Online Radio Show -- Finding Your Oasis

Interested in voluntary simplicity, living a green lifestyle, decreasing stress and finding fulfillment in your life? Want to explore some of the unique ideas that others have embraced, unusual inventions to improve our lives? Looking for alternative concepts to find your oasis in life, whether it be a mini-oasis to break up your day or a radical new approach to living? Subscribe to our newest online radio broadcast. Just email us at, and we'll provide you with a link to the broadcast site.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's No Secret: Boozing Is Good!

I hardly need to break a sweat to find abundant evidence that drinking alcohol is good for me.  Wine, beer and even hard liquor can boast as being “healthy” drinks, so long as we ignore the ample downside evidence. 
The latest study to boost our claim to being health-conscious when we consume alcohol comes from that bastion of beer-drinkers and self-proclaimed “hosers” – Canada. The study of 5,404  middle-aged people began with a baseline age of 50 years, and a much later follow-up, to determine the quality of life of moderate drinkers versus non- or heavy drinkers. 
Ignoring the methodology and correlational flaws of the study, and even discounting the definition of “middle-aged” to include people in their late sixties, the study did show conclusively that those people who enjoyed at least one drink per week and up to 3 or 4 drinks per day reported a better quality of life than those who did not indulge. 
Add onto this study the documented benefits of wine on the cardiovascular system, and its ability to raise good cholesterol while also providing a surge of antioxidants fore our system, and one could be tempted to raise a glass in celebration of inebriation!  However, studies also show that overindulgence decreases the gains made by moderate consumption of wine.  Additionally, wine increases triglycerides in the blood.
The belching, beer-bellied, stained tee-shirt wearing Bud or Canadian drinker may wish to gloat, after hearing that beer may be able to ward off Alzheimer’s and diabetes, while supplementing our body’s calcium needs and supply of anti-oxidants.  But instead of gloating, over-consumption of beer may, indeed, be the cause of the ample waistline, since it is full of empty calories.  Light beer won’t save you from the negative impact of drinking, though, since, in the ultra-low calorie beers, the nutrition found in the grains may be reduced.  Regular light beers, on the other hand, are only about 30% lower  in calories than regular (140 versus 100).
That leaves hard alcohol. It, too, can claim to be good at increasing good cholesterol in your blood.  But it carries the reputation of contributing to liver damage, including liver cancer. In middle age, when most of us are more susceptible to heart and blood disorders, the moderate consumption of hard liquor may be more beneficial than harmful, if we set aside the high caloric intake associated with hard liquor and soft drink mixes. 
However, the balancing act between healthy and unhealthy impacts of drinking leads directly back to the study that shows a better quality of life in moderate drinkers than non-drinkers.  Could it be simply that we enjoy a higher quality of life when we socialize and have a network of friends (which is when we consume most of our alcohol)?  If so, could the key to a better quality of life be found more in drinking up friendships and community or family participation than in drinking up our favourite alcoholic beverage?

Friday, August 3, 2012

You Are Nothing More Than A Pebble On The Beach

I admit that I probably am too much of a romantic, given my rough-and-tumble background.  But, walking along the beach near my cottage yesterday, I couldn’t help noticing, not the endless wave-driven layers of pebbles blanketing the sand, but the variety of pebbles in the collage.  Millions of pebbles.  No, more like hundreds of millions.
Our lake is unique.  Lake Winnipeg has been gouged out of the landscape by Ice Age Lake Agassiz.  It left a sizeable depression in the prairie, making it the third-largest Canadian freshwater lake, and the eleventh largest in the world. But Lake Winnipeg is found right along the dividing line between the limestone rubble and bedrock of Manitoba/Saskatchewan and the pre-Cambrian shield granite of Ontario.  Accordingly, on the sandy beaches of this lake, we find an eclectic mix of pure quartz, feldspar, mica, slate, shale, granite and limestone (fossils included).  Each rock type has a different density than the other, and different flaws, strengths, cracks or fissures.
I picked up stone after stone for nearly an hour, examining these rock fragments that had been buffeted by the same water, the same ice and the same wind and rain as every other pebble on the shore.  Not one was the same as the next.  Nor did I expect them to be the same.  Yet, I could not help marvel at two things:  1) How supposedly the same items, in the same environment could be so uniquely different and 2) How we generally look along these lakeshores and see sand, or rock or water, as a conglomerate, but fail to appreciate the differences in each granule, and the beauty in the individualism.
As hard as rocks may be, they are eventually shaped into something special and different.  Yet, as fragile as we humans are, we expect that everyone will think like us, agree with us, and conform to our standards and beliefs, regardless of their backgrounds, the buffeting they took through life and their particular toughness or weakness.  We expect others to be us, but resent it when they usurp our special place in the world.
Anyone in a medium-sized family can attest to the truth that no two children – even those born as identical twins – end up precisely the same.  That is because there are nuances in the way that they experience life, the way they are treated and the information that they absorb.
Don’t believe it?  Step into your living room, and take a picture.  Now go to the other side of that room and take another one.  Upload them to your computer, and examine them.  Do you see precisely the same thing in the same way in each picture, or is everything viewed from a different perspective?
The problem with each of us is that, no matter how close we may be to another, each hears and sees the world from that specific vantage point.  An identical twin talking to her mother in the kitchen may not be heard by her sister in the next room, or the mother’s response may be missing a key inflection of the voice, or the nuanced hand gesture that went with a comment.  So now that twin has a unique experience that impacts uniquely on that person.  It is the proverbial Chinese cliché regarding the beating of a butterfly’s wings.  Everything thereafter has been altered, regardless of how miniscule the change may be.
In our own lives, realization of that impact of minor adjustments to experience is critical to finding our oasis in life.  We all need to seek out, not our neighbour’s dream, but our own.  We are special.  We are unique.  We have ideals and aspirations that we may not have fully understood, yet.  But to attempt to mirror the supposed successes of your friends is only to invite discouragement, when you discover that it is not as fulfilling for you as it seems to be for someone else.
Your co-worker has a Lexus.  So you must need one, too, to be happy.  Your doctor vacations in St Kitts.  So you must go there, too, to be a success. You read about this life of excitement living in the Far East, so off you go, only to find that you are lonely and disheartened, because your family and friends are more critical to your enjoyment than you realized.
You are nothing more than a pebble on a remote beach.  I, too, am nothing more.  But, for me, that is more than enough, because I have learned that, being a pebble, I am unique, individual, marvellous and irreplaceable.  So are you!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Live Life Vivaciously, Not Vicariously

On August 31, 1997, the world wept when Princess Diana died. “Such a tragic loss.”  “She was a great humanitarian.” From children to adults, the response was universal and overwhelming.  Yet, Diana contributed less to the betterment of the world than dozens of other contemporaries.
On September 5, 1997 – less than a week later – Mother Teresa also died.  While devotees and scores of others mourned, there was not the public weeping that was heard when the princess passed away.  Yet, Mother Teresa, had devoted the vast majority of her eighty-seven years to serving the poor of India. 
Why do we identify so strongly with Diana, and not with Mother Teresa?  Part of the reason is the glamour and beauty associated with royalty, and, in particular, this youthful princess.  Furthering the sense of identification is the reported stress and strain that her marriage placed on her, and her apparent devotion to her children.  Many women related to the marital issues, and many men admired her physical attractiveness.  She was public property.
Mother Teresa, on the other hand, had several negatives associated with her, particularly for non-Catholics.  She was far from physically attractive, and toiled in relative obscurity.  Few identified with her.
However, Diana is only a lightning rod for the power of vicarious living.  A whole world of people hang on every word and action of their favourite movie star, sports hero or singer, regardless of the moral failings or negative tales of that person.  Think of Elvis, or Kobe Bryant, Charlie Sheen or Tom Cruise.  The Tom Hanks, James Stewarts and Steve Nashs of the world – positive role models – are admired, but seldom worshipped.
In large measure, we live vicariously through these high-profile characters, and, lacking the excitement and glamour that they seem to exude, we live our lives vicariously through them.  More specifically, we revel in their exploits, as if to say, “Ha, I wish I could do that, too.”
Time and again, locals law enforcement in cities across North America are baffled by the support that outlaw motorcycle gangs receive, even though it is well-documented that many are involved in the most heinous of crimes.  Lives are ruined through drug running, prostitution and other vices – crimes for which many bikers have been committed.  Yet, many people actually admire this so-called rebellious spirit.  It is less rebellious than deviant.  Tens of thousands of middle-aged men can hardly wait for the day when they purchase their own Harley and pretend to be tough renegades.
Social psychologists suggest that we choose this vicarious way of living through others because we want the excitement, but not the risk.  We love the romance of the outlaw life, but wouldn’t dare to think of being part of it.  And we seek this release because we have trapped ourselves in a life that is not inspiring.
At most, we buy the fancy luxury or sports car, or the elaborate technology.  We lavish our attention on it, as if it represents a major release and escape for us.  To some degree, it does. We want freedom and exhilarating experiences, but we are limited in our ability to involve ourselves in such a life.  We follow the same path in our lives each day, but feel frustrated by our powerlessness.
Reading about those superstars or celebrities enables us to imagine, without expending the effort or taking the risk of actually involving ourselves in the world.  So long as we choose to be armchair athletes or recliner risk-takers, we sacrifice little, except our own chance at a fulfilling life.
If we admire Diana, why not get involved in charities, and emulate her?  If we think highly of Eli Manning, why not get involved in coaching a youth football team?  If we love Lady Gaga, why not get together with friends and do a little karaoke?  We don’t have to be superstars in any field, but we become stars in our own lives when we get involved, rather than letting anonymous celebrities live our lives for us. Life should not be lived vicariously.  It should be lived vivaciously, with effervescence.