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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Guest Post: Why Vegan

The following is a Guest Post by Ashley K.  
Wife, mother of four, and author of 
You can follow and like her Facebook page here.

Everything the world had to offer me I indulged in. Ice Cream, runny egg sandwiches smothered in cheese, a juicy steak, and the all American favorite, grilling hot dogs, burgers, and chicken on a beautiful summer evening. Where these foods came from or the process of how they got to my grocery store never occurred to me. And why would it? Meat, chicken, fish and dairy will always be available to us. Forever, right?

When I started questioning everything we are told, and doing an insane amount of research, it hit me how wrong I was. How wrong we all are. The very people who tell us what food groups to eat the most of, are only doing so in the interest of their own wallet. And we are single-handedly destroying our planet. 91% of Amazon destruction is due to agricultural farming according to The World Bank. 91%. Cows produce 150 Billion gallons of methane per day, and just so you know, methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2. All those cows need to drink water and do you know how much? 34-76 gallons of water are used annually due to animal agriculture.  Even if we eliminate fossil fuels, we will exceed the 565 gigatonnes CO2E limit by 2030 just from raising livestock. (Cowspiracy.com)

Breeding and raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, planes, and trains and any other means of transportation combined. Cows release about 120kg of methane each year. The effects on the climate from Methane is a whopping 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. And guess how many cows there are worldwide? 1.5 billion! For comparison, there are about 7 billion humans in the entire world. 805 million of those people are chronically hungry. If we stopped agricultural farming, we could feed every single starving person in the entire world. Well, you ask, what if all beef were grass fed? If all beef were grass fed we would need 3.7 billion acres of land. The U.S only has 1.9 billion. This still doesn’t eliminate the water usage and carbon footprint they leave behind.

According to onegreenplanet.org, we use 56 million acres of land for animal agriculture and only 4 million for growing produce. 70% of grain is fed to farm animals instead of people. The world’s cows eat enough food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people. Yup. That’s more than every single person on earth. What’s worse, we use 4,200 gallons of water a day to support a meat eater’s diet. In one year, that’s 1,533,000 gallons of water. A plant based diet only uses 300 gallons per day, only 109,500 gallons per year. One hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce. You could take showers every single day for two months. Or how about this: 5% of water used in the United States is from private homes, 55% is for animal agriculture.

To put things into perspective for you, one acre of land can produce 250lbs of beef. Think that’s a lot, huh? That same one acre of land can produce 50,000lbs of tomatoes or 53,000lbs of potatoes. And uses less of our freshwater supply. If we continue eating an animal based diet, we will eventually deplete our natural resources. Watching Cowspiracy on Netflix gave me a huge wake- up call and realization. Consuming an animal based diet is killing our planet.

The widespread animal cruelty, living conditions, and inhumane treatment of the animals we breed to consume is what initially grabbed my attention. I watched the documentary 'Earthlings', followed by the documentary ‘Lucent’. It was incredibly difficult to watch, I had to stop every ten minutes to take some deep breaths. I worked in a hospital for six years and would not be considered someone who has a weak stomach, but watching these documentaries almost makes me sick. It made me wonder, if people had to watch the animals being slaughtered before eating them, would they still eat it? Or what if they had to do it themselves?

This alone was enough for me to easily give up consuming any animal, but I am an emotionally driven person who had a massive emotional response to seeing something so horrific. Once I calmed down, I went in search of more factual reasoning to support my decision.

Let’s start with dairy. A cow won’t produce milk unless she has a baby calf. Most cows are artificially inseminated, purposefully kept pregnant to maintain milk supply in addition to given hormones. Once she gives birth, the calf is taken away from her within 48 hours so her milk can be pumped for humans instead of given to her baby. Because of how long they are hooked up to pumps, they often get mastitis and infections. Most dairy cows don’t live longer than four years, while cows in general live up to 15 years. They are then slaughtered and their meat is given to fast food restaurants. What becomes of her baby? If it is male, he is sold and used for veal. He is usually kept in a small pen, without sunlight and restricted movement to keep the meat tender. He is fed a liquid diet and slaughtered within four months. Female cow? The same horrible torture her mother endured. Let’s think about this for a minute. Dog milk goes to baby dogs, cat’s milk goes to baby cats, rat milk goes to baby rat’s but cow’s milk goes to baby humans? What?

As a breastfeeding mother, this information hit home. What if I was artificially inseminated against my will? Then after giving birth, my baby was taken from me and sold to be slaughtered. Meanwhile, I was hooked up to pumps and given hormones and antibiotics so I could produce 20,000 pounds of milk a year for another species. Then, ten months later, the process happened all over again and again and again until I died. All the while enduring cramped, horrific living conditions, bleeding nipples, and infection. All of that on top of the emotional stress of losing my baby.

We often get sucked into terms like ‘free range’ when shopping for eggs. But what does that actually mean? The picture below shows “free range chickens”.

“Hens on large-scale commercial cage-free farms are not kept in cages as the birds on standard egg factory farms are, but the difference usually stops there. Most still have their sensitive beaks cut off with a hot blade and are crammed together in filthy sheds. They never go outside, breathe fresh air, feel the sun on their backs, or do anything else that is natural or important to them.

They suffer from the same lung lesions and ammonia burns as hens in cages, as well as breast blisters from sitting on urine- and feces-covered floors. Male chicks are often ground up alive or left to suffocate because they don’t lay eggs and are considered too small a breed to be profitably used for meat.  While free-range and organic egg farms are technically supposed to give birds outdoor access, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided that “they may be temporarily confined” for “reasons of health, safety, the animal’s stage of production or to protect soil or water quality.” Many free-range egg farms take full advantage of this loophole by almost never allowing the birds outside” (PETA website).  Chickens are also really smart little things. They can recognize up to 100 faces, sleep, dream, and even purr like a kitten when rubbed.

While this isn’t the case for ALL farms, but the majority, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we were not meant to consume dairy. All the components in milk are meant to grow a baby cow, not baby humans. 75% of people are lactose intolerant. In fact, consuming too much dairy can increase your risk for heart disease. It is also the hardest for our bodies to digest and has a very strong link to cancer and disease. Eating eggs every day puts you at an increased risk for heart disease and increasing your blood cholesterol levels. Dairy also makes you age faster. Consuming seeds, nuts, beans, fruits and veggies are a much source of protein and vitamins. Consuming dairy has also been found to be the leading cause of breast cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and colon cancer. In fact, switching to a plant based diet can actually prevent cancer and in some cases reverse heart disease without medication.

What about fish? Do Vegans eat fish? No they don’t. Tons of unintended species are caught in fishing nets and die. They are known as bycatch. Hundreds of thousands marine turtles are among these victims. These beautiful creatures have been around for 100 million years and now six out of seven are on the Endangered and Critically Endangered species list. Simply from us fishing. In fact, it has been predicted that if we keep consuming fish at the rate we are today, we will have fishless ocean by 2048. Reading this made me realize how much something like that would affect my children, and their children. 

According to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), for every one pound of intended species of fish caught, there are five pounds of unintended species caught and disguarded. From Pelagic long line fishing in the Pacific Ocean alone, 4.4 million non-targeted fish are caught and killed. 3.3 million are sharks. I could dedicate an entire separate blog to this very complex issue because there is so much information.90-100 million tonnes of fish are pulled from the oceans every single year. ¾ of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted and animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean dead zones. If the Ocean’s die, we die. These issues are reversible if we could all stop consuming animals and eat a plant based diet. (Empty Oceans)

I can’t change the world, but the world is changing anyway and at some point we won’t have a choice anymore. We can’t ever have too much love and compassion and no matter what your driver is for choosing a plant based diet; emotional, health, or environmental, significantly reducing your meat and dairy intake goes a very long way.

Are you going Vegan?  Please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts and comments below.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Civility in Choppy Political Waters

I've written about learning to get along politically before (see Right Wing, Left Wing: Learning to Get Along) and while that post rings true, I felt the need to expand on it further and offer some specific examples of ways we can make purposeful decisions to get along with out friends across the political aisle.  I was inspired by an article in O Magazine in April called The Lost Art of Civility and the call for readers to "put your best foot forward this summer."

The article reminds us al what our parents and teachers taught us when we were little.  The one rule that was written on posters in our classrooms and the one rule we all associated with one regal color.  Yes, I'm talking about the Golden Rule.  The rule of etiquette that was to govern our lives and our interactions.  The rule that taught us

Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated 

This rule taught us that above all we were to be kind and courteous to those we interacted with.  It taught a generation to consider the feelings of others as part of our own.  It taught us that our actions didn't just impact others but that it would come impact us also.  It taught us to see ourselves in others.

The large implications for this rule is that it raised a generation that has largely been able to see through differences and find commonalities a between us.  It raised a generation that connected those commonalities and called for equality.  It raised the small Generation of Inbetweens (that were born after Generation X and before Millennials) that have been able to step back and say 

This Isn't How We Want To Be Treated, 
So Why Are THEY Being Treated This Way? 

It raised a generation that isn't afraid to 

But something has happened to this generation.  We have lost sight of our civility.  We have lost our ability to treat others the way we want to be treated.  Our parents have forgotten the rule they taught us.  We have forgotten to teach our Millennial siblings, coworkers, and children the rule that we were taught.  In our fight for equality we have forgotten to treat others the way we want to be treated.  

I believe we not only need to get back to this civility, but we HAVE to get back to treating each other with respect.  We have to get back to treating others the way we want to be treated.  How can we get back to this civility?  How can we work towards treating each other with dignity and respect, regardless of our differences in opinion and belief?  How can we set the Golden Rule example that we were taught so many years ago?  Here is a list of things each of us can do:

Ways We Can Be Civil...

1. Follow Conversation Etiquette.  
       - Listen politely                                     
       - Never interrupt
       - Maintain consistent tone and volume appropriate to the situation
       - Don't repeat points you've already made
       - No name calling 
2. Be Aware of your Body.
       - Maintain muted gestures (there is no need for arm flailing, fist air punching, pointing, etc)
       - Maintain Eye Contact
       - Keep you hands to yourself

3. Wait before you respond.   If we each just took a moment and thought about our responses before spurting them out we would have much more intelligent conversations.  We also need to wait to consider the implications for what we are saying and how they might be perceived. 

4. Put yourself in the other person's shoes.  If we all did this we wouldn't have the political turmoil we currently have because everyone would recognize each persons individual circumstance and understand why they feel the way they do.

5. Consider the Ripple Effect.  All actions (whether spoken or physical) cause a ripple.  If you treat someone poorly they will in turn treat someone else poorly.  Do you want your ripple to be positive or negative?  

6. Look for Goodness.  The "other side" isn't ALL BAD. Each side has moments of greatness that can benefit us all.  We just need to find that goodness and connect with it. 

7.  Act as though a child is watching.  If we all try to maintain behavior that we would want our children to imitate then we would surely be more civil to each other.

8. Continually Evolve.  It's ok to be open to new thoughts and ideas.  When you are talking to a person of differing political opinion keep yourself open to what they are saying.  This works for both sides.

9.  Know when to Speak Out.  A huge part of civility is knowing what's appropriate to the situation.  If your attending a Rally, March, or political action meeting these might be the times to speak passionately and with emotion.  Everyday conversations should be treated differently.  

10.  Maintain focus on Facts.  It's easy to skew opinion.  Its easy to get wrapped up in emotion.  Maintain your focus on the facts when discussing politics.  

This is not a suggestion to return to emotion-free delicateness where people are devoid of opinions.  This is a plea to treat each other with grace and dignity.  This is a plea to be Politically Correct in the way you speak and act around those that you disagree with.  Do you have any other suggestions for how we can go back to treating each other as we want to be treated?  Please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts and opinions below.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Generation of Non-Savers: Money Through the Generations

Let's face it, we're the generation of non-savers.  There's barely enough money to go around, how could we possibly SAVE any of it?  Sure, we save a thousand here, a couple hundred there, then BAM! the whole savings account gets swallowed by some trip to the Emergency Room where you get charged $2000-just-for-walking-in-the-door or some ridiculous not-covered-by-your-bumper-to-bumper-warrantee-that-cost-you-$2K-in-the-first-place car repair that ends up costing more than the car is worth.  Or, if your like our family, it's the random day to day expenses like $25 a week per kid in school lunches or $500 middle school field trips to Disney World or the $700 emergency vet bill for the crazy dog that ate 3 packs of gum that end up sucking the extra cash right out of our wallets each paycheck.

I guess that's one of the markers of our generation: money just isn't what it was for our parents or their parents.

How Did This HAPPEN?!
My grandparents were millionaires.  I'm not afraid to share that information.  Grandfather taught pilots in the Army, Grandmother stayed home with my father and uncles and volunteered for her local School Board.  The world was simpler then.  You didn't live on credit, you only bought what you have cash on hand for.  You didn't buy multiple cars, update your house furnishings every year,  or take lavish vacations.  That generation was smart.  They lived mostly debt free and within their means.  By the time they died my grandparents (even after spending years in a nursing facility) had more than enough money to Will to the rest of us.  It's like the universe knew we'd need them to save for us.

The key to my Grandparent's success was that the way they lived didn't reflect what was in their bank account.  As the generation that lived through the depression these people knew how to live on the cheap.  They knew how to stretch their dollar and they knew how to hold on to their dollar in case of economic turmoil.  They knew how to live frugally because they had to!

Our parent's generation was a little less smart.  They were the first real generation of Debt, where people had to buy on credit and where being frugal was no longer a necessity.  Of course they were college graduates (paid for by their well saving parents) and they got good jobs in their fields right out of college.  But life was more expensive.  Houses were more expensive.  Cars couldn't be bought with cash anymore.  And daily life expenses went up while incomes didn't grow proportionately to rising costs.  Don't get me wrong, our parents made out ok.  Saving modestly to help us through college, paying for tuition but not much else (telling us we needed to pull our own weight and work while going to school), saving enough here and there to provide us with happy family vacations, and keeping enough for themselves that they could partially retire in a modest home while working a part time job.

But their ability to save was hindered, not only because of rising costs but because of rising spending.  Suddenly, they were able to buy things that they didn't have growing up.  Consider this a partial rebellion from the generation of rebellers.  They spent money that their parents hadn't spent.  New washer driers that they couldn't pay for right away.  Cars that couldn't be paid for in full.  And a home that cost twice it's worth over the course of a higher interest 30 year loan.  Our grandparents probably watched them thinking "they will regret this later"... and they do.  Many of our parent's generation are doing what's called "aging in place".  They are in homes that are 40-50 years old and in need of constant maintenance (that many times they cannot complete), they are in locations that no longer have the hands-on jobs that they are trained for, and they have been left behind in this new age of digital life.  But they are doing ok!  Retired, working part time to have some extra cash for frivolous things, and living off of the minimal funds that Social Security and retirement accounts provide them.

But not us.  Nope.  We each graduated high school already in debt.   In a car we already owed thousands for covered by insurance we couldn't hope to pay (which thankfully our parents took care of while we were in college).  And we made it through college on ramen noodles and $.53 boxes of mac'n'cheese.  Got that degree and the $25,000 in debt that came with it (even though we worked two jobs all the way through college).  Left college to work in a field that has nothing to do with our degree, only so we can pay back the 23% interest rate on our school loan.  Living in over priced apartments and condos.  Barely getting by.  One month at a time.

And then something happened in our mid-twenties that changed everything.  Marriage.  Joining two indebted people together to form an even larger pile of Debt. And because no one gets married on the cheap now-a-days add to it the debt of a wedding.  Then comes the kids.  The money-sucking kids.  All the baby gadgets, and toddler proofing, and toys, and CLOTHES... oh my goodness the CLOTHES that these little boys rip through!  And the diapers, formula, daycare, etc... Yes, it adds up.  And eventually the debt becomes an ever mounting black cloud that consumes life.  Bleak, very BLEAK.

There IS A Solution... 
It's called NOT CONSUMING.  No, seriously... It's a whole movement in our generation!  Being Non-Consumers (a close cousin to being a Minimalist) means prioritizing what you NEED to consume and then choosing carefully what you WANT to consume.  So take for example the classic "bigger is better" home.  No, No, NO!  Bigger isn't better. Fancier isn't better.  Newly remodeled and fully upgraded ISN'T BETTER!  Who taught us this?! It certainly isn't!  Sure you'll be the envy of all your friends when your house is beautifully decorated and has all the latest gadgets and surfaces... but do you NEED that stuff?  With a bigger house comes bigger bills.  And man do those add up!  Insurances, the unavoidable repairs, gas, electricity, cable/internet, water, trash... the bigger your house the bigger your bills!   And what happens when there's that annual Escrow letter?  You know the one.  The one where they say "oops, we messed up your Escrow estimate and you now have to pay $300 extra per month to make up the difference over the next 2 years".  Yeah, we've all gotten THAT letter.  We've gotten it TWICE in the 2 years since we moved here.  But that's another story that will be shared on our other blog The Time We Bought A Fixer Upper.

No, you don't need to be the envy of everyone else.  No, you don't need 3000 square feed for your family of 4.  No, you don't need that super fancy bedroom set and living room furniture. What do you NEED?  You need a house with a roof (preferably one that doesn't leak), a kitchen you can prepare meals for your family in, and rooms for you to sleep.  A common space for playing family games and watching TV is definitely a good thing to have too.  Sure, maybe if you like to have people over you should make sure to have a home that has enough room for friends to hang out, but that's a bonus!  If your friends are really your friends they wont mind being in your truly lived in home and wont have second thoughts about the lack of perfect staging in your living room.  Especially if you have children.  Kids destroy EVERYTHING.  They stain EVERYTHING.  My husband says "this is why we can't have nice things."  And he's right!  We have three minions running around the house in muddy boots with grape juice sippy cups and greasy snack-fingers.  No one wants to have children in a staged home.  No one wants to come over for play dates in a staged home.  It's just not logical.

Although I know many from my generation that are in dire financial debt, thankfully we have been blessed with money managing skills that have kept us mostly debt free (except the house and 2 cars).  We got married not cheaply, but not outside of our means either.  We worked diligently to pay off our student loan debt in the first two years of our relationship.  And we kept my paid-off clunker car until our school loan was paid off.  And we maid sure that our co-payments and deductible were reasonably affordable when we had our children.  Then after our family started to grow we still found ways to save money.  Our children were cloth diapered.  One of us stayed home with the kids so the other could work (yey for not having exorbitant daycare bills!!), and we put away every penny possible.  We lived in a reasonably priced rental and drove paid-for cars until we had saved enough to purchase our home.

And then my millionaire Grandmother died and left us a small chunk of cash (no really it was a small chunk, she spread her money out to all the family, which it turns out is much larger than I knew).  We had enough to finally put a down payment on a house.  But not any house, we wanted to do what many others in our generation refuse to do: BUY UNDER OUR BUDGET!  Seriously, we bought a house that was about $100,000 UNDER what our bank said we could get a loan for (check out our blog The Time We Bought A Fixer Upper).  Our cars were paid off (although they were reaching the "critical" age and mileage where they would either need substantial work or we would have to buy newer cars), our student loans were closes, we had no credit card debt, but we still chose to purchase below our means.  It's a choice that we didn't take lightly.

Sure we WANTED to buy a new house with top of the line upgrades and that we wouldn't have to ever do any work on.  Our friends all did that.  They have BEAUTIFUL houses with pretty new floors and granite counter tops in ritzy neighborhoods, some with gates and HOA fees.  We didn't want to live AT our means because we wanted to have EXTRA money.  So we put 10% down and kept 10% in savings for the "what ifs".  It was a good decision for many reasons (that will be discussed on our other blog The Time We Bought A Fixer Upper) but suffice it to say things came up.  We had medical bills, leaky roof spots, hurricane damage repair, and just general life situations that demanded money.

But because we had prioritized the things we NEEDED to spend on we had the flexibility to spend on the things we WANTED.  We have taken family vacations and adult-only vacations (the all essential for parental and marital health) which you can read about on our travel blog 5 Little Birds Travel The World.  And we did it all by consciously saving money and consciously spending money.

What Can YOU Do?
We've all seen those cool charts on Pinterest that show you how to save $6,000 over the course of the year.  But really, is that possible when you barely make ends-meat each month?  No, it's really not.  But what CAN you do?  Here are 10 simple solutions:

1.  Save a Penny.  Sounds small right?  Well that's because it is.  It's tiny.  But when that penny has  nickel, dime, and quarter friends those little tiny things add up.  We all have that random change in the bottom of our purse or the crazy change that comes out of the washer every time our husband does the laundry.  Put it away.  In a little cup on your dresser or in a cute piggy bank.  Then when it's full take it to the bank and deposit it into your savings account.  Wait, you don't have a interest bearing savings account?
2.  Get an Interest Bearing Savings Account.  Even if you only have a few hundred dollars to start, that interest adds up.
3.  Teach your children how to save (and spend!) responsibly.  Yeah, that's right.  Talk to your kids about money.  Talk to them about why you spend what you spend and why you save what you save.  Kids have no concept of money unless we teach them!  We use these fun little Money Saving Pig Banks to help teach the kids.

4.  Live Within Your Means.  No really, do it.  You don't need a brand new car, well maybe you need a car, but does it have to be brand new with all the latest technology?  Do you need a $500 iPhone?  No, you can get the $60 smart phone that does all the same stuff.  If you don't have the cash on hand to spend on something then it's not within your means.  Don't spend money you don't have.
5.  Don't fall for the Buy-It-Now-Pay-For-It-Over-Time Scheme.  Have you ever done the math on this?  Buy a $1000 sofa now and pay for it over the course of 24 months with a 13% interest rate... That $47.56 a month sounds nice doesn't it?  No, No, NO!  Do you realize that $1000 sofa ends up costing you $1141?!  Really, you have paid $141 more than the sofa was worth.  And now it's 2 years later and the sofa is worth less.  You should have put that $141 into your savings account and watched it turn into $150 over the course of that 24 months instead.
6.  Buy Used.   Did you realize that that sofa that cost you $1141 ($141 more than it was worth) would have actually only cost you $300 if you bought it used?  Seriously.  Buy Used.  You can spend the extra $10 on cleaning supplies and really make that sofa look amazing.  No one will know it's used, unless your like me and brag to your friends about your $35 sleeper sofas.  That's right, I bought 2 sleeper sofas for $35 from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  They were in perfect condition.  Had been used in a hotel that was remodeling.  They are perfect.  This works for clothes too (my kids live in used clothes from places like Once Upon A Child).
7.  Stop Going Out To Eat.  That take out, trips through the drive through, and random nights out really add up.  Have you ever looked at how much you spend on this stuff?  Take a break from getting this stuff. It's bad for your health anyway.  Use it as a treat not a staple.
8.  No More $5 Coffee.  Really? $5 for a tall non-caf soy hazelnut coffee with extra vanilla syrup... That same coffee only costs $.25 on sale in a K-Cup and you can add as much french vanilla creamer as you want to that bad boy.  Did you realize that you spend $5/day on that coffee?  That's $155 per month on coffee.
9.  Just say NO.  This is a big deal for us.  I have to tell the kids "no" constantly.  It's the check out line candy ($.96 per pack of gum for 3 kids is $3 extra per grocery trip... at 5 times a month that's $15 in gum... $15 IN GUM!), or the random outings that really add up for us.  Why does it cost $15 per kid to go to the trampoline place for 1 hour?  Just say No.  Why does it cost $6 per kid to go to the bouncy house place?  Just say NO!  Why do you need to buy $4 specialty ice cream cones when there are $1 Frosties across the street?  JUST SAY NO! It gets easier the more you do it.
10. YARD SALE!!! Everyone loves a sale!  But now YOU can make the money instead of the store.  Whether your selling your old stuff or buying old stuff from other people, Yard Sales are a great way to save or make some dough.

What other ways to you save money?  Which generation are you from and how did your parents help teach you better spending and saving habits? Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

PCParent Reading List: May

A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

We've all see the advertisements for Hulu+'s newest show A Handmaid's Tale, an adaptation of this classic 1986 novel, but before you watch the show check out the book!  I watched the first few minutes of the first Episode on Hulu+ and decided that I really needed to read the book first (because afterall, isn't that just the way it SHOULD be done?).  So I bought the book on my Kindle Fire (which is perhaps the greatest invention for all of us Netflix addicted and avid reader moms, get yours here if you don't have one: Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa, 8" HD Display, 16 GB, Black - with Special Offers) and immediately started reading.  Let me first say, I like to read a chapter every night before bed, so it typically takes me a week or so to read a book, but THIS book I read in 2 nights.  I just couldn't put it down!  A brutal story of a dystopian New England society (set just a tad in our future) it covers themes of women's rights, religion, societal roles, politics, etc... all while maintaining a historical context that is completely enthralling.  If your going to read ONE book this month, make this the book.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Last month I on my April Reading List I recommended Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner.  This novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is the next of Khaled Hosseini's stories about the hardships of the Afghani people.  Where The Kite Runner was a story about a father-son,  this novel is about a mother-daughter.   A seriously heart-wrenching story of love, abuse, betrayal, and the role of Afghani women in pre and post Taliban rule.  If you enjoyed The Kite Runner or are interested in international women's issues, this is definitely the novel for you!

Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community by Richard Louv

Last month on my April Reading List I recommended Richare Louv's Last Child In The Woods.  If you were inspired by Last Child in the Woods. then this is the perfect next book for you!  Vitamin N offers ways to use Nature to enrich your family's life.  It contains more than 500 activities, lists of informational websites, plenty of advice, and loads of essays for further reading.

Looking for Kid's Books this month?  Check out these Mother's Day books:

Or these great books for Memorial Day: