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Eating Animals – tangential musings

27 Feb

Alright, I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma just like everyone else.  I, too, freaked out (am still in a sustained freak-out) about the state of Factory Farming and the inevitable apocalypse.  I watched Food Inc.  I developed a small crush on Alice Waters.  I give a crap about the food we eat and (with oscillating strategies and commitment)I try to make responsible choices.

But I recently finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and I’ve got my pants in a fresh bunch.  The hipster king has lots of extra-sincere stuff to convey, as usual (I had a chortle when I read one reviewer refer to him as the “extremely annoying and incredibly precious author”).  Don’t get me wrong, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close changed my life.  It remains one of my favorite books and probably always will.  The sustained heartbreak over Oskar and his business cards will stick with me forever.  But for some inexplicable reason, sometimes when I’m reading, I can picture JSF typing in a cafe (it’s really obscure – you haven’t heard of it) and a little tear slides down his cheek, and all of a sudden I want to punch imaginary JSF in the face.  It’s probably mostly about me and my issues.  I just needed to get that off my chest.

But just because he occasionally pushes my buttons and annoys me in my imagination doesn’t mean he’s not right.  After being accosted (in the benevolent “take your medicine” kind of way) with stats and stories of the environmental, health, and crimes against base humane treatment of animals that are being committed in the name of our weird diet, I can’t imagine anyone not taking pause to wonder how we got here and if we should perhaps get the hell out.  At best this whole food nightmare seems senseless (get it?  Whole Food nightmare?  No?  Just me?).  Which is pretty hip these days, I guess.  Senselessness, I mean.  We’ve perfected the short game.  We’re hoping to deny Medicaid to the children of drug addicts (that’ll teach ’em?)!  We’re killing people who kill people to teach people that killing people will get them killed!  We’re throwing up charter schools faster than you can say “Superman!”  We are carpe-ing the crap out of the diem.

But what about the long game?  What about how we’re being confronted with overwhelming evidence that suggests that the way we eat is wrecking us on every level – it’s wrecking our bodies, the earth, and the people we live with?  Are we going to deal with this? Am I going to deal with this?  Those who have read the book (like, a year or more ago probably) are thinking to themselves “Ah, so Liz has entered the vegan phase, which will last approximately 4-6 months and end in a breakdown of willpower sparked by someone’s birthday dinner at _________ restaurant.”  Those who know me well are probably thinking “I bet that kid ate meatloaf WHILE she was reading the book.  At Denny’s.”

I will neither confirm nor deny these possibilities, but I will say that I already did my vegan stint during high school.  In case you were wondering how hardcore lent can get (and just how annoying for your friends and family – not the vegan aspect, but the sanctimonious asshole bit), herein lies the answer.  You’re welcome.  Oddly enough, the meal that I chose to break my 6-month streak (because if you’re practicing hard-core lent, it needs to laaaaaaaaast – you need to BEAT lent, not merely observe it) was school hot lunch.  As always, good choices.

In any case, the overwhelming evidence is in.  Eating factory farmed meat  is creating all kinds of real and immediate problems.  And, you know, it has been for a while – Peter Singer has been harping on us for quite some time now with his reasoned points and persuasive arguments.  It doesn’t look good, my friends.  It looks like we need to deal with this.  I’m hard pressed to find a defensible reason for my behavior any longer.  I think I’m on the wrong side of this (you know, the apathy side……. where I often like to set up shop).

So I’ve stopped buying meat at the grocery store.  I joined a CSA that doles out tasty animal bits on a monthly basis and I supplement that supply with regular visits to The Meat Van (what?  You don’t have a farmer who pulls into a bus stop around the corner with a refrigerated van and sells meat and eggs on a weekly basis?).  I’m dangerously close to becoming a cliché.

But, when confronted with the need to grab a quick lunch due to poor planning or a pressing case of the hangries (hunger+anger) I go to Wendy’s and eat unspeakable evil.  I’m not sure I can say no to Ba le’s chinese pork…. I’m not sure if I want to.  Moreover, I REALLY don’t want to be the douche bag who isn’t eating my sister-in-law’s casserole for ethical reasons.  I pride myself on my willingness to eat anything (and methodically exercise myself of any dislikes – for instance it took me two years to develop a taste for olives, but now I love ’em).  I don’t want to be the difficult friend with an annoying diet to accommodate.  Basically, I don’t want to return to my days as a sanctimonious pain-in-the-ass.

I guess the folks who declined to eat meals prepared by slaves felt similarly.  Shit.

I think we have to deal with this.  As always, I’m not sure how to balance abstaining from evil and avoiding becoming an insufferable pile of judgement and sanctimony.  I want to do the right thing, but I don’t want to be a snob or a jerk.  As soon as I get it all figured out, I’ll be sure to let you know.  Those who are interested in these things may want to develop a contingency plan in the case that this takes me the rest of my life.


Productivity in Jeopardy

4 Jan

Those of you who are close to me should prepare yourselves for the inevatable intervention.  A fellow, morbidly curious pal gave this to me the other day.  Why can’t I be this interested in learning about physics, or computers, or….. well, really anything useful?  If my google searches continue to lead me to such madness, I’m going to have to censor my internet access so that I can’t get to all of this outrageous Christian content.  Zing!


Those unfamiliar with the quiverfull movement…… I was going to say “should probably stay that way”, but instead – this.  And, now for the good stuff.   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  The Christian Patriarchy Movement produces some disgusting stuff to be sure, but I was in no way prepared for the violence being perpetrated against food.  The recipes alone will aggravate your sense of decency (and perhaps your gag reflex…… and maybe your tear ducts).   I’m sorry.  You’re welcome.  (you can pick one, or, like me, pick both.)

Mothers Day

11 May

I had a wonderful Mothers Day.  I guess I technically celebrated my first MD last year (Nate got me a gift cert for a massage, which I hoarded until 8.5 months gestation – a wise choice), but this year it felt like I was going pro.  I was really looking forward to it.  I wondered what Ida would get me…..

The day was jam-packed.  Ida was baptized at Berry, we had a little party at our place and had lots of family in town to celebrate with.  The baptism was so incredibly beautiful and I’m glad that I took a leap of faith and did it.  I was on the fence for a while – not really knowing how I felt about the whole “salvation from damnation” aspect (not good – I did not really think my tiny redheaded meatloaf was doomed until dunked – and also, I do not think anyone is doomed), but I felt really excited about a ritual that recognized Ida as part of our little community and commenced her journey of discovering the world.  I think this tension pretty much sums up my feelings about Christianity in general – I’m not on board with some of the cultural tenants of American Christianity (and as those professing them would say “Biblical Tenants” – potAYto, potAHto….), like, for instance, believing homosexuality to be an abomination, thinking that Buddhists are barking up the wrong tree, or giving two shits about whether or not folks have loving and respectful sex before they buy me and their other friends and relatives some chicken kiev. But at the same time, I love the community that this faith can inspire (don’t get me wrong, it can make some ugly stuff too).  Like lots of my evangelical baggage, these issues were neatly and peacefully addressed in a meeting with our church‘s wonderful shepherd, Pastor Sherrie.

Photo by the truly amazing Sarah Rhee (

You know those people who just seem to ooze calm, and love, and serenity?  That’s Pastor Sherrie.  Every week she stands up and delivers brave messages of inclusion and peacemaking and advocacy for the voiceless.  She is wholly herself in these talks – going about communicating in her own perfect way that conforms to none of the expectations of my idea of “pastor.”  She is not bossy, loud, or aggressive – always pushing us gently toward more love and acceptance.  I adore this woman with my whole heart and have a really hard time keeping it together when she says “everyone is welcome”.  In fact, the first time I came to Berry (after performing with think/dance collective in their basement), I bawled my eyes out when I heard the words “In the United Methodist Church we practice holy communion.  Everyone is welcome.”  And then she said…….. nothing.  That was a revolution to me.  In my experience, taking communion was always proceeded by lengthy explanations of who qualified – of who was committed enough – of who was NOT welcome.  Everyone is welcome – now THIS was a church I could get on board with.  In exploring Berry more, I discovered a community that is committed to fair trade, CSA, full participation by children (they are very much seen and heard and loved at Berry), the arts, GLBT rights and advocacy, feminism, and a slew of social justice clauses.  I’m pretty sure this is the place Glenn Beck had in mind when he made his insane comments a few weeks ago.  Don’t worry, we turned Pastor Sherrie in.

So anyway, at this meeting, Pastor Sherrie, Nathan and I talked about baptism.  We talked about welcoming Ida into our community, recognizing the light inside of her and sharing in a ritual that would celebrate the beginning of her journey of exploring the world.  I was nervous that there would be talk of hell and damnation (why?  Who knows.  I’m not sure I’ve ever really heard Pastor Sherrie talk about hell outside of the context of poverty or injustice) but of course, there wasn’t.  Ida grabbed at the hymnal pages, trying her best to rip them out and eat them.  She has a hunger for hymns, this one.  I felt so glad for a place where we could all be, and explore, and grow.  Berry is one of the main reasons that I can’t imagine living anywhere but Chicago.

Seriously, Sarah! How do you do it?! Everything looks so beautiful through your camera.

As always, at Ida’s baptism, the folks at Berry did not disappoint.  Pastor Sherrie is a genius of human kindness and finding the important stuff – she talked about the idea of a neighborhood, about taking care of each other, and about Ida flourishing however she will.  We sang “This Little Light Of Mine” and all lit candles from the big candle that Pastor Sherrie and Ida lit together after Ida was baptized – Ida’s candle.  The choir sang, and the band or miscellaneous instruments played in their wild and jubilant way.

I held my little light (Ida) and felt so glad for the millionth time that I had all of these beautiful people with me to help with the awesome responsibility of letting Ida shine.  Have you seen the kid smile?  I think she’s got the whole shining thing down…. She’s going to shine no matter how much I screw it up, I think.  Okay, mama moment, I’m done.  Pastor Sherrie walked Ida around the room to see everyone.  I watched the faces of all of these people adoring my daughter – glowing with gladness that she had come to be with them – and I felt like I might burst out of my skin with the fullness of it all.  Parents, you know what I’m talking about here, right?  Like, it’s one thing to love me – that’s great, but when you love my kid my loyalty to you – my love for you gets ferocious and strong.  I literally felt relief when the service was over – it was almost too much goodness to take.

Berry hearts Ida (Photo by Sarah Rhee)

So my first Pro Mothers Day was great.  Nathan got me a book I really wanted, I Don’t Care About Your Band,

My husband sure is dreamy. This book is right up my alley.

Aeropress coffee maker = AWESOME

an Aeropress coffee maker, and a day of my choosing to do whatever I want, during which he will make me coffee, breakfast and leave me alone to read in bed all day whilst taking care of our lovely daughter.  This combination was absolutely perfect and reminded me again why he’s such a great partner and co-parent.

Happy Mothers Day, Everybody.  I hope yours was grand.

Welcome, travelers.

9 Apr

Hey!  I’m so excited that you’re here!  I feel honored.  Welcome to The Church of What’s Happening Right Now!   I’m Liz and I’m the boss of this blog.

I chose the name for my blog from this really great conversation I had with my Aunt Dukes when I was a Fundamentalist (circa 2000).

We were in Germany at the time and we were in the middle of what would become known in family lore as “The Death March Across Western Europe.”  It was my friend (and future sister-in-law!) Heidi, my mom, my Aunt Dukes, and me.  My mom and Dukes were constant traveling companions and went every year to someplace wild and exciting to have adventures together.  They are total badasses when it comes to travel and have spent weeks living in Mongolian yurts, walking balance-beam style through Vietnamese rice paddies and engaging in some serious B&E in pursuit of their sightseeing goals.  Heidi and I were honored to have been asked along on this journey and we were trying our best to keep up.

When you picture our travels through Western Europe you’re no doubt picturing leisurely walks through museums, afternoons spend sipping cappuccino and snacking on pastries, and quaint little hotels.  Allow me to clarify – we jog/walked though ALL of the suggested sights that the veritable (and sadistic) Rick Steeves suggests, in addition to the Lonely Planet recommendations and any other possible place of interest listed in the plethora of guide books crammed in the bulging backpacks of our elder guides.  We did not stop to eat (they employ a “grab and go” philosophy when it comes to nourishment.  I imagine their journeys are even more productive now that the cliff bar is enjoying it’s moment in the sun), and they only stop to sleep and recreate from the hours of 11PM and 6AM during which you are also expected to take care of any personal business you may have (like using the bathroom or purchasing a bottle of water).  This time is also used to eat dinner and breakfast which are assembled out of foodstuffs picked up from whatever market is adjacent to the bunkroom style hostel where they will sleep with their passports tucked into their underpants.  Dinner and breakfast are eaten (again, what you’re picturing is inaccurate – speed it up by about half and add more gesticulation) sitting cross-legged on your bunk while pouring over a guidebook, making copious lists, and trying not to cut off your fingers with your swiss army knife.  I think it’s safe to say that we saw everything there was to see in our path and then some.  It was the summer before Heidi and I began college and I think the freshman 15 were a welcome addition.

Anyway, in a rare moment of simultaneous sitting and eating, I was trying to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my Aunt Dukes (who is Catholic, so I’m not really sure what I was up to there) and she said:  “you know, Lizzie, I’m a member of The Church of What’s Happening Right Now.”  At the time I thought, “oh dear”, but now I find myself thinking of that conversation all the time.  I keep finding it more and more beautiful and special (at least that’s what I find when I’m not busy feeling terrible about what a jerk I was).  I think what she meant is that she’s just doing what makes sense to her and living according to her experience.  I think she meant that she’s doing the best she can, so just fucking relax, would you please?  I think she meant that she finds all of the otherworldly stuff she needs right here and right now.  And I also think she meant that I was annoying the bejesus out of her.  Welcome to The Church of What’s Happening Right Now.  Let’s all take a note from the vast wisdom of my Aunt Dukes and just chill out, do the best we can, and find great and perfect things where we are right this second.  (But let’s also eat something once in a while for christsakes).