Monday, November 22, 2010

Wild!

Have you ever seen a wild turkey? We have them in Vermont. You don't see them very often, but you do see them. Back when I was commuting to Hell Job, I would often see a largish flock in the mornings, along the highway. There was between 15 and 20 of them, of various sizes.

Wild turkeys look like this:
View Image

That's what they really look like. Flocks free to roam as the please. They are intelligent, they are social, and if you'll notice they don't have boobs to rival Anna Nicole Smith's. However, this is probably where your Thanksgiving bird is coming from:
View Image

This is a turkey farm. This is where most "conventional" turkeys live. They are bred to grow to maturity quickly (far quicker than in nature), have more breast meat than any bird would ever have, and are dumb as posts. They live crowded together so badly that they cannot spread their wings, or have any kind of social order. Their beaks are usually cut off so they don't peck at each other. Because there are so many in such close quarters, the farmers have to lace their food with strong antibiotics to ensure they don't get sick. And don't count on them eating just corn or grains, either. Mass production like this, they could be eating anything in order to get them to fatten up. Including their fallen breathren and even their own excrement.

I know you'll probably eat turkey this Thanksgiving. It's probably already in your refrigerator thawing out.  As much as I'd like everyone to just up and replace the turkey tradition with something a bit less...dead... I know the reality is that most people are looking forward to the roast bird. But please, think about where you place your money. Does Butterball really need your money? Probably not. Does Farmer Frank out in the country need your money? Probably. He's got a daughter that would like to go to college, you know. I think the CEO at Butterball doesn't need to worry about such things.

In the future, please consider ordering or purchasing from your health food store a local, organic bird. One that is grain-fed, that has seen the outside world, one that may be a little smaller but isn't genetically messed with or laced with antibiotics. One that is healthier for you, the bird and the environment. The organic bird may be a little smaller and more expensive, but isn't your health and well being worth it?

I believe it is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nom Nom Nom Nom...

I spend a lot of money on food.

Seriously.

I mean, everyone has something they'll spend their last dollar on if they could get away with it. For some, it's clothes, for others books, electronics, artwork, vintage records (let's not mention my brother's massive collection. Oh. Oops). For me, I spend way too much money on food. Especially considering that I'm the only one eating it.

I've moved back to eating organic whenever I can, which is probably contributing the the total. But really? I just eat... A LOT. I can go to the grocery store two or three times a week, buy enough groceries that should theoretically last for at least five days, then have to make a return trip in two or three because I've eaten it all. My work has something to do with it, I know. On work days, I can burn as much as 800 calories just by massaging (thank you, MyPlate, for helping me learn this). That is a lot of calories burning off.

I've tried to reign myself in multiple times - spending just $20 a week on food, for instance. This was important while I was going to school because, frankly, I had no money. But in order to do that, I had to give up stuff like fresh, organic fruit and veggies. I essentially lived off red lentil soup and rice for nine months, and would pour the cheapest frozen veggies I could find into it. Which, of course, is better than no veg at all. But every time I did so, I cringed at the pesticides I was consuming and wondered, really is it any better?

But now that I'm actually making enough to cover all of the bills, the move back to organic was a must for me. But we have no Trader Joe's. We have no Whole Foods. We do have two great local stores that are very well stocked. But they are expensive. Daiya cheese is $6. Sheese is $7. If I want to make a vegan pizza, I need to save up! I have on more than one occasion swallowed my guilt and bought real cheese simply because it was cheaper.

I buy in bulk a lot - rice, pasta, lentils, beans, and oatmeal are all staples for me and so much cheaper to buy in bulk. As much as I love using the Tofurkey sausages to enhance a pasta dish or stew, I don't purchase them unless they are on sale. Because again, $5 on one item is a lot to spend, no matter how far you may be able to stretch it.

I do my best to keep my diet healthy and make my own food whenever possible. But the good stuff isn't cheap, and I like the good stuff. What can I say? I'm already cringing at what I'll spend on Thanksgiving, and I'm not even in charge of the meal this year. Oy.

So, as with my massive caloric consumption, I am trying to find a balance with how much I spend weekly on groceries. I do my best not to buy single-serving anything. I'll buy stuff (organic sugar, peanut butter, baby carrots, flour, even Amy's Lentil Soup) at Costco for cheaper than I could ever find at the grocery store. I try to stretch things whenever possible: I can easily eat one can of Amy's lentil soup, but add some rice to it and suddenly I have two filling meals instead of one. Dried goods are bought in bulk whenever possible because it truly is cheaper (except flour. Do not buy flour in bulk unless all you need is like a half cup of a specialty flour).

I feel like my only remaining step here is to just stop eating so damned much. Which on the one hand would really solve a lot of my problems, including my constant battle with these last five pounds. But on the other... I really do need to eat enough to be able to perform my job. If I'm eating 1,200 calories a day and burning off 800, that's a net total of 500 daily calories. Um... how long would I last doing that?

So, here I am. Still trying to figure it all out. I'll get there eventually. I hope!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gone with the Wind

What do you do when you:
  1. Have limited storage space
  2. Are a belly dancer and can easily accumulate more yards of fabric than a seamstress on a buying spree
  3. Live in an apartment with questionable insulation
  4. Can feel the wind (which is blowing like a MoFo, by the way) coming in around the window and possibly through the wall?
The answer is simple:

Hip scarves and veils as wall art!

If you look closely at the curtain you can see that it's getting puffed up a bit from the wind that's blowing. I'm pretty sure this place is at least insulated (which is a fair site better than that place in Winooski I lived in my first two years in the area). However, the wind is blowing so strongly that I figure a little extra in the way of insulation couldn't hurt. 

What I'd really like is to get some nice tapestries. Unfortunately, I'm not down with the college-dorm versions that are most popular right now. I think what I need is a good, old-fashioned, rug-as-wall-art thing for that wall. 

But my veils and hip scarves will have to suffice for now, I suppose. At least it's sparkly!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Random Notes: Massage Edition

1. I have heard back from the peeps who do the National Certification test and I have qualified. Which of course I knew I would but this means I can now take the test pretty much any time I want. And I am SOOOO not ready to take this test! I believe I have 90 days from notification to schedule and I need to get cracking on that. I also need to start studying in earnest, because I've just been half-assing it so far. Apparently I work better with deadlines.

2. Speaking of studying I got Basic Clinical Massage Therapy in the mail today. It's a $75 book and not appropriate for everyone, but I am liking it. They overlay images of the muscle on to real human bodies, so you get a better idea of its location. It also gives attachments, actions, trigger points, other muscles to check out, and manual therapy suggestions. This book is going to be very useful in helping me study, because I sucked at all of this stuff.

3. I had an AMAZING massage from one of the therapists at work last week. He went super deep, and I was in bad enough shape that I really needed it. He is just so knowledgeable and I just wanted to pour the contents of his head into mine so I knew what he did. Does that sound creepy? It kinda does. But that massage made me very enthusiastic about learning some of the techniques he used on me and gave me insight as to where I could take my practice. Plus, my pecs haven't been this open in years. I was so relaxed after I had to hang around for a 1/2 hour before I could drive home.

4. I dislike doing glute work. There, I've put it out there. I know how good it feels and I also know that many lower back problems actually start in that area, but I really don't like going there. Am I a prude or what?

5. One of my other coworkers is giving me a prenatal massage on Friday. No, I've got nothing to announce, no miracle babies on the way I'm afraid. I am giving one on Sunday. It's a special request as I don't do prenatals as a general rule - sidelying massages are effective but they kill my back. So as a result, I'm out of practice with sidelying and need a refresher. Also, she's devised a way to do just about the whole thing sitting down. SITTING DOWN. So I'm going to steal her technique. Mwahahahaha!

6. It's amazing how many people like to help the therapist when getting a massage. I'll go to move an arm and not only are they trying to anticipate what I might want to do with it, I've had a couple who have done it for me. I've even had a person roll over before I could hold the blanket and sheets for them. I think in most of the more subtle cases (usually when someone's holding an arm for me) they aren't even aware they are doing it. But with the more extreme cases, it goes far beyond holding patterns and into a need to control what is going on. These are usually also the people who lay stiff as a board, pinned to the table. Then wonder why they don't feel relaxed after the hour is up.

7. We have a very good screening process at my place of work, so gentlemen coming in looking for some, ahem, extra attention, rarely get through. One of my coworkers had an unfortunate incident a couple weeks ago. The gentleman has since been banned. I haven't had anything that overt, but I have had two questionable incidents that have left me wondering. Both men were smart enough to not say or do anything overt, but both times I was asked "that's it?!". And not in the "that was the best massage of my life where has the hour gone?" way. As I was undraping one of the men's legs he actually said "I've never been anyplace that used this many sheets!" Um. I refrained from asking where the hell he'd been going. This was also the guy that adjusted himself as I walked out of the room at the end of the session. Classy.

8. I should be studying instead of writing this.

9. There is nothing more gratifying then, after a session, having a client tell you that their pain is gone, that they can move their neck, that the headache is gone. Knowing that you helped someone, that you Did Good, is just the best feeling ever. I love knowing that I'm helping people.

10. I just needed to end on an even number.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Driving with Maniacs

I am normally a relatively mild-mannered individual. It takes a lot to really get me cranked up (although when you do, watch out!), but generally speaking I'm usually a nice person.

Until you get me in the car. And then all bets are off. I have a mouth like a salty sailor and an attitude to match. It's not very attractive at all, and I'm frankly a little embarrassed by it.

I've tried listening to calming music, which works sometimes. I've considered taping a sign to the dashboard that reads "They aren't trying to piss you off on purpose" but I haven't gone there yet. Yesterday on my drive home I decided to reframe all my negative thoughts into something positive.

So, instead of: "Why isn't that person turning already? The lights been green forever and three cars could have gone!"

I reframed it to: "Isn't it nice that this person likes to take his time to ensure that turning is in fact what he wants to do."

Instead of: "That lady needs to put down the phone and stop texting while driving!" (which is illegal in this state)

I reframed it to: "Obviously something very important came up that she needed to deal with immediately, because safety and legality always come first with everyone."

Instead of: "This mother - f******* as***** needs to get the f*** out of my way or hurry his as* the f*** up NOW"

I reframed it to: "Tourists bring lots of money into the state and help boost the local economy. Thank you, person from Virginia, for visiting our fair State. Safe travels!"

I would highly recommend this method for changing negatives into positives whenever you feel like you're getting too pessimistic. Extra points are given for creativity, snarkiness, irony, and over-all level of smart-assiness achieved.

Which is I think not what the exercise was meant to accomplish but it's a lot more fun that way.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book Review: Diet for a New America

Diet for a New America
That's right, boys and girls. I'm making my way through the classics.

Diet for a New America was published in 1987. It quickly became one of the pre-eminent books advocating for the reduced consumption of meat for heath, environmental and economic reasons.

John Robbins, if you do not already know, was the heir to the Baskin-Robbins empire. He walked away from it when he realized what mass consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat in the form of meat and dairy was doing to the nation. Since then, he has become an advocate for a vegetarian and "pure vegetarian" (what he calls vegan) diet.

If you are considering transitioning to a vegetarian diet, this is a good starting point. It covers all of the basics: how meat and dairy affect your health; how mass meat farming negatively affects our environment and how reduction in consumption of meat could positively affect our long-term economic status.

Because it was published in 1987, most of the statistics quoted are extremely out of date. So, you have to take them with a grain of salt. However, what was very poignant to me were the pesticide statistics. While they were all from the mid-70's, it is relevant to me as that is when I was born (1974). For example:

     In 1976, the EPA found significant concentrations of DDT and PCB's in over
     99% of mother's milk from every part of the country... The EPA has concluded
     the average American breast-fed infant ingests nine times the permissible
     level of dieldrin, on of the most potent of cancer-causing agents known
     to modern science. (p 344).

That means that virtually every breast-fed baby of my generation was affected. These are the mothers and fathers of today, of now. How much of this was passed on to their children? How much of this is the reason why so many of us have difficulty getting pregnant? Is this the reason I have a hole in my heart? That I had a tumor growing in my inner ear for most of my childhood? Is this the reason my friend got breast cancer at the age of 32?

This is what struck me most out of this book (most of the other stuff I already knew). I wasn't quite as impressed with his economic reasoning; the ideas he brought forth about feeding the world if we quit with the meat production are wonderful ideas, but pie-in-the-sky goals. It is disheartening to realize that a mass, abrupt change in current agricultural practices would amount to the same thing as the bankrupting of all the major American car companies of a few years ago.

We've become too reliant on fallible practices that negatively affect us long-term. And one unfortunate day at some point in the future, the bottom is going to fall out on this as well. And, boy will we be screwed. While there are people trying their best to bring this to the attention of others, it's slow going and meeting with heavy and well-funded resistance. Instead of devising a way to transition to a more sustainable way of agriculture without negatively affecting America's economy, we're desperately clinging to the idea that we can keep limping along if only we have better government subsidies, better chemicals, better science.

But really, what we're doing is covering the elephant in the room with a colorful throw in hopes our guests won't notice. Maybe they won't, but I bet you anything our grandkids will.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grr.

Dear Land Lady,

Yes, I know the open door at the bottom of the stairs leads to higher bills, as does leaving the hall light on. Which is why I always make sure the door is shut and I turn off the light. Because you've asked that we do that.

So, please do not blame me for an open door and a light on simply because I happen to be the only person home right now. If you got up from the television once in a while, you'd realize that the postman seldom closes the door tightly, nor does the FedEx/UPS person. Nor do any of the bed & breakfast guests for whom you insist we park in the street for every weekend. Also, if you invested in a door that actually shut without having to try six times it might happen more often.

I'm a good tenant; I'm quiet, I pay on time, I seldom have guests over and never noisy ones. I am considerate of others and keep to myself. So please do not tell me my guests aren't turning off the light and I'm not shutting the door.

It ain't me.

Sincerely,
Gets peeved off when blamed for something she didn't do

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Power Vegans

Have you read this article from Business Week? It's a short little thing about the new trend of veganism amongst high-powered business folk.

The overall tone of the article is rather derisive, and unfairly so, I think. It reads as though the author thinks that all these CEOs are jumping on a band wagon and that it's a stupid one on to be jumping on at that. Which is a little disappointing because, as far as bandwagons go, it's a pretty good one to be on.

Not a lot of people are vegan in the US. If these high-powered people can bring attention to the health and ethical reasons behind being vegan, it's a good thing! Most people never think about where their food comes from, or what has gone into the process of making it. Americans - let's face it - like to follow what the "important" people are doing. If people start thinking that all the meat and dairy and eggs that they are consuming maybe aren't as good for them as the Dairy Industry would like them to think, how is that a bad thing?

If people start to think, how is that bad?

Of course, Americans also have a habit of following trends and dropping them like a hot potato when its no longer popular. But even if half the people who initially followed stick with the diet, even as a vegetarian, then think of the possible good it could do!

The article bemoans the expense of veganism - but it doesn't have to be. Yes, organic foods and analogs like tofurkey are expensive, but veganism doesn't have to be. I was vegan on essentially $30 a week, and I'm in New England and things tend to be much more expensive here. I ate a great deal of lentils, beans, rice, and vegetables (non-organic because it was what I could afford). Which can all be very cheap, especially if you buy in bulk.

Anyway, I wanted to share the article with you. Despite its "these crazy rich people" tone, I think it's a good step forward towards making people more aware of what they're eating and where it's coming from.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

When You Like What You Do

While I was at work giving a massage today, I took a mental step back and thought to myself "oh my god, you're really doing this!" That happens every once in a while. I just realize that I'm doing something that not only I never thought I'd do, it never occurred to me to do.

Did that sentence make sense?

If you had told the me from five years ago that this is where my life would take me, I probably would have been pretty damned skeptical. Interested, but skeptical. You see, the me five years ago would never have been brave enough to jump ship from financial solvency and do something else. The fear of "not being good enough" would have stopped me dead in my tracks.

But here I am. Doing something important, something rewarding. Something I love. I love what I do, and I get to make a living at it! That is such a wonderful feeling. I know I am lucky - so many people can't say that. In fact, I think a lot of times most people can't say that. So I am thankful that I've found something I love and am able to do it.

Just thought I'd share. :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nocturnal Fantasies: Belly Dance from the Night Side

This past Saturday (October 30th) I had a belly dance performance. It was supposed to be a "goth" show, but it really ran the gamut from heart-wrenching to innovative to slightly goofy. The styles were all over too. We had American Tribal, Tribal Fusion, classical egyptian and everything in between. Some day I hope to actually have video to show all of you, but I guess you'll have to suffice with some pictures.
My teacher Yasmia (left) and I dancing to I Put a Spell on You
A tribal fusion performance that was amazing
A more traditional egyptian performance (and a beautiful shot) 
Another tribal fusion piece - this time "Frankenstein" and her "Monster" 
My solo piece

Me again!

So.... You Want to be an Artist.

For the last several weeks, I have been working through The Artist's Way . This book has been out since the 1990's and I've been...