Holiday Haze

I always have mixed feelings about the holidays. I love Christmas and always have. I love the potential for wonder, joy, magic, love, and all the warm-fuzzies that come with those things. I enjoy the anticipation of parties and family and presents and goodies (cookies!). I like thinking of things to give people, creating items, first with my mind, then my hands. Like this year, I made all my Christmas cards from pieces of cards I've gotten in years past. It was fun to piece them together in different ways and personalize them all for the recipients.

Yet mixed in with all this happiness and joy is frustration, disappointment and irritation. I get frustrated with all the "buy! buy! buy!" messaging we see everywhere. I get frustrated with the incessant faux-holiday spirit we are bombarded with in every retail outlet we go to, every radio station, every website ad. I get irritated by the sheer madness of trying to do everything, see everyone (and please everyone) and get done all that I want to in the period of one month. I am inevitably disappointed by the things that do not live up to my expectations, especially those that I had hoped for the most.

Every year I long for something simpler, more honest, more pure. I hope for less frenzy and more friends. Less commerce and more conversation. Less expectation and more surprise. This year I am doing some of what I can to make that happen. I made my own Christmas cards. I visited friends to make Christmas cookies, and then shared them with my neighbors. I am giving nearly all recycled/reused gifts, and of course everything is wrapped in reused packaging and tissue paper. I have spent less time out (actually, none) desperately trying to find something to give to someone because of an obligation, and more time thinking about what I love and cherish about this time of year.

I am trying to release my frustration that others may not do this. That our family and friends will have limited time, energy and focus. That we will get cookie-cutter-Christmas cards instead of phone calls. That we will get presents that were well-meaning, but not really about us, but about giving "something." That we will go to several parties where everyone is already worn out and sits around the TV instead of around the fire.

I am also trying to remember that I can only do what I can do, and that I have to give my best to the ones I love without expectation. That is what a gift is. Not an exchange, or a trade, but something freely given without strings, conditions, or requirements. So perhaps the best gift I can give this year is my own patience, non-judgment, and love to all those I encounter. In that way perhaps I could create more of the Christmas spirit I so long to see.


What I like to call Food

I just finished reading my quarterly newsletter from the Organic Consumers Association, and learned that they are still trying to convince the USDA not to allow GMO (genetically modified organisms) salmon to be marketed without being labeled as GMO.

I really find it irksome in the extreme that we have to cajole, connive, and convince the powers that be that we deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what we are eating.

There should not be any need to explain the importance of knowing what you are eating, but there is. In today's world (or at least in this country) people have come to accept a lot of "food products" as food without asking any questions. Considering that we truly are what we eat (since there is no other input, save for air and H2O, other than the calories we ingest) I think it should be a given that we have access to full information about what it is we are eating.

I want to know if the food I'm being sold has been cross-bred with another species, dosed up with antibiotics or growth hormones, fed recycled animal parts, or sprayed with lethal insecticides or herbacides. I want to know what food is being fed to the animals I eat because they are what they eat, too. I want to know how many additives (and where they came from) are going into my food, and why. Yet, again and again the USDA and FDA are convinced by -- get this -- the corporations who make money on food modifications and additives, to keep much of the process from seed (or birth, in the case of an animal) to plate in the dark.

I'm tired of having to defend my right to know what it is I'm putting into my body. I'm tired of being asked to accept on pure faith that everything served to me on a plate, in a bag, from a bin, is healthy for me and the planet. I want to see less useless, public- relations focused, obscure snippets: "all natural!," "good-for-you-grains," "heart-healthy." I want to see more information about what is in our food, how it was made/grown, and what the source of all ingredients are.

I will continue to stand up and demand that the basic building block of our health and our lives is pure, safe, and, further, labeled so that we can determine whether it is or is not worth our money and our calories. I hope, however, that I don't have to do it for much longer.


A Mortal Girl in a Denial World

I heard on the news today that a vast percentage of worldwide deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, liver failure, cancer, and the chronic pulmonary disease. The term being bandied about was "premature death." What does this term really mean anyway? I have heard that premature death refers to anyone dying earlier that the statistical average for their demographic group (they have different numbers for men, women, Hispanic, etc). This concept seems ludicrous to me. Life and death are very complex and personal matters. What will be fatal for one person will not be for the next. People with very similar lifestyles and genetics may have decades between their last days. Under what foolishness is it that we pretend we will know when we are "supposed" to die? Now don't get me wrong - I am in no hurry to die and I appreciate that medicine is working to help keep us all alive longer, I really do. Because I'm sure if I was told I was dying at this age I would surely and absolutely see it as premature. But I wonder if we are all sort of participating in a epic farce. We are all mortal. We are all doing to die. Something, someday, will cause us to breathe our last breath. This is inevitable. How much of what we call medicine is really trying to escape this inevitable fate?


Self improvement or self acceptance?

How do you know where to draw the line between accepting yourself as you are, flaws, strengths, good and bad - and striving to be something better, something more, something dynamic instead of static, something you can be proud of? How do you stop thinking about all the parts of you that you wish were different? If I changed all those things, would I be substantially different? Would I still like me, would others? If I changed all those things but wasn't substantially different, what would be the point? One of my favorite merry-go-rounds is the whole accomplishment thing. I sometimes thing that I should know more - learn something new. How to speak another language perhaps (most educated people around the globe speak at least two if not more, and most Americans speak just the one), or at least re-learn all the Spanish I knew in high school. Or perhaps I should pick up the violin again and really commit myself to the community orchestra so I could learn new music, and refresh my skills. Or what about something completely new - like German? Or knitting? Soccer? But then I think about all the things I already know, the things I already do, which inevitably leads to all the things I used to know but don't anymore. And I wonder, "should I just accept this? Is this just a normal part of getting older?" If I’m not learning anything, or really accomplishing anything (but just maintaining the status quo) am I really living? Or then am I just existing? And then there are all the parts of my less-tangible nature: I'm opinionated, emotional, melodramatic, and so on. For example I like that I am sensitive, but I don’t like how I get so easily upset. If I change one, does it change the other? If so, is it worth that price?