Monday, April 30, 2012

The Omily Tarot: the Four of Swords

Happy Monday!  Maybe we should try calling it Taronday?  Ok, we tried it, and that sounds more like we're referencing pterodactyls.  So we'll stop.  Call it what you will, this is your weekly scheduled Omily Tarot blog post!  We're working our way through my own interpretations of every card in the Waite-Smith deck, in the order I like to think of them being in, one by one.  When I'm done writing all the interpretations, I'll be having them designed, type-set, and all that fun stuff into a zine available for purchase, and that will be awesome!

For now though, we've made it up to the four of swords.  You may recall our last sword card was a bit of a downer.  So how do you follow that up?  Well, if you have any sense at all, I'd say with some recuperation time.  Oh sure, ultimately you've got to get back into the saddle, and you don't want to wait long enough to get in a headspace about it, but you do need to be healed up enough to be able to handle round two.  The fours thus far have been about taking a time out from our regularly scheduled plan of attack, so it makes sense that we're going to continue that pattern.

The Four of Swords
"At first glance, this card may seem like a relief, with the swords all safely hung up and not impaling anything, but wait…is that guy dead??  Technically this is only an effigy or sculpted image of a knight on a tomb, so no, but yes?  The four swords hang above him, and to the left we see a bright, stained glass window. 
We can assume the tomb suggests this knight is only taking a really, really deep sleep, dipping into his subconscious, intuitive side.  The swords are so clear-cutting and intellectual, this may seem like the last thing you’d expect to hear.  While it may be ok to think only with your head as you plan out your actions, once you start acting, you had better bring something more to the table, and the Staves and Cups told you exactly what was missing!
Things didn’t work out like you had hoped with your first attempt, as per the 3 of swords.  Some deep, sequestered thinking is probably necessary to get out of entrenched habits and mindsets and allow for renewal of your plans.  The cups went back to nature to find inspiration and earthy support, but the swords turn inward completely, away from all influence.  The symbol of death used here probably refers to a need to lay to rest everything you thought you knew about your situation that led to that recent tumble.  What do your instincts tell you?  The bright stained-glass window in the upper left corner suggests that this step will lead to a bright future, and the brilliant yellow of the sarcophagus suggests that the knight either already knows this, or is allowing his passion to stoke the fires of optimism.  Maybe all that was missing from his carefully laid plans was the fiery drive to make them come true.
In a reading, consider this card your permission slip to take a time-out: you won’t be missing anything.  You need this chance to stop everything and be very certain about where you’re going next.  Release even the truths you’ve come up with so far.  Know in your heart that listening to your inner wisdom will lead you to the right path.  Take a vacation with someone you trust if you’re feeling nervous about your upcoming wedding.  Those worries won’t lay themselves to rest without your attention."

Cold feet before your wedding is a pretty dramatic example.  Maybe you're just not so sure you want to cut off all your hair and donate it after all, or you're wondering if the color you chose to paint your bedroom is the right one, or if you really have what it takes to double the size of your garden this year, or if you really ride the train enough to save money with the monthly unlimited get the idea.  When after all the careful considering and pros and cons listing is done, if you're still balking at a decision, lay that all to rest, and do a gut check.  One of the most perennial and important lessons of the tarot is to always trust your instincts.  You may get this card, or a similar message through a different card, if you find yourself consulting the tarot daily, or for every decision you ever make.  The tarot is a tool that can help you unlock your own innate wisdom.  If you fall into the trap of behaving as though the wisdom lives in the tarot itself, expect to get a stern reminder of what exactly is in this deck of card's labor contract.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Eating Omily: It Starts Here-Farm Bill 2012

As if wild, beautiful, delicious produce popping up in Farmer's Markets isn't enough to get locavores (and sustainable eaters of all stripes) excited, something much, much bigger has arrived:

The 2012 edition of the Farm Bill is coming out of committee and going through rounds of negotiations and votes as we speak.  The Farm Bill is a huge, and crucial, piece of legislation that covers subsidies, tax breaks, and restrictions on farmers, programs and plans to feed those in need, guidelines to get more healthy food into people and curb our not-so-healthy eating habits, and much more.  It can make huge strides toward a sustainable food future, or it can tear down the efforts we've worked so hard to achieve in the few years since the last Farm Bill.

Are you surprised that something this important is getting passed under your very nose and this is the first you've heard about it?  Reminds me of Tuesday, when I didn't know it was my only chance to vote in the Republican primary, something I have a huge stake in, until someone just happened to post something about it on facebook.

Why is it that new tv shows and tic-tac ads are plastered all over every available city surface, but I didn't hear a word about my chance to participate in our democracy until it was nearly too late?  Oh, but that's its own blog post right there...

Congress has announced an accelerated schedule for this year's Farm Bill.  Rather than taking a year to work it over and get it into shape, it could be put in place as early as this Winter!  Some groups have been calling this five-year term's version the Secret Farm Bill, because the process of getting it worked through and passed have been less transparent than ever before.  Well, it's not hard to see why.  Millions of us have been making our voices heard, demanding local, sustainable food choices, nutritious foods for our children in schools, the labeling of GMO's, an end to the pesticides arms race, and more, and rather than meeting our demands, too many politicians are too busy kowtowing to the lobbyists run by big companies that line their pockets.  We're going to have to dig deeper for the information we need, and shout louder than ever to keep this Farm Bill from continuing the same old, destructive business as usual.

The important thing is, it's not too late to let congress know what we want out of this Farm Bill!  The senate started marking up and revising the Farm Bill this morning, so you'll need to call your senators as soon as possible, today or tomorrow, actually, today AND tomorrow would be great, to make your wishes known.  What, exactly do we want?  Well, you're welcome to think hard and come up with your own list, and check out your favorite sustainable food information sources for inspiration and ideas, but those groups that keep a weather eye on the food-political horizon are way ahead of us.

The group, Food Bill NYC has made a list of priorities for this year's Farm Bill, as well as a complimentary list of already proposed legislations that would help fulfill those priorities.  You can see what those priorities are by clicking the link above, and then downloading the document on that page that explains them.  By signing a pledge that you support the principles outlined, you can sign up for action alerts as an easy way to make your voice heard through each step of the Farm Bill process.

The Food and Water Watch has its own page with information about the Farm Bill, and what they think are the most crucial changes that need to take place to protect our health, our planet, and our farmers.  It also offers ways you can take action to make this Farm Bill a powerful force for sustainability, including a petition to sign.  This site also offers information about food policy, so you can understand how we got ourselves into this mess, and how we can get ourselves out of it.  The more people we can educate, the sooner we can move into our sustainable food future, and that starts with you!  Watch this video for the quick (and inevitably over-simplified, though not untrue) version of who the Farm Bill stands to help, or hurt.

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops is speaking out and encouraging Catholics to contact their senators about these issues as well.  Just about every faith advocates stewardship and care of the earth, and of course, the people on it.  This is a democracy, so we all have a responsibility to speak up, as loudly as necessary, to demand that our elected officials make the policies that we want, and get rid of the ones that don't.  The Conference has written an open letter expressing exactly what their Farm Bill priorities are, based on the teachings of the Church, and you can download and read that letter via a link on their webpage.

Natural News warns this new Farm Bill only appears to be on the right track: direct subsidy payments (that's government handouts of cold, hard cash to massive corporate farmers growing stuff we don't need i.e. genetically modified corn and soybeans to be processed into nasty crap) will be ended for any farming company making more than $1 million a year.  That is definitely a step in the right direction, but greater government support for these industrial giants only moves the corporate welfare from the front door to the back door.  If all the people are hearing about the Farm Bill is that it's an opportunity to slash the budget, we could lose hard-earned incentives for farmers to change over to organic farming, and other programs that do cost money, but are more than worthwhile, and are tiny parts of the Farm Bill budget.  Basically, they'd be paying lip service to our demands, while still satisfying the lobbyists.

 You can call your congressional representatives, or write them, and tell them what priorities matter most to you in this year's Farm Bill, but you have to act fast!  Some sources are saying that now that the bill's out of committee, it's likely to only face a tougher fight and get less helpful fast as big compromises are made with those more interested in pacifying powerful lobbyists who don't have the people's interests at heart than their own constituents.  Sad, but true.

Is that enough information?  Are you galvanized for a fight?  Get it?  Got it?  Good.  I cannot stress enough how important it is that each and every one of us demand that this Farm Bill serve the people, and the land, instead of big businesses, but this article from Sustainable Table may give you an idea.  Get out there, and do it, while there's still a few of these guys left to thank you!

Live Omily,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

All Those Other Feminist Choices

So, I've been thinking a lot lately about the implications of feminism on fashion.

I try to keep the crazy analysis that goes on in my head sometimes to myself, because I don't like getting pegged as 'some kind of crazy feminist!'  This is really annoying, because I am some kind of feminist, 'crazy' being up for debate, and, in the last couple of months...maybe a year, I've slowly but surely become more and more aware of just how crucial feminism still is in our culture.  This is so frustrating for me, because we have so many other social justice issues to deal with: racism, homophobia, ageism (both older and younger) and perhaps my favourite: prejudice against people in my generation who are freaking pissed because we worked our asses off and accrued tons of debt since our parents told us we had to so we wouldn't wind up flipping burgers, only to find that there are no jobs, and our debt is crippling us, so we protest these facts and demand changes in the system to improve things, and then we're told we should go get a job flipping burgers, which, by the way, doesn't pay anywhere near a living wage, and sure as shit wouldn't cover the student loan payment, so thanks for nothing, assholes.  Anyway...

It's like, the more I start to question where I came upon my choices and my beliefs about myself, and what makes a woman a woman, the more I find Man at the end of the line, instead of Me.

So, I was really ripe for the conversation when I stumbled upon the truly earth-shattering, day-eating, awesome sauce blog: Vagenda.  Where I proceeded to devour article after article, straight back through the archives, blowing my productive plans for the day, but hey, I was learning a lot and how I'm writing this blog post, ok??  The first article I read was entitled, "Hair: Not the Musical" and was about one woman's experiment with letting all her body hair grow out au natural, and her experiences with that.  She's kept it up for over a year and a half, and she's learned a lot about herself, about the patriarchy, and about self confidence.  I was immediately reminded of a conversation I had with my father, years ago, and, first let me say, my father is a wonderful, caring, loving gentleman.  He is a great father.  But, he's only human, and therefor not perfect, and this conversation rolls around in my psyche like a big, nasty burr, painful every time I think about it.  Frankly, I don't remember the conversation.  It was about women and body hair, and what I remember is my father saying (paraphrased),

"Ew, hair on women is disgusting!  Blech!!"

Fortunately I was an adolescent and rebellious and quit shaving my armpits for a few years in high school (went to my Sweet Sixteen party like that, too, in a lovely gown!), so I like to think it didn't negatively impact me too much, but it hurt.   That attitude hurts.  Because, if a woman with hair is disgusting, what are we saying, really?  That the way God[dess] made us isn't good enough.  That our natural selves aren't good enough.  We need painful and obnoxious, and totally unnatural and inconvenient grooming behaviors in order to be acceptable for society.

Can I just say, WTF?

Sooooo, here's the rub.  Does that mean I'm hurting women everywhere every time I shave my legs?  Because I do shave my legs...I mean, I'm pretty lax about it, especially in the Winter, and especially above the knee, but, you know, I keep a razor in the shower...

And what about Fashion?  (another post got me thinking about this, but I forget the's about a woman finding herself getting judged for wearing a short skirt and not liking it) What about putting my body on display?  What about needing just the right body to wear just the right clothes before I'm good enough?  We know those attitudes are harmful for all human beings...

Does that mean I can't wear my painted-on purple skinny jeans?  My pretty red halter top?  Tight mini dress?  Bikini?  Or, you know, maybe it would be feminist of me as long as I didn't wear the bikini top?  It's complicated.  I love to wear my six-inch Steve Madden pumps sometimes.  They make me feel sexy and powerful, even though I can just barely totter around in them at an infuriatingly slow pace...I think what it comes down to is, it's crucial that these are true choices, not mock choices, choices that were made for us long before by constant exposure to a mother who was cruel to what she saw in the mirror, a father who made a disgusted face when he saw a woman whose armpits weren't shaved.

Of course you can wear makeup, if you feel like it.  Of course you can buy the latest trends if you like them.  If you feel more hygenic with hair-free pits, or more confident in a bikini with a bald vajayjay, then yes, by all means, get out the wax strips!  For that matter, if you're more comfortable in a bra, more power to you!

But you've got to ask yourself why you're doing these things, and who you're doing them for, and most importantly, do you, can you, still love yourself, still see yourself as awesome, and worthwhile, and good enough for ANYBODY to see you, without them?  And if the answer is no, why not try an experiment of your own?  You can always start small...

"Ew, the patriarchy is disgusting!  Blech!!"

Live Omily,

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Four of Cups

It's Monday again!!  What better day to get your tarot on?  In case you're new to the program, every Monday I post an interpretation of a tarot card from the Waite-Smith Deck from the interpretation zine I'm writing.  The interpretations are based on the elemental and numerical significances of the cards, as well as the images on the cards themselves.  When I wrap up interpreting the whole deck (in real life, not on the blog; that will take over a year!) the whole kit and kaboodle will be designed, type set, and crafted into a zine available for purchase on the website.  Yay!

So, where are at, anyway?  The Four of Cups!  We talked about the fours a little bit in our last tarot post, and the cups are about emotions, intuitions, dreams, and whatnot.  They often speak about relationships, but not always, and certainly not always those of a romantic nature.

The Four of Cups

"The cups have been so joyful thus far, and they’re generally thought of as a happy suit.  The four is the first glimpse we get that still waters run deep.  This figure sits alone in a posture often associated with meditation.  His downcast glance may mean he’s reacting negatively to the cup he's being offered, or maybe he just hasn't noticed it yet.  Cups 1-3 are in a row, and just begging for the next step, but the person in this card is hitting the pause button, seated under a tree, contemplating what he's accomplished so far before moving forward. 

The honeymoon is over, and now time alone to think is required.  The three cups, positioned in a row a short distance away, symbolize the progress he’s made so far, and their distance may suggest a more objective perspective is sought.  The forth cup is offered by the universe, his imagination, the Divine, or perhaps through his mental efforts.  Will he take it?  Only if he decides the image the three cups presents to him is favourable.  

           The staves experienced uncertainty before, and joyous celebration in the 4’s.  Though it’s too late to take back the choice made in the 2’s, it’s never too late to make a different choice.  There’s no water in this scene, unless it’s in the cups.  The situation he examines is resting on level, fertile earth.  New love or sudden success can sweep you up to the clouds!  Before devoting excessive time and energy to the cause, it’s important to bring that excitement back down to earth, to make sure it is exactly what it appears to be.  A relationship of any kind needs a firm foundation to grow.  Perhaps our figure is searching for the stone floor in the 3 of coins before he begins to build.  

           The cloud from which the hand holding the cup emerges could be a rain cloud, or a puff of steam, both of which are made up of air and water.  Whether he received a rude awakening as in the 3 of swords or not, he wants to be sure that the way he’s perceiving his situation is the objective truth of the matter.  Happy, hopeful-for-the-future stave energy snuck into the last card, as well as the joyful fruitfulness of the coins.  In this card we see the more practical side of earth, and a hint of the clear and to-the-point sword energy as well.  This card reminds, in the midst of headiest joy, reassess, reassess, reassess."

It may come off as a bit of a downer, but it's not, really.  Remember the three of cups?  There's room for releasing your concerns and reveling in the joy of the moment, too, but longterm, you do have to keep your wits about you.  As the threes ultimately taught us, there is good and bad in all things, and it's important to take the time and effort to see both clearly before making a decision about how to move forward.  I hope you're starting to see how the path of the tarot, exploring the four suits in each number before moving onto the next, provides solid, practical advice for living your life as a smart, present, successful person!  Each lesson builds on the last, and we're constantly reminded of what we've already learned, so we can synthesize these ideas together and use them in real life.  Awesome sauce!

Live Omily,

Friday, April 20, 2012

Eating Omily: Wild Times at the Farmer's Market

It's finally happened: the asparagus is back at the Farmer's Market! I haven't been able to get my hands on those Spring tonic spears yet because the first few times they appear it's in limited quantities and they go FAST! No to worry; the farmers will be bringing them in straight through June! I'm biding my time with sweet, crisp over-wintered spinach.
Word on the street is that the mild winter and unusually warm early spring will mean early strawberries in my neck of the woods! Oh, I can almost taste them...I hope there's a bumper crop; it would almost make the pathetic lack of snow we had worth it...the best part though? This means I can take what's left of my frozen supply and drop them in a bottle of vodka for a couple of weeks! Mmmmm...who's up for a cocktail party??
Love, love, love!

Spring is a special time of year for us locavores. Not only because it's the beginning again of the seasons of abundance beginning with some of our most beloved flavors, but because there are some extra special edible stars making all too brief cameos. I speak of those wild children of the plant kingdom: the foods we can't seem to grow on purpose. We have to go find them. What better way to get back in touch with your hunter-gatherer roots, right? This is the time of year to look for morrels, incredibly delicious wild mushrooms, and a type that is so distinct in appearance it's even safe for novice shroom gatherers to find on their own! That said, of course, if you are in any doubt, safety first!
Ramps are also popping up for $3 a bunch, and thank goodness, because the garlic crop won't be in for a hot minute, and what's left out there is $2 a head and half molded! Ramps are the smaller, more pungent, wild cousins of those great, big sweet-oniony leeks. They have a distinct garlicky character, and are fabulous as a garlic replacement, or as a base for a soup that will clear your sinuses no problem!
Know what else is out there?? Fiddle head ferns! If you've seen these you may have been a little doubtful: they look more like snail shells than anything else. They have a subtle flavor, compared to asparagus, green beans, and artichokes, and a lovely spring-crunch of a texture when lightly cooked. They have quite the cult following, so go see what all the fuss is about!
Before preserving season settles down on us and I'm dropping twice our weekly grocery budget to buy what I need in bulk to get us through the cold months (and a whole lot of birthday/Christmas/thank you gifts!), I'm looking forward to savoring some of these spring time delicacies. Get out there and try them; this is a very special, very, very limited time offer!

Om nom nom...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Times' Latest Myth

My husband pointed out that the Times had developed a habit as of late of publishing articles that seemed carefully orchestrated to piss off broad swaths of their readers (remember that "Yoga Will Effing Kill You!" one a while back?) So, maybe they know what they're publishing is inflammatory and misleading...or maybe the Times just sucks...anyway, an article popped up on the husband's facebook feed, and we couldn't resist giving it a once-over:

"The Myth of Sustainable Meat"

I don't think we made it past the first paragraphs before we starting pointing out issues with the premises offered. This is the second time the Times has written an article about the movement to fix our food systems that has pissed me off. The first time the article was about how shopping at Farmer's Market is an elitist hipster hobby. You can bet the author received a strongly worded letter from a particular yoga instructor who has shopped at the Farmer's Market for years, including for the six months we survived on food stamps. The first time a letter to the author was enough to make me feel better, but alas, that is not to be this time. I need to do my part to right this shameful take a minute. Open another tab, and google the article, or click the link below. Maybe even read over it once on your own, then scroll down, where I'll be dismantling it paragraph by paragraph. You'll have to bear with me: separating fact from exaggeration, and out and out fiction, takes some time and careful explanation.

Paragraph 1: I must have been exaggerating earlier; I agree with this paragraph wholeheartedly!

Paragraph 2: Problem Number One. An animal product labeled "free-range" or "cage-free" was almost 100% definitely not produced on a small, or organic farm. If it also has an "organic" label, then yes, it was produced on an organic farm. A huge, industrial, organic farm. The only way to know your meat is coming from a place that respects the animals and treats them humanely is to know the farmer, and ideally, visit the farm. All "free-range" means, legally, is that those chicken live in a huge, dark hen house, packed in at absurd volumes, and at one end is a small door that leads out to a pasture that is opened so infrequently, the chickens never figure out they can use it. "Cafe-free" means there's no door. If the chicken is not organic, the chickens also are given loads of antibiotics, and are fed cow blood that may or may not have mad cow disease, along with grains grown with lots and lots of pesticides and fertilizers. Did I mention mad cow disease can incubate in humans for years, but once infected, the mortality rate is 100%?

Paragraph 3: At this point, it's hard to say what he's accusing of being a poor substitute for industrial farming: large-scale, corner-cutting, customer-deceiving industrial farms doing just enough to put a friendlier label on their product? Or actually small, organic, sustainable, humane farms?

Paragraph 4: And now we really get into it! Seriously? Cows? Cows are causing global warming? And chickens of course, damn those pastured chickens! We should drive over them with one of the multiple cars most families have these days! Make it a hummer!!

Alright, alright, it's easy to scoff, but the fact is: livestock are responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming: more than the whole transportation sector. Cows produce a whole lot of methane (hey, if all you ate was grass or grains, you'd fart a lot, too!) and methane is over 20 times more warming than carbon dioxide. Holy shit (holy cow?)! Could he be right? Should we get rid of the cows?? Here's the thing: their farts aren't causing all those greenhouse gases. Big problems with cows include: deforestation to make more room for cattle to be raised, land being taken up growing corn and soy for cows to eat, and the production of fertilizers and pesticides for those fields where the cows' unnatural food source comes from, and the simple fact that at our current beef-eating rates, the methane farts alone are a legitimate global warming issue that will get much much worse in the coming years assuming trends continue unabated.

Well, I can't dispute his figure on how much land it takes to pasture a cow. I do know that A.) When cows are grazed in a small area of their whole range at a time via portable electric fencing, they eat all the grass there is and not just the stuff that's their favorite, and are kept from trampling or chomping the rest of the pasture while it recovers, and they don't have a chance to eat the grass down to the ground, meaning it recovers faster. The overall effect is that the cows need less land, and B.) Us sustainable meat eaters aren't eating anywhere near the quantity of meat the average American is right now, let alone an average that would match the figure that's projected as more people have enough money to eat more beef in the coming years. The amount of meat we eat right now isn't sustainable under any system. We need to cut way, way back, instead of ramping way way up. No one with any sense is saying otherwise. That makes this a straw man argument.

And grazing cattle in the rainforest? What moron thought that was a good idea? That land is not grassland. It's fecking jungle. Of course it can't properly support grazing cattle! You clear cut it, you put cattle there, oops, the land is destroyed and won't feed your cattle for long, so you repeat...instead of, oh, I don't know, crazy locavore idea...CULTIVATING THINGS THAT GROW IN THE FECKING RAINFOREST!!! How about fair-trade, shade-grown, organic coffee? You'll get more for that per pound than beef, I'd wager. I realize this stupid industry is built on the backs of people who are starving, who aren't educated in the damage this technique is doing, and who live in poverty and just want to feed their families. So, instead of exploiting them, why are we not teaching them how to make a living off of the land they live on?

Here's the thing: livestock used responsibly, so to speak, is beautiful alchemy: you have, for example, an uncultivated field of very rocky or sandy or clay soil, or maybe it's a series of steep slopes. You could plow it up and grow plants here, but it would be very difficult, and wouldn't make a lot of sense. You can't eat grass! Your friend the cow can! Put him and his friends on this field, and watch them turn something worthless to you into incredibly nutritious beef and milk products! And, if the cows are grazed rotationally as explained earlier, you can actually get more biomass out of that land by grazing cows on it than you can by growing corn on it! AND, since we can't eat grass, the cows are basically converting solar energy to food energy for us. Magic! Goats, sheep, and chickens all do the same thing, and we should more of these creatures and less cows because a monoculture is harmful 100% of the time, but cows can still be a part of the picture. And, they all also produce fertilizer! Collect cowpies on a sunny afternoon, and you can fertilize your fields of plants without any nasty artificial fertilizers. You'll need a field or two to grow supplemental food for your herd when foul whether comes, true, but the cows are making the fertilizer for that field for you. This is miles away from the horrendous foolishness that is our industrial beef industry. On a reasonable scale, it CAN be done sustainably, and guess what? If it's NOT done at all, all our fertilizers have to be the fake, scary chemical kind made in a greenhouse-gas-producing factory.

Paragraph 5: Since he's talking about the breeds designed to fatten up to an absurd size absurdly quickly, he may be back to talking about the industrial "free-range" farms I explained early. Again, know your farmer. Ask your farmer what breeds of chicken he's farming, and if the answer is a breed that can't properly fend for itself on pasture, I would suggest not buying it. When I buy a roaster at the farmer's market, it weighs four pounds or less. Because it's a fecking bird, not a genetically engineered people-obeser. Ask your farmer how he handles the issue of pigs rooting. Ask him why some farmers use nose rings, and what impact that has on the animals. If what we see as 'natural' is not 'natural' to the animal, guess who has to change their definition? Hint: the species that is capable of logging onto the internet and reading this.

Paragraph 6: Yes folks, that's right. Humanely raised animals cost substantially more to bring to market than do their tortured counterparts. This means sustainable meat is substantially more expensive. This is one of the reasons that sustainable meat eaters don't hesitate to eat rice and beans, eggs, tofu, etc. instead of meat, more often than not. That's a healthier lifestyle for the people, and a healthier lifestyle for the planet. This man seems to be arguing against the stance that we can continue to eat the same quantities of meat we're eating now as long as the package says 'organic' and 'free-range', or that meat comes from small, sustainable, humane farms. That stance is not actually held by anyone who is informed on this issue. As previously mentioned, that's the definition of a straw man argument.

Regulations would have to be in place of course, to keep companies from cutting corners for profits (that's what got us into this mess in the first place), but the most important thing is just informing people of why sustainable meat is worth the money; why it's the only meat anyone should ever be eating, for their own health as well as for the animals and the planet, and why they need to keep their meat eating within reason, even if they can afford to eat more meat. Once that becomes common knowledge, the only regulations necessary will be to require transparency, so customers can know what they are buying. The system can be set up to favor smaller farms as well, instead of the current one that favors gargantuan enterprises that aren't good for anybody except the guy sitting in his office at the top.

Paragraph 7: Yes, thank you. It's called the circle of life.

Paragraph 8: I would like to know, first of all, what he means by 'economic necessity'. Does he mean, if he doesn't give his chickens supplemental feed, he'll have to raise the price on his chickens more? I'll bet people who care will pay it. But let's say that for whatever reason, it just is not reasonable to raise chickens on only pasture. After all, chickens can't find a whole lot to eat in January in New York. Is there a reason the farmer can't grow organic corn and soy for his birds? Or buy organic corn and soy from a fellow farmer locally? Not only are the nutrients then not coming from an industrial source, but they are staying, in a broad sense, within the system. Maybe the buyer of the corn and soy can offer some chicken manure in return! Chicken manure is very high-nitrogen, and can actually burn plants instead of feeding them, so that may not actually be a good idea; it's just a thought.

Paragraph 9: We all know that bears, wolves, coyotes, hawks, owls, etc., carefully watch their prey, choosing to eat only those who have already enjoyed a long, full, manure-producing life. It's true that predators eat what they can catch, and the old and the sick are frequently on that list, but so are the very young. We live in a symbiotic relationship with our farmed animals: we protect them from all of their usual predators, we ensure they have food, shelter, and the opportunity to propagate the species. In return, we are their predator. Please explain to me how this is not natural. Would it be better if I got down on all fours and galloped after the chicken, snatching it in my teeth and swinging it around as it squawks in terror? It is true that our waste does not go back into that closed system. I think that's a level of falling short of naturalism we can all happily tolerate. There are sustainable farms that let the animal carcases rot and use that resource as compost. That is, in fact, an option.

Paragraph 10: Straw man argument number two. Apparently this paragraph is only here to undercut his own view and point out just how crucial natural fertilizer is.

Paragraph 11: I love how he doesn't come out and SAY he thinks we all need to be vegans, he just suggests that he's proven any other opinion to be unconscionable. Which is patently untrue. Veganism, on a global scale, is so impractical as to boggle the mind. We would lose far more wilderness than we are willing to tolerate in the quest to cultivate enough land to grow enough plant-based food for all, and there are places where growing enough rice and beans to feed a population would be an ecological disaster because there just isn't enough rainfall for more than tough shrubs and grasses and small, irrigated backyard gardens. Ruminants can turn those tough shrubs and grasses into the nutrition so desperately needed. And perhaps you'll recall the issue of fertilizer. Also, without artificial vitamin B12 shots, vegans will run out of that vitamin after about ten years, and will suffer irreparable brain and heart damage. That said, we are in a transitional phase where vegetarians and vegans are crucial because they help to cancel out the people eating way, way too much meat. Go give one a hug! Then talk to him or her about vitamin B12...

So, thank you, James E McWilliams, and the New York Times, for spreading misinformation, and hurting the sustainable food movement. I've done the hard part. Why don't you write this gentleman an enlightening letter? And go buy some delicious, sustainable beef from your Farmer's Market. Don't forget to ask your farmers questions about how they raise their animals and why! Beef is good, but so is chicken, turkey, duck, rabbit, goat, pork, sheep, ostrich...

Live Omily,

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Four of Staves

Happy Monday! Hope you can eat lunch outside!! It's Omily Tarot Day! Oh goodness...could it be? Have we reached the fours?? I need to get a move on with the court cards don't I? When I finish interpreting the whole Waite-Smith deck, based on the numerical and elemental significances, as well as the images on the cards, they'll be organized, designed, and published into a beautiful zine available for purchase. I'm getting excited, how about you? Till then, check in every week for the next card up!

The fours are your chance to take a breather and evaluate the progress you've made thus far. Any time you're hard at work on an important project, keep your eyes out for those four moments. They're crucial for your sanity, as well as your eventual success! And of course, we'll be starting with the four of staves...

The Four of Staves
"Four staves stand in the foreground, supporting a garland of greenery, flowers, and fruit. Two figures approach, holding bouquets aloft! The four of staves can mean to throw a party, or that a wedding is in your future. In a broader sense, the four of staves is about having fun, and celebrating life's small pleasures and minor victories. Yes, it looks like the uncertainty we left our hero standing in on the three has come up in his favor! Are these characters making the best of a bad situation, or celebrating everything coming up roses? We can’t know from the picture, and as we learned in the 3 of coins, there’s little point in worrying about it.

After inspiration, decision-making, and action in 1-3, 4 says it's time to step back and savor this solid beginning. And this is solid advice for the fiery staves, which can get caught up in their own ambitions, always living in the future. This card is about stopping to enjoy the present moment, and it’s a lesson to keep in mind throughout the Tarot’s journey, even when things are looking a good deal bleaker. The staves in this image are again plunged into the earth, but the green, flowered garland at the top provides the answers to the question we asked in the three. It turns out the staves were planted in fertile soil, and can be trusted to stand alone, at least for the moment.

The two main figures could be dancing, echoing the figures in the three of cups. Perhaps for the ambitious staves it takes a bit longer to feel confident of a decision made, since the goals are longer-term. Passionate-red turrets point up to the optimistic yellow sky: it’s only up from here, and it looks like it’ll be an awesome ride!

Of course, we can’t be sure about that crowd to the left in the background. Revelers come to join the festivities, or protestors not happy with this new project? We’re a long way from completion. The big rock blocking the way of forward motion for the couple at center reminds us there are likely to be obstacles in our way. The only way forward may indeed be up!"

It's a shame I didn't get to the fours a couple weeks ago. We had both mercury and mars in retrograde, and retrograde time is definitely a perfect time to step back and check out your progress: fixing up lose ends, taking extra time to keep communications crystal clear, and wrapping up projects instead of charging ahead. Those retrogrades pop up pretty regularly though, so next time you'll know!


Friday, April 13, 2012

Eating Omily: Fan-Sea Food, or, Why Cooking Mussels Mariniere Doesn't Make Me An Elitist (At Least in France)

First of all, I'd like to say that it's alright if you don't like seafood. Really, it is, because, seafood doesn't like you, either.

Apparently when a shark attacks a person, their attacking/eating behavior is starkly different from when a shark attacks a typical prey animal, such as a seal. Have you seen those Animal Planet clips? The seal is pretty much gone in one bite. But a person, though likely to lose a chunk of flesh, or something important like a leg, will then be abandoned. Blood on the water, a good-sized meal basically unable to defend itself, and the shark...swims off! The scientists' conclusion? Fish don't like landfood.

For those of us who love eating something that tastes like a warm day on the beach smells, who appreciate the tenderest animal flesh around, who are big omega three, calcium, and zinc fans, you are going to love this Farmer's Market recipe, and everything you need to make it is out there at the Union Square Farmer's Market right now. If you can't make it today, go tomorrow or Monday!

Mussels Mariniere actually is a great metaphor for the difference between American food culture, and French food culture. In America, this is a fancy-shcmancy dinner time dish, impressive date food (assuming your date doesn't have a dislike for the taste of those who dwell in another realm in common with our friend the great white...and if he or she does, you've got to ask yourself if there's anything else they share...)

In France...well, in France you can order it at every little sidewalk cafe you can find, and it will come with French Fries. This is their fast food. It's cheap, easy to make, and, guess what? Astoundingly delicious and healthy! At least when compared to a burger or chicken fingers...

in other words, for us in the Land of the Free, it's a cheat. No one will fail to be impressed with this dish, and it is as foolproof as they come.

So, start by buying some mussels, and yes, your Farmer's Market has them. They'll tell you to allot a pound per person, but if they're generous with their pounds (and they should be, for reasons I'll get to in a moment) a pound per two people is sufficient. My mussels hauled in from the cold waters of Long Island just hours before ran me $3/pound.

Take your mussels home, and put them in a bowl in your fridge if it's not dinner time. You can leave them like that (don't add water! Fresh water will kill them!) for one day if shopping and cooking feels like too much.

When you're ready, put the bowl of mussles to one side of the sink, pull a trash can over, and start de-bearding them. That funny hairy/seaweedy thing on some of them is the beard; you can grasp it and tear down sharply and it'll come right off. Give them a rinse and scrub under cold running water, and put them in another bowl as you go.

This is important: if you encounter any that are open, knock or tap on the shell. If the shell doesn't close up tight of its own accord, toss it. If I'm not sure if it's closing or not, I'll close it myself and see if it stays that way. If it does, I'll throw it in with the live ones, but I'm sure there are those who would tell you to be more cautious. Since a couple dead ones are inevitably going to be found in every batch, when you pay for a pound, your monger should give you more than a pound, to compensate for that fact.
Here are my ingredients! That is what a generous pound (dead ones already removed) looks like.

Leave your cleaned (closed) mussels on the counter for a moment, and pull out a big saute pan. I strongly recommend stainless steel as the mussel shells could scratch anything else. Melt a tablespoon or two of butter, and add between half and one chopped onion, and couple cloves of sliced or chopped garlic. I added a few ramps (sharply garlicky wild leeks that pop up in Farmer's Markets this time of year) and a few cremini mushrooms I bought at the market, too. Some people use shallots instead of onion. They're milder than onions, and traditionally they're what the French use, but they're too expensive for me when an onion cooked with patience is plenty mild, soft, and sweet.

This is also important: Do Not add ANY salt to your saute, no matter how much of a salt lover you are! I'll get to why in a moment.
Nom nom nom...

When your saute is delicious enough to eat on it's own, add just enough white wine to cover the pan in a very thin layer. This white wine is going to steam the mussels. You may think you need more, a quarter inch certainly! No, you don't, for the same reason you don't need salt. Let the wine come up to a simmer (feel free to crank the heat up till it does, and then back down)
This much white wine. No more.

Add your mussels, give the pan a shake, and get out the bowl or bowls you intend to serve the mussels in. Set those right next to the pan. As each mussel opens, indicating it's dead and cooked, retrieve it from the pan (fingers are fine, they aren't that hot) and place it in one of the bowls. Doing it this way ensures each mussel is perfectly (that is to say, very lightly) cooked. Now, don't start snatching mussels the minute you see the tiniest crack in their armor. Watch for the muscle holding the shell closed to release. It will yawn widely open.
You'll notice something funny happening as your muscles steam open: there is more liquid in your pan as you go, not less. This is because each of those mussels is carrying a mouthful of filtered, mineral-rich sea water, and as they cook and open, that precious cargo will be released. You'll end up with a fragrant, heavily salted broth of mussel-scented sea water, white wine, butter, and aromatics, and of course, that is why we make this dish in the first place.

You may find there are a couple mussels in the pan that just aren't opening several minutes after you've pulled all the others out. These guys were dead when they hit the pan. They won't open, and further, you don't want them to. Toss them.

You can let your broth simmer and reduce if you'd like, but reducing it will make it saltier. Some people add heavy cream, not only for richness, but because it helps to mask some of the saltiness. You don't want just a drizzle of sauce on your mussels, you want a bowl full of broth and mussels, and you'll want some crusty Farmer's Market Bread toasting right about now so it's hot and ready to absorb those absurdly delicious juices.

Pour the broth over the bowls of mussels, put the toasted bread on a plate, pour the wine you steamed the mussels with into glasses, and light some candles. The easiest way to eat these guys is to use an empty mussel shell to scoop the meat away from other mussel shells.

So yes, not kidding. $3, plus the cost of odds and ends: a splash of wine, a single onion, a couple garlic cloves, and fifteen minutes (half an hour if it takes you a while to clean the muscles and you throw a salad together on the side) to a fancy schmancy seafood dinner.

And, these animals are alive right up until you cook them: pretty much hibernating from the cold they've been kept in from the moment they were hauled from the ocean. I can't promise there's not a moment of suffering between waking up from the warmth, and the hot steam killing them...but this is a bivalve we're talking about. Its experience of suffering is pretty minimalist. Mussels are abundant, and are almost always farmed sustainably, so both wild-caught and farmed mussels are a sustainable and low to no suffering meal. Win.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not Ok.

So I was walking down Prospect Park West, with a yoga mat under one arm and a tote bag slung over the other, on my way to the pull-up bars by Harmony Playground, when I noticed a group of young men hanging out just outside the entrance to the park that led down to the playground. Immediately my stomach dropped. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt they weren't just going to let me walk by. I held their gaze as I approached, attempting to demand respect, but it happened as it happens every time. I got within a certain distance, and because staring is rude, I dropped my gaze to the path in front of me.

"Ooh, pleeeeaaase teach me some yoga!"

They had to say shit. They had to reduce me to a sexual toy too selfish to let them play with it. An object they were entitled to gawk at, if not violate physically.

And, you know, it was all my fault of course. What was I thinking? Walking on a public sidewalk on a sunny day (around 1:00 in the afternoon) holding a yoga mat? In leggings no less?? I always think that this time I'll say something back. Something like,

"That's called street harrassment, and it's not ok."


"That's not a compliment. It is intimidation. Please stop."

But I didn't. I rolled my eyes, and comforted myself with the lie that they weren't worth educating, which really only further reduced me to their level.

How insanely frustrating is this? That I can't go to a public park in the middle of the afternoon to make use of the public fitness equipment, without being accosted? Without being made to feel that I shouldn't be there, or that if I'm going to insist on being there, there's a price to pay in human dignity?

I got to the fitness area, grateful it was far enough down the way that they couldn't still see me, and went through my warm-up, equal parts seething, and deflated. Before long I was joined by a few other people, all guys, there for their own separate workout routines, probably not carrying baggage about their right to use this space.

They were all really nice. We didn't really chat, but they put the milk crate back under the high bar when they were done, so I could use it to reach for my toe-to-bar's. I couldn't help but wonder if that wasn't another very different symptom of the same problem: there were four tall men using the high bar, and one short woman. I was the only one who needed the milk crate, so why did every guy move the crate, use the bar, and then put the crate back? I could move it by myself quite easily. Maybe I should have taken the initiative to move it out of the way when I was done with my reps.

Sometimes women say shit to men, too, right? That argument's been thrown at me. Maybe if they're really drunk...but in general, no, not really. And if they do, guess what? The men feel that it's a compliment. They don't perceive the undercurrent of threat, because coming from a woman to a man, it's not there. From a man to a woman, "I want to have sex with you" may be what's said out loud, in various vulgar ways, but both parties know the rest of that statement: "If there weren't witnesses, maybe I would. You couldn't stop me."

One of the men working out offered me a tip for my pull-ups, in a way that didn't make me feel uncomfortable at all. He called me 'young lady', not 'hey mama', or 'sexy', for starters. He addressed me as an equal, there for the same reason he was, belonging there just as much as he did. Is that really so much to ask? Kindness and respect instead of implicit threats?

So, the point is not that 'all men are pigs' because they're not. The point is that, I'm never going to look strong or tough enough to keep from getting street harassed, because whether they know it consciously or not, men know how our society works. They know they can harass me with impunity, that I can't do anything, and probably won't even try. On some level, they consider it a right, to stare at and make comments to women, to make them feel less than respected, less than human. And that is what you call male privilege. I am disadvantaged because I can't walk into the damn park without being harassed, and men are over-advantaged because they can harass other human beings without consequences. It's not segregation, it's not being forbidden the right to choose to be the legal family of the person that I love, but it's discrimination nonetheless, and the subtlety of it only makes it more insidious.

I know many caring, compassionate human beings of both genders and various sexual orientations who would never have the gall to intimidate someone on the street by suggesting sexual attraction or activity to her. It's not enough. We're all going to have to decide that that behavior is not ok, and we're no longer going to contribute to a climate that makes it seem natural by ignoring it when it happens, or claiming that it's just someone's opinion, or that it's harmless, or that men are pigs, or that boys will be boys.

Shall we?

"I've had enough. I'm not a freak. I'll just keep fighting to stay cool on the streets..."

Live Omily,

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Three of Coins

Things got a little backed up over Holy Week, but no worries, because I'm back! So for the forseeable future, The Omily Tarot will be on Mondays, Wednesdays will be long-thought-provoking (I hope)-post Day, and check in Fridays for your daily value of Eating Omily!

Today's Omily Tarot card is the Three of Coins. I'm working my way through one card each week, offering you my interpretations of the Waite-Smith deck, based on the imagery on the cards, and the elemental, and numerical associations associated with each one. When I finish interpreting the whole deck, it will be professionally (not by me) designed and produced into a lovely little book available for purchase. Yay!

The Three of Coins
3 of Coins

"Practical coins show us a literal setting in stone of our intentions in the ace and two’s in the three: the Friar who will live and worship there, and the architect who designed the chapel in question, examine the work of the craftsman building it. Already we see the coming together of the mind, the spirit, and the body, in this trio of occupations. Bringing our ideas into the real world, and dealing with the consequences of that step, requires a balance of all three.

This card is about evaluation of your own actions, or someone else’s. A practical eye is needed here: a sailor is not being asked his opinion of the work that was done, but the friar who has a stake in the proceedings. You created this situation. Is it serving you, or not? Your decision will be relevant for the insight it will give you into your future actions. Will you go on to the next step of this project? How pleased do the friar and the architect look to you?

Regardless, the big lesson of this card is, for better or for worse, it is done. Don’t get too hung up on celebration or mourning; move foreword! If you don’t like where you’ve gotten yourself, start over! This portion of the chapel is carved, and can’t be un-carved. Practical coins remind us that moving forward in any direction involves first accepting the consequences of our previous actions. The three’s can, in a sense, be paired off into the staves and coins, and the cups and swords: the first two don’t offer a judgment of the action taken in the two’s, and the last two do. On the other hand, in the staves, the ship sales off, its destiny uncertain, while in the coins, the carving is completed, ready to be evaluated. What’s the final step in our suits-progression through the three’s? You should have it by now: accept what’s been done; you can’t take it back. Whether the consequences are fabulous, awful, or somewhere in-between, this is the foundation you are now standing on. Perhaps it would behoove you to consult more sources before moving forward with the task at hand, or starting a new one from scratch. As fortune would have it, the imagery in the three of coins points to the theme of the four’s…

In a reading, this card may warn against gossip, or sticking your nose in affairs that don’t concern you, by urging you to concern yourself with the ones that do. A more positive interpretation is, all your resources are needed now to evaluate the situation at hand. Don’t make assumptions, or go in already ‘knowing’ your conclusion. Be honest, and see what’s there, not what you want to see. Put aside your emotional reaction for the moment, and do what needs to be done."

Are the cards starting to speak to you yet? Are you getting confused now that each card is bringing multiple ideas and elements into play? The numerical significance of each card gets more complicated the higher we go, too. You can always go back to the aces to get a refresher on what each element relates to, and by reading one suite all the way through the numbers we have so far, you can start to trace the numerical path that's taking shape. But most importantly, don't forget to just pull cards, ask questions, and trust your instincts! What you feel a card means at any given moment is way more relevant than any book, blog, teacher, professional reader, or any other source you could consult.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Eating Omily: Tofu, or not Tofu...

I've been flipping through a favourite cookbook of mine, Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai for weeks now, mezmerized by glamour shots of ultra nutritious and indulgent food...a stickybun recipe with no eggs and just a couple tablespoons of butter, a chocolate silk pie that gets it's silkiness from...tofu?

Tofu. I've never cooked with tofu. When I started cooking for myself and crafting my own healthy adult lifestyle at 18, tofu wasn't on my radar, and frankly by the time it might have been, I felt better eating a slab of humanely and locally raised Farmer's Market steak than I would tucking into genetically modified and flown across the country bean curd.

Still. I get some cheese and yogurt at the Farmer's Market, but thus far, milk and those basic bulk cheeses like shredded mozzarella get tossed into the cart at Trader Joe's. If those could be replaced with organic tofu, I'd be replacing potential animal suffering (the cows that give us certified organic milk can still lawfully be kept indoors in small stalls for their entire lactating life) with pesticide-free, albeit jetlagged, plant protein.

It seemed like it was time to give tofu a try. I bought a package of extra firm, and a package of soft, avoided my husband's strange look, and tucked them into the fridge. In her breakfast chapter, Candice suggests a simple and tasty scramble using crumbled extra firm tofu instead of eggs. I get my eggs from the Farmer's Market, and don't mind eating them, but this seemed like a good dish to start with: pretty impossible to screw up, and the tofu was taking center stage. I crumbled the tofu and tossed it with herbs and spices, cooked up onion in oil, then added chopped sundried tomatoes and the spiced tofu to the pan. It really did resemble scrambled eggs, especially as it picked up a subtle golden tinge from the onions and oil in the pan. It needed a liberal dash of salt, but I'm kind of a salt fiend anyway. I dished it out into two bowels and set one down in front of the husband, who picked up his fork and dug in. I nervously nibbled my first bite...hmm...good. The tofu was mild, even bland, but it carried the flavors of onions, herbs, and sundried tomatoes well, and it had a pleasant texture, just a little firmer than scrambled eggs, and it hadn't stuck even the slightest bit to my stainless steel pan. Can't say that for eggs, Farmer's Market or not.
"It is like eggs." was my husband's comment, moments later when he had shoveled down his whole serving.

I keep eyeing the herbed tofu marinara with whole wheat spaghetti recipe, though I'm pretty sure my own marinara recipe with my secret ingredient could give Candice's a run for it's money, it seems like the thing to try next. Of course, I didn't buy the soft tofu just for looking at. Chocolate silk pie is definitely high on the docket.

I've been looking into the whole, acidic versus alkaline foods issue lately, and am pleasantly surprised by the sensible information I've been able to find on it. Things like, "acid-forming foods aren't bad, but the typical western diet is very high in them." and "Since the blood is kept slightly basic at all times, it's best to eat more basic foods than acidic foods, to make maintaining that pH easy, so your body doesn't rob your bones of alkalizing calcium."

And lo and behold, what's basic and what's acidic? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. Fruits and veggies are for the most part very base-forming, and grains, meat, and dairy, along with alcohol, coffee, drugs, and proccessed foods, are for the most part very acid-forming. A healthy diet is a healthy diet is a healthy diet.

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." -Michael Pollan

It's just not that hard, but we keep looking for some other, easier answer. Vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar free, low-carb, pescitarian...we really seem to want to be able to split food into camps based on moral value-based judgements, and that makes no sense. And in doing it, it doesn't seem like we're eating delicious things, either. Ok, here's my favourite breakfast ever (aside from possibly a heaping plate of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and a cinnamon roll...)
This is a multigrain waffle topped with berries I bought at the Farmer's Market last summer and froze myself, a couple tablespoons of Farmer's Market plain yogurt, and a generous drizzle of Farmer's Market pure maple syrup. Yum. Actually I like it even better with a spread of Farmer's Market fresh chevre goat cheese in place of the yogurt, with the berries on top of the cheese so it creates a moisture barrier, keeping my waffle crisp...oh, those luscious bites of tangy cheese, tart berries, and sweet syrup all atop a light, crisp waffle...this is FOOD, people, real food, and it's good for the environment, good for the local economy, and good for ME, both in terms of nutritious and in terms of being freaking delicious.

Stop buying diet cereal and high sugar shakes and make yourself some real food!! Which, come to think of it, is the whole basis of Pretty wonder I like this book so much! It might be a promising one for you to invest in, if you'd like to do more healthy cooking and want a basic roster to start pulling from. It'll take some pantry stocking, and some of her recipes I flip right past because it's not the right season for it, but avocados are something I've never been able to resist cheating on locavorism with...
You can try out recipes from her website, or get inspired and riff on them, like I often do! That super-tasty Italian-style breakfast burrito I was going on about last week was inspired by one of her recipes, in fact.

So there you have it. Adventures in tofu, nutrition science, and common sense body-fueling. Thanks, Candice!


Monday, April 2, 2012

What I Learned From Pinterest and Why It Made Me Want to Cry

So I don't know if you guys are on pinterest, or have perhaps checked it out, or heard about this or noticed it already, but there's a faint internet discussion taking place about the prevelance of pins having to do with fitness, exercise, diet, health, losing weight, etc., that are...questionably a little intense at best, and horrifyingly evident of eating disorder inner dialogue at worst. Exhibit A.), which I just turned up clicking one pinterest link and scrolling for a matter of seconds.
You know, sure, a tough workout is going to have uncomfortable moments. My forearms scream after some silks classes! You've felt that spicy thigh burn in a long utkatasana hold. But...that's your cue it's time to take a break, not feel like you're finally working hard enough.

So how about Exhibit B.)
Why is this on the fitness board...? All I hear when I look at this image in this context, chanted in frantic voices by women all around me is, "I NEED TO LOOK LIKE THIS. I NEED TO LOOK LIKE THIS. I WANT TO BE A SEX OBJECT." And I want to cry.

And how about Exhibit C).?
Is this one just, you know, inspiration for the tough moments? A cry against excuses? What, exactly, is the subtext of "whatever it takes"? Drinking carbonated water to stave off hunger? Exercising instead of studying? Skipping, or vomiting after meals? How badly should I want it?

Exhibit D.) makes a fine point, doesn't it?
I love the way this one seems to be so, logical, and true. Why be lazy and unhappy (FAT!!!!!!!!!)? Just get up and work out, man! Then you'll be happy and love yourself (SKINNY!!!!!!:-D)!

But perhaps this is the kicker, Exhibit E.)
Skinny feels amazing! It's better than cocaine! Which helped me lose so much weight, by the way!!!

There are plenty of these. I could go right through to Z.), but I think you see my point. Of course, there are plenty of positive pins on the fitness board, too, but there are enough of ones like these that I didn't have to look for more than two minutes to find way more than the five examples that I used.

You may think I'm overreacting. I mean, taken with a grain of common sense, these are just inspirational messages, right? Perhaps for some women, they are. BUT, they all propagate the myth that all women can look like what our society has deemed is the most desirable shape and size as long as they try hard enough, and this is a big, fat, cruel, DEADLY lie. If you want further evidence, scan the pictures of women on the fitness page for yourself, on any given day. I found two pictures of women who did not depict the shape and size deemed most desirable by our society. And one of those was of two portly famous chefs chopping peppers and was about eating healthy. The other was actually a positive message about loving your body being the thing that should be motivating you to care for it. Versus the stuff depicted in these other pins.

After noticing this trend for myself, I turned around and asked my husband if he had noticed it. He hadn't, because he only follows designers on pinterest. When I pointed it out to him, he said this seems to be all that women post...this and ideas for weddings. And I said,

"Oh my God. You're right."

Pinterest is providing a window into the psyche of women, and lo and behold, it's not very healthy. We have the previously discussed "Get skinny or die trying!" rhetoric, and the ever-present, "Get married or just shoot yourself!" rhetoric. I wrote about this issue in an earlier post.

The problem is, it just doesn't make sense to assume marriage is the endgame. The marriage age is creeping upward, and the perceived number of desirable marriage partners is creeping downward. Beyond all that, marriage is just one way of living. Being single is awesome, being a nun is awesome, staying on the market and keeping an eye out for potential marriage partners while not letting that search dominate your life, or decide your happiness is particularly awesome. I could go off on a million tangents here, about acting like you want one forever partner instead of one-hundred right-now partners if that is indeed what you want, about asking yourself if you really want that, or if that's just the only way of doing healthy adulthood that you've ever been exposed to, about working on making yourself someone your potential spouse would want to marry before you worry about finding, or making a list describing, the person you want to marry, and good God[dess], that has NOTHING to do with losing weight...but I think the crucial point is,

How many women do you suppose want to get married because it's the ultimate validation of everything women are taught to value about themselves, rather than because they have taken the time to cultivate self awareness and they believe they function best within a permanent, monogamous relationship, and potentially want to raise children? How many women want the perfect wedding day, but haven't spared much thought for the thousands of days after, when the dirty socks are ON TOP of the hamper instead of IN the hamper (and Husband, I'm looking at you!) for the millionth time, when you don't feel sexy so much as exhausted, and in love so much as the urge to high five because you made it through one more day? (And I do love that end-of-a-long-day high five!)

I mean, I think to some extent there's no way to really comprehend the day to day frustrations of marriage, but it's easy to imagine the day to day deep down joy of marriage, and yes, of course, that aspect of marriage is just as legitimate, but the two co-exist in a dance so close they just might be two halves of one whole...just like you and your spouse. And maybe if you could really understand how tough marriage can be before you go through with it, you wouldn't. And maybe there'd be a lower divorce rate. Maybe if we quit flipping out about the pageantry of the wedding, if we quit making that gown and veil a right of passage, if we quit making the wedding Prom, Sweet Sixteen, and 'I'm a Princess!' rolled into one to the tenth power, and by the same token quit making marriage the only acceptable relationship status for resting on your laurels and living your life without desperately looking for more, more than half of us who walked down that aisle wouldn't be taking it back long before death do us part.

I'm just saying.

The wedding day is one day! And trust me, you don't spend nearly as much time lounging on your couch flipping through that album with a happy tear in your eye as you think you will. We've been married three years and don't actually have the album yet...and our photographer moved to Texas...Oops. At least we bought out the copyright...I promise we're going to get on that, and then I WILL take one whole afternoon to drink tea...or maybe wine, and flip through the freaking album and cry happy tears. Oh man, that sounds awesome. Our pictures came out really incredible!

But I digress. I'm really concerned for my sisters: two biological, one in-law, one in-law-to-be, and billions of spiritual worldwide. What have we become? And when, and why, did we let it happen?

You guys, you are gorgeous just the way you are, with a worth, and a strength, and a capability of living in myriad astounding, world-changing ways in any size or shape, and with or without a significant other of either gender and any legal and societal standing by your side.

Please let yourself out of this tiny, skinny, married, box!


Live Omily.