Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Have a go at the minister ... again

I remember once sitting at church in Singapore and felt myself getting hotter and hotter under the collar.

After the sermon I marched up to the preacher to say, "There wasn't ANY thing in your sermon for the single person."

The following week he told the congregation, "Last week, SP came up to me to say .... So this is what I have to say to the single person...."

Living in a 'family-friendly' culture, the singles can be forgotten even at church.

Last week I did it again, sort of.

I've been having some health problems. My husband was sorting out the screen projector for the service. The topic for the sermon was: How does God heal today?

"You're not going to give the example of the woman who was bleeding for 12 years, are you?" I asked the minister.

"Uh, well, yes I could have chosen that story from about 3 million examples, but no, I'm not using that story."

"Well, I was just saying to [husband], so many male preachers have preached from/about that passage and none would have a CLUE as to what it's all about."

I'm beginning to have an idea of what that woman was going through while I await tests to find out what's messing up my inside.

Meanwhile, it's iron tablets to the rescue.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Non-stick uniforms

Do you, like me, take your children's uniforms out of the washing machine only to see them sort of 'stand' on its own and wonder what sort of material it is made of?

No matter how much they have been wrung in the washing machine, they are still wearable without ironing.

Convenience to you and me perhaps. But something about these uniforms scare me.

To make anything 'iron-free' is to make it 'non-stick' so that creases do not set in. Non-stick means using that stuff they have been using to coat your pots and pans.

My son is moving from short shorts to long trousers next year and I cannot bear to think of all that non-stick uniform next to his bare skin.

But where can one get old-fashioned school uniforms these days? Well some 'research' came up with Clean Slate, for organic cotton (yay!) fair trade (better still) schoolwear.

Parents should be aware (and wary?) of the PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) in the family of PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) used in making non-stick uniforms. Put these letters into your search engines and you are likely to find industry-funded sites singing the praises of PFOA and downplaying its known and unknown side-effects on the body and the environment. So choose wisely which sites you wish to believe.

Make what of it you must this statement from a Washingtonpost.com report: "PFOA -- a key processing agent in making nonstick and stain-resistant materials -- has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals and is in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, including pregnant women. It has also been found in the blood of marine organisms and Arctic polar bears."

Well, you know how when children start school at the new term they all seem to fall ill with mysterious symptoms. Not severe enough to incapacitate them thankfully, but annoying enough to cause anxiety. It has been noted in various websites that the use of cookware coated with PFOAs often lead to flu-like symptoms. Apparently heating cookware to/above certain temperature results in certain fumes being released.

I put two and two together and wondered if it was the school uniforms that are making children ill at the start of the school term. My son wears organic cotton where possible or at least none of that non-stick/iron-free stuff, but when term starts, boom! suddenly it's all non-stick uniforms. And the boys in his class take turns to be absent from school from coughs and colds, etc.

Look what I found in this old newspaper item from Wales: Are school uniforms making kids ill?

Intelligent readers of this blog (yes, all eight of you!) must draw your own logical conclusions.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dry Skin Oily Skin

When you've spent most of your adolescent life (and your twenties, thirties and forties!) finding 'stuff' to rid your face of the grease that gives you zits, pimples or 'youth spots' (qing chun dou as we call it in Mandarin), would you not, like me, be taken aback when you are then told that your skin is 'very dry'?

So it was that when I used mum-in-law's birthday gift money to treat myself to a salon massage and facial, I was told, 'Your skin is very dry.'

But I don't like the idea of slapping cream and stuff on my face.

I was therefore chuffed to discover this helpful page from Lyrae's Natural. Lyrae's and Hankettes formed The Good Life Collective some years ago to market their natural and organic products.

The advice here is to use oil, like jojoba oil which I happened to have, and work it into the skin with the help of water. Simple. So simple.

I don't know if my skin has got less dry as a result, but it is much more shiny at times.

Psalms 104:14-15: He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

Such irony. After all these years of trying to cut down the shine on the face, I am told it is now too dry. I put oil on it and remember: God gives us oil to make our faces shine!!!

Why do we spend so much money on anti-shine cosmetics then? Who decided that matt was better than shiney?

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Friday, November 10, 2006

My son, my pension

Last Sunday at church I commended one of our oldest members on her very smart suit.

'O! Thank you, my dear! I bought this in America.'

I knew she was recently in America. She's 90-something and she tells me she wakes up each morning saying, 'Thank you, God, I'm still alive!'

She then went on to tell me how her son who is soon to retire had bought a retirement home in Palm Springs. He had arranged for her to fly first class with a companion to see his new home.

She has one grateful son (amongst others) who is mindful of the sacrifices she made while he was younger. A successful businessman now, he has seen fit to make sure her mother travelled in the utmost comfort to visit him.

She then commented on how my own son was growing. (She first saw him at two weeks old.)

'Look after him. He's your pension,' she said.

The truth is I grew up in a family and generation where people had large families because 'our children are our pension'. My parents used to boast about the half dozen children they had and how we were to grow up and make sure they were well looked after.

I cringed at school every time my teachers at school asked how many siblings we had. In a class of 44 pupils, I always had the most siblings. I was embarrassed.

There was the family planning programme in Singapore during my most impressionable years: "Girl or boy, two is enough".

Traditional Chinese families are not complete until the mother is able to produce a son. With the universal education of girls and an ongoing campaign to reduce family size, this family planning programme became, with hindsight, too successful.

In Singapore today, the government is trying everything within their means to get young couples to reproduce.

The fact is when my dad was dying, I really appreciated that I have five siblings to take the strain of caring for him. We took turns to visit him at hospital, took turns to pay for his mounting hospital fees, took turns to baby-sit his grandchildren, etc. It was the same when mum died. She was in and out of intensive care at hospital and the children and in-laws were kept busy shuttling to and from hospital, making sure that she was OK. (By this time, however, I was living in the UK.)

Neither my dad nor my mum had any pension to speak of. But they had six children who appreciate what they had done. With no NHS, we also paid for their (albeit heavily-subsidized) medical care.

Speaking at a workshop on ageing issues in Oxford some years back, I noted that so many societies do not have a pension system. Children were their pension and maybe we had to go back to that sort of thinking.

Looking at the problem of poverty in some countries, some sceptics say 'if only these people did not have so many children, they wouldn't go hungry'.

Having many children is not the cause of poverty in these situations. Having many children is a symptom of poverty. Where poverty means a lack of healthcare, a prevalence of malnutrition and therefore poor physical development, where infant mortality is high, where children do not get an education, where many hands are necessary to farm or tend livestock, having many children is the key to survival. It is merely an outworking of the principle of 'survival of the fittest', for those who have faith in evolution.

The next time we think about how we could eradicate poverty, let's think also of what we can offer these people in terms of a 'pension'.

Meanwhile, in the 'developed' world, we must also be mindful of what might happen if we do not 'reproduce ourselves'. In a welfare state like the UK, who is going to pay the income tax to fund pensions?

In a country like Singapore we have the CPF (Central Provident Fund, a compulsory savings scheme we pay into almost as soon as we start working). People then draw a large portion of these savings to finance the purchase of a property. A certain amount is ringfenced for converting to annuities when one reaches retirement.

There is also the thinking that when one retires, one could 'trade down', buy a smaller flat, and pocket the profit from the sale. However, a property is only worth its resale value. What would these properties owned by pensioners be worth if there isn't a younger generation who would buy these properties?

So, maybe I should not have doubted the wisdom of my parents. Our children are our pension.

Whether it is through providing directly for us (with or without first class flights thrown in), through maintaining the price of properties, or paying taxes to pay for my pension, our children are our pension.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Green Car for Husband ... Wow!

Must be doing something right.

Husband has decided that he will swap his gaz guzzler (not a Chelsea tractor) for a hybrid car.

He's finally seen the light!

Readers with a spouse/partner who does not seem to share your conviction about going green: hang in there!

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