Line-drying Laundry

I already wrote about clotheslines, but that article is ancient now; I wrote it for a college class in magazine writing in 1995 and later put it online.  Line-drying all my laundry is something that still works for me, and now that I have 20 years of experience, I have even more to say about it!  I’m trying to avoid repeating myself, though, so read my older article, too.

The evidence is mounting that clothes dried on a clothesline last longer: Read more…

Perceived Stress Scale

Although I am discussing my work here, the point of view is my own, and this is not an official statement of the Pittsburgh Youth Study.

I recently helped write a book about the research study for which I am the data manager.  We analyzed data collected from 1,009 boys over 13 years, and we learned a lot of interesting things, but there is one finding that nudges me on an almost daily basis:

The level of stress experienced by a boy’s primary caretaker correlates with his tendency to commit crimes.  (The study interviewed the primary caretaker as well as the boy until the boy finished high school.  For about 90% of our boys, the primary caretaker was the biological mother.)  Most notably, boys with stressed-out parents are more likely to persist in committing crimes year after year, and boys with parents who are coping well are more likely to try a crime once but then quit, compared to boys whose parents have an average stress level.  When the two things (stress and crime) are measured at the same time, of course you could argue that the boy’s crime is causing his parent’s stress rather than the other way around!  But in a multi-year study like this, we’re able to compare things across time, and we found that parental stress in one time period predicts the boy’s delinquency persistence or desistance in later time periods.

Now, it’s important not to stress out about this!  I mean, worrying that my overwhelmed and too-busy feelings are going to turn my little boy into a criminal is not going to make me a better mother!  The constructive thing to do is to remind myself that pushing myself to the limit all the time and denying my own needs actually makes me the kind of mother who suddenly inexplicably (from his point of view) starts crying and shrieking at him for some minor infraction.  In fact, reducing my stress level is better for my child as well as for me.  That’s good news!

UPDATE:  I found the Perceived Stress Scale online!  Please click through and answer these questions for yourself.   The higher your score, the more you deserve some help and positive changes in your life!

7 Things I Don’t Do

These aren’t necessarily things nobody should do.  They’re things I don’t do, and I’m glad I don’t, and I’m going to explain why.

1. Cell phone.  I do not own one and very rarely use one.  I spend most of my time in my home or my office, both of which are equipped with landline telephones and voicemail that can be checked from any phone, so if I’m not there when the phone rings I can get your message easily.  I make plans and stick to them so that there’s no need to call my friends all the time to say, “I’m here; where are you?”  When I do want to call someone while I’m away from home, there are still pay phones in many places, and a lot of people/businesses will let you borrow a phone for a local call, so it’s just not necessary for me to be paying for my own portable phone and keeping it charged and not dropping it into a puddle and all that hassle!  I live in a densely populated, walkable urban area where there’s usually somebody around in case of emergency. Read more…

Optimal Oatmeal

This is the breakfast that works for me in chilly weather!  I have a fast metabolism, and prolonged hunger makes me dizzy, so it’s important for me to eat enough breakfast that I feel full until lunchtime.  This breakfast also is high in iron, which was especially important when I was anemic while pregnant and nursing.  Oatmeal is supposed to help increase milk supply for nursing mothers.  It also has lots of fiber for good digestive health.

This recipe is vegan yet rich and creamy.  It’s convenient because all the ingredients are shelf-stable, so I can make it even when we’re running low on fresh stuff.  Most of the ingredients are inexpensive in bulk at the food co-op.

UPDATE: I’ve slightly adjusted my oatmeal habits since I first posted this recipe in 2009.  I used to use flax seed oil, but after one bottle went rancid I lost my taste for it.  Then I was buying flax seeds and grinding them in the Magic Bullet, an appliance that didn’t work well enough for us–grinding flax was one of the few things it did well.  Then I got into coconut oil.  I love the flavor of coconut, it’s supposed to have health benefits and at worst is a saturated fat similar to butter, and it stays fresh for months at room temperature!  So now I always add a glob of coconut oil to my oatmeal.

I don’t measure anything.  I don’t see why anyone would want to make a recipe that involves measuring first thing in the morning, while waiting for the coffee to be done!  Just eyeball it!

Put into a bowl

  • quick-cooking oats (I like this kind because they can be cooked in the bowl, instead of gooeying up a pot)
  • almond butter or cashew butter or peanut butter
  • raisins and/or chopped dried apricots and/or frozen berries
  • sorghum syrup (huh?) or molasses
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • ground flax seeds (huh?) or flax seed oil or coconut oil

Add boiling water until it’s sort of flooded.  Stir thoroughly.  Keep adding water and stirring until oatmeal reaches desired consistency.  I like it pretty thick and chewy, sort of like oatmeal cookie dough, but warm.


Also check out my recipe for Fast, Frugal, Fruit-Flavored Oatmeal.

Visit Healthy Vegan Friday for more delicious recipes without animal ingredients!

Early Encounters with Variables

I’m a research data manager: I spend my days working on various levels of the process of converting people’s responses to questions into numbers in the computer.  It’s not the career I expected, and it’s not a career most people immediately understand (the scene at my high school reunion: “So Jason is a police officer, and Kyle is a brain surgeon, and Rebecca is a…what did you say, again?”), but I enjoy it.  Funny, I thought I didn’t like math!  But you see, it’s not really about math; it’s about variables.  A recent online mom discussion about whether children should use computers led me to reflect on what I learned about variables at an early age and what my son is beginning to learn now. Read more…

Explaining the G-20 Protests to a Preschooler

It’s been one week since Pittsburgh hosted the G-20 economic summit.  The demonstrations against it and the police reactions to those demonstrations were a lot milder than they have been at previous summits in other cities, but there was some violent conflict and questionable conduct on both sides–check out the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or Pittsburgh City Paper for detailed coverage.

My son is 4 years 9 months old.  Upon hearing that he went to school and I went to work last Thursday–when violent clashes came within blocks of his school and my office–several people have asked me how I explained the situation to Nicholas.  It really wasn’t difficult! Read more…