Courtesy, Kindness and Media Use

The past few weeks I’ve realized how much I value common courtesy and manners. I’ve never really thought much about it till recently when I experienced a lack of both when I’ve been out and about town. Perhaps it is my southern roots finally starting to sprout here in the north or perhaps it is just something the Lord’s been teaching and revealing in my own life as something I need to improve on. Irregardless, it is important, especially as Christians, to exercise kindness and courtesy to those around us. We of all people should be living the love of Christ to all those around us.

I fear many of us are so accustomed to communicating via text messaging and/or social networking websites that we have fallen out of practice or forgotten how to treat one another with kindness and common courtesy, particularly in person. Texting and social networking websites make it oh so easy to rely on short, to the point messages. Many a fight has been caused or friendship injured by how easily these short messages can be misinterpreted. These short, often abrupt, messages typically lack warmth and courtesy that comes from the normal give and take occurring in a face to face conversation. Yet, I’ve noticed, at least in my own interactions with people, that it is becoming increasingly common to communicate with others face to face in the same way as if we are texting or on a social networking sites- face to face conversations have become awkward for some of us. Indeed, I’ve caught myself a few times thinking, “I am going to chat with so and so and I need to remember to tell him or her this”. So, I go up to the person and forget to see how he or she is doing and jump right to the main message I want to convey, and, then, after I share whatever I intended to share, there is an awkward silence because I do not know what else to say since I completely ignored common courtesy. How rude I can be at times! It saddens me that, occasionally, I have to remind myself to be kind and courteous to those around me. Yet, I’ve realized I am not the only one. This has happened numerous times to me, but the roles are reversed. I’m on the receiving end.

I do hope the text messaging and social networking website method of communicating does not permanently alter the way we treat one another, especially in person. We are not computers. We need warmth in our interactions with one another in order to truly connect and form vibrant and healthy communities. We need to see each other face to face and spend time with one another. We should not rely on computers or cell phones as our primary means of communication and connection with one another. I’ve noticed the more time I spend texting and online, the worse my interpersonal skills become. On the flip side, when I spend less time texting and online, the more I am able to connect with those around me when I see them in person. I have a friend who completely closed her Facebook account because she could tell it was affecting how she treated her family. I greatly admire her for recognizing this and for the decision she made to close her account. Obviously, media affects each of us differently. Yet, I think we could all benefit from taking a look at the media we use on a regular basis and examining whether or not it is affecting our relationships or ability to truly communicate and connect with one another.

It is so easy to overlook those courteous things that may seem little and insignificant, but offer warmth and kindness to those around us. Here are some examples:

  • Say “please” and “thank you”
  • Hold the door for someone and allow a person to hold the door for you
  • Listen
  • Smile
  • Give “hello” and “goodbye” hugs (or at least saying the words)
  • Write thank you or encouraging notes
  • Engage in active, uninterrupted conversation, in which we give people our full attention (e.g. no cell phone/text messaging during the conversation, etc.)

If you are looking for more tips on how to treat those around you, check out the book of Proverbs in the Bible. It is full of wisdom about how to treat (and not treat) others. I’ll leave us with a quote for thought since, even if we think we’ve mastered the art of common courtesy (“please”, “thank you”, etc.), we could all stand to improve our conversation skills. Dorothy Nevill wrote, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but, far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

Food Censorship

Yesterday I received two emails that sent my mind spinning for the entire day. One email led to an article that discussed a link between miscarriage and the H1N1 vaccine (click here to access this article), while the other discussed sodium benzoate and its harmful effects (allergies, Parkinson’s, and hyperactivity among others). Click here to read this second article. Both articles discussed how regulatory agencies (CDC, FDA, etc.) frequently ignore findings that reveal harmful effects (or at the very least correlations) of these two substances.

I find it infuriating that the agencies that are supposed to be looking out for our well-being blatantly ignore scientific evidence, often because of corporate interests and lobbyists. What a sinful, corrupt world we live in!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, our oven is broken, so we’ve been buying store-bought baked goods more often than usual. Sometimes I get frustrated reading product labels. It’s easy for me to scan the listings for HFCS, but, often I see loads of other ingredients. I usually cannot pronounce these ingredients, and I have no idea why they are in the product or whether or not the ingredient is beneficial or harmful. Reading the product labels is overwhelming since I, like most Americans, am not educated about the meanings of all the various ingredients. I often catch myself wanting to just forgo reading the labels because of how overwhelmed I feel while I’m reading it.

Ryan said the other day, “A good rule of thumb is if there is an ingredient listed on the package that you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it! It’s not good for you!”

Despite being overwhelmed at times, we continue our voluntary food censorship. We are continuing to learn as much as we can about the different ingredients that our out there (mostly in processed foods). The more we learn, the more determined we become to do everything ourselves as much as possible within reason. It seems easier to do that than to research every commercially concocted ingredient in processed foods. I like having control over what is in our food. Of course this means I have to make most of it myself, but it’s better than the processed alternative and tastier too!

Baker’s Withdrawal

Our oven broke last week, and so my baking has coming to a grinding halt. Thankfully we found out all it needs is a part, which Ryan can easily install once it comes in. In the meantime, I’ve had to go back to skimming baked good labels in hopes of finding products without HFCS and other unhealthy ingredients. This task always results in temper flair ups and lots of imaginary letters written to large corporations. I’ve also had to get creative with meal planning and have been using our trusty crock pot more than usual.

Adding insult to injury, I’ve been given half a dozen new recipes to try out, all of which require an oven. For now, I’ve saved all the recipes to my “to try” folder. So instead of experimenting with all my new cookie recipes, I’ve had to be content with munching on old-fashioned, store-bought gingersnaps.

Some good has come of our oven outage. I’ve had a bit more time since I have been unable to bake. The kitchen has been staying cleaner. At the end of the night, it almost looks unused. All of our day’s dishes will now fit in a single dishwasher load. But atlas! There has been no fresh, gooey chocolate chip cookies. No hearty muffins for breakfast. No homemade granola for our yogurt. No lingering aroma of fresh-baked wholesome delights. With each passing day, my hands yearn to create filling, wholesome foods for our family. Ryan remarked yesterday that even he misses baking!

Baking, I’ve realized, is a wonderful, creative outlet (at least for me). I’ve yet to grow bored of trying new recipes and experimenting with different ingredients. I love that baking not only allows me to be creative, but it also brings people together as well. I fondly think of all the times we’ve gathered around a plate of cookies, fresh from the oven or of the times we’ve given fresh baked goods to other families. Over the years, friends and I have gathered around our kitchen to bake savory treats to take home to our families or to enjoy over warm coffee, tea or hot chocolate. I like to think of baking as something the feeds, not only people’s tummies, but also our sense of community.

All those store-bought goodies can be tasty (and they are certainly convenient), but they sure do not bring people together the way home-baked goodies often do. They are most often just for eating, not for savoring. They usually leave Ry and I wanting a few more out of the package, instead of being fully satisfied. This, of course, means that we go through store-bought baked goods much faster than homemade ones.

Going a few days without an oven has definitely made me realize how much I enjoy baking, as well as how blessed we are to live in an era where ovens have been invented! Over the past few days, I’ve often wondered what people did before ovens were invented. How did people make bread? Over a fire? Hmm! Talk about creativity! I’m not that brave yet! I think I’ll hold out till our replacement part comes in instead trying to attempt that feat!

*This post is shared on Real Food Wednesday.

Natural Teething Comfort

Myla, our eleventh month old, has been in the throes of teething for several months now. For awhile nothing seemed to comfort her. I was at my wit’s end trying to find something that would bring her some relief. I tried everyone’s suggestions- hot/cool wash cloths, ice cubes, refrigerated teethers, etc. Finally, I came up with something on my own that doubles as a snack for our daughter.

Frozen apple slices! Myla loves them, and they really seem to help her discomfort. It was a complete accident that I came across this idea. Myla loves apples, but the slices I would cut would turn brown before she could eat them so I started popping them in the freezer. I soon realized that she preferred the frozen apple slices to all of the other miscellaneous teething aids I offered her.

I buy a few organic apples either at our farmer’s market or supermarket. Remove the core and seeds. Depending on my mood, I may leave the skin on or off (it’s up to you). Then, I slice them. I have an apple slicer that cuts the apple into wedges. I use this, and then I cut the wedges in half again to create little sticks of apple. Finally, I put the slices on plate or a cookie sheet, depending on how many slices I’ve cut. I pop them in the freezer and, once they are frozen, I take them off the tray and put them in a container in the freezer. Be sure to freeze the apple slices on a flat surface. If you just pop them in a bag or container before they are frozen, they will stick together, making a nice solid chunk of apple, but no apple sticks.

I’m sure you could also do this with other fruits and vegetables with similar results!

*This post is shared on Monday Mania.