Saturday, November 30, 2013

Organic, hippy, non-GMO, vegetarian crap.

Mix Sweet Shop
16oz Soy Chai

Forgive me, guys, if I'm a little terse today.  I seem to have my grump on.  Perhaps it's the insane shopping weekend that's causing all the crazy traffic.  And on that note, might I just add: Blessed are the pedestrians who use the damn crosswalk.

So.  Part of my facebook spam around turkey day was a headline that factory farmed turkeys are crawling with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Yum!  For my part, I was expecting to go to a pot luck that never materialized so we ended up having lentils and mashed potatoes before (and after) our pumpkin pie.  So whether or not we were eating "conventional" or organic turkey meat was a non-issue.  But the awareness is moving me closer to the idea of just becoming a vegetarian.

I know my veggie friends are fist-pumping and shouting, "Yay!  Do it!" at their screens (which is probably making for some awkward social situations if you're in public).  And most of my non-veggie friends are going, "Wait - I thought you were a vegetarian?"  I certainly seem to give off that vibe.  It's my hippy roots showing. 

For the record, I do not believe there is something inherently immoral about an animal eating another animal.  I do, however, believe that knowingly causing any animal suffering - not just pain, but a deplorable, tortuous existence - is pretty sadistic.  And by eating conventional meat, I am, sadly, contributing to a sadistic system.  My only explanation is that we are (putting it mildly) short on the cash.  And I worry about all of us getting adequate protein.  I'm already taking an iron supplement, so the more I can get through diet, the better.

Then why not just get organic meat?  Well, we do when we can.  But the options are scarce and the prices are high.  No, dudes - really high.  Especially to feed a family of four.  And given that there are millions of vegetarians out there living long, healthy lives, I'm sure that it's entirely possible for me to figure it out.  Meat protein is just giving me an easy out for now.  I just need to get in touch with my inner sous chef and learn what the hell to do with those beans and lentils (I am not a well-domesticated animal).  Besides, an anti-inflammatory vegetarian diet would probably be best for my fibromyalgia (and all my other health conditions).

There's another argument for vegetarianism to be considered: climate change.  Producing livestock for human consumption generates more global warming pollutants than producing the equivalent vegetarian diet does.  So I hear.  And every once in a while I get reminded that climate change is neither a hoax nor an abstract idea and the only way for the individual to do anything about it is to commit to all the small changes it will require to lessen the damage.

But I'm not stopping at vegetarian - I want to get as close to completely organic as we can possibly afford.  It's not just about reducing the amount of known carcinogens we ingest anymore.  Now it's about avoiding all the hidden GMO ingredients that we can.

Now, don't start groaning at me about the GMO stuff...  People are trying to make it out like anti-GMO advocates are as irrational as birthers and as annoying as vegans (you know I love you guys). 

The problem with GMOs is what we don't know about them.  The FDA has not verified that they are safe.  The FDA - which is loaded with former GMO-company people, as a point of interest - just decided that genetically modified food would be classified as if it was generally considered to be safe.  That's literally like the category name for its designation.  And by what logic do they make that determination?  There has not been a pre-standing scientific consensus about bio-engineered food.  For one thing, the technology has only been around for so long. 

And not all GMOs are created equally.  I read a little article deriding the anti-GMO camp, saying that genetic modification is merely the technology being used to produce this food, and that it's like criticizing a farmer for using a tractor instead of an ox and plow.  That is a false analogy.  The result is the same for the farmer whichever method he uses - the soil is tilled (or whatever).  GMOs, on the other hand, are organisms that cannot exist in nature without laboratory intervention.  It is not the equivalent of a farmer cultivating a hybrid, or grafting an apple seed to a stick in order to produce the same kind of apple.  Genes of completely different species - animals - are mixed with these plants (or animals).  And by mixed, I mean that the cell wall has to be breached artificially (using, like, ebola and stuff) in order to get the alien genes through.  Nature cannot achieve that.

Genetically modified corn produces its own pesticide.  That ain't right, people.  Corn is a great example of a plant that has been modified by humans, using nature, over centuries.  But jumping to a completely new type of corn, with no historical presence of these properties - that is completely new territory.  And there is no way we could adequately assess the consequences of even a small change once it has been introduced into the environment in so short a time.  But our environment is being radically altered with the introduction of numerous crops - big ones, like corn and soy - that have been tweaked and skewed.  Some may may be benign, some may have only mildly adverse effects (like the increased gluten-sensitivity from hybridized wheat), and some could be catastrophic.

We just don't know.

We do know that more pesticide is being sprayed due to pesticide resistant seed (sold by the same company), and that is fouling our water supplies.  It also appears that one of the major factors in the declining bee populations is the overuse of certain pesticides.  It has also been suggested that GM crops do not produce more yield than natural crops, contradicting the "feeding world hunger" claim.

Okay, even I'm sick of this topic now.  Let's wrap it up.

I like to call myself a lapsed hippy.  I'd really like to be better about all the diet and environmental concerns.  I have just succumbed to the overwhelming stresses of poverty and children and all that jazz.  But it's never too late to try to be better.  And better safe than sick with an antibiotic-resistant illness.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Soulmates are like Zombies.

Evo's Coffee Lounge
12oz Soy Soma Mocha
Heart-shaped Biscuit
(and a hot cocoa for my co-writer)

This will probably be brief and distracted since I have my little astronaut with me.  So let's jump right to it and see how far we get.

I have said before that soulmates are like zombies: Even though I know they're not real they still haunt my dreams. 

I really should have had a lot more supervision when I was a kid because I never should have been watching those horror flicks.  When you're that little, your brain believes everything no matter how much you tell it something isn't real.  As you grow up, you can only correct those childhood illusions so much.  It takes a long damn time and your efforts never quite erase what you've experienced.  After all, the experiences and information you receive as a child shapes the architecture of your brain for the rest of your life.  Think of remodeling a house.  How easy - how costly - is it to tear up the foundation?  Most of us are lucky if we can afford to replace the linoleum in the kitchen.

But no amount of supervision could have spared me the horrors of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and every other damn story about The One True Epic Love.  We have a cultural fixation on the idea of soulmates.  The narrative goes that there is one person out there that you are meant for, that you will know them when you meet them, and that you will only really, truly, for-reals be happy with that one person.  Any other person will fall short.  You will always be incomplete and never quite happy unless you are with The One.  Even if you thought you were happy and were engaged to someone already, once The One comes along, you just have to be brave enough to leave the person you had thought you could be happy with for the rest of your life.

There's another confounding factor in globalization.  We are so easily connected to everyone that it's not inconceivable that our One True Love could be halfway around the world.  So, we must be vigilant and scour every glimpse or scrap of media that passes before us, just in case we see The One in a graphic in a reposted story about the effects of sea level rise in lowland Asian countries.

This is a far, far cry from how we evolved.  Until the Industrial Age most people never traveled more than a dozen miles from the place they were born.  That's not a lot of opportunity to meet new people.  In fact, the person you married was almost always someone you knew and had know for most of your life.  (Or, the person your parents arranged for you to marry was someone they had known...). 

In other words, it was way more likely that you married a friend than a stranger.  There was no epic moment of meeting.  You had a relatively small pool of familiar candidates that you had years to evaluate before you eventually took a chance and picked one to form a family with.  Does this mean that people weren't happy when they didn't have as much choice?  No.  Flat out - no.

There have been articles previously about how too much choice can actually make us less happy.  Some choice is nice and everyone is different, but there comes a point when you stop being content with anything you choose because you know there is more out there.  And we are forever being promised that there's a better, new and improved product that will solve all our problems. 

So, between Cinderella and intercontinental travel and Ron Popeil, how can we ever be happy in a relationship?

This soulmate mythos held me back for a long time.  As much as I told myself it's irrational and self-destructive, I couldn't quite rid it from my psyche.  I also had the specter of divorce before me since my parents split when I was very young.  I had this background fear of choosing the wrong person so I held myself back from fully committing to anyone.  The specter of someone better would haunt me, even when I was engaged and really believed I had found the person I wanted to marry.

It took a long time for Cinderella to die, but it finally happened.  Well, maybe she's just in a coma... that no Prince Charming could awaken her from.  Either way, I reached a point where the fear abated and I realized that you can love many people in your life.  No one of them has to be perfect, or even perfect for you, since none of us are perfect and we will, hopefully, continue to change and evolve over our lifetimes.  Some people fit you better, some fit you worse, but the truth is that your odds are actually pretty good that you can find someone to be a great partner, to help you throughout the ups and downs and radical changes of your life.  You don't want to talk yourself into settling if, deep down, you know that it's not a great fit but, at some point, you need to open yourself to the joy that's there beside you.

I'll throw one last bone to the romantics out there... I do believe in intuition.  I do believe that you can have a sense of knowing about a person.  That doesn't happen every time or for every person.  And having that intuition or not having it doesn't make a person your soulmate or not.  With the cultural cloud of the soulmate fetish before our eyes, it's very hard to know what we're really feeling anyway.  Just do your best to be honest with yourself and the one(s) you're with. 

Be honest and be happy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Black Turkey Day

Rogue Valley Roasting Company
12oz Soy Butterscotch Mocha
Breakfast Burrito w/salsa

Last year I began shunning Target.  This is because I suck at boycotting them.  You may be able to point to some good things they do, and they may have had the cheapest diaper wipes, but they crossed a line last year - they crossed the turkey line.

Like WalMart and Toys-R-Us and a few others, Target began their Black Friday on Thanksgiving.  Of all transgressions a company can commit, one that offends me most is exploiting their employees.  Retail employees already do not receive adequate compensation, nor receive adequate time with their families (generally speaking).  So to force already desperate or strained people to work on one of their very few holidays in order to earn a precious little extra is in no way benevolent.  And even if it is officially deemed "optional," most employees will believe - and often, rightly so - that it will count against them if they choose to not work on their holiday.  Even if management doesn't officially count it against them, come review time, the employee's lack of team spirit will be there in the back of their mind, if not the fore.

My husband and I don't have many big arguments but they mainly involve time off, and the lack thereof.  Low wage workers already have so much less opportunity to enjoy and care for their families than their better paid peers.  When I was younger and more itinerant, my schedule around the holidays mattered less to me.  I was often either so far away from family that I couldn't conceive of a holiday trip to visit them, or I was close enough for a quick dinner or overnight stay between my regular shifts.  Now that I have small children, traveling anywhere is an ordeal and cannot be undertaken without a clear swath of time. 

For low wage workers, this is hard to come by ever - especially in the retail environment which is constantly understaffed and cycling through employees who have burnt out or moved on to a more sustainable wage.  But during the holiday season - as early as October through the beginning of January - most retail establishments implement a black out policy.  No time off for anyone because then everybody would take time off during their busiest time of the year.

So if you want to spend time with your loved ones around the holidays, those two traditional days off - Thanksgiving and Christmas Day - are precious.  In a best case scenario, you might have sympathetic management with enough staffing options that you can rearrange your usual days off to get a longer block of time to travel around those, oh, so congested traveling days.  Sometimes, if you have seniority and enough notice, you might even get approved in advance to take an extra day off.  This is the exception, though, for most places.  And now it seems that the special extra time off would be just not working the day that we are all supposed to take to spend with the people most precious to us.

(Here's a tip executives: If you consider your customers to be the people most precious to you, then you give up your holidays with your family and get behind those registers, and let your over-worked staff stay home.  Better yet - everybody stay home!)

So, beginning last holiday season, I began ordering our diapers and wipes elsewhere (and here's a shout-out to, who have always impressed me with their treatment of their customers, their employees, and their special efforts following Hurricane Sandy last year - props!).  I began trying to find other sources for all the miscellaneous things I would pick up when I was at Target.  I have still spent money there over this last year, and almost none at WalMart and Toys-R-Us, but they have lost at least a couple thousand of my dollars in poopy butt supplies.  Not a lot to a big, giant company like them, but I feel better about myself.  And I will continue to seek out businesses that do right by their people.

And to those executives who would say, "We're only open that day because people want to shop that day," I say, that is no excuse.  Not only does it abuse the free time of the employees and the families who love them for the sake of extracting a few more dollars from your customers, but it also abuses the customers.  Some customers don't care, they just want the best deal.  But probably most of them would rather not be there, even if it's just for a 4 a.m. opening on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  But people are made to feel desperate, that this is their only opportunity to get something big, that they might otherwise never be able to get.  Or at least, desperate to keep their credit card payments a little bit smaller.  So they sacrifice their sleep, their time waiting in line, and most disgustingly they sacrifice a little of their humanity.  They sacrifice what should be some of the most meaningful time of their lives to become sleep-deprived, feral, door-busting, customer-trampling bargain shoppers!

Door-busting is an inhumane practice and should end this very holiday season.  Companies should stop trying to drive people to shop at their stores by creating a panicked sense of urgency and potential loss.  There are other ways to remain a viable business than by forcing people on both sides of the counter to make difficult, even soul-crushing (or people-crushing), sacrifices in the name of consumption.  Maybe start by building your brand as a company that values people more than corporate bonuses.  A company that doesn't just want to financially exist, but wants to deserve to exist.

I would pay extra to shop at a place like that.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bliss in the Is... and other tattoos.

Mix Sweet Shop
12oz Soy Chai

That ellipsis was deliberate.  Because that's the way I had that phrase tattooed onto my wrist yesterday.  Because there is much more imbued in those words than just the literal definitions of the words you see.  And since I'm going to be explaining what the hell that's supposed to mean for the rest of my life, I thought I'd start with the handful of you who read this.

My short response will be, "It's another way of saying 'live in the moment,' 'be present,' that kind of thing..."  But there is a reason I chose this phrase and not any of those others.  To begin with, it's a challenge to see what really Is, honestly, no excuses.  It's about seeing your own motivations behind your actions and emotions.  It's about keeping things in perspective, counting your blessings, that sort of thing.  It is about first coming to terms with things as they are and accepting that they are.  Not what they are - that they are.

Accepting that the Is is does not make what Is acceptable.  Things often need to be changed, sometimes drastically so.  But you can't fix something if you don't understand the truth of it.  And, as with the pain of childbirth, or the pain of getting a tattoo (especially on your wrist), sometimes the only way to deal with the pain you're in is to stop fighting it and learn how to ride it out. 

Deep, full, even breaths... peaceful imagery... and clocks seem to work for me, too, for some reason...

"Bliss in the Is" also means that happiness only happens in the present.  I've heard this stated in different ways but, ultimately, you can't spend your life waiting for something to happen -  waiting for more money, a different town, a different domicile, a better car... waiting for "the big break" or, worse, "the one" to complete you.  You can't conditionalize your happiness.  You rob your life of joy if you give your happiness over to a time that does not now, and may not ever, exist.

So you don't stop trying to improve the Is.  You must first know how you really feel about what is and what will actually make things better.  But you will never have happiness in the present if you don't allow it to be there.

All easier said than done.  That's why I chose to remind myself in post-it form... forever.  Or until I go back and have it all remade into some kind of tribal wristband.

I promise I won't do that.  No barbwire, either.  You have my word.

As for the rest of the work I had done yesterday... 

To compliment the "Bliss" phrase on my left wrist, I had a line from a Henry Rollins song ("Starve") tattooed on my right wrist: "I kiss my fear on the mouth."  No ellipsis on that one.  It's pretty decisive - it needs no further explanation.

On that same hand, to compliment the blue moon already tattooed on my left hand, which represents my name, I had a sun tattooed to represent my boys - the source of light in my life, so to speak.  But not just any sun.  This sun has a story...

I mentioned a little while ago that I would thank Moby, if I ever met him, for being the catalyst that brought my husband and I together.  Well, that kicked off an idea, and I ended up writing him a letter asking him to be the one to draw the sun that I would get tattooed.  Then I didn't know where to send it.  So, I ended up reaching out to old moby-boardie friends and two of them (Hi, Debbie! Hi, Ed!) became my sun-doodle advocates.  They met up with said rockstar  last month and - ta-da! - he doodled, not just one sun, but two suns.  And now I have one of those two tattooed on my right hand.  (I now refer to it as the "rock star hand"... but just in my head...)

This is the doodle... :)

Now, why not tattoo both suns?  Well, that was my first intent.  But in the chair I realized that the placement of the second sun (on the inside of my wrist) would be extremely painful and I was feeling shaky again.  I'm pretty sure I was just chilly, but my body is clearly wonky right now, and I prudently decided that I didn't want to push my limits.  Plus, I'm still ambivalent about the overall design on my wrist, so it gives me some time to live with it before I decide on the final details.

Okay, I admit it - I have commitment issues.

At any rate, I'm happy with what I got.  It feels more complete now, though, as with the crescent moon and star tattoo that has caused some people to question if I was, in fact, born in Turkey, it comes with the consequence of befuddling some folks.  So be it.  I'll just have to work on my short answers.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Because Mom says I'm wordy... Roll out the A/V cart!

The domicile
Soy Egg Nog Chai
Pumpkin Spice Bread (about half the loaf)

I promised piccies last week, so here ya go!  Fall, in review...  Feel free to save any for backgrounds (if it lets you?).  I don't claim to be a good photographer - I'm just fortunate to have some attractive subjects...

First, we went to get our pumpkins...

And the trees...  The boys and I spent many days at the park...


We found a few mighty big leaves...

And some more trees...


And finally, Halloween...  I ended up more "Eccentric Victorian Poet" than the "Steampunk Poet" that I had been aiming for.  I was told by several people that the raven made the outfit.  And I was obviously wrangling an astronaut (zooming around the chocolate shop) and Zaphod Beeblebear...

The day after Halloween, O-boy was the astronaut and H-bomb was a dinosaur again... 

And Mom was DONE.