slice and then layer another on top. Spray lightly and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Here are a few rules of thumb when eating raw food and keeping it fresh:

  1. Process your food into sealed containers such as cut up celery, sliced green onions, chopped fresh spices, or lettuce. Never leave them out in the air either in your kitchen or in your frig.
  2. Place onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes into a dark, cool, dry place to keep them fresh and unspoiled for weeks. Do not keep these items in plastic but in a breathable sack or their original mesh.
  3. Place fruit in baskets in the open air and do not leave them in sealed or plastic containers. If fruit flies are an issue, place some apple cider vinegar in a cup and place the cup near or beside the baskets (or between them).
  4. Process sweet fruits such as bananas once they start to turn brown skinned. Mash into a bowl and add a splash of lemon juice and some honey – then freeze for later.
  5. Process stone fruits by slicing thin and placing on a wax sheet after dipping into a mix of lemon juice and honey. Freeze overnight and then peel off and place in freezer safe sealing plastic bags such as Ziploc. (This works for apples too.)
  6. Freeze tomatoes whole and in their skins in a freezer safe bag. When ready to use, run the tomatoes under hot water and the skins will peel right off. They will be ready to core and use, or process in a food processor.
  7. Only buy enough fresh spices and herbs for you to use in a week as they spoil quickly – even in a closed container in the frig.

As you can see, eating raw and healthy is not more expensive but it IS more work. No, you can’t just grab a frozen dinner and pop it in the microwave but your body, your health, and your pocketbook will thank you.

Jaz

Unrest and Everyday Life

Depending on what media outlet you listen to will influence how you view or understand the growing unrest worldwide. This is simple fact – some media outlets are lying to you without a shred of moral hesitation. It’s not hard to see which ones, if you actually pay attention, but the level of ignorance on this point is astounding to those of us who watch and press for answers without hesitation.

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As you can see, your choices for balanced news are pretty limited. Fox news, CNN, USA Today, and Huffington Post are out, along with most “local” television news stations, as are a host of liberal and conservative sites. However, using the central position more toward the top, you can find yourself news that is both balanced and more likely to check sources before they say a word.

So what’s wrong with using a news station that caters to your existing viewpoint? Well, to put it bluntly, they are lying to you for the sole purpose of gaining your advertising dollars. It really isn’t more complicated than that. However, the deeper question should be, why do you need to ONLY hear the news from the slant that agrees with you? Are you that easily led or discouraged that to digest a counter viewpoint is dangerous to that viewpoint? If so, perhaps you need to do some serious soul-searching as to why you are that gullible in the first place, or that happily delusional and clinging to a viewpoint that isn’t either true, balanced, or fact-checked.

Yes, you are part of the problem.

By perpetuating poorly researched news (or outright lies), you spread disinformation and ignorance. Now, if that’s all right with you then we can stop right there. You and I will never get along or agree. However, if you truly do want to understand the truth of it, then you will take a step back and realize you need to re-prioritize your digesting of news sources that are less than reputable.

Early on in my quest for knowledge, I discarded news that seemed biased and/or plain untruthful. I slowly moved toward news sources such as BBC, Wall Street Journal, NPR, New York Times, and The Guardian. I was rather pleased when they came out as trustworthy and have held that position for some time now. While they often have opinions I disagree with, and sometimes their view of the facts challenges my own, I feel overall they certainly come across as less bias and a lot closer to the actual truth of the matter than say Fox News, CNN, or any of the local networks.

Now, what is bias exactly?

Bias is defined as: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. (google)

I would say that, at this point, I am “bias” against the Tea Party. I find them as a whole to be absolutely disingenuous, thug/bully filled, with little to no regard for the actual truth. That’s my bias, and I struggle with that. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why any thinking person would ally themselves with a bunch of prejudice, hateful people such as snuggle up to that side of things.

It might surprise you (or it may not) to discover that they feel the exact same way about “liberals” (which translates into ANYONE that disagrees with them, regardless to alignment). However, it bears discussion to point out that overwhelmingly, the “facts” they believe with all their heart are -easily- discovered to be falsehoods. Once this is placed in front of me, I cannot accept them or their opinions. In fact, over the last six months, the level of flat out bull-hockey that has passed from their party’s lips has pretty much ruined their credibility for me permanently.

I have no doubt that IS is a terrible group. I also have no doubt that given enough power, the Tea Party would happily be just as bad. Extremists are extremists and if history has taught us anything, if you give an extremist power, they abuse everyone that disagrees with them on any point. It never ends well. For all their rage and rant against “sharia law” (Which they couldn’t identify correctly if you offered them actual cash-on-the-spot) and these “atrocities against women and children,” you would be hard pressed to find a single one that wasn’t 100% for taking away rights from ANYONE that doesn’t agree with them and their warped concept of Christianity and government. They are no different.

So given all this, what do we do? With 1/4 of the country happy about our 45th president, and cheering the changes that strip away our rights, our safety net, our protections, and any concept of free press and free market, how do we get through the day safe and sane?

That’s the harder question, isn’t it?

A long time ago, I was what most would call a moderate conservative. That concept is a misnomer these days, now that the Tea Party has hijacked the Conservative Party. I left the conservatives and went Independent in the 1990s and registered as a Democrat somewhere around 2000. I consider myself a moderate and a progressive, but most would simply call me a liberal. I don’t consider the label a bad thing – but I accept that most people I deal with on a daily basis have no actual idea what a liberal is beyond that they disagree with Fox News.

Today, we are a voting populace divided down the liberal/conservative lines. However, emerging from the black and white mindset are progressives and moderates that align more as an Independent than any one political party. The Tea Party is roughly 40% Democrat and 60% Republican (which boggles, but I digress), and makes up roughly 10% of the voting populace.

For such a small percentage they certainly are LOUD, which gives them a boost in the eyes of the general populace as being stronger in power and voice than they actually are. You combine that with their average age and financial bracket, it places them directly in the most well connected group in the USA. They are more likely to have computers and internet access. They are more likely to take part in online conversations than the average Joe, and they are far more likely to attend local, state, and federal protests, groups, and visibility marches than any other party. This has given the impression they have more power than they do,and has given the general population this idea that they are stronger than they actually are.

Now here’s where things get a bit dicey and may be a bit depressing to hear – so hold on to your hat and I promise I will try to put a more positive spin on things once I get it all out.

Recent polls put 51% of the population of the USA as holding prejudice or anti-black, anti-brown people prejudice.

Yikes.

But that does explain a bit doesn’t it?

Now, given that the ones being asked are likely white, middle income, living in and/or owning their own home/land, and over 50, that number shifts a bit.

The percentage of people around 50 years of age (or older) is somewhere between 25-35% of the population.

That means that 1/4 (a quarter) of the country is at or over 50.

Explains our 45th president, doesn’t it? It also explains that gross 51% racist quantity in our country as well. Polling happens to only hit landlines, and only targets home owners. There are roughly 65% of home owners in our populace.

Of those home owners, 71% are white.

A large bulk of those home owners are over 50. Home ownership is on a decline thanks to the crappy economy and low paying jobs, and it’s not likely to improve unless wages go up (but that’s a whole different rant).

The point of this flash of math is this: If you only ask a certain demographic these questions, you’re going to get skewed results.

So, the long and short of it is, we’re not likely AS prejudice as the numbers would like us to believe BUT it’s safe to say that at least 1/4 to 2/3 of the population struggles with racism and prejudice in their heart.

Why is this important?

Well, first, only 50% of the country actually votes. Our 45th president was elected by less than 1/4 of the country. He didn’t win the popular vote and he only won due to the Electoral College giving more weight to votes in rural areas over votes in the cities. it’s a stupid system and it needs to change, but again, that’s a whole different rant for another day.

Since you are more likely to vote if you own a home, see the above demographics. Again, this explains a lot about how the 45th President got to power.

IF you want to effect a change, you need to vote and you need to get your friends to vote and you need to get your granny to vote and you need to give rides to voting locations and you need to hand out voting registration papers and help people fill them out and take them to the registration area.

YOU need to do this. ALL OF YOU.

YOU need to squawk and fuss and make as much noise as possible. Join marches. Join rallies. Join and be heard.

Why?

Because we have to shout out a loud, rude, and obnoxious populace of voters known as the Tea Party. WE OUTNUMBER THEM about 10:1 (ten to one), and it’s time we remind the country that they are a minority, not a majority.

WE have to stop them from controlling the voice of the senate and house IN EACH STATE as well as the federal level.

Get involved in your local political groups!

How to Get Involved!

More: How to get involved!

http://votesmart.org/

Yep, you heard me right. Get in there with both hands and elbow deep and start working. Nope, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe. THE ONLY WAY THIS WORKS IS IF WE GET OUT THERE AND GET INVOLVED!

I’m out there. I’m considering running for office. Let’s get our political process back from the oligarchs and corporations and rich men/women who have no idea what it means to struggle.

I want my country back. Do you?

There you go.

Onward and upward. :)

Jaz

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Exchange and Change

Exchange. It means: “An act of giving one thing and receiving another (especially of the same type or value) in return.” (Google).  We are told that by taking one part of ourselves, and giving it up to do something similar, we’re being a grown up. After nearly 50 years in this life, I am ready to say with a fair amount of certainty that this practice is completely worthless and harmful and needs to stop.

When I was a child, my mother once said, “Everyone wants to be original, unique, and special. But, if everyone is special, no one is. Some people are just better than others.” I remember that clearly, mostly because my grandmother snorted and said, “The only people that say that want to be special.” This palpable rage hovered between them for a moment and then slithered away. It made an impression.

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I spent most of my life pretending that who I was inside did not exist. It did irreparable damage to my body and mind, exerting stress where unnecessary and creating a sense of despair about my own personal truths. I struggled with depression and rage most of my life, so much so that I fought off my own suicide a great deal of the time I was growing up. My brother had these same struggles, ending in his death at a young age – which left our family in ruins.

All of this can be traced back to being able to be true to yourself. Life is hard. Struggle is real. None of this changes when you are true to yourself BUT the stress of being what you are not fades away, and there’s a peace and acceptance that makes the rest of things life throws at you a lot less stressful.

It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’m proud to say that I did learn it.

I spent the first 30 years of my life trying to “fit in” and the next 20 years struggling “be myself” with varying degrees of success. Labels, while most of us agree can be limiting, also give freedom when applied correctly. Sometimes, having a label helps you feel that who and what you are, how you are, is less odd and more “I’m not alone after all” and that in itself can be freeing.

No one wants to be alone in the dark as some weird aberration that has no place and no name. It’s dehumanizing all on its own.

I truly believe we are all individuals. No one is like anyone else, not really. We are unique in our own existence BUT we are also similar to others who struggle like we struggle, who see what we see, who feel what we feel, and as intense as we experience it. No one is ever truly alone. Mathematically, there is at least a few folks out there like you in every way and to me, that’s comforting. Go math.

We are all special. We are all unique but we are also the same. We are the human race. We are male. We are female. There’s a group of red-heads over there. There’s a group of blue eyed people. Over there are people who survived child abuse. In that other group are people who struggle with mental illness. The list goes on. We are unique but we are not alone.

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So how does this effect change?

Exchanging ourselves, and parts of who we are to find what fits better and helps us fit in, is not the way to do it. Instead, we should simply be, and then seek out those that we feel comfortable with. It’s one thing to be surrounded by people just like you, but it’s a whole different concept when it becomes homogeneous (everyone is exactly alike). If you were unlucky enough to be born into a group where you are so different you stand out constantly, this lack of blending can leave lasting scars. It can also effect massive change.

How?

If you were the first black person in your area, or the first Hispanic, or the first gay person, it can be dangerous for you but it can also be a uniquely challenging situation both for you to learn how to communicate effectively so that you can live in cohabitation in the same region they do, and for them to challenge themselves and learn how to live in cohabitation with someone so specifically different from them. You can teach each other – it’s all about how it is approached and handled.

If we all simply agree to disagree when things get heated, and struggle to see the other person as human (or a person worthy of equality), we will have less stress overall when learning to accept each other. We have to rise above religion, capitalism, concepts of gender, and concepts of race to see each other against the overreaching backdrop of reality.

A janitor and a lawyer are both doing an essential job. Payscale should be set on a wide range of difficulty matrices coupled with concepts of education, labor intensity, learning curves, and long-term ability. This idea that someone cleaning floors has a higher acceptability of poverty is completely wrong. Someone has to sweep and clean windows and pick up the trash. Why are they subject to such expectations of poverty and some kind of undeserving process to keep them poor and wanting?

I am 100% okay with a stockbroker making millions as long as the janitor picking up his trash and dusting his office makes enough to pay rent and live decently. That stockbroker has no more worth than the janitor. They are both human. They both have needs that must be met to survive. Why do we automatically feel justified giving the stockbroker millions and fuss at paying the janitor $15.00 per hour?


FYI: $15/hour = $30k/year before taxes and about $25k after. A cheap apartment runs about $900/mo or roughly $10-12k per year, so that’s already half their pay right off the top. $15/hour isn’t great and it really should be higher but we have to start somewhere.


The most common argument I hear about paying minimum wages of $15/hour is that current hard-working jobs are roughly at that level. They squawk that someone struggling to work in a manual labor job or flipping burgers is less deserving a “living wage” than they are, since they work harder, longer hours, or had to have a degree to get that job.

First of all, that’s incredibly short sighted and selfish, so let’s get that out there right now. You are not better than anyone else and no one deserves to live in poverty… and frankly if you think that we’re not going to agree at any part of this conversation so we’ll just stop there.

Secondly, we know from history and historical context that wages move up as the minimum wage moves up. It has happened every time wages have gone up. And the earth didn’t fall from orbit, the moon didn’t crash, the end of the world didn’t happen and we were all better off for it. Prices didn’t increase dramatically and even returned to it’s baseline after some adjustment time passed. The minimum wage isn’t responsible for cost of living increases and it will do nothing to our economy other than stimulate the discretionary income of MILLIONS of people who otherwise are living in abject poverty.

FYI: The majority of those working at or below minimum wages are: single parents, children/teens, elderly “retired” persons struggling to make ends meet, immigrants, migrant workers, and college age kids, and young adults with massive debt. NONE of these people would be hurt and all of them would be helped by the baseline wage going up.

Also, it bears to mention that raising the minimum wage would raise the wages for EVERYONE and thus create a HUGE wash of discretionary income to a large bulk of the American people as a whole. While an article in Forbes claimed the opposite, simple math debunked what they were claiming. No one deserves to be poor. No one deserves to work a full time job and still be unable to provide healthy food and a safe living condition. If you think they do, the issue is your morals, not economics.

It should be mentioned that Forbes also supports lower taxes for business and the “trickle down economics” that ruined our country in the first place. The rich want the poor to stay poor – it’s always better for business when you have a large bunk of slaves to do your work cheaply so you can make more money.

And that is why Capitalism is under siege, just like Communism was/is. They are two extremes that refuse to find middle ground for their suffering working poor. Something has to give. No one “deserves” to live in luxury while their workers starve. That mentality is why heads literally rolled in France and that time is coming again. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired while the “owners” and kings eat and live the very best on the bones and hard work of the suffering poor.

This all has a point, I promise.

Personal change comes at a price. Who we are inside must live, but it should not live at the expense of others. Happiness comes when you strive for it, choose to find it, and choose to live for it. Success isn’t about money, it’s about happiness and contentment. Being true to yourself is absolute, but it should never be gained by hurting others. The same can be said for riches, or any other “thing” we strive for. And that is where humanity has stumbled.

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You cannot be happy if the people around you are miserable. If you reach riches through the suffering of others, there will be a cost much higher than you can truly pay. Enjoy your financial success, but remember to give back.

The same can be said for being yourself. Yes, we should all strive to be ourselves but not at the expense of others. If you are a jerk, and you’re happy being a jerk, then you must be prepared for others to react when you are a jerk. To whine that you are only being true to yourself doesn’t work, because you gained this contentment with yourself through the suffering of others.

It’s a pretty deep and involved concept, once you start delving into it.

I would love to be a full time artist and writer. That’s what I am, deep inside. However, I have to have a job. I have kids to support, a husband to work together with. We are a partnership, he and I. If I quit my job and become an artist, who puts food on the table? My own choices to support my “truth” will take my family apart. That isn’t okay, and it should never be encouraged.

It goes to also say that WHO you are, is not about your job, or your material worth, or what you DO or say. It’s a lot more complicated than that. WHO you are is HOW you respond to challenges. WHO do you hurt? HOW do you handle disappointment and depression? Do you lash out? Do you withdraw? Neither are acceptable. If you are a fat woman, where does the line sit between enabling an unhealthy lifestyle and loving yourself for who you are? It sits smack dab in the middle, between not hurting others and not destroying yourself.

Nothing worth striving for is easy.

I will not exchange who I am to fit in, but I will also not destroy, damage, abandon, or neglect my responsibilities, my children, my friends and family, and the who of who I am. It’s a delicate balance that I am not always perfect at, but strive to be.

Like everything in life it’s about balance.

Balance is hard.

Jaz1ab34632280b19c9a265d7551e65c6a4

Mythbusting Minimum Wages

Pink – Perfect (VEVO)

Perfect (Pink) Lyrics

 

Death by Intent

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Corporate America is killing you as sure as you sit reading this. They do it and they don’t care. All that matters to these individuals is making money and getting richer. Your life, who dies, who lives, how much someone suffers, all do not make it into the consideration room. Policies and actions slated to be implemented are all kicked into motion without one real thought to who will suffer, how much, or how often. The only part they consider is: can we be sued if someone figures it out, how much money will we lose when they do, and how much money will we make until them.

Lines on a graph for profit and loss. You aren’t even in the equation.

This callous disregard is not new and in fact, its probably more cautious now than it was say, 200 years ago. Litigation has made them wary and it has made them clever. They make choices based on collateral damage and plausible deniability. You are a speck on a graph. It’s important not only to understand that fact, but to understand that to the powerful elite, the little guy has never mattered and that isn’t likely to change in the near future.

That said, you have a lot more power now than you did even 100 years ago. The mob-mind can and does make choices that will effect the bottom line, so the fact that they even weigh the cost says a great deal about how things have improved for the common man. So, while it is disheartening to face that you don’t really matter to them, you can take heart that on some level, your power to retaliate against their profits does matter to them and choices are made with that in mind. It’s a start.

The biggest way to gain control over corporations is, logically, to stop giving them your money. Well, I hate to break it to you but that’s simply not going to happen. Everything we use, buy, sell, and covet is owned by a very small group of people in this world. Choice is an illusion and through advertising and flat out deception, we have all been played.

Take a look:

who owns everything

These companies are in cahoots with each other. So in the end, you can’t really outsmart them save living off the grid and growing everything, making everything from your food to your soap and your clothes yourself. Who has time for that? Not me. So in order to gain some control over yourself and your buying choices, for your own health and benefit, what can you do? You can, for starters, stop buying processed food. Learn to cook and make your own food. It’s a huge step forward for your personal and family health and welfare. And, even better, it’s within your grasp as a way to take back some control of your life from the giant mega-corps that run our country.

One of the ways you can win is doing your research, and giving your money to local people instead of chain stores. Buy pet food from small companies that are privately owned. Buy your food from stores that are employee owned or owned by local business people. Buy online from small businesses. It’s a process and it’s largely hit or miss, but it’s a place to begin.

Another way to outsmart the corporations is to stop buying processed food. Stop buying prepackaged food. Buy from a meat locker or local grocery store (not a chain) that supplies fresh meat. Learn to cook food yourself. It’s not hard and once you are used to it, you’ll never think processed food tastes better than your own.

So how do we navigate the grocery store to find food that is good for us, without going broke? Processed food is prepackaged and portioned, low priced and easy to get. Perfect right? Well, just like the old adage, “nothing good is free” and “nothing is ever free,” comes the “nothing worth doing comes easy.” The very fact that it’s easy, pre-packaged, and cheap should tell you something – they had to cut corners to do all those things and you will pay the price in the long run.

It’s also important to buy only what you need, to avoid wasting the food you bought. Part of the reason that the myth of good, green food being more expensive is that people buy too much at once. If you only buy your fresh food for recipes, and limit snack foods and extra items you won’t use in a recipe, not only are you going to contribute to your overall health by limiting fatty/sweet snacks, but you also limit your waste.

The best way to do this is to find a recipe site you like. Most sites offer the option of changing the servings, so you can shift the amounts to only what you need. I use “AllRecipes” and there’s not really a reason, other than I feel their site works better for me. My name there is “Jazybee” and you can drop by and take a peek at some of my favorites should you be inclined.

Due to my dietary restrictions, I have to “fix” any recipe I find, but I’m an accomplished enough cook that substitutions are not difficult for me and usually end well (not always!) and if not, I learn and try again. For instance, I tried to make cheesy broccoli soup with coconut milk and it was a total fail. I couldn’t even eat it. But live and learn, a little research and I’ll try again. Cooking is like that.

Processed food are full of sugar and cheap, unhealthy oils. Now that we know that it isn’t the fat that’s necessarily bad, but the sugar too, and that sugar can cause the body to overreact or underreact to the fat and other ingredients we consume, we can make proper choices and limit what isn’t good. This is wholly in our control. Shifting away from refined sugars and sticking to “healthier” fats, we can change our consumption and get healthier.

Your health is your choice. My gram always said that, and she’s right. It was easy to blame a lot of factors but in the end, your health is your choice. I can’t fix that I have Celiac’s and I can’t fix that my immune system is likely permanently out of whack but I can fix the rest of it. I can choose what I put in my mouth. I can choose what I buy and from whom and how often. I have choices and while they may be, in reality, limited, I still have choices and I will make them as much, and as often, as I can.

One of the most difficult battles I faced was giving up sugar. I also shifted my family away from refined sugar to “raw” sugar. Eventually we’ll make a full shift away from “white” sugar entirely, but I don’t want to give them too big of a shock. Baby steps and all that. :) We are cooking with less and less sugar and consuming less and less sugar on a daily basis. We switched to lard, coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee. We limit our fried foods to once a week. We upped their raw fruit and raw vegetable intake. We increased their overall vegetable intake. We increased their water intake. All in all, the transfer has been fairly smooth and I doubt they even really noticed.

While our change in diet wasn’t initiated or encouraged by desiring weight loss, it has been an unintended consequence. Every member of my family has lost weight, on a healthy level, since our switch away from sugar. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I am seeing them snack less and make healthier choices. They still eat with gusto and everything on their plates. I am confident that as we gradually shift away from less healthy options, they will learn to eat well and healthy and never miss a beat.

Until later.

Jaz

Sugar is the Problem

Fake Sugar Isn’t Better

Truth About Sugar

Why Processed Food is Bad

Timeline of Processed Foods

 

Being Me: This is how it Starts

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I took the picture you see, with all the multicolored string. It’s a self portrait of sorts, stemming from a class I took at Iowa State during my time striving for my Bachelor degree in Design.

If I could be anything I wanted, I’d be an art photographer and a writer.

I turn 50 this year and it feels a bit surreal. I don’t feel 50. Does anyone feel 50? I don’t look 50 and I suppose that’s a good thing. When I was young, I was told I had an “old soul” and a wise mind. I never felt old or wise. I still don’t. I keep wondering when that will kick in.

I have four children, one through adoption and 3 from my body. My oldest was adopted in a previous relationship which ended badly and he wanted nothing to do with our son afterward. He has special needs and requires round-the-clock care. When J came into my life as more than a friend, he accepted my oldest as his and became in every way his father. That was part of what drew me to him, to be honest – I saw in him the most amazing ability to be a dad. And he certainly is.

He gave me three children who are now 14, 12, and 6. My oldest is 22 and will be 23 by year’s end. It truly is strange how time passes quick yet slow, and then you blink and it’s 20 years past. I can remember their first steps, their first laugh, their first true tears. I remember it all and watching them grow up has been both a joy and a terrible pain. As I understand it, that is simply how parenthood goes.

I have been many things in my life. I have done just about every kind of job imaginable in the service industry, spanning food service to administration. I have driven trucks and buses. I have run businesses and I have worked for others. I have handed out tools and I have processed pigs into meat. I am a jack of all trades.

I used to think that was an insult when I was young. Now, it feels like a badge of honor. There’s not much I can’t do or learn to do. I am not afraid of challenges. I have lived without running water and I have left signs of civilization behind to camp and hunt. I was taught to take care of myself: I can hunt, sew, clean, cook, and gather. I know how to make soap and I know how to chop wood. I love technology but can walk away from it and just be. I love to drink and I love to be sober. I have always been of at least two minds about everything. I like myself.

I set out as a young adult to be myself. I had no idea what that meant. In the last 30 years of tears, struggles, and triumphs, and quite a few disastrous failures, I have learned who I am and I have proven to myself that I am stronger, and weaker, than I could ever imagine. I am not going to live forever, despite my young assurances to the contrary. I am flawed. I am imperfect. I am a pain in the ass, but I am me.

I am coming to the realization that if I want to change things, I’m going to have to get out there and do it. It’s a terrifying thought that my opinions and what I am driven to say and do could get me killed, but it’s worse to think my children would be harmed. I’ve been living carefully since they were born, walking that fine line between being involved and being too involved. I need to raise my children.

The other night, one of my sons – the 12 year old – said he was surprised I didn’t attend the women’s march in DC. I told him I wanted to, but it wasn’t something that I could realistically do. He asked me why. I said, we can’t afford it and I can’t leave you guys alone that long – what would your father do? He gave me an odd look and said, “Pretty sure we’d be fine. We do fine in the summer when you travel. Maybe you just don’t really want to go and we’re an easy excuse.”

It gave me pause. Was he right? I suppose on some level, perhaps. I realized that I am sending a message by my inaction and I’m not sure it’s one that I want my children to learn. I suppose I will just have to jump in, and land where I can. I worry that my choices will hurt my children, either from action or inaction. I worry constantly if I am putting them first and being a good mother. I worry often that I put too much on my plate and then fall short of my goals, which puts a strain on our finances and on my husband. He never complains however, and has never fallen short in his support of me, my dreams, goals, and plans.

I’m slowly inching toward the idea of striving for human rights and change within the government, running for office and seeking to get face to face with the people that I have spent half my life angry at. I have no money and I am not a professional anything – can I run for office and do any good whatsoever? These are the questions that plague my mind late at night.

In the end, I suspect I will simply be laying the groundwork for my children to strive forward into the fight. There is pride in knowing I am raising good, decent, strong men for the next generation. I teach them patience and compassion. I enforce the idea that they are people and I don’t have a right to destroy their ability to choose, whether or not I agree with them. I feel strongly that these young men I am raising will one day rattle the status quo and challenge the world.

For now, that’s where I am and where I start my fight. We shall see where it goes from here.

Jaz

 

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