Monday, March 29, 2010

What is 'Healthy' Food'?

Just what is 'healthy' food, anyway? And how does someone living below the economic edge acquire 'healthy' food on a consistent basis?

As consumers, we are deluged with messages that promote healthy lifestyles, attainable when you choose 'healthy' food. In most cases, this leads to persuading us to buy the commercially sanctioned 'health' food, which is about corporate profit, not personal health.

Healthy food means whole food. Whole food is a fresh apple, bread made at home, a pot full of reconstituted lentils, simmering in a spicy vegetable broth. It is not necessarily certified organically grown fruits and vegetables. It does not come in pre-packaged items adorned with lovely pictures. It is not clustered in expensive vitamins from the local 'health food' store. Nor is it found in animal muscle, an udder product or a chicken's ova.

Replacing convenience foods with whole food; eliminating animal and animal by-products from your diet; eating less; shopping for local produce whenever possible will all aid in the quest for 'healthy' food.

I consume 90% whole raw food, do not eat anything animal related, am healthy and my daily budget spent on food is $3.40.

Not for you, you say? Fair enough. Changing lifelong eating habits is not easy but it can be done. More later on how to make the switch. Hint: it took me two years to acquire vegan status from a vegetarian diet and have been changing to a raw vegan cuisine since August 2009.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tips 'n Tricks: Baking soda

Was cleaning my kitchen sink just now and began wondering why anyone would use any cleanser other than baking soda for the job. It's cheap; environmentally-friendly; isn't harsh on skin, the cleaning cloth or the cleaning surface; and is as effective as any higher-priced commercial cleanser.

It does a whole lot else too. So does plain old white vinegar.

Between the two, there's no good reason for spending precious dollars on anything else to clean one's home. Or, for that matter, to clean oneself; baking soda works as well for toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant.

ETA, April 8th: There's an additional advantage to using baking soda for all your cleaning needs instead of manufactured and often environmentally harmful products: no PST, GST or HST!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Feeding Yourself on a Dollar a Day

Two teachers in the USA set about doing an experiment to see if they could eat on less than $1.00 per day for 30 days. Then they published a book about it.

They needn't have bothered.

This is old news for anyone who lives in my peer group of income. I live like that all the time and have detailed on this blog the struggle to eat nutritional food and still stay healthy. What differentiates those in true poverty from those merely experimenting are certain assumptions:

  • that one has a car for toodling around to get the best deals, usually in bulk; 
  • that one has a fully equipped kitchen; 
  • that one has a garden or balcony or other area from which one can grow one's own food and the tools with which to do it.

In Canada, income in the lowest decile category demands no more than a $1.00 day spent on food.

Let no one suppose there is no poverty in this country. It is all around us.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Imagine What It's Like

[Reprise from a post written September 2009 on Challenging the Commonplace]

Imagine what it's like to have yearned for a tiny place all your own, a tiny house or a trailer, one whose maintenance fits within your budget and where you and your furry companions can live in peace.

Imagine that someone comes forward and says to you: "I'll buy you a tiny house or a trailer; just find a place to put it."

Imagine that, feeling hope for the first time in a decade, you try and you try and you try and nowhere can you find land on which to place a tiny home. No RV pad is available, although there's no shortage of used trailers for purchase. No land is available that hasn't restrictions on the type of structures allowed; houses must be of certain minimal dimensions, they must have this or that amenity, and so on.

Imagine then that you must say to your potential benefactor: "I can't accept your gift of a tiny place. I can find nowhere to put it."

Imagine hope fading.

Imagine that the same someone comes forward and says to you: "Alright, if I can't buy you a tiny house or a trailer, then let me buy you a scooter. Then you'll be able to get about without pain. Just tell me the total cost, including insurance, and I'll send you the money."

Imagine hope rising.

Imagine enthusiastically checking online and deciding with the help of your potential benefactor whether it should be a Honda Jazz or a Yamaha Vino. Imagine scouting out the prices, learning about the licensing and insurance requirements, adding up the costs. Imagine reporting back your findings and the two of you deciding on the Vino.

Imagine the excitement growing, not just yours, but hers too...

Then imagine thinking: "Wait. Consider what you're doing. You don't live in a secure place. This is a high-theft area. There's nowhere to keep your scooter safe, nowhere to keep it plugged in: no garage, no locker, no area inside the building. There's no carport, no awning under which your scooter can be kept from 30 to 40 cm snow dumps, no protection from the snow plow when it comes to clear the parking lot. The scooter will be exposed to vandalism and theft and the elements all year-round; and there's nothing you can do about it."


Possession of a scooter depends on relocation to a more secure residence.

Now suppose that word came in the spring of a rare, subsidized, seniors residence. It's one of the few rental places in this province, subsidized and not, that accepts pets.

Imagine someone applying to that development and the applicant being put on a waiting list.

Imagine hope waits.

ETA March 12/10: Possession of a bicycle also depends on getting a more secure, accessible residence, since I wouldn't be able to carry one up and down the three flights of stairs here. An electric bicycle could serve the purpose as well as, and be cheaper than a scooter, something my benefactor and I discussed a few weeks later.

Later in the year, I also heard of a second subsidized housing development that would accept pets. It, too, is on one of the Gulf Islands. This suggests that smaller, more close-knit communities and ones nestled in a natural rather than built environment, see the oddity of humans being forced to separate themselves not just from flora but fauna too. It's not a natural circumstance that we live lives isolated from the natural environment.

I applied to that second housing development, but have yet to receive an acknowledgement. Have called twice, using SkypeOut, and each time got their answering machine. Not having a phone, I've been unable to leave a number on their answering machine. Perhaps they receive applications and never send acknowledgements, or they didn't get my application, or they've declined to put it on their waiting list and haven't communicated that to me.

Controlling Rage While Destitute

The following is a modification of an email I wrote to a friend this morning. I am writing it to this blog since readers may be wondering why, in addition to Daphne who has had her own problems, I have gone silent...

A loner, asocial and an introvert, rarely have I told others what I'm trying to deal with. The deeper the issues go and the more troubling to me, the less likely I am to do so. The most recent exception was Kiltie. But, well, Kiltie is Kiltie. She's not me....

I've a rage that has been with me for as long as I can remember. It built up over the first 14 years of my life and never went away. I've managed it by subsuming it under a calm veneer and, sometimes, with happy moments. Most of my life that layer of calm has been thick enough to prevent the rage from breaking through and affecting my day-to-day reality.

My young husband saw the rage often during the early years of our marriage, and he helped me control it. When the rage came on, he'd hold me tight to him, even as I was hitting him with my fists or trying to knife myself in the belly where the rage roiled; and screaming 'til my voice went raw. I'd be in a blind, red rage, completely beyond my control to stop. He'd just hold me tight to him, rubbing my back, speaking softly, soothingly. I'd quieten, feel comforted and be ever so grateful for his care. Holding me tight, giving comfort that I'd deny myself, was the best treatment he could give. How that young man, barely turned 21, could have had such wisdom, I don't know.

When the children came, I became concerned about how my rages would affect them. My own childhood had been filled with screaming - not a day passed without it - and I didn't want that environment for my own offspring. So I learned to subsume my emotions and with them the rage, below a veneer of calm acceptance, as I was required to do as a child.

I fooled even the best of them. A longtime close friend, a woman who'd seen through so many people, told me she'd sought my friendship because of my calm demeanour. My response was to laugh out loud, a rare occurrence. What people perceive as placidity is iron control. I invest a lot of energy maintaining the illusion.

Over the past several months, my layer of calm has thinned and I've been very concerned about it. If I had children still at home, I'd seek counselling immediately and request medication.

I know I'm capable of cruelty. That's what's scaring me and I've been trying to deal with it. I love my babies, the cats, and I'd never want to hurt them. However, the rage has come too close and too often lately. Each time I have to quell it, I fear I may not be successful next time. This scares the hell out of me.


- I've withdrawn from all contact with people, largely because withdrawal means less likelihood of triggers.
- I've been trying to cope with my straitened circumstances which, I think, are a HUGE contributing factor. Knowing this is my worst year and in six months things will have improved slightly hasn't helped. I'm struggling big-time with the constant and increased deprivation; the constant reminder of it everywhere around me; and with waiting and waiting and waiting to get subsidized housing that will allow me to stay with Kiltie and Brodie.
- I've been dealing with Kiltie. She is better, although there have been periods of vomiting still. Not like before, but it's still a concern to me. Yesterday and today, she's back to her usual self. Not knowing the cause of her on-again, off-again lethargy and vomiting has kept me unsettled. Stability is crucial to my ability to maintain calm; as it may be crucial to Kiltie's health. Perhaps her problems are due to the tension she feels in her home.
- Yesterday I spotted a sale at Shoppers Drug Mart for St. John's Wort (SJW). I bought 120 caplets for $11.49, plus tax.

About the last, three or four years ago during the time I was doing the first WISE project, I took SJW for a few months. Started with the typical dosage, three capsules per day. Turned out that was way too much for me. My car-enabled friend Ronnie, when she next came by for a trip for shopping, laughed merrily at me as I sat slumped jelly-like in her car seat and my words slurred. Given I'm highly sensitive to medications, caffeine, and so on, I should have known better than to take the regularly dose! I reduced it to two capsules and that was better, but one capsule per day was best. I wanted only to normalize to my usual control of the rage, nothing more.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blue and Broke

My sister's son is getting married this summer. The invitation is sitting atop my fridge. The family lives in Ontario. I want to attend, but the cost is prohibitive, nay, impossible for me to even consider. Saying 'no' to the invite while retaining my pride has been difficult. The excitement of thinking about meeting with my family, the bride's family and all those invited has slowly dissipated, leaving me feeling blue. And broke.

It serves to remind me that travel for pleasure is out. As is most entertainment.

I enjoy going to local theatre productions and listening to live music in my community.

To do these things, I make trades. I offer to put up posters, sell tickets, make coffee, set up chairs, run 'front of house' activities, then to help clean up when the show is over. This can only happen if I know someone involved.

The same is true of furthering my education or indulging in personal endeavours. I swap housecleaning for singing lessons. Have taken on secretarial/organizational duties for a nonprofit society, in return for attending their professional conferences; and do gardening for bedding plants so I may enjoy fresh flowers throughout the warm seasons. I barter with a friend who grows organic vegetables. This lessens the cost of buying from the Old Farmer's Market or grocery store.

Occasionally, I am interested in certain entertainment advertised in the local paper which states that entry is "by donation." I assume that means if I don't have anything to offer, be it money or a tin of something for the food bank; I will still be allowed to enjoy what is presented. When I show up, I find someone sitting at the entrance suggesting that the 'donation' be $5 - $20. A burning shame overcomes me when I tell them I have nothing to give, that I thought 'donation' meant, even if I have nothing, I would be welcome. As this has happened on a number of occasions, I have become wary of approaching such events in my community.

The constant juggling of priorities wears me down. I become morose, refuse to leave the house, retire behind the pages of a book and become disinclined to visit with good friends. The daily grind begets depression, even for a positive-thinking person like myself.