Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Balance

by Patty Lakinsmith

Mary Jane and Mary Ann's posts on this topic have gotten me thinking about this too, but it's not the first time. I went back to my blog archives and found seven posts with this theme. Maybe it's my Libran heritage, maybe not, but it's my holy grail to achieve that perfect attentional mix to all of the things that capture my desire and attention. It'll probably only last a moment if and when I achieve it, and then return to chaos, but at least I will have had the moment.
No, I haven't found the magic formula, but what does help me is to make lists. I am very easily distracted, and very unproductive when I've got lots to do and no idea where to start. Lots of lists of things I hope to accomplish, grouped by category: personal, art business, work, etc. Then, next to each one I put a priority number from 1 to 3, with 1 being the most important, and 3 being the least. I do this in an Excel spreadsheet, so then I can sort the lists from high to low priority. The trick then is to try to ignore the 2's and 3's while I work on the 1's until they're done. Nothing new in this, but at least the act of making the lists helps me to gain just a little ability to focus.

So what's it mean this Christmas? Well, our grown family has never really been into super extravagant gifts, and many of us have agreed to keep it low key, which is nice. Some years when I'm able I like to give charitable donation gifts, like animals to third world recipients through Heifer International. Then the choices are easy - does Aunt Mary want me to give a duck or a chicken, or maybe a rabbit would be better? Heifer makes it easy with online gift cards you can customize and print or send from their site.

But I do like to plan out a bunch of nice meals when we've got family gatherings, so there are menus to plan and grocery lists to make, and cleaning and decorating yet to do, and... Looks like the cards may not make it out this year after all. Oh well. Maybe an email would be just as nice, and maybe greener. Either way I'm not going to stress it.

9 comments:

stregata said...

Balance is very challenging - unlike physical balance, which we usually maintain without much effort, balance in the other aspects of our lives requires constant attention. I am trying hard to maintain it.

Patty said...

It's so hard, isn't it? It's like spinning plates. The important thing is to enjoy each other, and just relax. As always, a dose of introspection and gratitude go a long way.

MaCarroll Beads said...

I think Aunt Mary would like you to donate a duck ;o) What a great idea for the holiday. I spend this time making my gifts. I like the idea of donating. I have to confess.... I've never been one for Christmas cards (which is probably why we get less and less each year ;o).....I know that I can't add that to my already very busy schedule. I think I can manage the e-cards though....another good idea!!!!

Carol said...

Everyone is looking for balance. I want it in the spiritual and emotional sense. I want it in my daily life. I DO NOT want it in design!

Have you ever noticed how many creative people were born under the sign of the scales?

Alice said...

I'm a list maker too. But this year things are so chaotic I can't even slow my brain down enough to make a list. But in the end I am able to enjoy the holiday with family and church.

We love doing the charity idea, both for local groups and those far away such as Heifer International.

mairedodd said...

this is wonderful patty - my family has donation lists too - it is so much more satisfying to have an organization benefit from this season...
you wouldn't even know it is christmas from the looks of my house...

SummersStudio said...

Wow, an even more organized list maker than me :-) I would never have thought of ranking the things on the list. I love giving goats and chickens and such through Heifer. It a wonderful organization. Like you, we'd rather concentrate on the togetherness of the holidays and sharing meals is one of the nicest ways to do it. Happy holidays.

vegaia said...

Heifer International (HI) is an organization that claims to work against world hunger by donating animals to families in developing countries. Its catalog deceptively portrays beautiful children holding cute animals in seemingly humane circumstances. The marketing brochure for HI does not show the animals being transported, their living and slaughter conditions, or the erosion, pollution and water use caused by the introduction of these animals and their offspring.

By definition, animals raised for food are exploited in a variety of ways. The animals shipped to developing countries are often subject to; water and food shortages, cruel procedures without painkillers, lack of veterinary care resulting in extended suffering as a result of illness or injury.

A large percentage of the families receiving animals from HI are struggling to provide for themselves and cannot ensure adequate living conditions, nutrition, and medical care for animals they have been given. HI provides some initial veterinary training to individuals and the initial vaccines. But, long term care for these animals and their offspring is up to the individuals.

To make matters worse, animal agriculture causes much more harm to the environment than plant-based agriculture. The fragile land in many of the regions HI is sending the animals cannot support animal agriculture. Although they say they encourage cut and carry feeding of the animals to avoid erosion, the reality is often quite different.

The consumption of animal products has been shown in reputable studies to contribute significantly to life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a variety of cancers. Regions that have adopted a diet with more animal products see an increase in these diseases. The remote communities supposedly served by HI have no way of dealing with the health consequences of joining the high-cholesterol world.

While it may seem humane and sustainable to provide just one or two dairy cows here or there, the long term consequences are an increased desire for animal products in local cultures leading to an increase in production. These communities may be able to absorb the additional water use of one or two cows, what happens when there are hundreds or thousands of dairy cows, each consuming 27 to 50 gallons of fresh water and producing tons of excrement? The heavy cost to animals, the environment and local economies is not figured into HI's business practices.

Patty said...

Vegaia, yes, you reminded me that I forgot to state the obvious. Probably if you're a vegan or vegetarian, you would not want to contribute funds to a non-profit like Heifer that espouses animal husbandry. But if you're not, you should know that they're highly rated by groups like charitynavigator.org, and they do good work to help many hungry people around the world. I just wish they would pay their execs less and stop spamming me with so much paper mail.

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