Topics of Crunching

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sweet Little Lies

Don't be manipulated by the mean mom down the street! High fructose is just as harmless as the safety rating on the Land Rover driven by the lobbyist who thought this up!

Well, that's one way to begin, right? Start off strong. I have been, once again, scandalized by a television commercial, and you get to read the fallout. My goal here is to try to, in my own way, summarize all the conglomeration of facts and opinions about corn syrup into a easier read. It was painful, and I'm sure I've left a ton of important stuff out, but you can easily track it down if you want to. If you don't, here's a quick blitz on what you should know before you trust the messages put out by the Corn Refiner's Association.

First, here's some fun clips from our friends atthe Corn Refiner's Association. I recommend them ALL!

BURN! - A brother is reminded what a "doofus" he is with these corn-friendly factoids.

SIZZLE! - A man is put in his place by his corn-loving girlfriend.

ICED! - An awesome remake of the last commercial. That's how smart you and I are going to sound after this blog.

Radhia Gleis, a certified clinical nutritionist out of Austin, gave a highly enlightening talk on this subject (see it here, though it takes a hot minute to watch it). She contributes the rise in obesity during the 80s with the replacement of cane sugar with high fructose corn syrup (here refered to as HFCS). She insists that it does, in fact, affect your body very differently than typical white granulated sugar, derived from sugar cane. She points out that HFCS is a "synthetic food" because of (1) the chemical process used to create it and (2) the genetic modification used to produce most HFCS corn, both of which equal health problems. She refers to the introduction of HFCS in our diets as the start of a "veritable epidemic of obesity and diabetes" and talks briefly about the links between the amount of HFCS ingested and type 2 diabetes.

She also talks about the Farm Subsidy Act of 2002. Wait, what's that you said? "What this means, guys, is that our government is paying farmers to produce more corn." To boil it down, way down, our tax dollars are being spent on producing more and more corn to be used in HFCS and ethanol, even though we already have more corn than we know what to do with. Why? It's cheaper, easier, and it lasts longer on the shelf and can travel further without spoiling. Small farmers are put out of business, corrupt food monopolies are supported, and once again our health and well being is ignored as we consume corn in practically everything we eat. Don't believe it? Check out the ingredients on, say, the first 5 things you pull out of your pantry or fridge. Government subsidies may mean that our food becomes much more affordable, but our bodies - specifically our livers and fat cells - pay the consquences.

Or so they say. The American Medical Association says that HFCS is an unlikely cause for obesity and other conditions - or at least is as likely as sucrose (sugar). So maybe Ms. Gleis and the King Corn documentary have it all wrong. It's certainly possible. Nutrition is, by it's very nature, a guessing game, and the truth seems to change with each new study. I just hate to see this kind of shameless propoganda on my television and let those slimey promoters get away with it.

"Maze Commercial" (My personal favorite, but unfortunately, I cannot display it here it b/c it's been disabled by request of the Corn Refiners Association. Possibly because of all the spoofs on youtube from their last botched campaign.) If you only watch one video, watch this one!

Seriously? Do you think they are getting off on squeezing every last ounce of patriotic fervor out of us? Don't you think this could have been improved with some fireworks, apple pies, a 21 gun salute and a 20 foot American flag waving in the background? Bring out the marching band! Go Corn!

Please folks. Don't buy this nonsense. I'll leave you with a couple quotes from my wittiest source:

"Watching the food channel, I recently heard that the most delicious pork comes from Spain, where the swine are fattened up on an all-corn diet. This little tidbit reminded me of we Americans. Surely Americans are often enough referred to as pigs, but who knew we held so much in common with this lowly animal? It seems we and they are being fattened up for some strange slaughter yet to come." (Independent Lens)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Are you NovaSure about this?

This will be my second post about drug ads this week...think of it as a series about  pharmaceutical advertisements. They provide me with all sorts of fun.

I just saw this ad for Nova Sure.  Even through the misty haze that the pharmaceutical company's ad campaign, I could see that this procedure was causing a whole lot of trouble. It was the diagram of a woman's uterine lining being magically thinned out that made the "warning" light start flashing. All I know about that is that a thin lining means a fertilized egg can't implant and grow - which means that life is created only to be immediately flushed out. So I googled. I started with "Is Nova Sure abortive?" (why not get right to it?)

10 minutes of reading, and I cannot believe that this procedure, also known as endometrial ablation, is being advertised as a treatment for heavy bleeding. This is serious stuff guys! What I read tells me that this procedure was experimental about 10 years ago, and since then has only been offered as an alternative to a complete hysterectomy. Once you've had this procedure, you should not ever get pregnant again - not only for the sake of your potential children, but for your own health's sake. That means you will have to sterilize yourself even though you can still conceive for the rest of your fertile years.

And don't mistake the procedure for being much less than a hysterectomy either. To summarize (while attempting to use graphic language), a triangular heating element is inserted into the uterus to cauterize the lining permanently. If you don't know what that means, please look it up. Or watch this video, and look up the definition of cauterize.

Other potential risks and side effects:
- Fusing of one side of the uterus to the other
- Undiagnosed cancer (makes it nearly impossible to do a future biopsy)
- Terrible cramping - "take me to the ER" level pain - immediately following
- Tearing, burning, or infection of the uterus

I'm not saying that there aren't people who need this procedure. When faced with EXTREME menstrual bleeding because of clotting issues, there are all kinds of life threatening conditions that can result (I read about one lady who lost so much blood monthly that she was passing out at stop lights). In cases like that, this can keep you from the dangerous procedure and long recovery associated with a hysterectomy. However, there is no mistaking that this procedure is serious! Read this "enlightening" testimony from a very well spoken Canadian woman from 2001 (when this was but an experimental procedure). But I just can't believe that this is being advertised as a way to deal with heavy periods - for a normal menstruation that is simply inconvenient and otherwise uncomplicated.

And yes, it is abortive. To quote the promotional website for the procedure: "Because NovaSure treats the lining of the uterus, your chances of getting pregnant after the procedure will be reduced. However, it is still possible to get pregnant if you’re sexually active." Right, because didn't treat the ovaries or fallopian tubes, so you can still GET pregnant, but you just can't grow that life in your body, and the baby will be flushed out (best case scenario).  "After the NovaSure® procedure, it is still possible to get pregnant. Since pregnancy after any endometrial ablation procedure is dangerous for both the mother and the fetus, you’ll need to rely on long-term birth control after the procedure. " Great guys. Nicely put.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ZPGers may not have a leg to stand on

Let me begin by wishing you all a holy and fruitful Ash Wednesday. I will be marking this Lent with additional prayers and required abstinence from meat on Friday - but not with fasting. One of the nice things about being pregnant (though I understand why it's not required of me, since I was starving by 11 am after a huge bowl of oatmeal at 6).

Did the title of this post confuse you? ZPGer is a new term to me. I found it in a book I'm rereading: "Rome Sweet Home," by Scott & Kimberly Hahn (incidentally, the story of an anti-catholic Presbyterian couple who slowly comes to believe that the Truth is in the Catholic Church). You know I love to be cryptic so that you will ask a question, so today's question should be: What's a ZPGer? Answer: Zero Population Growth Advocate.

I like kids - so much that I hope to be able to have 4, maybe 5. Not exactly typical. A big part of this desire is the NFP that I practice (see last post, "Beyaz...") and how it's changed my view of life as a whole, but particularly the value of a child. Most people think this is a lot of kids - too many, in fact. I have been told that I shouldn't have so many children because I will contribute to the "overpopulation of the earth." I have two words in response to that: "Oh brother."

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this because I'm being selfish about it. This is not a "I can have as many kids as I dang well please" kind of thing. I believe (very much) in being responsible with my family choices - and I assure you, reader, that I will not have more children than I can handle. If two is where I stop, I will chalk it up to a prudent decision based on the emotional, financial and mental needs of the children I have already been blessed with. I say Oh Brother because this whole myth of our shrinking earth is malarkey. It's time for an episode of myth busters, semi-crunch style.

I want to share another video with you, but it's super controversial. Here's my disclaimer: This is not a sign of my hatred or disdain for Islam, Muslims, or any other population represented. These views are the views of the videos creator, and not my own. I share only to let you see a few numbers, because they helped bring the "population grown problem" into an entirely new perspective when I first saw this. Watch the whole thing, and remember that an implication that the video makes is just that, an implication. Try to see the good in this, not the bad.

My opinion of this video? It's taking a lot of liberties with these facts, and it has all the symptoms of a classic scare tactic. But it makes an excellent point, don't you think? I think the major "take home point" for me is that the ZPGers have already won over anyone who's culturally surroundings don't supersede their new idea. In other words, if your religion, creed, culture, or society doesn't demand you have more children, you're going to have less. Much less. So telling your college roommate, neighbor, or future spouse that having 6 kids is contributing to the over population of the earth is really quite ridiculous. Take your message to Niger, Mali or Chad (highest birth rates). Leave poor Minnesota alone.

Here's a persepective I stumbled across on Yahoo Answers that I find particularly interesting:

T. Seal, editorialist for the Arctic Times
Underpopulation is a problem where the economy is set up for growth. Of course it threatens a community if the population loss is great. That community will no longer thrive, nor will the economy. However, nature will be glad. Overpopulation is killing the environment through pollution and destruction of resources we depend on for survival, such as our atmosphere, clean air and water, good farming land, healthy ocean fish, etc. Nature tends to thin the overpopulated, but not the underpopulated. So, the ecologically correct answer is reduction of population is good and I'd like to see a significant reduction before we take out any more species' ability to survive in a world with us.

Sincerely, a seal.
Besides the fact that the seal can write better than me, I think he's a bit biased (not being human and all). I couldn't agree more - overpopulation is certainly contributing to the death of our precious ecological balance. But is the answer to stop procreating? Or maybe - crazy thought - maybe we should focus on raising ecologically responsible children?

I won't go on, because my posts almost always border on the ridiculously long, but here are a list of other (superficially and seemingly less biased) sources that say the same thing. View if you'd like.

If you like this post, check out "Follow up on ZPGers"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Beyaz: It's Good (?) to Have Choices

So remember how I said I was a crazy Catholic hippie? Here's something I do (or don't do) that strikes fear into the heart of just about every American woman. Brace yourself...

I don't take birth control.

Have you regained your composure? Are you thinking about how I will inevitably have 12 children, spaced precisely 9 months apart, and live in the poor house? Are you thinking of forming an intervention to keep me from ruining my life? Don't panic too much. Let me rephrase my previous statement:

I don't take ARTIFICIAL birth control.

My husband I absolutely practice birth control. I just don't take, use, or do anything to sterilize either of us. You may have heard of NFP - natural family planning. If you're anything like I was, you're thinking a variety of choice phrases. "Useless wishful thinking" was one of my favorite objections. "Old fashioned wives tale" was up there too. But this isn't your mom's rhythm method, or your crazy cousin's cycle beads. For the past year and a half, I have used something called FAM - fertility awareness method. I won't go into the details of how it works, other than to say that it's a series of precise measurements to determine, scientifically, when a female body is fertile. It's medical, it's easy, it's not any more work, and it's not based on "we'll see what happens." I won't go further than that, because the goal of this post is not to educate you on HOW to practice NFP. The point is to open your mind to the possibility that it might actually work just as well as any chemical out there.

That's right - when practiced well, the method I use is 99% effective. That's better odds than most pills. And it comes with some really great side effects, unlike your ortho-tri-whatever. For example, greatly reduced chances of the big four - uterine, ovarian, cervical and breast cancer. No one talks about how the pill, or any hormonal birth control like hormonal IUDs, increases the likelihood that one of your female organs will become cancerous, but it's huge. Other things that hormonal birth control does: decreases sex drive, increases weight gain, and (yes) aborts successfully fertilized eggs by preventing them from attaching to the uterine wall. Just to name a few.

But doesn't that mean that I practically don't have sex? Ever? Like, ever? True, there are about 10 days a month when we are mutually fertile (a hilarious statement, considering that men are always fertile) and we choose to abstain then. But I can pretty much guarantee that we have sex as many times a month as any married couple. I'd wager more. Go without chocolate for a month and see if you don't eat your weight in it when you get the chance again. I'm just sayin.

The funniest thing to me is how the American woman feels so safe with her little pill. Sex is now "safe" (translation: recreational). There's no way you'll get pregnant on birth control! Who does that happen to? Ask that of my sister-in-law. She has two boys, both of whom were concieved on the pill. Two different pills, actually, since the first one obviously didn't work. Oops. Birth control fails* all the time, guys. When you factor in human error, it fails for 8 out 100 women (

*Fail is a funny word. Let's talk about that.

It's not until you take the leap of faith and accept the natural fact that "sex makes babies" that you realized how royally f-ed up our views on pregnancy are. We are the queens of control, aren't we? The masters of instant gratification. We sterilize our bodies for decades, then - when we FEEL the time is right - we throw those meds in the trash and expect to be pregnant the next week. And if we aren't pregnant in 2 months, there is something wrong. Off to the fertility specialist** we go for more hormonal treatments! Now now now!

**This is not to say that there aren't couples who suffer from infertility - it is a serious and tragic problem that I have seen many women close to me suffer. But I'm sure they would agree that they often cannot get the treatments that they so desperately need because the lists are jammed with people who could very well conceive on their own.

Just stop to think about it - before the pill in the late 60s, people had larger families, but not huge. The 12 and 14 births that you hear about in your great grandparents generation were a choice, and that was limited to America. French women in the 1860s did not have that many children. Americans were raising children to help them survive a hostile landscape, not succumbing to the inconvience of multiple pregnancies. So how did we survive before our little miracle came along? Hmm... makes you think.

So after I did all this research and gather all the information you see here, I made the switch. Begrudgingly. More like I was dragged kicking and screaming by my own convictions - it was a violent battle). But then something happened that I never expected: it made me a better person. It made me question so much of my life, and what I now saw as the controlling, selfish way I had been living. Here's the best side effect of my choice: happiness. I am happier and my husband is happier (didn't see that coming did ya?). My marriage is stronger, my family is healthier, and I have a much better chance of living to see them be happy.

With such a profound change in the way I think about life, family, and pregnancy, it makes some of what our society puts out very difficult to swallow. Take this commercial, for example.

You hear, "It's good to have choices." I hear, "It's better to stay selfish as long as you can." You see a powerful, independent woman telling that stork to take a hike. I see a women denying the real power of her body and asking to be put in the dark about anything other than the here and now. You see freedom. I see chains.

Alright - bring it on. If I had a large readership now, I would expect anger! Hatred! Outrage! After all, that's what I gave myself when these ideas started. So if you're out there, and if you're angry, spill it. I guarantee there's nothing you can object with that I haven't already objected with. It's controversial and downright scandalous, and I didn't even talk about Catholicism once.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cloth Diapering Savings

I recently stumbled across a wonderful blog by a very cool mom. She, like me, is passionate about cloth diapering. And not just b/c it makes mama earth happy. Lauren's recent post (here!) was all about how much money she saved on diapers since switching to cloth. The most admirable thing? She did it all without owning her own washer and dryer - laundromat style! I'm spoiled with a new HE washer/dryer set and an energy efficent home. I was so inspired by her mathematics (didn't think I would ever write that sentence down) that I did my own. Keep in mind that this is for only one child, with less than a year under our moisture-absorbing, PUL lined belts.

Our savings with cloth diapers in the last 11 months:

Money spent on cloth diapering:
$200 for the brand-new stash of diapers = $200 one-time cost
$50 for accessories (pail liners, wet bags, etc.) = $50 one-time cost
HE Washer/ Dryer in house (3 loads/wk) = $.52/load, $72 over 11 months*
Rockin' Green HE Detergent = $.20/load, $9.40 over 11 months
TOTAL SPENT: $331.40 in 11 months

*Yes! This includes energy and water bills!

If we used disposables:
Average of 7 diapers a day at $.39/diaper (based on w/o shipping) = $900.90
TOTAL SPENT: $900.90 in 11 months

HOLY MONKEY! I have saved $569.50 in 11 months of cloth diapering! We live in San Antonio, and energy and water are cheaper, and ground water is warm, but it's still an astonishing amount to have saved. We use one size diapers, and have another baby due in August, so the savings will just continue to grow.

For those who are interested in getting these specific numbers for your washer and dryer at home, there's a great calculator here: (you need your most recent water and energy bills to figure out what rate you pay - very illuminating!)

Introduction and Disclaimer

I'm crazy. I like it. I hope you will too.

To elaborate, there are a few things you should know about me before you proceed. I will list them as topics, because these are the subjects that will dominate on this blog.

1. I am a Roman Catholic. I was a non-denominational Protestant, and I "converted" as an adult. Not for marriage, not for heritage. For theology. I follow all of the teachings of the Church, and if I disagree, I look deeply with research and prayer. So far, I have yet to encounter a subject on which I have not eventually come around. I will be unapologetic about this - regardless of whether or not it's acceptable to today's ever-changing rules of social engagement. That's one of my Church's best attributes - they have the integrity not to back down in the face of political correctness. This is not to say that I bear any feelings of ill-will toward my protestant brothers and sisters, or toward any belief. "Stand for something or fall for anything." Christ taught love - it's the most important thing I can do, first to my God, then to my neighbor. Won't you be my neighbor?

2. I am a wife and mother.  I remember when I wasn't, and I remember how obnoxious it was to talk on the phone with friends who were, being constantly interrupted by untied shoes and sibling assault and kisses for Mr. Bear. I remember the inward eye roll whenever they talked about whatever insignificant thing their child had accomplished that week. But I was unprepared to see how valuable those things become on the other side. Although I will temper myself to keep my childless readers engaged, I will also be unapologetic about this. My family is the center of my life, as dictated by God, and I couldn't be more pleased with that fact. Be prepared for the occasional mom post.

3. I am eco-friendly (but only as far as you can throw me) I find myself constantly faced with the challanges of my green lifestyle, and they have been known to get the best of me. It's not easy being green. I can excuse this partially by saying that moderation is key in my environmental strategy, but I know that won't cover it all. I don't know enough about how to reduce the carbon footprint to do it correctly (I'm learning slowly). And, more importantly, I get lazy. I'm counting on you, reader, to call me out on it.

4. I am a graphic designer. This makes me a geek. I love Apple, Adobe and Art. There are fonts that make me cringe, and there are certain grammar rules I just can't ever let go of, even in text messages. I spend my time learning coding and photoshoping mismatched heads on bodies. Feel free to make fun of me - I will probably enjoy it.

Still reading? Good! I haven't scared you off. That's nice, because I like you. Thanks for sticking around.

What exactly is a Semi-Crunch?

I'm blogging again. It's something I have done off and on for years, mostly for myself and a few loyal followers. But I've noticed that my posts on facebook are getting more frequent, more opinionated, and decidedly more...crunchy. I need a better outlet. One that won't annoy. One that leaves the viewer the option of simply not returning to the site if I offend their over-delicate and probably closed-minded sensibilities. One where they don't have to read through my posts to stalk their ex-boyfriend's pregnant girlfriend (who shouldn't be putting that information out there any way). Mainly, I need a place where I don't have to worry about burning someone with what some might see as opinionated offense, but I would call prudent integrity in my beliefs. So, welcome! Don't be scared, I don't bite.

I hope the question you are asking yourself is: what is a semi-crunch? If you are asking, thank you. Let me endeavor: First you must understand crunch. The ever-illuminating "urban dictionary" defines "crunchy" as:
Used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc.
To paraphrase (which inevitably means to slant my way, right?), crunchiness is characterized by a possibly overzealous love of Mama Earth and all her children, unless those children use styrofoam. This is decidedly not me, even on my best day.

Now, on to the semi. I have noticed, not only in myself, but in my husband, my friends and even some of my family, a shift. Maybe the change goes even further. 5 years ago, no one knew, or cared, about high-fructose anything. Most grocery stores didn't even sell reusable bags (in fact, they would give you a strange look for providing one to the bagger). You couldn't find a fast food kids meal that came with anything but fries, and substituting a side salad for yours was laughable. Free-range was a complimentary trip to shoot some stuff at that place off I-40, and hormones were a teenage problem - not a dairy problem. I would wager that is changing. A trip down the grocery aisles will tell you that people have paid heed to their bodies and their earth, even if it's incremental. Marketing, after all, is a wonderful measure of our society, and my hot dogs inform me boldly that they are nitrate free, nitrite free, and minimally processed (even if they are hot dogs).

Better to do a little than nothing at all. Better if all do some than if few do everything. I once had a nutrition professor tell me that there is only one fact about eating that you can rely on: if you eat something enough, you'll grow to prefer it. In the broader sense, if I feed my brain on selflessness, I'll want more. Yum.

I am only partially crunchy. Take my life as a mother: cloth diapers, but made with synthetic fabrics. Breastfeeding, but not on demand. Whole foods at home, but cheat at a restaurant. I feel like we'll run out of momentum if we try to save the world - so we start small and keep pushing. That is the semi-crunch. Start small, question everything, focus on moderation, and enjoy life.

Although it will date me (one of my all-time favorite phrases), I will admit that Semi-Charmed Kind of Life was the CD in the player of my very first car. In fact, it was playing as I wrecked that car after driving like a fool when I was mad at that week's boyfriend. So, it may make a strange choice of name, but the sentiment is too good to pass up. I hope that you are a little charmed, and a little crunchy, like me. I hope that you'll comment, complain, and cry for more. Mostly, I hope you'll enjoy and return.