Sunday, April 30, 2006

An Uplifting Way to Create Awareness

If I had known about the 70-mile chain of bras created in Cyprus, I would have been able to contribute. There are about 115,000 bras hooked together in an effort to heighten awareness about breast cancer. I have many bras of different sizes and types, from before and after breast cancer surgery. The headline "Women break bra world record" was a clever way to draw attention to the disease, and broke the previous record in Singapore.
I marvel at the unique ideas people have. One such idea is Ben's Bells, a small effort in Tucson, AZ. where handmade strings of bells are hung randomly, waiting for the right person to find them. They are in honor of Ben, a two-year old boy that died suddenly. His family started the twice-annual bell distribution to spread the bells, and thoughts of kindness to strangers who needed positive thoughts after a loss of their own. People are encouraged to write back with where they found the bells and how they helped them heal. The stories are amazing, and it is more fascinating that the bells seem to be found by those in emotional pain. Their goal was to make the world a kinder, gentler place. It is such a great, and simple, start.
Another idea was the collection of flip-flops to be distributed to children in Uganda. Their feet are cut from walking on rocks and glass, becoming infected. The simplest pair of flip-flops can change their lives.
Ideas of simple acts that change the lives of other are priceless. Is that what karma is? If not, it should be, in my mind that is. If only I could come up with some simple idea to help those penguins and polar bears affected by global warming and melting icecaps.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lilacs -- I Love Them!

There were big branches of lilacs today at Trader Joe's. Needless to say, since they are my favorite spring blossoms, I brought some home, sniffing them all the way. They make me remember every spring in Seattle as we had them in our yard. My cousin came off the plane last year with big chunks of her lilac tree to share with me, knowing how much I love them.
I was wondering about their aromatherapy significance, as it is difficult to find toiletries or candles with lilac fragrance.
It turns out that lilac smell is difficult to create, as is capturing the real fragrance. Why does the fragrance make me so happy? In one aromatherapy reference, "In The Secrets of Flowers" written by A. Stoddard Kull, the lilac is a symbol of the first emotions of Love. To find a lilac blossom with five instead of four corolla lobes means good luck. Some say the purple color denotes sadness and mourning."
All I can say is, that sure is a complex fragrance.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Make Every Day Earth Day

The headline read "Make every day Earth Day" -- I decided to make that my motto. I try my best to conserve, to make a difference, in hopes of making up for those who do not. We celebrated today by donating old monitors to an electronics recycling drive by, a group of Arizona college students that collects, refurbishes and donates outdated electronics to organizations in need. We ate locally, with our salad from our very own (and nearby) garden. I was there when it started 36 years ago and hope to be here to contribute in the next 36 years.
My daughter had the opportunity to go on a desert Jeep ride last year. She came home, and I asked what she had seen. She replied, "lots of plastic bags." I can only imagine the birds, owls and other creatures negatively impacted by these horrible items. The City of Scottsdale says that plastic grocery bags are the No. 1 contaminant in the Curbside Recycling Program. At least, if you are not going to use paper bags, PLEASE dispose of them properly so we can keep our animals out of harm's way.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Seeing Your Progress While Housecleaning

Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate housecleaning, and will procrastinate whenever possible. When I eventually do clean, I am very crabby and unpleasant. However, lately I have unearthed two cleaning tools that add some element of interest to my cleaning.
When I bought a Swiffer a few years ago, my daughter took the pole to use for a class on being an inventor. I located the pole recently and, lo and behold, my dry Swiffer is fantastic. I can push it around the house as I aimlessly wander about, cleaning at the same time. The BEST thing is that you can look at it and feel great about all the dirt you are picking up. I can only imagine the satisfaction of cleaning the floor with a wet Swiffer!
After much consideration, we bought a HEPA, bag-free Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner last December, and I just opened it. It is heavy, awkward, difficult to push, the on/off switch is in an inconvenient spot as a terrible design flaw, and my hips are bruised from attempting to shove it along when I cannot push it. That said, it was too late to return it as I do not think it is user friendly at all. Thus, I am using it and find that it does have one redeeming feature -- the ability to see the dirt collected in the clear, bagless container. It is amazing how much dirt you can collect with a vacuum strong enough to pull the tassels off the end of an area rug.
I LOVE seeing the dirt, but the bag-free feature is really not effective. When you empty the cannister, a good portion of the dust/dirt is sprayed around the area again, which means you should be emptying it outside. Someone with a dust allergy could use the vacuum and benefit from the results, as long as they did not have to empty the cannister.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Finally - Reality TV I Can Get Into

The Learning Channel (TLC) has found a way for me to watch reality TV. "Shalom In The Home" is the story of an Orthodox Rabbi that travels around in an Airstream Trailer, helping families heal, solve their problems and bring peace to their lives (the meaning of Shalom is peace.) It is honest, captivating and charming, while being very realistic. Some of the interventions appear that they will be unfixable.
The show immediately after that also offers real family situations with lessons in family health, wellness and nutrition."Honey, We're Killing The Kids!" uses some high-tech method of aging kids to age 40, without changing their diets, exercise and lifestyle. This motivates the parents to participate in a three-week deal with a nutritionist that makes rules for each week and monitors enforcement, including a hidden camera at the junk food stash. At the end, the changes in each child and the family progress are reviewed. The family discusses carrying their lessons forward and how they have benefitted. It is reality at its best and worst --- we love it!

New Ways to be Non-Productive

I have added two new hobbies recently that are wonderful, but also have added to my ability to be non-productive. I spend a great deal of time looking at (admiring) my new vegetable garden, noting what is growing, what needs water, etc. Until now, I did not understand the desire of folks to drop out of the business world to become organic farmers. The satisfaction of something actually growing is unbelievable.
It turns out you can also waste time monitoring the fermentation of your homemade sourdough starter. Within two days, it is already bubbling and expanding. I am pondering all the baked delights I can create when it is ready. Baking is not usually my forte, but this will be fun. A new, fantastic bakery has opened, at long last, in Phoenix (Simply Bread). I could not dare to think that I could come close to their superior breads, perfect in flavor and texture, reminscent of Acme Bread in Berkeley.
Add those to my existing timewasters of fiddling around with the pool, looking over the fence into my neighbor's yard, and rummaging in the mark-down bin at the grocery store...
Meanwhile, I have some other projects that need some attention, but they are not nearly as fun.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My Vegetable Garden

I had talked about doing a vegetable garden and this year I did one. I bought a few starters but planted mostly seeds -- I planted them closer together than instructed as I could not believe they would actually come up!! Unbelievably, I have two kinds of radishes, mustard greens and parsley -- which we used for the bitter herbs in our Passover Seder. Cucumbers, green onions, squash, beets, basil, multiple mints, peppers, a variety of tomatoes, lavender and dill are all in various stages of growth.
I hung CDs that come in the mail on string to wave around as the scarecrows, keeping birds out. They actually worked too!!! My plants are organic, with no sprays and nothing added, except the holes dug by a few quails seeking relief from the heat.
Each day, I run out to see what has popped up. My husband is delighted with each new sprout and requested more cucumber plants. I got those, plus two kinds of eggplant and red peppers, as they all have tags that say "Full Sun." That they will definitely get.
Who could have imagined how much fun I am having, now that I truly am a "farmer."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Early, Violent Death

This past week was full of emotion and grief, as a young family member was killed in the Seattle shootings last Saturday. My special cousin lost her son, and the family has rallied around her, as they did during his short life. Rabbi Ted Falcon, BetAlef Meditational Synagogue in Seattle, WA. had done the boy's Bar Mitzvah and rose to the challenge of saying something comforting at the funeral. His words were healing, while addressing the difficult, unexpected way that this life ended.
Looking for ways to cope with this as I go on with my life, forever changed by this, I found Rabbi Falcon's Weekly Letter to his congregation. He has summarized his thoughts, feelings and sadness so well that I just have to cut and paste an excerpt below. His weekly writings can be found at and I will be reading them from now on. I want to thank him for writing something so poignant, something I will be reading over and over again as I sort out my own feelings.

from Rabbi Ted FalconTorah Portion for the week of March 26 – April 1,2006: Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26)
" It’s been a heavy week for me and for many. A very special young man whose Bar Mitzvah I had conducted eight years ago was among the seven killed in last Saturday’s shooting here in Seattle. Justin Schwartz’s funeral was Tuesday, but the weight of the event has remained with me. We are all aware that we live in a terribly violent world, but when that violence claims those we know personally, the experience is jarring,and the tearing affects us more sharply. Over these days, I have experienced a growing discomfort, and I knew this Weekly Focus had to waituntil I could get a handle on it. This morning it found me. What the moment of Justin’s death revealed to me is the degree to which I had been keeping the world’s pain at a distance. In order to go about my business, I had closed myself off from the daily anguish. There had just been too much for me. Perhaps it was Katrina’s legacy, perhaps the escalating deathsin Iraq, perhaps the genocide in Darfur – and these are just a few of the deep pockets of pain, loss, andgrief that are exploding in our world – at some pointI turned away. Justin’s death, at 22, was the event that opened me towhat I had been hiding from, to what I had beenavoiding. The truth is, we cannot avoid one feelingwithout inhibiting all feelings; we cannot depress ouravailability for pain without depressing ouravailability for rejoicing. In this week of opening, it is mostly the pain I amexperiencing. But I know that my willingness to meetgrief will serve me as a willingness to meet joy.Perhaps that will find me this Shabbat. Perhaps I willbe ready for it...
The entire sacrificial system in the ancient days was created as a means to draw near to God. Today, we sacrifice in other ways, and draw near toGod through prayer, through meditation, through study,and through acts of lovingkindness. Yet with so manymaking such great sacrifices these days, one wonders whether those, too, can serve to draw us near. Can we sacrifice the shells we have constructed around our hearts to protect us from the pain that is all around us? Can we sacrifice our turning away in favor of standing firm in the face of loss? Can we sacrifice our separation from each other? Can we sacrifice ouranger? Can we, finally, sacrifice our violence? All these sacrifices will draw us nearer to the Source of our Being. It may help each of us to consider what we need to sacrifice in order to step back into the orld where we might care for ourselves and for each other more abundantly." ......

I wish my cousin and her family peace. I wish that gun control could prevent such needless deaths.