you are what you eat – a short story from life.

“The problem with kids these days is they don’t know where their food comes from. If you don’t know your McDonald’s burger is a slaughtered cow, you don’t deserve to eat it.”

Dad grew up on a beef farm. Dad’s a hunter.  Dad knows how to kill, and therefore dad knows how to eat.  He knows where his food comes from.

Once, I was talking in school and I asked a bunch of friends at the lunch table if they knew where their food comes from. “I don’t want to think about it,” said one friend.  A few friends looked sickly at their meatloaf.  “It’s animal muscle, that’s all.  Those cows we pass on the way to school, they just chop them up.  Meat is bloody.  That’s all.”  They looked at me in horror.

I guess they didn’t deserve to eat it. And they didn’t really want to sit with me at lunch anymore, either.  You are what you eat, but they eat lies.  They numbly buy food from the store, don’t ask questions, and tell themselves it’s a burger, not a cow.  They don’t even know where their food comes from, never planted a seed, never shot a gun or drawn an arrow.  They eat lies.  They live lies.  They are lies.

My dad isn’t a lie. My dad is pure truth.  But people hate truth, because truth is only beautiful if you can make poetry from ugly things.

Sometimes truth hits you when you’re at peace and don’t expect it. I remember skipping through the woods one autumn day and coming across my dad.  He was bent over the fire pit.  A small flame was starting in the middle of the stone ring.  He was crouched with a pile of feathers.  I came up behind him and asked what he was doing.  “Turning the kill into cordon bleu,” he said, holding up a pheasant from that morning’s hunt.  I blinked.  I hadn’t realized mom didn’t cook with chicken.  Now it made sense.  We don’t hunt chickens.  If only my friends knew they’d eaten venison tacos last week…

I wanted to continue walking through the woods, to see the wildlife that is easier to see in the fall when the leaves are down and the food is disappearing. But something kept me tied to the fire pit.  I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t.  I had to watch as dad picked up a pheasant, slightly warm because it had died only an hour before.  He opened its wings in his hands.  It was beautiful and helpless.  He took a wing in each hand.  He pulled.  It tore.  It sounded like a bed sheet tearing.  I didn’t know bodies could tear.

I watched my dad tear a bird in half.

I backed away slowly as he threw the useless scraps into the fire, to keep the dogs from rooting through the trash. It wasn’t even the sight, it was the sound.  I hadn’t thought death could have so many sounds.

That night, mom cooked up a plate of dad’s truth. My cordon bleu had never tasted better.

machine babies.

Next week, I will begin co-teaching an 8th grade world religion/social justice class.  As part of my preparation, I have been reading a series of books recommended by the program Heed the Call.  One of the books I’m reading is called Nurturing Children and Youth by Tracey L. Hurd.  The first chapter opens with “The Infant and Young Toddler – Newborn through Age Two” and discussing the physical development of children.  Naturally, I’m thinking about this topic and every way possible that society is messing it up.

According to the book, an infant triples his bodyweight in the first year of his life.  His brain grows from 1/4 of its adult size to 3/4 of its adult size.  Yes, he will grow half of his brain by his first birthday.  HALF.  I didn’t even have to continue reading to have a mental digression on these facts.  I mean, HALF!?

Remember when Time Magazine published this controversial cover?  People didn’t like it.  Why?  Because: 1. It was “racy”, and 2. “Who breastfeeds her grown-up child??  What a bad mother!”  Well, I have a slew of problems with those reactions.

To counter the first, how many times are women these days arguing for their freedom of dress?  I see all these articles now about women believing they shouldn’t be sexualized because of how they dress, that they should be allowed to do how they please and not worry about a man’s reaction to their choices.  Yet there are men – and women – alike who look down on public breastfeeding.  They see it as nudity.  “Go do that in the bathroom,” they say.  (At my university, we have a special room in the bathrooms in one hall that is a “lactation station”.)  I think that’s ridiculous because, not only is it hypocritical, but breastfeeding is such a fundamental part of a child’s development as well as his relationship to his mother.  It’s natural.  Furthermore, if babies have to eat in the bathroom, then lunch should be served there for everyone.

To counter the second reaction, I think it’s quite ironic to label the mother on the cover as being a bad example.  In fact, she’s an excellent example.  Naturally, children are supposed to grow out of their ability to digest lactose.  This usually happens when they’re young children, not toddlers.  I, too, went through this phase.  Why does this happen?  Well, because we’re not supposed to consume dairy products beyond our development.  I mean, you want to talk about weird?  It’s weird that humans drink cow milk!  Think about it.  It’s for calves!!  What are we, five??  Not only does this excess dairy lead to health complications and not actually help with osteoporosis (it’s a marketing strategy, thanks government), it’s just not sustainable.  So while we have adults drinking cow milk, they’re also turning their noses up at children drinking human milk.  And why do Asians/Natives and some others phase so slowly out of lactose tolerance?  Because it’s natural to keep drinking mom’s milk so you can continue developing.  Yes, mothers can produce milk for many years after birth.

Why did this all come to my mind?  There are so many women these days using baby formula.  I think that’s horrible!!  If you’re going to be a mother, be a mother, damnit.  These aren’t machine babies.  You didn’t grow it in a petri dish.  It’s a HUMAN, made from HUMAN, meant to consume HUMAN.  I’m sure some day machine babies drinking machine milk will exist when the world has really lost all hope, but, for now, let’s be real, please.  NOTHING replaces human product just like NOTHING replaces human touch, love, and childrearing.  Pop culture needs to wake up and realize it is what’s messed up.

In addition to breastfeeding, studies have been done that mouth-to-mouth feeding is also a natural practice.  That probably freaks a lot of people out, but after watching a video on the Youtube channel Vsauce, I realized how fascinating “premastication” is.  Although a lot of people seemed up in arms when actress Alicia Silverstone posted a video of kiss-feeding her son (some folks said it was like she was “making out” with her son), I feel like any fan of the Paleo diet can understand peoples’ interest in reverting to more natural habits.  Did you know, they thinking kissing came from this method of weaning?

So before you go bashing breastfeeding in public, into childhood, or as a method period – and before you get grossed out by kiss-feeding – consider how much grosser the general American populace’s habits are.  I mean, do you even know what’s in the food you’re eating?  What are you seriously putting in your body?  You don’t know the chemicals, the genetic origins, the implications on your own body.  You could be literally eating your way to cancer if you don’t handle all your own food and instead rely on other people to supply it to grocery stores and in restaurants.  Why do we pretend so much that we can manipulate things we naturally put into our bodies?  Why do we think artificial replacements are going to be a cheaper solution to a just-as-healthy lifestyle?  What makes us think that baby formula can honestly replace breast-milk when a baby will use that formula to CREATE ITS BRAIN?  (Sure, there are some cases when formula might be necessary, but that’s rare.)

I just see so much hypocrisy in the mainstream culture regarding food and raising children.  I feel like it’s cool now to just skimp out on everything.  So tell me, why are people even parents these days?  Why?

The Meaning in Dreams.

ColorMeaningsInDreams

Growing up, my mom and my grandma would always ask me about my dreams. Whether they were good, bad, or just plain profound, I would tell them if something stood out to me the next day. There were days when my dreams were dictated by medication, including a series of horrifying nightmares I experienced during my few weeks in India when I switched to a different kind of malaria pill.

I was always amazed by how progressive my family seems to be, yet certain things stick in the mud like a stubborn twig. Things like my grandma’s insisting that owls are a sign of death, my dad yelling at me for speaking ill of my brother when I saw a raven, or the way my family dwells on dreams. I’ve always felt like dreams are just a subconscious moment of clear thinking, kind of like an innocent child creatively experiencing the world or like those moments when you can’t solve a math problem and walk away from it, only to solve it when you’re not thinking about it. But maybe there is something more to it? I do, after all, own an old, large book of palm reading, tarot cards, and dream interpretation.

I do listen to my thoughts and my dreams. I find myself convinced that it keeps me out of trouble, or even death. Like when I leave the house late and my mom says “It was for a reason; something would have happened if you were on time.” Well, once a drunk driver collided head-on going the wrong way down the Turnpike a few miles ahead of me. I think that really got me thinking from then on.

But dreams?

I know a lot of friends would reject my subconscious theory and rationale. They would say it is undoubtedly god speaking to us, showing us what he wants to see. I just have a hard time believing god really cares that much about the bajillions of people here that he sits with them every night and orchestrates their dreams within their respective time zones and sleeping schedules. Wouldn’t it be easier just to sit back and watch? I mean, most people probably forget their dreams anyway.

Last night I had an unusually frustrating dream. My family and I flew to London for a week. I had just gotten back from London (true story), but I was eager to go to the White Cliffs of Dover and also to the northern most point of Scotland. We sat around in this large, modern apartment, staring out at the glass windows for several days, not leaving, before I finally said something. My mom insisted it wasn’t a big deal, we could see London from the living room. I looked out and, sure enough, I could see the London Eye turning and Big Ben not far from that.

My brother was playing games on his computer. I’m not even sure what my dad was doing – if anything. Every time I tried to suggest leaving, they’d ignore me and say that my brother had stuff to get done. But then they’d let him keep playing games.

“Mom, let’s walk to the train station. I have London so well memorized around the Thames that I can get us to Dover in no time.” (true story)

“Okay, fine, we will get ready and go to Dover.”

I wait for a few hours and it is getting dark.

“Mom, if we don’t go now, it will be dark and we can’t see anything.”

“We can go tomorrow.”

“Then we can’t go to Scotland, too!”

“Calm down, it’s no big deal.”

“I didn’t pay for airfare to come to London for a week and sit inside this room!”

And we never went anywhere. It got dark, I could see the blue Eye, and I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t even run away.

I think I know what my dream was telling me.

First of all, my mom mentioned grandma talking about a trip to Australia. I was surprised yesterday that the flights are cheaper than the ones I’m buying to go back to West Africa in less than two months. That’s why I was dreaming about our family traveling. London was always on my mom’s list.

The apartment. I think that’s how I feel about a lot of people, that they’re just idling, watching the world through protective glass, never going outside of their comfort zones. Suffocating in their Bell Jars. Thinking this is as good as it gets, that text book pictures and stories come even close to representing the real thing. And that’s definitely not what it’s like.

The imprisonment. I think I feel imprisoned often by the restraints my parents have always placed on me, whether it is in my athletics or in my travels, whatever. They were shutting down my idea of going somewhere, doing something crazy. I always feel like, if I listened to them, I would be idle, I would be stuck living the same old, conventional, rural Pennsylvanian life. Maybe I want that, but not without leaving it first. They just never tried to leave it at all. And they try to lock me in their norms.

The computer. This is two-fold. One, I was surprised when my mom recently made the comment “I can’t believe you’re surviving without Wi-Fi”. I thought it was sarcastic. Since when did my mom rely on the Internet? She just got a laptop and an e-mail address not that long ago. It’s not like she ever needed it. I didn’t even know she understands half of what she tries to do on it. And, yes, work makes me dependent on Internet, but not like that. Two, this DEFINITELY reflected my attitude on my family’s treatment of me versus my brother. He is more important, he can do what he wants. I can only do what I want if I damn well do it myself. They’ll dish out the money for him to do something stupid and useless and which doesn’t help his career. Meanwhile I’m actually working and trying to live life. Give me a break.

So – let’s look at this two ways:

1. Subconscious, pure thoughts: Does this mean I truly feel this way? Or is this where the imagination part kicks in and starts making me dream up situations for self-pity? Could it be that my views from this dream are really what I’m facing in my daily life?

2. God’s thoughts in my head: If there’s a god putting these ideas there, what is he trying to tell me? I don’t see a way for me to appreciate anything from that dream, unless I’m supposed to appreciate being able to say “I’m in London” – I think not. Is he trying to make me realize the differences between me and my family? I have no idea.

But I enjoy dreams. They are stories I write without trying to write them, and look at all the symbolism I subconsciously conjure up!