Food for Thought

I have some thoughts to process here in my little corner about how people say vegans push their views down other peoples throats, or that we should “live and let live” …

The way I see it: the things I share to advocate for a plant-based diet aren’t belief systems or opinions. They aren’t gods I’m trying to say are real or theories I’m trying to prove. They are a set of facts that, unfortunately, are difficult to accept because they require so much personal change and accountability. I know this because it took many years to accept it all myself, and I disliked the cognitive dissonance that vegans brought about in me. So, I get it.

That all said, it ended up being highly effective…

  • It is a fact that animal agriculture contributes vastly to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, water pollution, oceanic dead zones, and the decline of biodiversity.
  • It is a fact that it increases our risk of antibiotic resistance and zoonotic, pandemic disease.
  • It is a fact that the majority of crops grown worldwide are used to feed livestock rather than humans, and that our animal product-heavy diets are major contributors to some of our most significant killers (heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.)
  • And, it is a fact that millions of animals suffer and die DAILY – in the US alone – for their decaying carcasses to end up on our plates.

The only opinions here are whether you think these things are good and justified, or if they are bad and should be addressed… If we should perpetuate the status quo, or if we should do whatever we can (within our means) to reduce, mitigate, or stop these realities.

These are problems we can actually do something about, beyond hashtags and financial donations.

Still, I struggle with the knowledge that I’m probably disliked for my advocacy. And I’m not sure what to do about it.

Why I Didn’t Commemorate 9/11 This Year

On September 11, 2001, I was a junior in high school in Washington, DC. I had second period free, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to think much of it when the fire alarm suddenly rang as I caught up on homework by my locker on the Pink Floor.

As the students gathered on the lawn, in accordance with our standard fire drill practice, I got my first inkling that something might actually be wrong: the Headmistress never participates in fire drills. What is she doing here? And why isn’t she smiling?

In the moments that followed her brief comments about what was happening in New York City, our lives — and the world at large — changed forever. We went on lockdown as the Pentagon was struck, and we comforted each other as we worried for parents and watched the smoke rise in the distance. Which target might be next? How were we going to get to our homes? When would phones work again so we could check in with loved ones?

I don’t need to recap that day any further. We all had similar experiences – especially those of us who were in DC or NYC. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Continue reading

Be You… Not (Necessarily) You, Jr.

IMG_2166 This photo has re-energized me to write about the topic that makes me the most nervous: motherhood. I shared it on Facebook this week in a jocular context, knowing full well the truth it holds for me and a fair number of my peers, who struggle with the question of kids now or later… or… never?

I’ve started writing about the kids issue a million times by now. But I never finish, because I don’t know quite how to say what I want to say. I’m not sure I even know what to say in the first place, as I learn and evolve. Most of the material out there is either overly defensive, or too funny, or too angry. Nothing has authentically spoken to my own feelings on the matter. The conversation about women choosing not to have children is relatively new still, and it’s a tough balance to strike.

I have not made any solid decisions one way or the other. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But, as a married woman in her 30s, the pressure to decide weighs upon me all the time. Will I… or won’t I? And why? Of course, as a married woman in her 30s, I have to explain myself. I shouldn’t have to, of course… but we aren’t quite there yet, societally. And I know full well that people wonder. Continue reading

De-Clutter & Cleanse

IMG_3252With Chuck away and a break from grad school coinciding, I have a unique opportunity to step away from the frenzy that has been Life lately by refocusing and realigning my routine, goals, activities, and self just in general. I have felt rather overwhelmed and distracted lately, which makes me tired and irritable. I don’t want to become so stretched thin that I miss the value of the experiences I’m blessed to have these days. So, I’m trying to make the most of my 3 weeks off from school and my 10 days of solitude, with Chuck off doing his thing. Continue reading

Becoming Veggie

IMG_4602I’ve written before of my lifelong curiosity about vegetarianism. It started when I read E.B. White’s childhood classic Charlotte’s Web. Suddenly, every pig became Wilbur. Every piece of bacon was Wilbur. Why would I want to eat Wilbur? Of course, I was a child, and ate what was put in front of me. That bacon looked nothing like Wilbur, so I could eventually dissociate it from him (even if later I couldn’t bring myself to eat the full-formed roast pig served at my friend’s Filipino wedding, or seafood that still had eyes and legs, etc.)

Over time, my awareness about American factory farming grew – dramatically so in recent years. Most of the pigs I was eating led lives so drastically unlike the farmland pleasantries described in Charlotte’s Web, that Wilbur’s life seemed downright cushy and his fate almost less depressing. My affinity towards animal protection and rights in general was growing every day. Before long, I was avoiding veal, lamb, foie gras, and lobster. I swore off circuses, Sea World, and fur (not that I’ve ever owned fur anyway.) I eliminated my hair/makeup/personal hygiene stash and replaced them with cruelty-free products, and even took a baby step against the sketchy dairy industry by consuming almond milk instead of cow’s milk. The natural next step was to at least reduce my dependence on meat. Continue reading

Alice in Neverland

IMG_2802For as long as I can remember, Alice in Wonderland has been one of my favorite novels. I’m not even sure why, since it’s made of pure stuff and nonsense, but maybe that is part of its whimsical appeal for me. Mostly I think it’s the Cheshire Cat and Alice’s own Dinah, so it could be some secret understanding I have with a fellow silly blonde who likes cats… but who knows. My bridal shower was Wonderland Tea Party themed, I’ve dressed up as Alice for Halloween, and one of my favorite spots in Oxford is Alice’s Shop (the story itself was written by an Oxford man, so I loved her obvious legacy while I was there.) She is definitely a presence in my life, with all her curiousities.

Anyway, I “liked” Alice in Wonderland on Facebook, so occasionally little updates pop up on my newsfeed. The page recently posted this article, about Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) and his real life inspiration for Alice, named Alice Liddell.

The article was written in a very matter-of-fact manner, with no agenda to speak of except for the reason the book came into existence at all. But I felt kind of uncomfortable by the end of it. It seems Mr. Dodgson had quite the interest in little girls, especially Ms. Liddell. He even went so far as to take photographs of them, including the slightly suggestive image of Alice below:


There was nothing implicit in the article to suggest anything blatantly suspicious, but I Googled Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson afterwards and found a plethora of material validating my instincts: there is evidence to suggest that Mr. Dodgson had inappropriate affections for little girls. There is no evidence that he acted on it, but he did write on various occasions about his affection for them, and how he liked to take partially nude photos of them. At one point, he even had a mysterious falling out with Alice’s family, with whom he had been friendly for many years. The relationship never fully recovered…

Critics of the pedophile theory argue that it was very common for celibate bachelors to be fond of young children during that time, and that child nudity was not the taboo back then in the way that it is now. It is possible that I am projecting my 21st century sensitivities onto the situation.

Still… it sounds like the Victorian era’s version of Michael Jackson, Neverland, and unproven-but-sketchy relationships with little boys. I still love Alice in Wonderland, but I am a little bit bummed!

Stop This American Horror Story

I seriously weep for humanity every time I see one of these exposés.  I can’t believe this horrific and sickening cruelty goes on. I’m not even sure how eating meat raised and slaughtered this way is even remotely healthy for us, either. Watching the video is heartbreaking, but motivating. If you still can’t bring yourself to watch, please sign the petition, at the very least. There is no reason to produce bacon in this cruel and completely unnecessary manner. Companies like McDonalds, Burger King, Safeway, and Wendy’s have finally pledged to phase out cruel suppliers and inhumane practices, so change is possible!

Uncheck any boxes if you don’t want to have depressing emails regularly sent to you. Leave them checked if you want to stay in the loop. Try and avoid buying Tyson meat (going to be tricky for me since that’s all they sell at the grocery store here!), and please share with other animal lovers.

PLEASE SIGN: Tell Walmart to Stop Torturing Pigs

My Problem With #YesAllWomen

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. I agree with most of what it has to say and don’t deny any of it. However, I have a few issues with the movement, and I say that as a woman, a feminist, and someone reasonably well-versed in the realities and psychology of rape culture.

First, I feel like #YesAllWomen is dangerously close to straight up fear-mongering. Every woman has her own quiver of experience with sexual harassment and assault, and I am no exception to that. There are certain realities in our culture that absolutely should be addressed and changed. But do I really walk around every day in fear of being assaulted or harassed? Do I really view every man as a potential rapist, as many of these activists are claiming I do? Hell no! And what a sad, misguided way to look at the world and to teach our daughters, especially in privileged American society (which is where many of these voices are coming from.) Now, if I lived in India or South Africa, or even in the American inner city, it would be a different story. But I don’t – so why are you insisting that all women live in some sort of fearful haze? I know I am not the only one who doesn’t.

Secondly, there seems to be an underlying effort to undermine the notion of common sense. I think we all know that while we should be able to dress however we want, wearing a miniskirt with condoms in my purse will be more inviting for some rapists in the same way that leaving my car unlocked with the iPod in the glove compartment will entice more burglars. Awareness and acknowledgement of this reality does not make me anti-feminist or victim blaming. It just makes me not naive. However, it must also be noted that while I’ve been harassed when dressed like a skank at a party, I’ve also been harassed when dressed like a prude at the library (and even at church!) So I completely agree that wardrobe choices are a dumb point of burden in rape cases and the question should not even exist when a violent crime has been committed against you. #YesAllWomen is right in this way. However, I feel like the movement is encouraging women to stop being aware of these things, and to do whatever we want – that we can walk around naked with our legs spread without consequence, and that it’s a form of victim blaming to learn self defense because it puts the burden of prevention on the woman, not the man. Huh? That makes no sense to me! It ends up just sounding really ridiculous – as if we were telling people we should leave our doors unlocked with the gun on the table because the murderers should just stop murdering. You don’t say.

#YesAllWomen is shaming an entire gender in the hopes of eliminating rapists worldwide by emphasizing the fear that women apparently live with every day. It spreads the message that all men fall on the Rapey & Misogynistic spectrum somewhere, and that it’s anti-feminist for us to make our own decisions and use common sense on how to best protect ourselves from this omnipresent threat. “View every man as a threat – but don’t do anything logical to calm your fear because that’s not your responsibility and it’s not how the world should work! Let’s just change the Rapey Male Species with our hashtag of guilt and then we can walk around freely from fear… naked.”

In all seriousness… I completely agree that we should teach our boys not to rape, rather than blame the victim for getting raped. You can count on the fact that my boys (if I have them), will be taught to respect women for their intelligence and humanity, and both my hypothetical sons and daughters will be taught the power of “no.” I want to balance their worldview with ideals of how things should be, but also the reality of what is, and how to deal with that. Candy is delicious and it should be okay to take some from an old stranger… but it’s not… so get your own candy. I want them to know that alcohol can make both men and women do things that are out of character and potentially dangerous, and the decisions made while intoxicated can ruin lives. I don’t want them to be afraid or to shelter themselves, or to blame themselves when something goes wrong  –  I just want to help them be smart. And while #YesAllWomen no doubt agrees with all these things, I feel that it focuses too much on instilling fear and resentment by telling women they don’t have to be (or shouldn’t have to be) smart anymore. While I get the idealism behind that point, it still irks me.

Portraying all men as rapists and all women as victims is NOT the answer. All men are not potential rapists – the same way all black men aren’t thugs, all Muslims aren’t terrorists, all gay people don’t have AIDS, and all teenaged girls aren’t bullies. Sweeping generalizations never do anyone any good. There are better ways to empower and instill change!

Gluten-Free People Actually Have No Idea What Gluten Is

DISCLAIMER: I have many friends who have chosen the gluten-free approach to eating and I fully support their choices and understand their needs. I am not trying to be offensive… but this is hilarious.

I love this video about the gluten-free trend sweeping our nation. Don’t get me wrong – I do realize that some people have sensitivities to foods containing gluten – but I also feel like it has become one of those yuppie-white-person fads that is more about climbing on the bandwagon rather than being unique or responding to your own body, kind of like wearing hipster glasses or doing hot yoga or drinking juice cleanses.

I think it’s great that people pursue what makes them happy and healthy, but what bothers me is that many gluten-free folks are quite preachy about their new way of life, and insist upon shoving all the evils of gluten down my throat (never mind that I have no issues eating wheat products of any kind… it’s meat and veggies that make this girl gassy.)I don’t mind hearing your schpiel, but you’ve also got to trust that I know my body better than yours and maybe I don’t need to make such changes. What works for you may not work for me. Right?

Mr. Kimmel sums it up quite well: “A lot of people here don’t eat gluten because someone in their yoga class told them not to… Here in LA, [eating gluten] is comparable to Satanism.”

LOL. Seriously, I don’t know how gluten became so evil, especially since humans have subsisted on wheat and bread for thousands of years… What’s even more ironic, however, is my average conversation with a recent gluten-free convert:

“I feel so much better now that I’ve gone gluten-free. I used to eat donuts, and potato chips, and I drank beer, but I would always just feel so sick. I miss that stuff and sometimes I’m hungry, but I just can’t do that to my body anymore.”


“I caved after a long day of work and had 5 slices of pizza and played flip-cup. The gluten is TEARING me up inside!”

Hmmm… maybe it’s not the gluten in your diet, but all the processed junk food that’s making you sick? Maybe it’s breads and pastas too, but that’s not what people are sharing, in my experience. Who would have thought that donuts, beer, and pizza would make you feel sick? I mean, do we really need gluten-free cracker bits for Communion in our churches? Oy vey.

American Bloat

While I was in France, I ate whatever I wanted. French food is heavy on all the currently “taboo” food groups in this country (depending on who you’re talking to these days), to include dairy, grains, meat, fats, and everything in between. And I have to tell ya – my digestive system never felt better while I was over there!

I returned to the U.S., and while I surely love American food in all its glory, I am back to being bloated, irregular, and less energized. It’s not because I eat bread… or because cheese is wrecking my digestive system…or because I enjoy red meat. I ate all those things in Europe. I know this is no secret, but it really is the fact that food in this country is SO overly processed. Even the packaged foods in Europe had smaller lists of ingredients, most of which I could actually pronounce. Everything is fresh and mostly local there. I ate raw eggs and beef for crying out loud (and lived to tell the tale.)

I’m not one to judge the U.S. based on what other countries are doing. I’ve never thought it’s a fair comparison – we are so much bigger and more diverse than most European countries. However, I do wish we could take at least SOMEWHAT of a hint from their dietary practices. Natural ingredients. A reduced reliance on corn. Cleaner, more humane livestock care. And perhaps the elimination of preservatives, dyes, and other miscellaneous ingredients that are banned everywhere else in the developed world except here! Of course, Americans could take a little personal responsibility and work on portion control, too…

I hate to be that Northern Virginia snobby white girl, and I probably won’t have this opportunity on a military base in Okinawa, but I may have to start shopping organic (it’s a start!)