Smart phone. A Year In.

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It has been one year since I got an iPhone. Several years ago, prior to my stay-at-home mom days, when I was working in the advertising industry, I swore I would be one of the first in line whenever Apple decided to enter the phone industry. I have always been a lover of all things Apple. The company has mastered the art of ease of use, top-of-the line functionality, dependability, and outstanding customer service.

The iPhone came out after I became I stay-at-home mom and I simply could not justify spending the money on the phone (my current phone worked just fine) and subsequent data plan. A year or two later when my phone (of three+ years) died, I went back and forth about whether or not to get the iPhone. Finally, after looking at the quality of the other (non-smart) phones on the market, I decided to get the iPhone since I knew it would last. Additionally, my husband was going to be traveling extensively during the next year and we liked the ability to do Facetime.Over the past year, I have started to write a post about iPhones (or smart phones in general), but I decided to hold off till I had at least tried mine out for a while.

Despite working in the advertising industry, I am not a lover of all technology and mass media. I have serious concerns about the social ramifications many technologies pose to our society. I admit, technology is handy and has brought about many positive changes to our world. Yet, as with anything, it also has the potential for serious adverse effects as well.

Having thoroughly studied media effects in graduate school, I frequently find myself in a mental tug of war between technology and ideology. Most of us have heard rants about technology ruining our sense of community and creating a strong desire for instant gratification so I will spare you the discourse here. Similarly most of us know that having a phone in hand can be quite useful in a pinch and invaluable if you are someone who needs to have quick access to information, as is the case for many on-the-go persons. Still, others have substituted using a smart phone instead of a computer/camera/iphone, etc. thus potentially saving a fair amount of money.

Now, as a one-year iPhone veteran, I admit, I still find myself stuck in the middle of a mental tug of war. I am constantly evaluating whether I am on my phone too much versus having enough information about whatever topic to make an informed decision. Last week, I got tired of the battle and stopped by Verizon to see when I could get out of our smart phone contract.

Apple simply has done too good of a job with the iPhone. It is incredibly handy, but I find myself (a research fanatic even before having an iPhone) constantly wanting to look something up, check social networking sites or shop online. There is always something to do on an iPhone. Therein lies the crux of the matter, at least for me. I already have enough to do. I already have enough distractions. I desperately need moments of quiet and solitude to settle my mind and rest my spirit.

Perhaps I should be more disciplined instead of just giving up the phone, but why fight a battle that does not need to be fought? There are enough other battles that require my concentration and discipline without adding an unnecessary one.

Even more important, in my mind, is continuing to hone the ability to think for oneself. Yes, this means I may make a wrong decision here and there, but that is where we all grow. Beautiful things happen when we think for ourselves. We are able to simply “be” and rest in knowing we have a capable brain that can reason and decide what to do without needing to poll friends or consult with Google. We do not need second by second updates on our favorite games; instead we can find delight in anticipation and curiosity. We do not need to share everything with everyone, but can find peace and rest in keeping some things between just ourself and the Lord for this is where trust in the Lord blossoms.

Verizon told me I have another year to go before I can surrender my iPhone without paying an exorbitant fee. It does not make financial sense to break our contract a year early, so I will be keeping my iPhone for another year. I will savor the features I enjoy most about the iPhone over the next year, like its fabulous video recording abilities and being able to facetime with family. Yet, I know, at the end of the year, I will be thankful to return to a non-smart phone.

This post is shared on Raising Mighty Arrows.

Monsanto’s Free Pass

The Farmer Assurance Provision was signed into law Tuesday night as a part of the HR 933 bill. The Farmer Assurance Provision, nicknamed the Monsanto Protection Act, is a rider to the HR 933 bill, which grants Monsanto (along with other GM seed producers) protection from the United States court system (immunity) and removes all requirements for environmental impact testing of GMOs. Prior to this provision being passed, the United States court system may have intervened, for example, should a genetically modified crop have proved hazardous or a GM crop contaminate a non-GM farmer’s field. This provision opens the door for a plethora of potentially dire consequences, as it essentially gives Monsanto (and other GMO producers) a free pass at using their GMOs as science experiment on our society.

If you have never looked into GMOs and their potential effects, I strongly suggest you do so. Here is a link to a post featured here on Wholesome Day some time ago discussing some of the basics of GMOs. Then, later we discussed GMOs again when Prop 37 was defeated in California. Click here to see that discussion, complete with a list of links to studies showing some of the adverse health effects of GMOs. Many countries already require GMO labeling or ban GMO’s entirely.

This provision was passed despite nationwide efforts from numerous organizations to stop the bill. The bill will remain in effect for at least six months. There are numerous organizations working to get citizens to sign petitions and such regarding the bill and prevent its extension in six months. Despite the disheartening news about the passage of the Farmer Assurance Provision, it’s more apparent than ever the importance of using our dollars to vote against GM products and work together to raise awareness for this very important issue.

This post was shared on Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, Old Fashioned Friday.

Thrive

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Thrive. Do we thrive wherever it is God has planted us? “To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven,” Solomon wrote in Ecc. 3:1. Seasons. Our lives are comprised of season after season. Some times it is frigid, frosty and gray. Other times it is warm, sunny and delightful. During those sunny times all we want to do is sit in the sunshine and enjoy the delightful rays of God’s goodness towards us. During winter, we often question, ponder and pray. Each season serves a purpose. In nature each season brings forth different fruits much like the seasons of our lives bring forth their own unique fruits: Love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, faithfulness and so forth. God is always there, always with a purpose for each season of life, whether it be in nature or our hearts.

When we first started looking into eating more wholesome foods, it was primarily because we had a child. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew eating vegetables was a good thing, but I never liked vegetables. Ever. At times I could choke down a salad, but usually I was hungry twenty minutes later and ended up eating more food than if I had skipped the salad. My parents can attest to this. My parents would sit with me at the dinner table for hours some nights trying to get me to eat just a few bites of broccoli. As a child, I mastered the art of discreetly hiding my vegetables anywhere I could (napkin, in my shirt sleeve, and so the list goes) just to make it look like I had eaten something and could be excused. As I got older and could decide whether or not to make or order vegetables, I opted to skip them more times than not.

Growing up and entering the workforce, I heard rumors of people who went to farmer’s markets instead of buying mass grown vegetables. I thought they were nuts. I could understand maybe having a vegetable garden since I assumed it would be cheaper to grown one’s own vegetables (like my mom did), but I could not wrap my brain around why someone would go to a farmer’s market to pay more money for vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy.

One blustery winter night our daughter decided to make her grand appearance. Soon thereafter, I realized, I would somehow have to get her to eat vegetables. I could not feed a child what I had been eating. I already had a few digestion issues from our diet back then. How could expect to raise a healthy child on what we were used to eating? Simply put, we could not.

Since my husband and I both worked full-time at jobs we loved (e.g. had no problem working extra), dinners for us had always been quick, heavily processed foods if we decided to “cook” at home. Sure, we would make the occasional homemade feast, but even those were mainly a few processed sides (instant mashed potatoes, etc.) paired with decently cooked meat (bought as cheaply as possible at the grocery store).

After our daughter arrived, I realized we would need to make some changes. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize our eating habits were not the greatest. So, we started to look into what types of foods to eat and the healthiest way to prepare them. There is an incredible amount of information out there about food. My inbox was and is continuously bombarded with articles on diet and health, most of which try to motivate us with fear in order to get us to eat or behave a certain way. Fear is a powerful and often highly effective motivator. However, fear stunts any ability for a person’s self to truly thrive. It forces people to do something not because they truly intrinsically believe they should, but because they are afraid of what will happen if they do not do something a certain way.

After doing months of research and trying to sift through an inordinate amount of information on food and health, we initially made several resolutions for our family, such as no food in our house containing HFCS or MSG.

Now, three years later, looking back at all the things we have “resolved”, we have realized for the most part our wholesome eating practices come down to eating food most closely resembling how God made it (e.g. in its natural form). For instance, our meat is grass-fed because cows were created to eat grass. We found that avoiding HFCS and MSG (along with all the other bad chemicals put into our food for flavor or as preservatives) means avoiding nearly all processed foods. Eating food that does not contain pesticides means buying local (where we know our farmer) or organic. If we want more affordable food, we buy seasonally because it is cheaper.

It is easy to get caught up in the “fear-factor” so many, hopefully, well-intentioned groups and doctors utilize to motivate people to a healthier lifestyle. I am constantly astounded by the atrocities found in the American food industry. It’s interesting and terrifying. For most of us, we are so far removed from the food industry that we are both fascinated by it, since we do not understand how it all works and fits together, and terrified by it since we most of us buy our foods from the supermarket where we have no idea where it came from or whether our food will recalled because it was a part of a major food catastrophe.

When my husband and I started to peel back the layers of meaning behind all the food directives sent out by large and small entities who attempt to motivate people by fear (do not eat X because it causes cancer or high blood pressure), we realized, at least for us, most of the recommendations we decided to adopt in our own home can be summarized into the following: Eat “real” food and eat food most closely resembling its natural form (unaltered by chemicals or processing). Do not misunderstand me. I have a healthy respect for people and organizations who are trying to raise awareness in our culture of the link between diet and health. I am guilty of this myself here at Wholesome Living. However, even entities who are disseminating accurate health and diet information can do so in such a way that we can find ourselves being motivated by fear (fear of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.).

At some point in our own lives, the choices we have made motivated only by fear will stall out because they are not authentic choices. Yes, our family initially made our choice to avoid HFCS because of its negative health effects, but today we continue to avoid it because we no longer prefer its flavor. HFCS is counterfeit for the real thing. We have come to appreciate the natural sweetness of a raspberry or a peach.

Eating seasonally has taught us a lot of things. I am always reminded of the parallel between God’s outstanding creation and our own lives. I have found eating seasonally helps us not to “stall out” or grow bored of a certain food. We only eat certain foods for a few weeks or months out of every year. In the case of my beloved fiddleheads, we only get the luxury of eating those once or twice per year. Yet, we look forward to the foods associated with each season. It’s like a passionate love relationship, only with food. It is the same with Christ. If we have only come to Christ because we fear hell and do not develop a relationship with Christ, it too will stall out or we will drift. The seasons He brings us through help us to thrive and grow in relationship with Him. If we were always in summer, we would grow tired, even of the sunshine. It would cease to delight and amaze us because we would always be in it. If we were always in winter, we would grow utterly despondent and never understand the joy and goodness of the Lord. Seasons help us each to grow spiritual fruit in due season.

I hope today, no matter the season you find yourself in, you are able to grow and thrive in the Lord; and I pray if you are in a difficult season, you courageously continue on and learn to thrive even now knowing He will bring forth fruit in His time. “For we are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10).

*This post is shared on Raising Homemakers.

What?! Prop 37 Defeated!

Image courtesy of http://www.cornucopia.org

Today I am in shock. Prop 37, which would have required labeling all products that contain GMOs, did not pass in California. I thought for sure it would have easily passed. It seems like it would be common sense to want to know what we are eating. Today I feel an odd sense of disillusionment (I thought more people cared about what they ate), anger (I hate that a 46 MILLION dollar advertising campaign could completely mislead people and convince them voting against Prop 37 would be a good idea), and sadness (I am sad that people are exposed to and consume GMOs. How many adverse health effects will people need to experience/witness before they recognize there is a problem with GM food?). However, hats off to all those in California who so diligently fought to have Prop 37 on the ballot and have GMOs labeled. Even though Prop 37 was defeated, at the very least it drew nationwide attention to this very important issue.

The food we eat has an incredible impact on our physical and emotional well-being. If you have never looked into GMOs and their potential effects, I strongly suggest you do so. Below you will find links to a few recent studies and articles that discuss some of the harmful effects of GMOs. Many countries already require GMO labeling or ban GMOs entirely. Hopefully, one day soon, Americans will start to see requirements for labeling of GMO products. Until then, let’s continue to raise awareness for this very important issue and continue to vote the best way possible- with our dollar.

It has been over a year now since our family decided to stop purchasing any genetically modified products (at least that we are aware of). Even over the past year of buying primarily from the farmer’s market and/or only organic produce at the grocery store, we have seen a significant increase in the organic produce options available for purchase from our mainstream grocery store. Additionally, we are seeing more and more area farmers offer CSAs and produce that is non-GMO. Perhaps a law will never need to be passed outlawing GMOs or requiring GMO labeling. Perhaps if we all just stop buying products we know are genetically modified, the large corporations will get the message that we have no interest in buying their products.

Here are a few recently published studies and articles on the effects of GMOs.

Technological Dependence: Isolation at Polyface

Here is the view on the way to Polyface.

Two weeks ago I visited Polyface farm in rural Virginia. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there, but experienced one emotion I did not expect to feel: Isolation.

The farm had no cell service. It has been years since I have been “off the grid”. Even though I did not visit the farm by myself, I still felt isolated. Simply knowing I could not reach someone if I needed to left me feeling vulnerable. Being disconnected from the grip of phone calls, texting and the Internet was eery, almost surreal.

Strange isn’t it? Strange, how I felt isolated just being in nature, even though I was with other people. We, as people, existed for thousands of years without cell phones and/or the Internet and now we feel more at home online than we do being in nature. We are more comfortable carrying on conversations via social networking sites or texting instead of carrying on conversations in person.

I write regularly about traditional, wholesome foods, but what about wholesome ways of life? What good is it if we eat healthy, but are not emotionally, physically, socially, or spiritually healthy as well? How healthy is it for us to always share what we are experiencing instantaneously with others? Are we truly so socially (e.g. in person) deprived that we need instant and continuous validation? What about being “off the grid”?

Many of the social networking sites foster comparison amongst people. We know what is going on in, sometimes hundreds, of people’s lives. Many of us are too busy “liking” and “pinning” other’s inspirations that we do not find, develop, and create our own inspirations. We have forgotten how to simply “be”.

Welcome to Polyface! This is the picture I so eagerly wanted to send to a friend when we first arrived at Polyface.

After I got over my initial surprise over not having cell service (and not being able to send pictures of Polyface to a friend instantaneously), I was able to explore the farm and savor each uninterrupted minute. Looking back I have such vivid memories of the farm- probably because I was 100 percent there. I was not getting interrupted by texts or thinking about what I should post on a social networking site. I simply enjoyed the moments I had with my family on the picturesque countryside of Polyface farm.

Our visit to Polyface unexpectedly sparked a personal examination of my use of technology.  I realized that as useful as technology can be, it also limits us. It limits us to communicate and view life through a lens that only partially captures the essence of all life is and can be. When I was in grad school one of the many phrases that stuck out in my mind long after the final exams were taken was “The medium is the message” from Marshall McLuhan. Often we think and worry about what it is we are reading or viewing online. Some people avoid rated “R” movies, others put parental controls on their televisions or computers. Most of us do not realize that the medium we are using (television, iPad, computer, magazine, book, iPhone, etc.) also has an impact on our minds and how we think about the world. Different mediums have different effects. For instance, reading a child a book is going to affect him or her differently than television would. Follow this line of thought for a bit and you will see how the argument that watching a lot of television on a regular basis can affect one’s attention span came into being.

When I visited Polyface and discovered there was no cell service, I was not as disturbed by the lack of service as I was my own reaction that came about as a result of the lack of service. My feelings of isolation were a signal to me that something was amiss. So I took a step back and re-assessed my use of technology. In the weeks following our visit to Polyface I made a conscious effort not to browse my iPhone every time I have a spare second. I also try to not carry my phone around with me all day. If I am out and about, I enjoy what I am doing and I leave my phone tucked away in my purse. All of these are baby steps. I am not brave enough to give up a cell phone completely.  Since I have started distancing myself from my phone, I have found that I am much more productive and creative. I also feel a lot more confident. I make decisions instead of googling them. I am sure I will make a bad decision, one that I could have prevented if I had only googled the question. But, what fun is that? Am I truly learning it if I google it or merely gaining a mere glimpse of all the depth there is in a life truly lived moment by moment- sight by sight, scent by scent, touch by touch, sound by sound, and taste by taste. I hope that I spend the moments I have been given in this life savoring, creating and experiencing all the wonder there is to be found in this life we live.

The Thankfulness Challenge

We live in a society permeated by negative messages. It’s abundantly obvious that most of the news is filled with negative/depressing information. Positive happenings rarely ever make the news. It is easy to recognize this trend among the mainstream media, but what of our own lives? Are the words that come out of our mouths positive or negative? Do we share things that uplift or tear one another down?

Much like our news programs, too often we share mostly negative news with each other. The positive/good things in our lives are often taken for granted so we do not talk about them. For instance, how often are we thankful for being healthy? It usually takes us getting sick for us to be truly thankful for being healthy.

One of my high school friends shares something that he is thankful for every day on Facebook. It’s been inspiring to read all the things that he is thankful for over the course of the past few months. It’s refreshing to read something positive each and every day on Facebook where the trend seems to be to rant and complain about all that is wrong in one’s life on a daily, and at times hourly, basis (at least with a large number of people who I am friends with on Facebook). It can be discouraging to scroll through all the different updates from everyone and very few people have anything positive to say. It is depressing, particularly since a large number of people I am “friends” with on Facebook claim to be Christians. The same is true in our conversation. If we only share negativity, then we are poor reflections of the joy and peace that is found in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I try to make a list of things I am thankful for each day and then praise the Lord for each thing. I’ve neglected to do this as often as I had originally wanted to so to keep me accountable, I’ve decided to “go public” with a challenge for myself and you as well. Every day I am going to try to share something new that I am thankful for with someone around me- whether it be spoken, face-to-face, texted, or posted on Facebook (like my friend does). I am also going to start a running list of each thing I am thankful for here on my blog. You can see my running list here or go to the tab at the top of the page labeled “The 365 Day Thankfulness Challenge”. My goal is to post something I am thankful for a total of 365 days and see what happens. I’ve already noticed my attitude improving as I thought about what I’m going to post today. So, what about you? Are you up for the challenge?

The 365 Day Thankfulness Challenge

Share something you are thankful for with someone around you- whether it be spoken, face-to-face, texted, or posted on Facebook. Keep a running list of each thing you are thankful for. No repeat entries allowed. Each day, find something new to be thankful for! 

Healthy Frames of Reference

Yesterday I watched the documentary “Killer at Large” and I was reminded of a startling statistic I had learned about in school. The documentary shared, “A preschoolers risk for obesity increases 6% for every hour of television watched per day.” As a communication studies major in both graduate and undergraduate school, I learned plenty about the harmful effects television can have on children and adults.

Ryan and I decided early on in our marriage to not have any television programming in our home. Once we had our daughter, we decided to not allow her to watch any form of mass media (television, DVDs, etc.) at least until she is two years old (which is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends). At that point, we will reevaluate our decision. Although we have to admit, at this point it is not looking like we will allow her to watch any television programming once she is two (we do not even watch it ourselves). The only thing that we may consider allowing is an occasional DVD. Our daughter is a voracious “reader” and we cherish the precious time we spend with her reading.

The media have powerful effects on all of us, even more so on young children who are incredibly impressionable. As “Killer at Large” pointed out, advertisers know if they can reach a child under the age of two with their marketing messages, they will most likely have a loyal consumer for life. As our daughter has gotten more mobile, my awareness for the things we expose our children to, particularly media-wise, in our home has grown. Even though we do not allow television, she is still exposed to marketing messages via our mail and even imagery on the covers of our books. Over the past month or so, I realized with some surprise even our daughter’s board books have things in them that promote unhealthy habits. I had not expected this.

Obviously major food companies are trying to sell kids their sugary, addicting food. Duh! What I did not expect, as a new parent, was to find children’s books filled with references and pictures of kids eating unhealthy foods. I guess I never really thought of it being an issue. I had always thought of sexual or scary imagery being the cause for concern in children’s media. Yet, just as I desire my children to make solid moral decisions, I also desire for them to make healthy eating decisions. Just as sexual and scary imagery and language can affect a child’s mind and choices so too can imagery and language featuring foods. I find this true in my own life. I can be doing just fine avoiding junk food, but then I go to the store and I see a billboard for a Coke and all the sudden I am craving a Coke. It is scary at times how easily we, as humans, are influenced.

There are no brand references in any of our board books, but if the lovable main characters are eating or drinking something- it is usually something unhealthy. Corduroy, the adorable bear, eats a snack of juice and cupcakes in “Corduroy’s Valentines Day“. A child munches on what he describes as his favorite meal in “Hooray for Wonderful Me!”  and we see a picture of take-out pizza. Spot, the dog, and his mother buy an armful of chocolate bars to put in his dad’s birthday cake in “Spot Bakes a Cake.” The list could go on and on.

For now, Ryan and I simply substitute the words “milk and muffins” for “juice and cupcakes” when we are reading “Corduroy’s Valentines Day” to our daughter, but there is not much we can do about the images shown besides not buy books that depict unhealthy eating habits. I never thought I would be censoring our children’s media because of depictions of unhealthy eating habits, but I am- at least while they are little and do not realize the differences between healthy and unhealthy foods. We do not own or allow our children to read books in which the characters are permitted to be disrespectful to their parents or mean to others because we do not want our children to think those behaviors are acceptable. Similarly, if we would like our children to grow up preferring healthy foods why would we allow them to read books that encourage the opposite, particularly when we know how powerful media exposure is for children? We are trying to build a healthy frame of reference for our children as it pertains to food so hopefully, whenever our children are exposed to unhealthy processed foods, they will be able to identify it for exactly what it is- junk.

*This post is shared on Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist.