Tag Archives: Blog 6

The Things I Love Most About Knitting

A WIP (Work In Progress)

I have been knitting for about seven years (I learned from my mom when I was about 10 years old, but didn’t pick it back up until I could afford to buy my own yarn). I’ve made scarves, mittens and hats for friends and family over the years, and have enjoyed collecting instructional books and stitch dictionaries to learn new patterns. During the pandemic, it has been a way for me to stay safe (by having something productive to focus on while maintaining social distancing), and has also connected me with others who are curious about knitting and sharing techniques.

Ravelry

Technology has been a miracle in helping me expand my techniques, organize my stash (yarn collection), make connections with other fiber art enthusiasts around the world and plan my projects for Christmas and birthdays. Ravelry is one of my favorite websites because it helps me keep track of so much of this information, and I can view/interact with others around the world who have created projects I’m interested in or have questions about. There are forums, paid and free patterns, yarns, and tools to use for managing yarn inventory, patterns, needles, projects and more.

Stitch Fiddle

Another one of my favorite knitting-related websites is Stitch Fiddle, a free website you can use to create graphic charts for knitting, crochet, cross stitch and more. The chart seen above is a quick sample I made for a scarf my niece had requested for Christmas a couple years ago:

Maggie and Jack!

As long as you don’t need written instructions created (that will cost you), you can design all sorts of pictures and graphic designs for your own projects or to sell.

StevenBe in South Minneapolis

Shopping at local yarn shops over the years has helped me feel more connected to a larger global fiber arts community; it’s easy to talk to staff and owners about what I’m working on, what they’ve been working on, and many of them also feature classes on techniques I haven’t been able to master just by watching YouTube videos.

My mom and her cat Oscar

I love making things for my family not just because it saves money I would otherwise spend on other gifts, it also makes me feel happy to see something I worked hard on be admired by the people I’m closest to. I especially love making things for my mom, since she is the one that first taught me!

Save a Life / Make a Difference

Organ donation – I know – not the easiest topic or a fun one to discuss. It means you or a loved one has passed away. Despite that depressing thought, if we don’t talk about organ donation, then people may not consider donating. It’s easy to say, ‘I’ll take care of it later’ or ‘I’ll sign up the next time I renew my driver’s license, and then never get to it or forget to check that box on the renewal form for your driver’s license.

Of course, it is each person’s own choice to become an organ donor, or to not become one, and I am not here to tell you that you should. Nevertheless, I do hope you will consider becoming an organ donor.

It is amazing to think that one person’s organs can be given to eight different people, changing the lives of receivers and their loved ones. Along with the eight organs (discussed below), other recipients in need can receive corneas, skin, heart valves, bones, veins, blood vessels, and several other body tissues. I was not even aware that some of these could be donated. What an amazing gift to give someone: fighting for their life, a burn victim, restoring someone’s sight, and others in need.

The 8 organs that can be donated are:

  1. Heart – approx. 3,500 heart transplants are done each year around the world.
  2. Lung (2) – double lung transplant is typical, but one lung transplant can also be done. Living donors can also be used.
  3. Kidney (2) – either a single or double transplant can be done. Living donors can also be used.
  4. Liver – a liver can be divided into two and be given to two different recipients. The liver regenerates itself so a living donor can donate a portion of their liver.
  5. Pancreas – has a success rate of around 80-95%.
  6. Intestines – the Cleveland Clinic performed 17 transplants at their Cleveland location in 2021.

“As of February 2021, the number of patients on the national transplant waiting list was more than 107,000”; over 1,900 of them are children. It is difficult to not only find a match due to organ type, but organs are limited. A surprising fact I read, “only three in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation after death”; that is an amazingly small number. I would have thought the number would be much higher. Another fact I read, is that “More than half of all people on the transplant waiting list are from a minority group.” Why is this important? Per Donate Life Midwest’s fact sheet, “Although organs are not matched by race and ethnicity … all individuals waiting for an organ transplant will have a better chance of receiving one if there are large numbers of donors from their racial or ethnic background. This is because compatible blood types and tissue markers—critical qualities for donor and recipient matching—are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity.”

If you decide that you want to be an organ donor, please:

  1. Sign up at organdonor.gov,
  2. Talk it over with your family so they know your wishes,
  3. Encourage your family and friends to become donors,
  4. As difficult as it is to think about, if you child wants to register to be on the organ donor list, please give them your blessing, and permission, which is needed in most states. “The size of the body and the organ matter when matching donors to receiving patients. That’s why very small children most often receive donations from other young people.”

I hope you consider being an organ donor, you may save a life.

Stop Waiting For The Next Best Thing

We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life.
– Joshua Glenn Clark

I feel satisfied and content Friday evenings after a full week of work, the weekend is finally here. Saturday flies by and, before you know it, Sunday evening is already here. I’ve watched my favorite shows, read a good book, saw friends and family – but now, I’ve entered a state of depression with the anticipated Monday, aka Monday blues. Can you relate? I believe many of you can. 

How many of us are living for the weekend? How many of us are living for summer? How many of us are living for the next vacation? “If I could just get through this work week – it will be better.”  It’s unhealthy to keep waiting for things to come. And not just Saturday and Sunday – waiting for the next trip, waiting for the next night out, waiting for something to break you out of the daily routine of life.

I used to do this a lot – still do – from time to time and I have to catch myself and change my mindset. Is this going to be the story of the rest of my life? What I realized is that it’s vital to live in the present moment. Without waiting for the weekends to be happy, be present and enjoy today.

That “next thing” will be here before you know it

Life shouldn’t be about moving forward to something, dragging dully along. Of course, we make goals and those are important. It’s also necessary to have things to look forward to, vacations, achievements to celebrate, milestones to await. But as we wait, and as we rise, it’s important also to not get so caught up in getting somewhere that we completely miss the journey, that we pass our lives.

How often do we sit there impatiently waiting for the next thing to come, for the next event to happen?

How many moments have we already lost just waiting and hoping for the next thing, the next week, next year?

There are ordinary and extraordinary times in our lives, but the ordinary ones still shouldn’t fall so dimly that we only see them as openings to something greater. Every moment in our lives should be something we look forward to and feel blessed to have. Every day should count for something – it should bring us closer together, closer to our goals – it should be as full of life as it can be. Even the days where work feels so endless, and our free time is cut short, we should cherish all of it so much so that seven days from now, you’ll wonder where the time had gone and find that the time came much sooner than you expected.

Stop waiting for the next best thing.

Live your moments here and now.

-April

A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes On the Horizon?

Recent developments in stem-cell-derived therapy signifies a breakthrough in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, a disease with no known cure as of yet that currently afflicts 1.6 million Americans. The disease affects the body’s ability to produce insulin, making insulin injections and multiple daily blood sugar checks a necessity to live with the ailment.

A recent article from USA Today details a clinical trial conducted by the company Vertex Pharmaceuticals on one man who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes over 40 years ago. As part of the trial, the patient was given an infusion of stem-cell-derived treatment known as VX-880. Given that this was the initial test, he received only half of the target dose. 90 days following the trial, the results were overwhelmingly positive. The patient reacted well to the dose, and it “resulted in a 91% decrease in the patient’s daily insulin requirement and a restoration of insulin production.”

Vertex, the company behind the groundbreaking trial.

Dr. Bastiano Sanna, executive vice president and chief of cell and genetic therapies at Vertex, claims the results are “unprecedented,” as this could be a major breakthrough in the way that Type 1 diabetes is treated, potentially a huge step forward in the quest for a cure. The patient did experience some “mild to moderate health events” during the study, including a few instances of severe low blood sugar and a rash. Vertex claims these were not the result of VX-880, however.

While Vertex would like to acknowledge that many more trials need to be conducted, and that these results are not to be taken as indicative of a cure just yet, they are very hopeful for the future of diabetes management, especially given this major milestone.

It’s Time to Stop Plastic Waste.

The pollution of plastics is a growing concern.

Laura Parker states the following facts in this article “The world’s plastic pollution crisis explained” published in National Geographic:

The manufacturing of half of all the world’s plastics has occurred within the last 15 years. From the years 1950 to 2015, the production of plastics has increased by 445 million tons. This production is expected to DOUBLE in amount by 2050. Parker claims, “That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.” Additives added to make the plastics product more flexible and durable also extend the life of the products, taking at least 400 years to break down.

Parker states that 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the ocean each year.

Plastic pollution is harmful and deadly to marine life.

Due to plastic pollution, millions of animals are killed every year. The animals effected are: seabirds, fish, marine turtles, large cetaceans, seals, whales, and even zooplankton.

Ingestion of plastics, entanglement, and strangulation by plastics are common ways marine animals suffer and/or die from the pollution.

“Marine Debris on Kure Atoll” by USFWS Pacific is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Solution

Scientists and conservationists state the solution of plastic pollution is to PREVENT plastic waste from entering rivers and seas in the first place. Laura Parker continues in the National Geographic article that prevention “could be accomplished with improved waste management systems and recycling, better product design that takes into account the short life of disposable packaging, and reduction in the manufacturing of unnecessary single-use plastics”. In Britannica, Charles Moore offers another preventative solution in the article “Plastic Pollution” which involves prohibitive measures such as fines for littering and bans on single-use plastics. Moore advocates for the increase of biodegradable plastics and the embracing of a “zero waste” philosophy.

It’s Time to Demand the End of Plastic Pollution

The environmental organization of Green Peace is declaring that major corporations must take responsibility for the solution. Major corporations must not exceed its current plastic waste production, set reduction target dates, and invest in reusable systems.

Green Peace is a leader in the Reuse Revolution, and it is time for us to join them.

Image from breakfreefromplastic.org

Add your name to the “Break Free From Plastic” campaign to help stop plastic pollution.

Sign the petition now.

https://www.britannica.com/science/plastic-pollution

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/plastic-pollution

Is This Housing Market Right For You?

I did it. I have no idea how, but I did it. Many rejected offers and a few tears later, in the craziest market I could have possibly imagined, I managed to buy a house! The process was grueling, often leaving me feeling like I took on a 40-hour a week position just to stay on top of the market. If you also find yourself looking for a home in this unfortunate market for buyers, you should be aware what you’re getting yourself into.

It is incredibly important to be prepared by knowing what the market is like in your city. For example, in Minneapolis the market is on fire, which is raising all sorts of concerns around the city. This article, from The Associated Press, discusses the lack of homes in supply, high demand on materials for new builds, and skyrocketing prices. These are problems being faced by most major cities all around the United States right now, but you should do your research to find if anything different is happening where you are. If you happen to be looking in a suburb or even somewhere more rural, the market could be more volatile or more calm, depending on location.

It also important to consider the future when deciding if this is the right time to buy. The article linked above mentions how buyers are often being pitted against each other through insane tactics, which is driving prices higher and higher. However, the market will not always be this way, leading many to believe that prices on houses have inflated too quickly. If you are someone looking to stay in a house long-term, right now might be an alright time for you to buy. Prices will even out overtime and you likely won’t end up losing value. If you are looking to live in the home for a short amount of time and quickly resell though, you run a higher risk of losing money.

What the decision ultimately comes down to, however, is what is best for you. I am just a person on the internet who decided to make the crazy jump into this market at a very weird time. If you think you want to, and you can handle it, you should do whatever is best for you. Just make sure to do your research first!

A Homecook’s Secret Weapons

Many may be entering in to a moment of cooking fatigue after a year of lockdowns and limited access to restaurants, however many are also invigorated by the revolution that eating at home is enjoyable. Here are five secret weapons this homecook uses to make life easier while raising a family in no particular order.

  1. Homemade Stocks and Broths
Homemade Chicken Stock

Using whole and homemade ingredients gives us all the homestead vibes. It adds flavor and texture to dishes. And an added benefit is it reduces food waste. Making these elements from scratch allows the cook to know exactly what is going into their food and the ability to adjust based on preference or health need. To make this broth I didn’t measure anything as I have been doing this for 15 years and just know what to do. But it I just add the bones from a whole roasted chicken, a yellow onion, a bulb of garlic, 3 ribs of celery, 3 carrots, salt and pepper, then covered with water. I brought that to a boil then reduced to simmer and let cook for 3-4 hours before cooling and straining flavor elements from the broth.

2. Preparation

Homecooks prepare their ingredients and display them beautifully making easier and more appealing to use when it is time to make the next meal. From washed and ready to serve greens to a mason jar with fresh parsley to a table that is dressed with a table and fresh flowers homecooks love to set a feeling to everything which make the tasks of feeding yourself, friends, or family more desirable.

3. Flavorful Elements

Yellow and red onions, garlic, and red bell pepper

Aromatics deepen the flavor of any dish that you make. Onion, garlic, and pepper are commonly used in most cuisines these add an additional punch of flavor to any dish. Many of these flavor enhancers can store for awhile on your counter which make them easy to keep on hand.

4. Quick Pickles

My personal favorite quick pickle is pickled red onions. To make I chop a red onion and place it in a jar with fresh cracked black pepper. Then in a saucepan I add 1 cup water, 3/4 distilled white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt (sometimes I use a little less than that) and bring to a boil. I pour that over the red onion in the mason jar and let cool before placing in the refrigerator when that stays good for at a month. This not only adds deep flavor it provides needed acidity to any dish.

5. Fresh Herbs

Basil grown from seed that will be going into my herb garden soon

An easy way that homecooks bring freshness and the homestead vibe to their dishes is by incorporating fresh herbs into the meals they are making. Fresh herbs can be expensive if adding them to your grocery budget weekly. So keeping a small garden with herbs is fully easy and can be maintained yearly if you have window stall in your home. The pop of color and freshness herbs bring to dishes makes them a winner in my book.

The IOC will not Allow Athletes to Protest at Tokyo Games

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently announced that athletes will not be allowed to protest on medal podiums or field of play. I’m not convinced that Olympic officials have the right to make this decision. When the decision pertains to the health of athletes and the organization of events, then their word is the law. However, freedom of assembly has nothing to do with sports.

Many countries have freedom of speech, but less specify freedom of assembly. There are over 20 countries that have this particular right and all of them participate in the Summer Olympics. The officials made this decision, seemingly, in response to Black Lives Matter protests, which have grown significantly in the last year. However, consider the fact that in the last year there have been massive civil rights protests worldwide.

For example, the women’s strike protests in Poland. Since October 2020, women in Poland have been at the forefront of the fight for their bodily autonomy. I won’t say that no one in the United States is talking about this, because that’s not true. However, understandably, the strike has not been top news. When you compete at the Olympics, you’re given a rare chance to address the entire world. Think of the support that could be generated for important civil rights issues if people were allowed to use this world stage.

On a recent episode of The Right Time with Bomani Jones, Bomani Jones had this to say about the IOC’s decision, “You guys are setting yourselves up for disaster. You have decided that you are going to create martyrs.” Bomani goes on to make the point that, after someone has won the gold medal, there isn’t much for them to lose. The IOC could take the physical medal away from the athlete, but the entire world would already know that you’ve won. People are going to stand up for what is right and what is important to them regardless.

If the Olympics are being held in a country that does not allow freedom of assembly, then they can deal with their own athletes, and other countries can deal with their athletes in accordance with their laws. I recognize Olympic officials have a tough job. It has to be difficult setting rules when you’re trying to accommodate over 200 countries with different laws. I am simply suggesting that they make their lives easier and keep the decision making to athletics.

Change, Multiplied

by Leslie MacKenzie, blog 6

Six years ago, Transition Longfellow hosted a year-long discussion group we called “Sustainable Finance, Sustainable Life.” The goal of the group was to talk about how members could bring their finances in line with their sustainability values.

The conversations were wide ranging, covering questions such as:

  • Does the way you spend your money and your time reflect how you value the environment?
  • How does our consumer culture make it difficult for you to make the changes you want to make?
  • How would your life look different if you used less fossil fuel – if things slowed down?
  • What would a steady-state (sustainable) economy look like? One that does not consume more resources than can be recreated, that doesn’t “borrow” from our children’s future?
  • How can we invest our money and resources today to ensure a future for our children tomorrow?

(Looking back on that list, these were prescient questions for what we would face in 2020. What happened when the world slowed down? Quite literally, we could breathe again!)

In its first year, the group focused on personal changes – how people budgeted, where they banked, how they invested. In its second year, we went broader – how do we create bigger change in the world.

The Power of Influence

I remember sitting in a circle one evening in the church basement where we met, talking about our “circle of influence.” Who do you know who you might influence with the information you had been learning? Where might you bring in a new perspective or new ideas?

When we first went around the circle, most people said they didn’t have any influence, or maybe only with their immediate family members.

man woman talking
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels
grandma granddaughter talking
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When it was my turn, I shared that I had been very concerned about the fact that the City of Minneapolis did its banking with the #1 home foreclosure bank during the recession of 2009-2011. This bank had done tremendous harm to our community and why were we not banking with a local bank with a better track record?

My City Council member had regular coffeehouse hours for constituents, so I went for a visit. I brought with me a packet of information about Sunrise Bank, a B Corp (a social benefits corporation), a certified Community Development Financial Institution, and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. B corporations balance purpose and profits to drive “a global movement of using business as a force for good.”

I suggested he look into changing how the city banks and that he consider Sunrise as an option. (I also told the bank I would be talking with him.) He said the city would be examining its banking relationships at some future date (which I thought at the time would be sooner rather than later.)

Now we went around the circle again and the stories of influence potential were bigger. One woman said that her employer had recently surveyed employees about their retirement options. She hadn’t responded but now she would. Family members, neighbors, church friends, employers … everyone could think of someone. And everyone committed to talking to someone about something they had learned.

Lots of Ways to Create Change

For many people, when we think of the need for change, we think of protests and lobbying. Those are two ways that we can work for change. But some people are just not comfortable doing that, whether its fear, anxiety, uncertainty, shyness, or because they believe those techniques are ineffective.

There are other ways to move change forwardeven if you are shy.

Everyone has a circle of influence. Even if your personal circle is small, it may include people who have a larger circle of influence. Sometimes it takes just one person in the right place to start a trickle of change that later becomes a torrent.

Influence is not the same as access. Just because you can talk to someone, that doesn’t mean they will listen to you or act. Relationship and readiness are going to factor into that equation.

But rather than think there is little you can do, it may be more empowering to think that there is something you can do within your sphere of influence, and like a raindrop in a pond, it can ripple out.

Learn More

For the shy and anxious among us, you may find inspiration and direction in Frances Moore Lappé’s book, “You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear.” Amazon reviewer Trish Boyles said:

“This book is unbelievably timely and written in such a way that its inspiration easily translates into personal understanding and action. We truly are living in a culture of fear, and though the recognition of that is an important first step, “You Have the Power” explains the necessary subsequent steps we need to break out of that culture and live our lives in a powerful, authentic way… Like so much of Ms. Lappe’s recent work, the underlying sensation that change IS happening further inspires the reader to re-view the way he/she looks at fear. A society changes when individuals change, this book is a guide to making that individual change.”

For a more academic – yet still highly readable and practical book that touches on the power of influence, see Doug McKenzie-Mohr’s, “Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing.”

Mindfulness Matters

The past few weeks I’ve been feeling stressed from the demands of working full-time, going to school, volunteering, and staying connected with our four children (two live on the east coast). Adding to the mix is the need to clean the house, do laundry, and other obligations that pull my attention in too many directions. But, today I realized what was missing. I need to get back to practicing mindfulness meditation! When I practice mindfulness regularly, no matter what is going on in my life my stress level dissipates.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BGhN9AzmuEG/?taken-by=salvatore.betsy

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of being. When you’re mindful, you purposefully pay attention to your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Instead of rushing from one thing to the next, being mindful means you’re living in the present and awakening to your experiences. The practice of mindfulness meditation teaches you how to cultivate awareness, which reduces stress.

My introduction to mindfulness was through my employer’s wellness program. At work, they offer a weekly mindfulness meditation class over the lunch hour. The mindfulness training is compatible with the aim of the wellness program—to enhance employees’ well-being.

A small group of people meets weekly for a one-hour session of guided meditations, compassion practices, and breathe awareness. The instructors provide examples of ways to integrate mindfulness into our daily lives—which trains our brains to live in the present moment. Because the class is not offered over the summer months, I’ve gotten out of my routine.

Principles to start your day off on a positive note
While I’ve abandon my mindfulness practice for the last month, I continue to use the tips from The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Dr. Amit Sood, MD, to start my day with good intentions.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BGhNgodGuCq/?taken-by=salvatore.betsy

Dr. Sood says, “Your attention is like a muscle; working it out makes it stronger” (53).  He recommends beginning each day by focusing on one of the Stress-Free Living principles. So, I added them to my google calendar. I receive a reminder every morning at 8:15 a.m. They help me to start the day off on a positive note. The following list includes the assigned principle for each day:

Day of the week Theme
Monday Gratitude
Tuesday Compassion
Wednesday Acceptance
Thursday Higher Meaning
Friday Forgiveness
Saturday Celebration
Sunday Reflection and Prayer

 Benefits of Mindfulness
There are both physical and emotional benefits from practicing Mindfulness. The techniques help to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Lower pressure
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve symptoms of anxiety

Practicing mindfulness has been a positive experience, and many of the group members agree. When I practice regularly I am able to focus on and enjoy everything that I’m involved in. I feel more like I’m living life, rather than rushing through it.

For the Writing and Designing for the Web I course I designed a “Mindfulness Matters” website. We needed to provide a handout for the class on presentation day, so I created this one-page Mindfulness Matters Tip Sheet.

When I meditate, I find the practice beneficial for juggling a busy schedule. Give it a try! You, too, can reap the benefits of mindfulness meditation.

What tips do you have for dealing with the stresses of a busy schedule?