Thursday, September 30, 2010

Too much information

A current survey suggests that Atheists or Agnostics tend to know more about various religions than those who actually are part of the religion.  This doesn't surprise me one bit.  As someone who struggles to reconcile my faith with the reality of what religion really is (something to maintain order and explain natural disasters, diseases, etc) I certainly have done a lot of research and reading.  The more information I find, the more questions I end up with.  It's a difficult, and oftentimes painful process.

The biggest link seems to be with those who grew up with some sort of religious background, so were already aware of what the religious claims were.  The article states that "American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.  'These are people who thought a lot about religion,' he said. 'They're not indifferent. They care about it.'  Many people seem to view someone who is unsure about their religious stance as ill informed and "lost."  Lost may be better described as overwhelmed and ill informed is likely not the case.  In fact, they are probably over informed.

As a Christian I think it needs to be acknowledged that when it comes right down to it there is a simple "accept what you're told without question" attitude.  We like to pretend that isn't the case, but if we are honest with ourselves we know this is more often the case.   And this survey is why.  It seems as though in the back of everyone's mind we realize that there are severe contradictions and unfulfilled promises that we can choose to overlook because it causes so much disruption.  It most certainly is easier to take the "ignorance is bliss" attitude.  There are many days when I wish I could just slip right back into my childlike faith.

But here is the deal.  Somehow we have to take that information and figure out if we can accept it, move past it and realize that many of the issues stemming from all these questions are man-made.  We have to look beyond these mistakes and imperfections and choose to either continue to find God in the world around us, in nature and the people we see everyday or not.  

It's your choice.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bad moods

People stress me out.  Not people in general, just those who are uptight and stressed about everything themselves.  Those who are constantly moving fast, making sudden moves and speaking in an almost desperate tone to get all the words out as quick as possible.  I just want to grab hold of them, give them a good shake, sit them down in a corner with a cup of tea and make them stay there doing nothing for half an hour.  For some reason, I feel they would figure out how to do something.

The problem I encounter is "catching" their stress.  The second that person walks into the room, there is a feeling or energy that consists of nothing but anxiety.  When others feel that, they can become as stressed out as the other person.  It's just too much for me to handle.  Crying is how I deal with overwhelming feelings and I sure cannot be doing that in so many inappropriate places.

Once I began to realize the effect of others' feelings and moods on me, it has caused me to wonder if I ever caused that much stress in other people.  I am fairly certain I wasn't so laid back in the past and had excessive feelings of all kind that probably spilled over onto others.  This makes me realize that while we may be having "one of those days," it's important to realize that what we're feeling can often be felt by others.  If we aren't careful to monitor our behavior, we could end up passing our negative "energy" onto  hundreds of people in one day, especially if you work in a service job.

How much are we to be held responsible for this?  If someone has a sudden outburst of road rage due to coming in contact with our bad attitude, is this the fault of the person having the outburst or the originator of the stressful, angry feelings?  While people may never be prosecuted for causing negative feelings, it sure does make you think twice about taking your stressed self outside the house.  When we are aware that how we feel effects everyone, not just ourselves, we can effectively monitor the behavior and attempt to keep things under wraps.

So as you go out today, regardless of your attitude, try to remember that most of the time everyone already knows how you're feeling.  Maybe you should just stay home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Veganism as a religion?

Lately I've been tired of my choice to be a vegan.  I get exhausted from trying to figure out special things for dinner, how to get the right nutrients, and trying to find something to eat when going out.  People are always bugging you about it as to "why?" or "what can you possibly eat" or even "I should just sneak some cheese in there and see what happens!"  It gets a little annoying and sometimes I just want to throw it out the window, say "to hell with it" and just eat the cheese.  Laziness is usually what I chalk it up to.

I think we can tend feel the same way about our religious beliefs.  Whether you're a Christian, Buddhist or Jew, the religion you practice has certain "rules" and ways of living that become a lifestyle choice, a part of who we are.  But there are times when you get tired or bogged down by that lifestyle choice.  It feels stagnant and like nothing but going through the motions.  Not to mention all the people "persecuting" you, making fun of your beliefs or just always asking the "why?" questions.  Throwing it out the window can seem a very welcoming choice, especially when you realize that the answers you have to those questions don't really sound very convincing.

These are the times when we must remind ourselves that we did make these decisions based on very passionate and (hopefully) informed grounds.  There is something that I have made a dedication to, and it isn't so easily cast aside by simply feeling weak in my beliefs for a few days.  I take this time to reevaluate why it is that I choose to walk the path I do, am reminded of the reasons why... And plow on through.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Favorite Fall Recipes

Fall+Soup+Rolls+Tea=One happy Alexis.

I absolutely adore Autumn.  Sweaters happen to be my favorite article of clothing and when it isn't bitter cold, I don't have to wear a coat with them.  The beautiful colors, the crisp air, the smells, harvest parties.. Ahhh.  It's so wonderful.  One of my most loved parts of Fall is making soup and rolls again.  Not that soup isn't "allowed" in the Summer, but in Idaho it tends to be a smoldering 90 degrees or more.  Adding a hot bowl of veggies and broth sure isn't going to help stabilize temperatures.  Rolls of course can be eaten any time of the year, but there isn't anything quite like a warm homemade roll to go with your soup.   

Tea is another "must have" during the chilly months.  Not only is it comforting, but it can often help keep the colds away if you purchase the right ones.  Chai tea is a spicy, milky tea that tastes somewhat like Christmas in a mug (or jar, or cup, or glass).  It's perfect thing to warm you up and give a dash of caffeine for studying.  I suggest purchasing Oregon Chai concentrate and mixing it with chocolate milk of some sort.  This ends up being my dessert more often than not.

In the spirit of the changing seasons, I am sharing a few of my favorite recipes.  Enjoy!

Potato Soup

    5 Potatoes, peeled and cube

    1 White onion, chopped
    1 tablespoon Olive oil
    Celery salt to taste (I use around a tablespoon)
    Nutmeg to taste 
    1 1/2 tsp Black pepper
    1 1/2 tsp Paprika (optional)
    1 heaping tbsp Corn starch
    1/4 cup Nutritional yeast
    3 cups Plain dairy-free milk
Put the cubed potatoes in a large pot and add water to where the water level sits about a half an inch above the potatoes. Set them on high and turn your attention to the onions.

Cook the chopped onions in a medium pan with a tablespoon of olive oil until they are limp, but not burned.

At this point the potatoes should be boiling heavily. Add the cooked onions to the pot. Then add the celery salt, nutmeg, pepper and paprika. Let the mixture cook another 8 to 12 minutes, depending on how  you like your soup. (The longer you cook it, the smaller your potato cubes become and the thicker your soup gets).  Drop the heat down to medium.

Put a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch and the nutritional yeast in a bowl, add 1/2 cup of water and whisk the mixture until it is smooth. Add this to the soup pot and mix well.  Add the 3 cups of soy milk fast and mix it up quickly. Let it sit on medium for around five minutes, but you don't want the soy milk to scald or it starts to separate. Drop the heat to simmer and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Serves: 6
Preparation time: 30 minutes

Dinner Rolls

    2 1/2 cup flour (I use unbleached white wheat)
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 1/4 teaspoon yeast (or one small package)
    3/4 cup warm water
    egg substitute to equal 1 egg
    2 tablespoons oil

Mix 1 cup flour with the sugar, yeast and salt.  Stir in warm water, egg substitute and oil.  Beat until smooth (this will be very liquidy).  Cover with a hand towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Stir in remaining flour and knead for about three minutes on a floured surface.  Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Divide dough into ~12 rolls and arrange in a greased baking pan or muffin tin.  Cover and let rise another 15-20 min.  Bake at 425 F for 8-10 min or until slightly brown.

Using a baking pan will make rolls with soft sides vs. the muffin tin which will make crusty sides.

Serves: 12
Preparation time: 45 min

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I have noticed that I have a serious problem when it comes to facing difficult things in life.  My first instinct is to run away.  Currently it's Anatomy, Chemistry and Modern dance class that are really causing me issues.  Anatomy and Chemistry are hard sciences and definitely not my strong point.  In fact, while I should be studying for a bones quiz, I'm writing.  I had to take a short break as I panicked about failing.  My instructor for Modern is wonderful, but requires so much individual exploration that it terrifies me.  Being put in a situation where I have to show myself and potentially fail (ie look like an idiot) is too much for me.  Knowing that I must go on Tuesdays and Thursdays puts fear into my heart.

Many of us have this "Fight or Flight" battle going on inside of us.  It has much to do with developing our character.  If we run away once, it will become easier to run again, and again... and again.  If we choose to stick it out from the beginning, that's who we become.  Someone who always pushes ahead, never backing down.  However, if you have been one who turns tail too easily but wants to change, it can take a long time to figure out how to work through things and stick them out.  That desire to get up and leave can get awfully strong, especially if you're exhausted and there isn't much more you feel you can do.  But what doesn't kill you usually does make you stronger.  Other times, running is the best thing you can possibly do.  Certain situations are such that it's better when you leave if there is mistreatment of any kind.  In fact, you're stronger for it and is often the more difficult choice to make.  And in the end, sometimes you just have to be carried through.  Erik encourages me through every difficult thing I encounter and I'm not sure how well I would be doing if it weren't for the support, the extra body to lean on.

My desire to turn and run is still there but I am fighting through.  I am passionate about my career goals and have to work extra hard to get to it.  Failure isn't an option for me, so neither is running away.  I will continue to fight through.

Wall-E May Be Near..

Last Friday, I was following a conversation underneath my grandma's Facebook status that read "How do we slow down consumerism in our country by helping build the economy in the U.S."  It was interesting to see how far that wildfire burned.  There were some very angry commenters, and others who encouraged finding the happy medium she was asking for.  Not only was I surprised by the burning passion some felt, but that this was done over Facebook of all things.  It makes me wonder where the future of political debate is.

This question of slowing consumerism and building the economy is a tricky one, that I'm not even going to attempt answering.  I do know that while watching the documentary "No Impact Man," I was very influenced by the way he chose to purchase only used clothing, local foods, and make his own soap (I would like to mention that I in no way see this man as the perfect "green" human.  His relationship with his wife really bothered me and there were times when I wondered about his mental health).  His actions really took a stab at consumerism and many people quite literally hated him.  The hate mail sent to his blog or otherwise was very explicit.  The quote from him that I really took to heart was "People become hostile because they don't want to hear that they should live without."  So true.  This is why budgeting is such a problem for people, why cutting up those credit cards is like tearing up your heart.  These actions point towards restraint which our country doesn't encourage.  We live in a society of immediate, constant satisfaction whether it be food, material possessions or sex.  Most want--and want it now!  

Repercussions are seen running rampant all over Western civilization.  Anywhere from 20%-29% of adults in most states are obese.  Landfills are overflowing and STD's are seen in alarming numbers of young teenagers.  Not being taught how to live without has some serious consequences, and if we can't learn how we may be seeing a Wall-E world sooner than any of us cares to.  

My contribution towards living without--I did my sweater shopping at Goodwill.  But I do have more kitchen appliances than necessary and have a hard time not constantly buying new things.  This will take some time.  But I know I don't want to have my planet covered in skyscrapers of trash and be going around on my hovercraft, overweight and detached from reality.  No, thank you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Potato Soup

Last weekend we decided it was time to have friends over for dinner.  Those attending were asked to bring some sort of bread, salad or wine (we ended up with a grand total of 6 different wines that night.. a record!) and we provided the soup, which happened to be potato since it's generally cheap and the weather had been a little chilly.  After inviting everyone, I realized that we have no chairs, no table, not enough wine glasses and my soup pot surely wasn't big enough.  In fact, the apartment isn't even big enough.  I wasn't quite sure what we had gotten ourselves into but dang it, I wanted to have people over!

I borrowed a huge stock pot from my good friends and neighbors, Chris and Christine and discussed how we could set up their card table and bring my little folding table out onto the balcony.  This sounded perfect and even if it was a little.. lacking, I was sure it would all work out.  It's hard to be judgmental of small spaces and lack of furniture when you're in college.

It rained.  All day it threatened, but around the time people started showing up with their delicious garlic breads, caprese salad and merlot's was when it finally let loose.  A nightmare considering my vacuum cleaner can reach every part of my apartment and not need to be unplugged.  Where these 15 people were going to go was beyond me.  But we did have food, and plenty of it.  If food wouldn't do it for some, there was enough wine to go around.  It turned out great.  Most went outside since the rain wasn't terrible.  We did in fact set up the card table and chairs, so anyone outside crowded around when it was time to eat.  Those who didn't want to be out in the cold (which  included myself) sat on the floor using the gigantic class coffee table.  And even though it was a school night, we were up late enjoying the company and conversation of one another.

I was reminded of all the shared dinners I experienced as a child.  Not just the typical Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners, but dinners after home group church, dinners with home school groups, and family to celebrate one obscure holiday after the other.  I grew up within a community who loved to share and eat (what better way to celebrate the birth of a new child than bring over a casserole).  It was our way of building and maintaining relationships.

Seeing all the different friends we have cram themselves into our small apartment, bringing food and drink to share and enjoying themselves made me the happiest I have been in a while.  As we build our own community, I'll have to keep in mind that there isn't anything quite like a simple time with friends.. or potato soup.