Thursday, January 24, 2008

Money, A Memoir

As women, we tend to be more emotional – especially about money. Liz Perle explores those emotions in her book Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash.

It’s an interesting journey, allowing Perle to exorcise many of her own demons about money and what she expects of it. I imagine that many of us have the same – or similar – emotional issues with cash. Perle does too – and proves it by an impressive array of interviews with women across the economic scale.

It’s amazing to me that no matter the socio-economic scale, the emotions were basically the same: fear, anxiety, longing for security and comfort we think money can bring us.

In her prologue, Perle writes, “for the most part, it was maturity and experience that created harmony and acceptance. … The women I found who had the healthiest relationships possessed an honesty and a clarity about what money could, and couldn’t do for their lives. They’d managed to unpack their emotions from their finances, and they took care of themselves with confidence.”

The rest of the book recounts her journey to understanding why some women have a healthy relationship with money, what precipitated her own unhealthy relationship, and in the end what she learns she can and cannot expect from money.

I found Money, A Memoir somewhat uncomfortable to read personally – I don’t have the emotional attachment to money Perle does/did. Instead of putting my trust in money, I'd rather put my trust in God – the personal, loving God of the Bible whom I know through Jesus.

Bottom line, it’s worth the read. It prompted me to examine my thoughts and feelings about money.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Learning to Let Go

This is something I wrote several years ago - but a great reminder for me today as I look at my family, my volunteer work and my business....
Oh, letting go is hard - especially for perfectionists! But, if you're going to build a successful business, then you've got to learn to let go.

Let go of the perfect house.
The dishes may sit a little longer than usual.
The toys may pile on occasion.

Let go of the perfect business.
You won't have all the time in the world to work. Pick your priorities carefully.
Some things will not get done, or will not get done as well as you'd like.

Let go of the perfect family.
Determine to take time to make memories with your children, but don't feel the need to be their entertainment. It's better for them developmentally, and better for you emotionally.

Learning to let go is hard. Today, decide one thing you can let go, so you can focus on your family or on your business.

Mine: I'm taking the rest of this afternoon off to take my children to the pool. We'll create memories, and be so exhausted we'll all drop into bed tonight. I'm letting go of clearing out my e-mail box today, which is clogged with e-mails from the weekend.

What are you letting go?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Twinkie, Deconstructed

Most books I’ve read about our food supply are written by those who moan and groan about all the processed foods we Americans eat and advocate eating locally. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle comes to mind.

Steve Ettlinger’s Twinkie, Deconstructed is not one of those books. The subtitle is telling: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.

His journey started with a simple question from his daughter about an ingredient in her ice cream bar one summer. His perspective is certainly sympathetic to the processed food industry – amazement that technology today can turn something mined into an ingredient that makes the Twinkie a Twinkie.

But I can’t agree with his awe of technology in food. Well, at some level I can, but it is rather horrific reading. I’m not a huge fan of Twinkies, but I can’t say I will ever eat one again after reading this book.

Ettlinger takes us on a journey through the ingredient list from top to bottom, taking us on tours of manufacturing plants and mining operations, explaining how each element makes a Twinkie a Twinkie.

Throughout the book, Ettlinger reveals his support of the processed food industry – just a sampling follows.

Chapter 4: “it is actually harder to extract B vitamins from natural sources than it is to create the synthetically. Even though they are chemically identical, lab-made vitamins are better because they are consistent in strength and quality.” (for enrichment maybe, but certainly not for vitamin supplements!)

Chapter 8: “Besides making Twinkie ingredients, pockle [phosphorus, oxygen, and chlorine] makes an unlikely group of products that includes pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and dyestuffs – but, as industry members say, has been used safely in food for fifty years.” (I’m just wondering, just how does the industry define “safe?”)

Chapter 10: describing soybean processing “The flakes… become shortening, lecithin, or soy protein isolate … - but only with the help of a mildly toxic, explosive solvent, hexane, which is obtained from natural gas and is a common component of gasoline.” (What? Most soy is processed this way, but not all. Don’t you think it’s worth searching for a company that doesn’t use a toxic solvent?)

Chapter 12: describing process of making cellulose gum “[R]olls of “blotter paper” … are ground up and tossed into a reactor vessel to be cooked in a chemical bath containing lye and sodium monochloroacetate, a pungent, toxic, while petrochemical generally associated with making dyes and herbicides rather than a snack food. The resultant mush is washed with water and solvents until it has been transformed into a water-soluble food product.” (I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking YUCK.)

There are more, but I’ll stop there. I found Twinkie, Deconstructed interesting and rather alarming too. Honestly, it made me want to follow in some of my friend’s footsteps and grind my own flour and make my own bread.

One other caveat – I think that a more scientifically-minded person would have found it easier to follow the details of this book. I’m not a scientist, particularly not a chemist, and had to skip over some of those details.

Despite that, Twinkie, Deconstructed was certainly worth the time to read – it made me think and I learned a lot about the processed food industry in our country.