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Monday, January 23, 2012

What is most personal is most general.

Well, winter finally decided to show up. I still haven’t been able to use my cross-country skis, but to be honest, now that it is below zero and icy I’m a little less enthusiastic about exercising outdoors. (In fact, so far I’ve had a very lethargic January which has involved copious amounts of dark chocolate, tea and Netflix and very little exercise. In my defense, the gym is just so crowded this time of year with people trying to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions that I figure I’m better off waiting until they give up-and thus, free-up gym space in February. )
Muscle deterioration is an annual result of the dastardly Januaries in Minnesota.  As I find myself settling deeper and deeper into the dent I have established in my couch, I’ve noticed that something else has settled in- the winter blues. I’m chalking this up to a Vitamin D deficiency. I’m pretty sure this is an accurate guess, as I do not see the sunshine when I leave for work or on my way home... (and because I worship WebMD)...
I’m going to force myself to pick up the exercise regimen and to swallow some Vitamin D pills (which are roughly the size of a baby carrot).  I’m sure my mood will pick up in no time, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy the winter doldrums by listening to Bright Eyes, wearing dark colors and complaining about pretty much everything.  
I allow myself to wallow in self-pity occasionally because I believe it helps me put my life in perspective. After spending a day or two feeling exceptionally and utterly sorry for myself, it becomes quite clear how incredibly lucky I am.
But, as previously noted, today is a melancholy day, so I thought I’d put out this food for thought.
Recently, my favorite op-ed columnist, David Brooks, solicited life reports from his 80+ readers. He then posted the stories to his blog: http://brooks.blogs.nytimes.com/
Upon reading these thoughtful, sometimes heart-wrenching, often hilarious, and deeply sincere pieces, I found the following:
I had a friend who always said, “What is most personal is most general,” meaning that the things that each of us thinks is unique in ourselves may, more often than not, be part of the universal experience, or at least the universal awareness.-Charles Darwin Snelling

This quote has spun around in my head the past few days and the more I reflect on it, the more I believe it to be a shard of truth, poignant and piercing, amidst a world of dull clich├ęs. For who has not experienced shame, embarrassment, guilt, passion, unrequited love, loss, tragedy, depression or loneliness? The times we feel most alone, the secrets we hold most dear and the moments we believe to have been experienced exclusively are in fact, the very experiences that bond us in the human experience.
I know this intuition seems obvious, but take a moment to reflect on your most personal  experiences, and take  comfort in the fact that someone else has been there too.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Minnesota weather signals end of world as we know it? LOL, jk. I hope....

It’s awfully warm in Minnesota for January. Yesterday people were wearing t-shirts outside. I’ll admit, a t-shirt in 43 degree weather is pretty extreme, but we’re Minnesotans and anything above freezing feels like a temperate spring day to us. We refuse to wear winter coats until it is about 10 degrees; for anything above that, a warm vest or a fall jacket will suffice.
You can’t watch the news without hearing about the most recent ice fisherman that unintentionally took a polar plunge, or chat with your friends without hearing about how so-and-so’s ice house went through the ice. Skiiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers alike lament the lack of snowpack. Even when the wet stuff comes, it’ll take a while to catch up to where we should be. My brand new cross-country skis mock me as they lean against my dresser. I haven’t even bothered to wax my downhill skis or dig out my winter gloves.
I think this probably means one of two things: global warming is real or the world will really end on Dec 21, 2012 as the Mayans predicted. Or maybe, global warming will cause the world to end? Or maybe, the world won’t actually end, but life as we know it will change so dramatically as a result of climate change that 2012 will signify the end of the world as we know it... eh? Eh?
Hmmm.... well, I don’t know about you, but I sure could use a longer tanning season.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Vegetarian January

I wish there was a catchy way to combine those two words, like: Veganuary? No, that doesn’t work. Januarian? I don’t think so.
First, I hear you naysayers that begrudge PETA and vegans alike. I’m not trying out this diet  to be politically offensive. However, I do think that once you reach a level of income that propels decisions about food beyond subsistence, eating becomes a political action. You are what you eat; you support the policies that allow the food you eat to reach your table.
I do think we live in a society with an abundance of cheap meat, made possible through government subsidies of grain. Chickens, turkeys , cattle, hogs and even farm-raised fish eat a lot of this cheap grain, something that is not in their natural diet. At the beginning of the 20th century, the average American ate approximately 120 pounds of meat per year, now we eat 220 pounds of meat per year (Forks Over Knive s[Documentary] 2011).  
I spent last semester visiting various types of farms and listening to lectures and presentations from farmers, agronomists, agricultural economists and political experts on subsidies in a Ph.D. colloquium on sustainable agriculture. I believe that sustainable agriculture requires grazing livestock. In my opinion, feedlots are unsustainable and inhumane.  I grew up on a farm with dairy cows. When a dairy cow has a baby, there is a fifty percent chance it will be a boy, right? Right. That bull calf is then raised as a steer and eventually reaches your table. I grew up with these animals. Steers are very friendly, curious creatures. When you enter their space, they crowd around you, lick you and watch you.
Dairy cows are fortunate to live out most of their natural life. They too have personalities. They can be lazy, bossy, paranoid, hyper, mean, sweet, etc. Once we had a very lazy but lovable cow named Lemon. I believe Lemon was one smart cookie. She laid down as long as possible before and after milking. She also stood in the same spot every day; a spot that allowed her a pretty good chance of being able to eat extra grain. Growing up, we had a mother and daughter pair that were both exceptionally white cows, with hardly any black. Robin and Aspen were their names, and I swear they were best friends. They were attached at the hip in the barn and in the pasture. This is a very long digression, but the point is that those of us fortunate enough to know these gentle creatures, know that they do not deserve to spend their life in a feedlot. 
In the long-run I'd like to become a localvore. Someone that eats locally grown, seasonal food. Someone that only eats grass fed beef and views eating meat as a luxury rather than a necessity. Someone that avoids processed foods and enjoys cooking using natural ingredients. I am hoping that a vegetarian January will force me to learn some new recipes and break my addiction to meat. We'll see how it goes! I'm already missing bacon this morning!