"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

summah time

i can't believe it's already the last day of August! this summer has flown by! living in california is endless summer anyway, but something about the end of August always makes me pause in my doorway every night and linger in the setting sun just a little bit longer.

while i watch my friends head back to school to teach or study, my life has remained untouched by such seasonal excitement. i've mixed feelings on this: on one hand, i'm relieved not to be experiencing the anxiety and panic that comes before starting a new school year, but at the same time, i miss having something "new" to look forward to, miss starting new classes with new people, and miss feeling like my life is not the same repeated episode over and over again. the passing of time seems muted without the traditional celebrations - buying school supplies, picking first-day outfits, planning new schedules, end of summer pool parties and barbeques.

my summer has been wonderful, though, and i'm lucky that my partner and i had time to travel to many different places together. we kayaked with sea otters in Monterey, got engaged by the Pacific Ocean, hiked and swam in a secret nudist colony in Lake Tahoe, biked Napa Valley, saw two concerts in one weekend in San Francisco, and revisited with friends in LA. not bad for three months of summer vacation!
here we are enjoying a sunset on Highway 1 after a trip to Monterey.

we went hiking in Big Sur the day after we got engaged.

swimming in a hidden cove that turned out to be a (surprise!) nude beach. (if you click the photo and zoom in, you'll see that the guy on the rock behind us is totally naked!)

biking in Napa Valley! we were such champs and biked around 15 miles of the Silverado Trail while visiting wineries. this photo was snapped after we stopped at our first vineyard of the day and had the first of many picnics post-tasting.

here we are at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco waiting for Neko Case to take the stage (we were pro picnickers at this point, note the baguette in the foreground).

and now to look forward to the fall: i'm excited to return to central new york where me and ben used to live together before i moved for work. autumn in the east, it should go without saying, is strikingly beautiful. but nothing beats adventuring thru mountains of sunlit golden forest with your soulmate, nothing! and i'm excited to do that on top of seeing David Sedaris, eating apple fritters at an apple festival, dancing at an Andrew Bird concert, and visiting the public policy program i've had my eye on for almost a year now.

this life is so full of wonder sometimes that i'm dumbfounded just reflecting on it all.


fresh produce surprises

as part of my self-imposed green initiatives, i've been going to the local farmers' market every week. just this small change in my weekly routine has made a profound impact on my overall health and wellness that i thought it warranted some reflection:

the average consumer buys fruits and vegetables that have been trucked from across the country (or from other countries) days, weeks, maybe months(?) before it is purchased and consumed at home. produce that has been sprayed with chemicals and refrigerated for long periods to preserve them on the long journey from farm to table. the result is dull-tasting, homogenized produce that has been sapped of most of its nutrients and flavor.

the difference between supermarket produce and fresh produce purchased directly from a farmer is huge!

take cherry tomatoes: earlier this summer, i once spent nearly twenty minutes at a nearby Safeway trying to find a package of cherry tomatoes worth purchasing. it took so long because every single one i picked up was gross - the tomatoes were squishy and overripe, some were already oozing and reeked of rot. i eventually bought a half empty package of tomatoes, only to throw them out a few days later because i was too afraid to eat them.

i thought that maybe cherry tomatoes are just easily prone to rotting and squishing, but that just goes to show you how skewed our conventional knowledge of food is as a result of our agricultural practices.

the cherry tomatoes i have been buying at the farmers market every weekend are PERFECT. i never thought about how delicious, refreshing, and filling tomatoes could be. whereas store-bought cherry tomatoes have always been sour and overly firm to the point of spurting all over you when you bite into them, farmers market cherry tomatoes have been consistently plump, tender, and ambrosially sweet. just to illustrate the difference further: my prior experiences with cherry tomatoes were so tainted, that i initially avoided buying the red round cherry tomato variety altogether. but, after weeks of testing out different vendors and varieties of cherry tomatoes, i've found that the red ones are by far my favorite - when they are fresh and in-season, they can be as surprisingly sweet as a strawberry, with a warm, soupy quality to the juicy insides. the skins are soft and tender, practically melting in your mouth when you bite into them, yet firm, not fragile, as i originally thought. it's been one of my best discoveries all summer, and i've been buying them by the pounds, eating them by the handful like grapes every day. they're surprisingly refreshing and make for a great lunchtime dessert/snack. plus, cancer-fighting!

another amazing discovery: farmers market grapes! i love eating grapes, but one gripe i have is the gross, rubbery, wet-sponge smell i get on my fingers whenever i eat a big bunch of grapes. it happens every time, no matter how thoroughly i wash them, and it always seems i can never wash grapes thoroughly enough! they always have that waxy/dusty film on them that only comes off if you scrub your grapes individually with a cloth or papertowel.

you can even see some of that film i'm talking about here in this stock photo!

well, i found out recently that not all grapes have that nasty film on them! i was thrilled to discover, after buying organic red grapes from the farmers market last weekend, that grapes untreated with chemicals and preservatives not only taste great, but smell great too! they were delectably crisp and crunchy, juicy sweet, not a single one was wrinkled and moldy, and my hands didn't stink after i ate them! and they were only a third of the price i usually pay at the grocery store. i feel like such a chump for not buying locally farmed, fresh grapes before!

as great as fresh produce is, i feel like such an entitled bourgeois jerk for bragging about these discoveries, because many Americans don't have access to, or the means to purchase, fresh produce such as the ones i delight in every week. let alone organic produce. i realize my enthusiasm for fresh fruit and veggies and nutritional health is a privilege; it's a shame our society makes it easier for a working-class family to purchase processed pseudo-food high in starch, fat, salt and sugar, than a bag of fresh carrots and cherry tomatoes.

something is clearly wrong with our society when baby carrots have to undergo rebranding to be marketed and sold like junk food.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

punch drunk

this is what i wanted to be as a kid:

the fluid movements, the unstoppable energy, the unabashed confidence, the arms over the head abandon – girl can dance.

this is like a video essay of why everyone should put their pride aside and step out onto a dance floor every once in a while and let it all flow. we'd be happier people if we didn't judge each other and ourselves and limit our movements to the expected and normal parameters. i get little chills every time i see this video because she's not afraid to writhe on the floor and punch and jog in place if that's how she wants to interpret the song's progression. and she looks so damned good doing it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

yoga lessons

a great benefit of practicing yoga (vs. doing) is all the really great lessons it teaches you about Life. more on that later.

for now, an example of what i mean:
at the end of your yoga practice, it is extremely important to rest in Savasana.

lots of people don't fully understand/respect this last phase of their yoga practice, and skip out of class early to go about their hectic lives again. yoga is about savoring your body's capabilities, challenging it with effort and maximizing its potential, and then rewarding it with rest.

my current yoga teacher, who has become a Yoda-like mentor to me, is wonderful because she emphasizes the importance of all these aspects equally. yoga is really about slowing down to appreciate what we take for granted - our breath, our mobility, the gift of life, and being present in our bodies. Savasana is the most wonderful time to stop and reflect, to sink into the breath, and with each breath, to feel more deeply connected to the earth and your body.

this is a lesson we can all heed and apply to the rest of our lives, even off the mat. when i go to sleep each night, i try to breathe deep, stretch and spread my limbs wide, allow my head to sink into the pillow and allow my jaw and face to relax. it's the end of the day, you've done what you can with the time you were given, and now it's time to rest. i let that be my meditative prayer to my body and my spirit each night, and it's helped me (on the nights i can remember to do so with intention) to have a more restorative sleep.

and as with yoga, and with sleep, so it is with the work day. i've done all i can, now it's time to go home and rest! ;-)

peace be with all of you,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

greening my life one small commitment at a time

so i mentioned in my last post how i've been reawakened to environmental issues and how that's been the focus of my volunteering and career aspirations. i don't know how it happened, this resurgence of Planeteerism that was latent until recently, but -- hot dang! -- i am so glad for it.

i watched Food Inc. again a few weeks ago, and if you haven't already, i highly recommend it. the film has lots of commendable qualities: a powerful message, eloquent and stirring testimonies from admirable people, impeccable graphic design, and Bruce Springsteen! plus, this documentary has the rare quality of being simultaneously entertaining, educational, and stimulating. i wish i had seen it in its entirety when i was teaching, because i think it would have been an invaluable text to use in my science class when we were doing a food and nutritional health unit.*

watching Food Inc. again made me really pumped about getting more involved in food justice work. but even before i rewatched the movie, i had been thinking a lot about issues of food safety and origins, GMOs, and corporate control of food supplies, false advertising, and government subsidies that contribute to our declining public health. again, i kinda have my current job to thank: i was drinking a package of Swiss Miss hot chocolate gleaned from my office break room, and i glanced at the ingredients (as i am wont to do). i noticed the package said "no sugar added" but that it was still incredibly sweet, so i wondered if i was imbibing an aspartame cancer cocktail. i was surprised to find it was aspartame-free, but i noticed another ingredient new to my ingredients knowledge: SUCRALOSE (read: Splenda). researching sucralose led me to read about saccharin, which then led me to read about Monsanto, genetically modified organisims (GMOs) and some really crazy court cases involving scientists who tried to publish their research regarding the potential harm GMOs can cause to organisms that eat them (long story short, those scientists were discredited and blacklisted for their work, due to some shady backroom dealings with corporations fearing their names being sullied in the eyes of consumers. it is really crazy stuff that boils my blood to think about. you should read about it: The Pusztai affair). since that day, i've been avoiding fruits and vegetables i suspect have been genetically modified (which is, let's be honest, hard to do in a market so saturated with weird and corporate-backed science, but this guide provides a starting point on how to read labels, and this one on how to avoid Monsanto in your diet). basically, i've been eating organic when i can afford to, and buying locally as much as possible, which, luckily for me, means once a week going to the farmer's market and stocking up on my fruit and veggies for the week.

Food Inc. also inspired me to make this commitment, which i posted to my facebook and twitter as a way of trying to get some dialog going among my friends, as well as being upfront about my commitment to changing my lifestyle to one that is environmentally-aware:
publicly promising myself (yes, on twitter, so you can hold me accountable years from now), when i have the means to do so, to start a container garden or community garden, to try to get at least a third of my food from local farmers or my own garden, to eat a mostly veggie diet, and if my partner and i ever reproduce, to educate our children about their food and their environment and the manipulative ways of the media, and to teach them how to help me calculate our annual household carbon footprint in order to reduce our environmental impact. yes!

and it actually worked: that small post got a lot of responses from my friends, and even helped me build stronger friendships with some people i didn't even know were my Planeteering sisters! i was happy to generate some conversation about food and health, and i also got some great reading suggestions.

but, the cool thing about that initial commitment is that it has easily budded into additional commitments; once you re-examine and change one aspect of your life, you start to look at the rest. and this, i feel, is how huge change can happen on a global level, if individuals do their part to make small commitments that over time can make significant impacts.

take, for example, plastic bag use: i was super excited when i found out California was going to pass the first-of-its-kind (in the States), ballsy law banning the use of plastic bags. but then, when i moved back, i wondered what happened to that bill. well, as i was angered and disappointed to find out, this happened: lawmakers decided they were too "concerned" about the consequences for consumers undergoing extra strain that such a ban would pose. read: they were worried about the fallback from the plastics industry and lobbyists. if they really worried and gave a prudent thought to consumers and the longterm environmental benefits of such a ban, there would be no doubt as to the right course of action. the frustrating thing, of course, is that it's not even a matter of convenience (we could easily replace plastic bags with biodegradable, recycled brown paper bags) or even revenue concerns (Ireland didn't do away with plastic bags, but posed a small tax - 15 cents - to plastic bag use. they saw a drop in use of 90% and millions of euros in revenue. doesn't that sound like the very definition of win-win?) - it is quite simply and clearly just a matter of lawmakers being too scared of their corporate backers coming down on them -- which leads me to a topic for another day: why we need to reform American politics, starting with campaign finance laws.

sorry, i get so sidetracked because all these issues are connected, from their root causes to the anecdotes i want to share about how i became so interested in them. the point of what i'm saying is that, even though lawmakers may be letting us and the environment down, we can still do things, very little things, to make a difference, and that we should not overlook the power of our individual actions. what follows is a list of the small ways i am trying to cut down on my own environmental impacts:

1. as far as plastic bags go, i have endeavored to refuse them. it took a long time to remember my tote bags (such is the danger of the American disposable culture that we become habitualized into accepting plastic out of convenience) but now i never go anywhere without my cloth bags AND glass tupperware in tow. and, i find that the more i am upfront and explicit about not using plastic bags whenever i go out, the people i'm with follow my example, and that is an important ripple effect.

2. at work, i completed a carbon footprint report for the company. this got me thinking a lot about water and electricity use. i signed up to an online carbon footprint tool that helps individuals calculate their annual carbon footprint. i plan on tracking my footprint in order to make it smaller year after year - i figured this would be a fun teaching tool/activity if i ever have kids some day, too. imagine if everyone started doing this - they'd soon see how much electricity and water they use per year, which is staggering when viewed in sum. and, if everyone set reduction goals every year, we could cut down our total impact until finally, we're only consuming at levels that are sustainable to our one earth (did you know we're currently living at a rate that would require 2.5 Earths to sustain?) SO much more fun than calculating your taxes every year! though no less important, of course! ;-)

3. weekends are car-free days! i've been biking to the farmer's market and to pilates classes and starting this weekend, to my volunteering at the Historical Garden. if i must go further than my legs can take me, such as seeing my grandparents who live over 20 miles away, i carpool. how great would it be if everyone took at least one or two days out of their week to enjoy on a bike or walking with their family? my legs are stronger too, and without the use of an equally energy-wasting device: the treadmill/stairmaster/elliptical.

4. no more hairdryers! using a hairdryer to dry your hair is not only bad for the environment because of how much energy it uses, it's also really bad for your hair. i love how many cosmetics and beauty companies try to invent new and exciting chemical creams to help us reduce frizz, repair split ends, and restore color and vibrancy and shine to our hair, while also peddling straightening irons, curling irons, and hairdryers as standard tools for styling our hair. it's ludicrous, self-defeating, time-wasting and expensive! i've never had perfect hair, by any means, but one thing is true: my hair is really healthy (according to an LA stylist, i had some of the healthiest hair he'd ever seen. i was surprised, because at the time i was swimming at least once or twice a week, and going to the beach. and, i told him, "i never style my hair!" he smiled and told me that's totally why my hair was so healthy, i don't suffocate it with products and heat!) i use only three tools on my hair now: shampoo, conditioner, and a wide-toothed comb. i've put down the hairdryer and have taken to letting my hair dry naturally, and at first i was skeptical that my hair would still have the same volume as it used to, but i'm surprised and happy to report: it looks fine. and even better than before, actually, because it's healthy and not over-dried.

5. i've started a limited meat diet. this infographic brochure makes a pretty good case for going veggie if you're concerned about your carbon footprint. i still get the meat shakes from time to time, but i eat meat very rarely now, maybe twice or thrice a week (down from twice or thrice a day!) and i enjoy how energetic i feel when sticking to a mostly veggie/fruit and raw diet. the last time i got my period (sorry, TMI!) my cramps were virtually non-existent because the days leading up to it i'd been eating lots of leafy dark green veggies and fruit - getting lots of iron and water in my system that helped me feel great when i needed it most! my fave lunch lately: whole wheat pitas, tomato basil hummus, 2 cucumbers, one cup of spinach, carrot sticks and a handful of grape tomatoes, all from the farmers' market! i eat that and an apple and some plums and i feel full without getting post-lunch sleepy.

6. i've started reading Treehugger, Inhabitat, and Ecosalon. they're pretty good at offering green news that is intriguing, useful, inspiring, and always well-written! i always find something share-worthy when i peruse their sites. and it's so much more fulfilling to spend an hour of free time at work reading eco-friendly news pieces than trolling through tumblr or facebook.

the takeaway point of this post is: these are NOT extravagantly ambitious goals, by any means. i kept my green commitments realistic, because i wanted to be able to actually achieve them, while still feeling like i'm achieving something and not just making empty gestures. i hope something you read here will inspire you to go out and try your own mini-green-revolution!

Planeteers unite! :-)

*i fell asleep thru most of it the first time i watched it with ben. i was teaching at the time and as i recall, that was not a good period for successfully finishing movies, tho we watched a lot of really good ones.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


it is with great shame that i return to this neglected blog to post a half-weary update. in the final minutes before sleep each night, when i'm winding down and trying to clear my head of thoughts from the day, i often wander back to the blog and wonder if i'm unintentionally letting it die out of my life's compulsions, or if i've just been too busy to bother writing.

both possibilities make me sad. blogging started as my way of entering into the world of web2.0, instant publication, and let's be honest, the culture of oversharing that was so popular amongst my generation. part of me feels ok growing up and out of that compulsion to share the details of my daily average life with the entire internet (in fact, i'm thankful that blogging no longer serves that exhibitionist, cathartic need). but i also recognize that with blogging comes a certain kind of mental, intellectual and communicative productivity -- it's a practice that can, i believe, help in maintaining critical self-reflection, and self-accountability. it's also personal archaeology, laying things out so i can read things i've written from many years ago, a reward so satisfying i feel remiss for discontinuing (i still regret not keeping better blogging habits when i was a teacher in South Central).

anyway, all of this to say: i am going to try to be more consistent.

lately, i have been busy trying to figure my way through a bit of a quarter-life crisis. let's just say, corporate office life is not suited for me. i've had more frustrations than well-fought victories, but let's focus on the positive, shall we? the really exciting thing is that my current job has led me to two very important realizations:
1) i will never be satisfied to be a passive anonymous worker in a fluorescently lit cubicle, and 2) my need to be productive and creative, and my desire to feel like my work is actually meaningful in a tangible way are much greater than my need for a hefty paycheck.
those are good things to realize, and i feel it makes this job worth it, even though i spent the majority of the first 4 months unsure of why i felt so distraught and depressed every day. now that i know, i've been doing what i can to at least take care of #2.

which brings me to the other half of what i wanted to talk about, which is what makes me super duper excited to try blogging again. in order to feel happy and fulfilled and feel like my life is actually producing meaning, i've taken up a bunch of hobbies. i guess it's nice that i have a job that allows me the freedom after work to do whatever i damn well please. teaching wasn't ever that luxurious, because i always had to take so much work home with me (grad school classes didn't help, either). and this has made me feel like i may actually be growing into the kind of person i want to be. i've taken to reading a lot more -- fiction, as well as news (The Atlantic, New Yorker, Slate, Newsweek, The NY Times, and funnily enough, Wikipedia*) -- and this has helped me feel a little more informed and connected with what's going on around me. this, in turn, has gotten me pretty fired up about policy issues, and helped motivate me and propel me towards looking at policy-related jobs and a graduate program for public policy and administration. i've also started volunteering with a local environmental advocacy group called the Tri-City Ecology Center. the people are really awesome (guerilla gardeners!), and i feel like maybe i've found something to pour my heart into and keep me happy and sleeping well at night. finally!

i want to write about all these things, and i'll try to write more. for now, i'm going to list things i want to write about in the future, so i can always come back and remember them if i get stuck.

personal green initiatives - hair, biking, gardening
travel blog - invincible cities
i got engaged to my true love!
corporate life revelations - on styrofoam cups and empty environmental promises and why we'll never progress as a people if we think this is an ideal job and lifestyle
yoga pedagogy - learning from my yoga teacher the values and qualities of an excellent teacher - emphasizing humor, humility, no competition, community, self-awareness and being content with/in your own body and enjoying the process as a way to an outcome

anyway, glad to hop back on this horse! now it's dinner time - i'm going to feast on some delicious veggies and hummus i got from the farmer's market and watch some Daily Shows.


*i've taken to having day-long Wikipedia sessions to catch up on gaps in my knowledge. for example: today i learned about the British political system. mostly because i wanted to understand some of what was being written about the London riots and i realized i knew nothing about British politics. like, they still have Tories! the other day, i was reading about colony collapse disorder. so it really changes day to day.