Friday, October 31, 2008

Choose To Be a Blessing

Being a blessing to those around us is a choice. Part of being a blessing to those around us is to be a constructive, positive influence. Looking at the bright, positive side is also a choice. At times it can be a hard choice, but I have never met someone who said "Boy, I regret looking for the good in that situation."

In John 1:16, it says "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." As Christians if we believe that all good things come from above and that we do receive one blessing after the other because of the grace of our God - we must pass it on. We can't just hand out our blessings and be positive with those who agree with us, we are called to repay evil and insults with blessings (1 Peter 3:9).

Whenever it is within my power I will choose to live in peace and positivity. What blessing is it to my fellow humans to tear another down to build myself up? I have never understood the need to base self affirmation on destroying the character of another. It accomplishes nothing but strife. Each day has enough friction of its own without adding my own to the mix.

These days it is difficult to keep an affirmative outlook. There are a lot of dark clouds in the form of negative people out there. In my view these are people who have lost their way and are in need of my support, not my condemnation. In this case I choose to be a blessing. My support does not include patting them on the back and telling them that what they did or said is okay. Giving my support, to my way of thinking, means guiding them; leading them to an understanding that choosing positivity is always a good option.

Being a blessing in this life is a process. Not everyone is born with rose colored glasses on. Bad things happen in our lives and it can be an uphill battle to stay positive. We often feel reluctant to bless the life of someone else, because we feel that it will not be repaid in kind. It feels like -- why should we be the ones to bless someone else? That doesn't matter. Blessing someone else is not an act of reciprocity; it is a gift, freely given.

It is my prayer that it will be said of me that I was a blessing in the lives of those around me; evidenced by the fruit I leave behind. What a testimony that would be of my relationship with my God and the power of the fullness of his grace.

John Waller's The Blessing

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tweaking the Toothpaste

A while back I posted a toothpaste recipe. I was happy with the way it cleaned my teeth, but I found that it was separating in the container and needed to be shaken or stirred every time I brushed my teeth. I don't want an extra step every morning to my routine, so I did some research and tweaked my recipe a bit. I also made a bigger batch, so that I don't have to get out all my supplies so often. I like a really refreshing toothpaste with very little sweetness to it. If you prefer a sweeter toothpaste, you could add a bit of Xylitol to your recipe and/or leave out the menthol crystals if it has too much zing for your taste. Here is my new and improved recipe.

4 tbsp vegetable glycerin
1/4 tsp menthol crystals
1 cup baking soda
1200 mg soy lecithin
10 drops peppermint essential oil
1 tsp - 1 tbsp water as needed

In a glass bowl measure out vegetable glycerin. Add in the menthol crystals and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir to dissolve. To a small mixing bowl add baking soda, the glycerin mixture, peppermint oil and soy lecithin. Beat with a mixer on low speed until combined, adding extra water as needed to obtain the desired consistency. Once combined beat the whole mixture on high speed for 1-2 minutes to make sure everything is combined properly.

Storing the mixture in a glass container with a tight fitting lid is optimal, since it tends to dry out quickly. Use a pea sized amount to brush your teeth. I guarantee your teeth will never feel smoother with any commercial toothpaste.

Fear is Never a Go(o)d Thing.

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!"
~Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first inaugural address in 1933.

Does anyone else see the irony of that phrase being used in the inaugural address during the depression? These economic times that we are now experiencing have been reported as 'the worst since the Great Depression".

FDR had the right idea. He knew that people do strange things when they are afraid. People were in a state of pandemonium because they feared for their future. Those who were unemployed feared not being able to pay the rent and feed their families. The employed were afraid of losing their job tomorrow and thus being in dire straights.

The problem with fear is that it often does nothing positive to motivate. People may start hording things, becoming miserly and selfish. Some become envious of the fellow down the street who has more than he does. These are fearful responses that do little for long term security.

My grandmother, who bore nine children from 1929 - 1948 lived in fear her whole life. When she died in 1986 at age 75 she still lived in the same ramshackle home she had lived in since the 1950's. Her children had urged her to move for many years, but she was afraid to spend any money. She had money stashed in every nook and cranny of her home. Thousands of dollars that could have made her life a tad easier in her later years, but fear kept her from enjoying much of her life. This is no way to live.

Neither should we spend like there is no tomorrow, fearing that we will never have another couple of dimes to rub together. Likewise, this will not produce a positive, enjoyable outcome in our golden years. We have to take positive steps to plan for the future without fear.

The opposite of fear is courage. We have to have the bravery to face the future with resolve. We need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

As a nation we pulled through the Great Depression. With vision and hindsight, used wisely and without fear, we should rise above this economic crisis too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Best Ever Make It Yourself Laundry Soap

I am a huge proponent of making my own cleaning and laundry products. The problem I was having with my homemade laundry soaps, both the powdered and the liquid versions that I have tried is that they make my clothes dull, especially the whites which come out a icky shade of gray.

The reason for the dullness is the soap that is added to the mix. Pure soaps leave a residue on your clothes and is what is responsible for the ring in your bathtub (ie, soap scum). Who wants soap scum on their clothes? Not me. The problem is that most detergents are made with petroleum based produts, which I want to stay way from. Virtually all are also made with sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate (SLS), which doesn't leave the scum behind, but can be very harsh to the skin. So I needed to find an alternative -- Dr Bronner's Sal-Suds. Although it does have SLS in it, they use a special process to make it mild and they also use an all vegatable, organic base.

I love the results of my new laundry detergent. It cleans well with no residue and it does not irritate our skin. It is also very cost effective. I paid $7.33 for a 32 oz bottle of the Sal-Suds. I use 1 cup per recipe so I can get 4 recipes out of 1 bottle. That works out to $1.83 per 2 gallons of detergent. Add that together with the borax (.18), the washing soda (.21) and the baking soda (.08) we are talking about $2.30 for 256 oz of detergent. I use about 1 1/2 oz per load which works out to 1.3 cents per load.

This is my recipe. It makes 2 gallons of thin liquid detergent I use 2-3 tablespoons per load. I have a front loader washing machine, but I am sure it will work in traditional machines too. It is low sudsing.

1 Cup Dr Bronner's Sal-Suds

1/2 Cup washing soda

1/2 Cup baking soda

1/2 Cup borax

On top of the stove in a large dutch oven, heat 6 cups water and Sal-Suds on med heat until it heats up but not to boiling. Add in the washing soda, baking soda and borax and heat until disolved. Take it off the heat and add essential oils and equal amounts of Polysorbate 20 if desired. Into a 3-4 gallon bucket pour 4 cups of hot water. Add to that your heated water Sal-Suds, sodas and borax mixture. Next add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of cool water and stir. Transfer into 2 clean 1 gallon containers and let sit for at least 24 hours before using.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Healthcare Crisis

I am getting ready to have hip replacement surgery in two weeks. I went to my family doctor yesterday for my preoperative appointment. I was deemed in acceptable physical health to undergo surgery. My emotional health is a little more precarious. The prospect of this operation is making me moody and anxious. The doctor gave me some Xanax for temporary relief from anxiety and upped my dose of Effexor, which I have been on for about a year for my dysthimia (long term low level depression).

I went to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions and was in sticker shock. It was $87 for all three. I usually only pay a $4 or $10 co-pay depending on the drug. For some reason the Effexor was $70; better than the $400 it was originally, but not something I was planning on paying.

In further preparation, I made an appointment for my husband to give blood for me in case I need it post-op (which I did last time). I found out that they now charge fees up to $300 for designated blood donations. I was not planning on that charge either. Now we have to weigh taking my chances on needing blood from the general population blood bank or paying extra to get his blood.

We have already paid the surgeon the $500 he asked for, before he will even operate on me. This was also a new consideration. When I had this same procedure five years ago I was not asked to pay in advance. I guess a lot of people are skipping out on doctor bills, so he has to collect up front. We are lucky - we have that money in our savings account. I feel bad for those who don't.

When this surgery is all said and done we will have spent about $4000 out of pocket on a $30,000 procedure. Some of that money we have 'laying around' and some of it we will have to pay in installments to the hospital. I am grateful for good insurance, but I can't help but feel downcast for those who don't have it. What if someone had to live with the pain of AVN simply because she was uninsured.

Our healthcare system in this country needs a total revamp. Call me a socialist all you want, but I would be the first one in line in favor of Universal Healthcare. I have heard people espouse "I've got great health insurance, (because I work hard, because my company offers it, etc) why should I have to pay for health care for someone else?” I just don't understand this mentality. Yes there are lazy people in the world. Yes there are people who would take advantage of the situation. These people already exist. Creating Universal Healthcare is not going to make much difference in the monies that we are already spending to take care of people who don't need it. I believe it could make a difference in the lives of those who do without it.
We can't make the country deadbeat free; that is impossible. To take away healthcare for those who truly need it just because we are afraid to give benefits to someone who may take advantage of the system is just foolhardy. We are already paying for the freeloaders anyway. They are the people who go to the ER; receive medical attention and then bolt, never paying their bill. These costs have to be absorbed somewhere.

Our poorest population is at this time covered by Government sponsored healthcare. I worry about the average working family who struggles to make ends meet and may at different points have to choose between taking a sick child to the doctor and going to the grocery store. My heart aches for our elderly Americans. They worked diligently all of their lives, only now to have illnesses that go untreated because they simple can’t afford to go to the doctor, or can’t afford the medications that would treat their conditions. Yes there are some programs for these people, but it’s not enough.

We can’t go through life only thinking about ourselves and being selfish with the ‘Why should I have to pay for someone else’ attitude. It is just wrong at a base level. We should all be cognizant of the world beyond our own front door. As a Christian I have to pray and search the scriptures for what God would have me do. He is my guide and my conscience.

When I go to the polls this election year, I will think long and hard about this issue, as well as others. I will indeed vote my conscience.

Matthew 25:31-46 (New International Version)
The Sheep and the Goats
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drop Dead Deal Breakers

We all have issues from the past that shape the way that we deal with life and relationship now. The way that we were raised has such an impact on everything that we do in our lives – how we react to things and who we allow to surround us. We create boundaries based on things that make us uncomfortable from our past. Sometimes these boundaries are conscious and sometimes we draw lines in the sand without even knowing what we are doing.

One of the things that I cannot allow in my life is secrets. I grew up with secrets in my home. For the most part my parents were competent parents; we weren’t abused or neglected in any way. I always felt like there was something going on that I couldn’t put my finger on, though. I was a very perceptive and investigative child and I wasn’t content until I figured out what it was.

I asked questions, but was always put off. This further aggravated the niggling feeling of uncertainty that plagued me for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was grown that my parents finally came clean and told me what the big ‘secret’ was. I remember thinking that the secret itself was really not that big of a deal. If I had grown up knowing it, it would have been incidental to my daily life. It was the secrecy that bothered me more than anything else.

This is why secrecy is a drop dead deal breaker in my relationships. I do not enjoy a secret when I am out of the loop. It makes me very uncomfortable. That is not to say that my friends and family must tell me everything move they make, but as far as it pertains to me – I need to know about it.

The worst excuse for leaving me out of the circle of information is that someone didn’t want to hurt me. Maybe it bothers me so much because my mom is often known to use this excuse. “I didn’t want to tell you because I was afraid you would be upset.” Um…so you think keeping a secret isn’t going to hurt me? Think again. It does. Deeply. I don’t blame her for my reaction, but it does explain it. Perhaps I allow it to hurt me more profoundly than it should. It is feasible that I need to work on that. *Sigh* One more thing I need to work on in my life.

So, like I said, everyone has them; those things that we just can’t cope with in our lives and relationships. The trick is to be aware of these things in the lives of other people as well as being able to set boundaries in our own lives. I don’t know which is harder to tell you the truth.

Getting along with others is so hard sometimes, but at the end of our lives all we really have are our connections. Our accomplishments and amassed fortunes don’t mean much if we have left everyone in the dust on our journey. There is give and take in relationships. We just need to know when to give and when to take; when to cut it off and when to overlook things. It is a delicate sojourn, but well worth the effort in the long run.

It takes an unwavering dedication to not only know and love ourselves, but also to love and know those around us as well. As Christians we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. We have to first have a firm grasp on ourselves and why we react the way that we do; why we are who we are. This leads to acceptance, and ultimately, to love for ourselves. Once we do this, we are able to see clearly what loving someone else really means. Then we are free to let the love we fell for ourselves spill over and cover those around us.

Galatians 5:13-15
13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

When We Hurt, It's Personal

When I have been hurt by someone or something, being told to get over it or that I shouldn't feel the way that I feel is not helpful. I honestly don't think I am alone in this feeling; most people don't want to have their feeling invalidated. It rubs a blister on our already raw nerves. Exactly when will I get over it? That is a good question. I'll get over it when I have worked through it on my own terms. We all have different ways of dealing with stress and hurt. What good does it do to tell someone else that they aren't doing it right?

I look at my life in terms of relationships. That is what it is all about, as far as I am concerned. It doesn't matter how much I do; how many things I accomplish. If I fail to connect with people on a personal level then I have fallen short of my life goal. So, to mend a broken fence is very important to me. I am not, however, willing to allow the fence to be rebuilt with shoddy materials just to get it back up. It is liable to fall down again quickly if care is not taken to make certain that every piece of timber is of quality and every nail is hammered in with caution. This will insure that we have a sturdy fence that will withstand then next high wind that blows through.

My deepest relationship is the one I have with my God. He has been there through all of the tempestuous times in my life. Nothing gives me more comfort than knowing that he has never relinquished our relationship no matter how hard I tried to shake him off. For this reason, during times of hurt, I turn to the one who has never hurt me for advice on what to do next.

So, as I guard my heart against the inevitable pain that goes along with being human and forming the relationships that are so important to me, I find solace in his words. I never know how long it is going to take for me to make sense of the chaos that has been created. I must first ask that the Lord search my heart and see if there is anything there that needs to be removed. I most assuredly am not infallible, so I need to be humble enough to admit fault if need be. Then I must push forward.

Psalm 139:23-24 (New International Version)

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Philippians 3:13b-14 (New International Version)

13:... Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-9 (New International Version)

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.