Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t fit into a mold. And I don’t fall into formation very easily. My whole life I have felt like I was observing our society from the outside. Or at least from the very edge, looking in. And most of what I see confounds me. 

I’m especially confounded by traditions. When people practice something for the simple and sole reason that they did so last year, and the year prior, and their grandparents did it, and before that, and so on. I’ve heard and believed for a long time that ‘tradition’ is one of the worse reasons there is for doing something. Like religion, tradition is dangerous in that people will mindlessly follow it without question or justification.

I pride myself on doing everything with consciousness and purpose. And it is important to me that the feelings I express and the actions I take come from a real truth inside of me, or I won’t do them. Because of this, I find myself hesitant to fall into the trappings of these traditions.

Many days that are designated as holidays carry with them lots of traditions that I witness masses of people following along with. I always felt uncomfortable with the fact that I was supposed to express love to my mother on the second Sunday in May, or that I was supposed to remember veterans in November and May and surprise my loved one with chocolate in February. I prefer to choose when I give my heartfelt sentiments, not to be told when and how. Thanksgiving Day is one of these days.

Knowing the history of the USA makes me ashamed. While I’m glad that I was born in and live in America, I’m certainly not proud of the country and the things it has done and is doing. It’s like having a big brother who’s a bully to kids in the schoolyard--you still love him, but he’s embarrassing.

So to spend a day devoted to the memory of our genocidal beginnings does not sit right with me. Since becoming an adult, I have learned that the images and the fairy tale we were told about the origins and purpose of the holiday are a gross misrepresentation of what really happened and I’m not cool with celebrating the reality of it.

So then people will tell me that it’s a day for giving thanks and spending with family and friends. And my answer to that is, “Yes, but so was yesterday.  And so is tomorrow.”
And wouldn’t it be more meaningful if it wasn’t on the calendar and expected of you to participate? 

When someone thanks you, it feels good because it comes from them; it is their truth and they chose to say it. But what if someone were reprimanded for not thanking you and told they they had to thank you. So you stand there, expecting it, waiting for it. And when they finally do, how does that gratitude feel?  Sincere?  No. Forced. Platitude gratitude.

That’s how I feel about all of the Thanksgiving Day sentiment. I’m not a grinch, but also I'm not impressed. I don’t disapprove of giving thanks, but when it comes as a response to what holiday it is, I don't feel it. I already live my whole life feeling grateful. I don’t need a day set aside for it. It’s kind of insulting, actually, to suggest that I need to be reminded to feel grateful.

And won’t someone please think about the turkeys? There are no humane regulations on the raising, shipping and slaughter of most of these poor creatures. Unfeeling, factory-type farms will spew out over 46 million turkeys this year who may have felt nothing but fear and pain their whole lives.

Thanks to Bill Chameides at Duke-Nicholas School of the Environment for the following information:

 The Industrial Factory-Farmed Turkey
Most industrial turkeys are produced by a vertically integrated company, which owns the hatchery, feedmill, and processing plant, and contracts with a grower. Two companies (Nicholas and Hybrid Canada) control the genetic material for all broad-breasted, white turkeys.
Day 1 – Hatched. Our chick is put into a harness. Toenails and beak tip are zapped off with high-intensity light (essentially sunburned). The birds are vaccinated with aerosol spray and sorted by sex. Then they are shipped to a nearby contract farm (up to 6 hours away from the hatchery), 100 birds to a box.
At the Farm. The chick goes to a brooder barn where it is placed in a so-called brooder ring — 1,000 birds per ring and 10 rings to a barn. Their feed is a corn-and-soybean meal mash/crumble that is fortified with vitamins, minerals, low-level growth antibiotics, and, for a time, an additive that controls common parasitic disease.
The barn floor is covered with wood shavings, rice hulls, or other local materials to absorb waste. Lights extend daylight hours to keep birds eating.
Day 4 or 5. Brooder ring is removed. Our bird, now a hen, will remain inside until processing, where it is given about 0.7 square feet to strut its stuff — that’s a little more than a 6”x6” space. This will increase to about 1.5 square feet over its lifetime.
Week 12-13 or 16. Slaughter time depends upon size. A relatively small hen (around 14 lbs.) will be slaughtered in 12–13 weeks, a large one (18 lbs.) in about 16 weeks. The hens are rounded up, eight to a cage, and taken to be processed.
The Slaughter House. Our bird is shackled upside down to an automated conveyor where it is stunned, slaughtered, processed, and inspected. It is then placed in a chilled bath with disinfectant, some of which the turkey will absorb. The bird is then injected with saline solution, vegetable oils, and other additives to improve taste and texture. These plump the bird’s weight by about 7.5 percent.
That’s the life of the typical Thanksgiving turkey.

  here is a link to PETA's take on it

I know that many people will read this and start defending their right to practice the holiday. But to that I say, there’s no need. Go ahead. No one is trying to take the holiday away from you. I’m only explaining here why I don’t participate.

I also feel like I have to mention another piece of evidence that people use traditions to divorce themselves from their own internal signals. That is the gluttony that is embraced on this holiday. It pains me to hear people talk about how they ate so much that they couldn’t fasten their pants or that they went into a food coma. Because of my profession and commitment to good health, I recognize the disordered behavior as unnecessary, decadent and dangerous. 

Equally, I’m disturbed by all of the people who are in the gym the next day ferociously ‘burning off their pumpkin pie’. In my mind it takes the celebration right out of the occasion and turns it into an opportunity for expressing food fear and body shaming. 

Even those who choose to follow a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal plan can do so without overeating. Simply take a small serving of each dish. A few bites of each will be plenty if there is a true bounty of offerings. There’s no need to stuff yourself. And one piece of dessert is fine. Don’t feel guilty about it or feel you have to work extra hard in the gym the next day as penance.

Here is the opinion of someone who also doesn’t celebrate the holiday, but for more political reasons. In addition to my personal bent, I choose not to turn a blind eye to this perspective and to be circumspect about my celebrations out of respect. One could just as easily consider today a memorial holiday. I feel more morally and spiritually aligned with honoring this reality than the traditional one.

So, while I’m grateful for everything I have in my life, my friends, my family, my health, my happiness, my material possessions and my spiritual connection to you and the whole universe, I’ll be having lasagna tonight.

Below I have included links to a few resources for anyone who's interested to begin investigating more humanely raised turkeys:
Local Harvest Turkeys
Animal Welfare Approved
Eat Well Guide

 Thank You!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fall Shedding for Winter Hibernation

I know we are still in the middle of fall and have another month left before winter even starts, but I’m already starting to feel the shift. 

In Seattle, the weather has started to turn colder, which always makes me think of death. Not in a morbid way, but just as a part of the cycle of life and progress. Living things die and new ones are born. It’s seasonal and natural.  I don’t avoid talking about, acknowledging or even embracing the idea that loved ones die or will die someday. Living life without taking tomorrow for granted really makes each day special. 

As my way of honoring the feelings that I get around winter, I become aware of welcoming death in my life. I use it as a time to de-clutter my thoughts and my surroundings and my lifestyle; to slough off the old skin so I can start with fresh skin again in the spring.

One of the things I’ve found myself doing this fall is systematically eliminating things that I’m either abusing through overuse or are just simply not serving me at all anymore like late night dessert; cookies, ice cream, etc. Since I’m not that concerned with weight loss, and I’m active, I can allow myself a bit of indulgence in that department. But I know there are other health concerns (and even other cosmetic concerns if you consider the effect of sugar on the look of the skin)  with overusing these things, and lately I’ve become aware of doing it too much and too often. So now I’m making a conscious choice not to do it at all for a while and to examine what my reaction is. I feel like there is a place in my life for sinful, sugary desserts, but I would rather have that be the exception to the rule than a habit. I have not set a final day for this experiment, but my thinking is that at some point in the next few days, I will feel an insurmountable urge and will take note of how many days has passed. It might give me an idea of what sort of frequency to allow the desserts.

Maybe it is the shorter days, or the lower temperatures, or the golden color of the leaves, but yesterday, I started to become aware that I was addicted to Facebook.  It was the first thing I opened in the morning, and the last thing I closed at night and was the focus of my attention numerous times during the day. So yesterday afternoon, I shut it off and made a commitment not to look at it for three days. And at that time, I’ll examine my reaction to both not having access to it and also when the three days are up, what my new feelings will be about re-approaching it. 

So far, it’s only been about 24 hours and I’m alarmed by how often I almost open it up. It has become a reflexive habit. I also had to change the settings on my computer because it would tend to default back to Facebook and before I could close the browser, I’d catch a glimpse that I had 24 notifications. The urge was strong, but instead I ignored them, closed the browser and got a lot of stuff accomplished that day. 

The following morning, I had the spare time to go through all the closets and gather up the ‘junk’ that’s collected in the past year. Old shoes, gifts I never opened and clothing that hasn’t been and/or won’t be worn any longer and put them all in bags. Then put all the bags in Thumper’s boot. I don’t drive often, but the next time I go somewhere, I’ll see them and can quickly swing by a donation bin that’s in a parking lot right in the neighborhood.

The day after that, I devoted to deleting things from my computer to free up space on my hard drive. By investigating why so many of my photos showed up multiple times, I ended up discovering a folder called ‘deleted emails’. There were over 6000 emails with pictures attached. Every time I sent a picture to someone, another copy of it was saved in this folder even though I thought they were deleted. But after I deleted all the emails in that folder, I saw that the duplicates of many of my pictures were gone. I also found a whole folder of duplicates of movies and a couple of video games I never play anymore. I ended up clearing out over 10 GB of space. 

I'm not sure what part of my life will be the next to get reduced, or if I'm done for now, but I thought I'd share a bit of my annual downsizing process.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What I Ate Today

This is an accounting of a day's worth of eating.

I'm only posting this at the request of a friend of mine. I want to be clear that I am not making any reccommendations that anyone adopt this as their diet. I have put no thought into the planning, and make no claims that this is any sort of ideal diet. It's just me, having a typical day but have decided to document it and publish it.

First, upon waking, I squeezed half a lemon into a glass of water and drank it down. Then made a pot of coffee and had my one cup, black!

BREAKFAST: I used a vegetable peeler to lay thin slices of carrot into some butter cooking on the stove. Then I added two eggs and dumped some leftover collard greens from last nights dinner. I sprinkled it with some cajun spices and let it cook for a while. I like the whites to be cooked, but the yolks to be runny.

LUNCH: about three hours later, I was hungry again, so I had a big salad:
a big handful of mixed greens including boy choy, cilantro, parsley, spinach, arugula and tango
more of that same carrot, peeled with a vegetable peeler
a handful of mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds
a handful of finely chopped raw cauliflower
with the veggie peeler I added a few slivers of cheddar cheese and some zest of the lemon I had used earlier
a chopped handful of cucumber
a handful of garbanzo beans
olive oil, salt and pepper for dressing

DINNER: another salad, with spinach, cucumber, garbanzo beans, mancheca cheese,
also some steamed broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes and some basmati rice.

The portions I use are not typical. My salad takes up half the dinner plate and the amount of rice I serve is about as much as an ice cream scooper.

This morning, I woke up and had my water with lemon.
I'm planning to have some rice for breakfast, with a handful of seeds (pumpkin and sunflower) some cinnamon and coconut milk.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sales Resistance at Gold's Gym

So, the other day I happened across a Groupon offering a month-long membership to Gold’s Gym, including two personal training sessions, for only $19.  I had been flirting with the idea of going back into the gym for some weight-lifting, as I had sworn off of the activity five years early and was curious about what it might do for me now.

So I brought the voucher into Gold’s and was sent to a sales desk, where the girl there tried her best to ‘upsell’ me. Unfortunately for her, I have worked at gyms all my adult life and I know the hard sell tactics.

She started by first trying to build rapport with me, but she has a self-defeating habit of not listening to people when they answer her questions. This causes her to re-ask the same questions and instead of creating a bond, actually creating a rift between us.

I had no intention of buying anything but the free month I came in for, but I let her run her spiel and even enlist the support of her fellow salesman when I balked at the ridiculous concept of a $29.99 maintenance fee.  

My original plan was and is to lift weights for three months. I intended to use this free month first and then see about what kind of rate I can get for two more months. And if there was nothing forthcoming in the way of manageable rates, I’d switch to another gym. My first choice was this Gold’s Gym however, due it being a short, four block walk from my house.

But when the salespeople started talking money, they couldn’t understand my hesitancy to accept the $29.99 fee.  I tried to explain to them that it was just like adding $15 to my monthly payment, since I was only going to be paying for two months. I told them that the extra $30 was a ‘deal killer’ but they acted as if their hands were tied and couldn’t do anything for me. 

I know that they can write any kind of contract they want, but were trying to strong-arm me. And they lost. In the end, I walked into the gym using my Groupon and making no further purchases.

I’ll give them another chance to offer me a decent rate for December and January, but if they remain adamant about the extra fee, I’ll have to go somewhere else. 

The gym suits my needs, which are minimal.

I don’t need classes and I don’t do cardio machines. I am not interested in personal training, nor do I use weight machines. I won’t even be using the locker room. My routine consists of walking to the gym, doing four exercises and walking home. A no-frills gym is perfectly suited to me. 

This gym has a bit of a funky smell. I know the smell all too well from being a highschool athlete. The unmistakable smell is of unwashed, sweaty clothes and/or carpeting. I don’t mind it, but I can understand how it would be very off-putting to many people. 

The equipment I used is fine for my need. All I wanted was a power rack for doing barbell squats, a pull-down or assisted pull up machine until I work up to free pull ups, a bench for dumbbell bench press and a piece of floor and some weight plates for weighted crunches.


I started very light today, basically just going through the motions and setting a baseline. I could easily lift more than I was doing today, but this type of progressive overload works best for me when I start easy and build up momentum going into the challenging stuff. If I went right for the challenging stuff right away, I'd end up progressing a lot less in the end.

My plan is to go back about every other day and very slightly increase the amount of weight I’m lifting. Once I can do twelve repetitions in good form, I increase the weight slightly. If i cannot do at least five good reps, then I lower the weight. By slightly increasing my reps or my weight each time, I will safely, gradually and systematically be increasing my muscle size and strength.

I’ll check in after a few sessions and report my progress or anything of interest that might come up.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I found a Groupon for Gold's Gym.

$19 for a month, including two personal training sessions. I'm not really interested in the PT sessions, except maybe if I can get one to take all of my measurements as a BEFORE baseline.

I'm not unhappy with the shape I'm in, but I know that my muscles were bigger and more defined back when I was lifting weights, so I'm curious to see how much effort it takes to regain some of that.

I have a tendency to see a goal and then go for that goal with 150% effort. And with something like this, it would be very easy to hurt myself doing that, so I have to keep myself honest, realistic and patient.

I'm off to Gold's Gym now, to sign up and get started.