Monthly Archives: March 2013

Civil Disobedience with a Fork

fork-02On Friday I went through a box marked “summer clothes” when I came across a pair of cut off shorts. I remarked to my husband the shorts were a staple for me in the summer when I was at my fattest. I was about to throw them away when I decided to try them on. After looking at myself in the mirror, I decided to keep them as a reminder of where I came from.

Throughout my life I have been an activist for all sorts of social change: single payer healthcare, reproductive rights, peace, and eliminating the death penalty. However, my most profound act of civil disobedience was not writing a Letter to the Editor calling for condom distribution in schools when I was 22, it was not being on TV talking about no male taking away my right to choose if, and when, to bear children when I was 24, nor being arrested protesting NATO when I was 40. No, the most profound act of civil disobedience I have participated in, and continue to participate in (and advocate others to do so) is realizing that Big Ag has not, nor ever will, solve the global food crisis or the health crisis in America. Making simple changes such as making a meal plan each week, shopping at the farmers market when I can afford to, signing up for a CSA, and shopping only in the outer isles of the grocery store has made more of an impact than all the hours protesting I have done over two decades.

The process of eliminating processed foods has not been easy. To overcome the chem-food and the physical and mental feelings that kept me mired in obesity and depression, I used the most powerful tool available to me: the power of education. It has not always been easy to find information — I suppose it’s the one good thing that’s come out of the long-term unemployment — to help juice my brain on information rather than on high fructose corn syrup or Red Dye #5.

But you don’t have to do all the digging I did. Kindly, Huffington Post corralled much of the information I’ve cobbled together over the years in a concise piece Food TED Talks: The 8 Best Lectures On Eating And Food Policy. Though I had seen most of the eight, it was good to watch them again, to reinforce what I had already learned. The most important lesson I re-learned is this: Big Ag uses marketing, psychology, and our basic human instincts to addict us and poison our food system. The only protection from Big Ag is to be civilly disobedient: do not buy the food put on market shelves. By not eating the “food” one does not participate in the destruction of Mother Earth, of corporate profits over humans needs, of unsustainable farming practices, of continued use of petroleum products, of GMOs, of labor violations, amongst so many other ills.

Recently I was asked how we lost the weight. I responded with “it’s not rocket science. We simply changed what we eat.” Then I was pressed for more information “My husband and I have a few basic principles” I said “They are 1. If our great-grandmothers would not recognize it as a food, we do not eat it. 2. We do not eat any food that has a commercial. 3. We make (almost) everything from scratch. 4. We make the time to make dinner each night. 5. We eat at the table thus we talk to each other. 6. We walk everywhere now.” By not eating food produced by Big Ag I weigh 65 pounds less than I did. I no longer feel the depth of depression I once did. I no longer have the chronic GERD and diarrhea. I no longer need to visit the doctor thus my healthcare bills have significantly decreased. In short, I am thinner, happier, and richer.

I’ll be the change I want to see in the world. I will continue to inspire my friends and family and those in my community who ask me “how did you do it” when I say simple slogans like “if you continue to eat the same foods you will continue to weigh the same” and “you are what you eat”. I will continue to be civilly disobedient using the tool I know best: the fork.

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A Day in NYC for NDAA Protest

This is a story about my trip to NYC on Feb. 6 to support the fine folks who are suing the government over NDAA.

Up at 3:15 am to avoid the last minute rush to meet a 5:00 am bus in Hartford… Right off the bat, there’s the first problem. The anticipation of the trip kept me awake for hours so a 3:15 rising time followed a meager 2 hours of sleep.

Arriving at the bus station at 4:40 am I was immediately asked by a man standing in the vestibule of the station if I had money to give him for a cup of coffee. Tired, nervous about the trip and wondering if my phone battery was going to fail, I lifted my hands in that helpless gesture we all know and said I was sorry but I didn’t have anything to give him. After all, I’d need money for cabs, money for lunch with a friend after the court experience, money for who knows what. It wasn’t too long before the bus arrived and we were invited to board. We only had a few minutes before leaving. Goddess, thank you for poking me. I went back into the station, shared a few dollars with the man and said I hoped the coffee was hot and delicious. What was I thinking when I refused?

I grabbed a front row bus seat to see the road ahead for those few minutes I would be awake before trying to store up some energy for the day ahead. The call for people to come to the courthouse asked for various arrival times, all somewhere between 9:00 and 9:45. No promises were made that there would be space in the court room for everyone who showed up but we were all urged to come and stay outside if necessary to show our support. My plan definitely did not include standing outside. The bus was due in to Port Authority by 8:20. Okay – get a cab, go for a short drive, arrive at the courthouse in plenty of time to get a seat in the court room. It sounded like a perfectly good plan.

Traffic was wonderful until we actually got into the city. I’ll spare you the details. We DID NOT get to Port Authority at 8:20. It was more like 8:45. Okay – run outside, grab a cab, and get there on time. Another perfectly good plan. But… NO! When you leave Port Authority there is an orderly system for getting a cab. It’s called standing in line and waiting patiently as cabs come and go, picking up people in the order in which they’re standing in said line. It was a long line. And then I thought that I really didn’t know how long the ride would take and how long it would take to find a bathroom once inside the court so finding a bathroom now became my priority mission. To do that I had to get out of line. Bathroom found, time to get back in line. I was now farther back than I was when I originally went outside.

Ah, my cab. The driver asked me which way I wanted him to go. I had no idea, just like I had no idea I’d have to stand in an orderly line to get the cab! Well, the cab ride turned out to be a delightful part of my day. The driver asked where I was going and I said the courthouse. He asked if I worked there. I said no, that I was going to support the people suing our government over the NDAA. He asked what that was and when I started to explain, he reached over for a pen and paper and wrote it down so he wouldn’t forget. From there the conversation tackled our philosophies of life and shared visions for the future. My time in the cab was lovely. When we arrived at the courthouse I paid him and most sincerely wished him a wonderful life. I think he is a good person.

Arrival at the courthouse was at 9:40. Run up the steps, ask directions to the court room and find a seat. Yet another great plan. But NO! There were two lines as soon as I got inside, one to my left and one to my right. I moved toward the line on my left only to be told that the line on my right was a continuation of the line on the left with space left open in the middle for people who had immediate access into the building. The line moved slowly, like glaciers before global warming. I got to talk with some very interesting people, all there for the same reason. Turns out we were all in line headed for the security checkpoint – airport style and not nearly as fast. We all finally came to the conclusion that the pace was calculated to keep as many of us as possible out, driving us back outside the building after having lost our minds from being in line so long. We had to check cell phones and all electronics and in exchange got a very high tech identification tag with which to retrieve them. High tech as in a sticky note that someone wrote a number on with a pen that was running out of ink. Very impressive.

Having passed through the security station, we were directed to a room on the fifth floor. It was one of two overflow rooms used for those of us who refused to be turned away. There were only two things missing from this room. One was a video screen and the other was a satisfactory audio system. It was almost impossible to decipher sentences in their entirety but the room was very quiet and everyone tried as hard as we could to make some sense of what we were sort of hearing. For one second I thought about what a waste of time the trip was but that feeling was instantly replaced with the realization that I was part of a historical event that had the potential to make real change. No, I wasn’t in the court room. No, I wasn’t looking directly at the people involved. No, I couldn’t even make out all of what I had traveled to hear. But I was there, being counted along with hundreds of other people who believe that the NDAA is an abomination that must be challenged and defeated. I had taken a stand and shown up. I was with community. I was Occupying an idea, a courthouse, a social movement and a moment in history. On that day, I mattered. Early hours, a 6 hour round trip bus ride, an expensive cab ride… all for the experience of less than an hour in an overflow room.

My day ended after lunch with a friend, a subway ride back to Port Authority and the bus ride home. It was a good day. I’m so looking forward to the next chance to stand with good people for a just cause.

The gentle art of self care

I need to do this post as much for myself as for this blog. The last two posts have served as a nice run-up to this one. Two weeks ago Dashifen mentioned Pantheacon, which I have been attending sine 2007. This year there was no major controversy or dust-up. For that alone I feel thankful, because even though I was outside of the direct happenings, I took notice and it could be very draining. Last week’s post spoke of the need for boundaries. Something which would have been very helpful for me to continue to reinforce during those discussions. And finally, Thorn Coyle posted this article last week, and as soon as I saw activism fatigue I knew what I had to talk about here.

My usual MO for Pantheacon is this: The Wednesday before the con I fly out to California. This gives me a chance to spend some focused time with some chosen family out there. Thursday night I check in to the hotel. I do the con, enjoy it, then spend the following week in San Francisco. I have a slew of friends in the area and this tends to be my one chance a year to see them in person. The fun continues until that Saturday night, when I take an overnight flight back to the east coast. Inevitably I return home happy but bone tired. And then I hit the ground running back into my regular life because I have to go to work the next day.

For a few years there was no question of doing this and keeping up a frenetic pace. I was in grad school part time in addition to full time employment. I had deadlines and commitments. Any extra time to reground and regroup was a luxury. This year and last that was not a factor, but I am now dealing with some mild chronic health issues which limit my energy. But I still have not learned the lesson to take care of myself as well as I should, and as well as I advocate for others to do.

Last week I went back to work and had something scheduled every night of the week. On some level it’s great since it meant time with friends and time to work on belly dance. Over the weekend I had plans to attend a job fair at my undergrad alma mater and go to a friend’s birthday party. Saturday, the day of the party, I did my morning run around, got my hair cut, came home, then sat in a chair and played a little game on my phone. For two hours.

I crashed. Since I felt the job fair was as important to me as to the students who would be there, I canceled on the party so I would have the energy for the drive and networking. And I made the “executive decision” that this coming weekend would be more introversion and getting back on track… interspersed with some necessary tasks. That’s the trade-off when one does not have the money to hire a personal assistant.

So how am I taking care of myself right now?

1. Getting enough sleep. This is the toughest one for me. Not only do I have some trouble with falling asleep, but I have determined that my ideal wake up time is an hour or two later than the time I need to rise during the week to get to work. Yes I could wake up later, but I also like to take my time in the morning so I can get in devotional work. Plus going to work later would mean coming home later and potentially going to bed later. Not exactly an option I would like to use at this stage.

2. Eating well. This is a given. I am also indulging with some chocolate, most of it fair trade though. My latest discovery is a brand called Nibmor (and they do not give me anything to say that) which makes an incredible hot chocolate blend.

3. Taking care of myself mentally and emotionally. This means I am not beating up on myself for not getting certain things done (like having a blog colum up on time, ahem). Keep in mind confession 13 of the 42 Negative Confessions/Purifications. Chowing down on your own heart won’t do you any good in taking care of yourself.

4. Prioritize. The only reason why I am able to do anything right now. What’s most important for the day?

5. Spiritual touchstones. This is a Pagan blog after all. Spend time in your shrine, say prayers outside, light candles, do a spiritual cleansing.

6. Say no when you have to and do not feel bad about it. If you don’t have enough for yourself, you don’t have enough to offer others.

Take care of yourselves, and if you are in the latest snow path, stay warm and dry!