Grow Food Or Lawns: Whatever Works For You

Have you guys seen (usually through social media, such as Facebook or Tumblr) the “Grow Food Not Lawns” campaigners? Basically, they believe that people should not obsess over perfectly manicured lawns and grow edible fruits, vegetables, and herbs on their own property. The potential benefits in terms of less fuel consumed when food is shipped are obvious—if enough people were to do this to make a difference. Those whoa re fans of organic food might enjoy the peace of mind that comes with growing the food yourself.

There’s an easy argument against this—that not everyone, even in the suburbs, lives in a neighborhood (or town or city) that allows what the Grow Food Not Lawns proponents are encouraging. From what I understand, in some places, doing something like this could get part of your lawn bulldozed—and you billed for it.

There is another, more important argument.

I’m not a “grass person” (I love trees and ivy, personally) and many types of gardens look absolutely lovely, but there’s just no way that I’m ever going to do that. How about if I fulfill one of my specialized skills and, as a person who hates the feeling of dirt or grime and who gets genuinely uncomfortably warm at 70F, leave the gardening to people who have both the desire and inclination. Growing flowers and managing a garden is work. Growing crops that you intend to eat, even if you do not intend to rely upon them as your primary source of sustenance, is a lot of work.

Also, not everyone eats the kind of food that you can grow in your lawn. There are some teas and flavorful herbs and some wonderful fruits and berries that could grow in my yard, but let’s be honest: I can’t grow enchiladas or macaroni and cheese. I cannot grow sesame chicken or pizza.

I understand the environmental ideas behind this movement—I really do. But I’m not just objecting to people telling me what to do with my lawn like someone objecting at being told to shave (or not shave, as the case may be). It’s not just that people are being pushy—it’s that the idea does not work. Not for everyone.

We like the idea of a Jack-Of-All-Trades in fiction—someone who can kick ass, perform battlefield surgery, solve a complex riddle, survive in the wilderness for three months, and hack into any computer on the planet. But as anyone who has played a hybrid class in a video game might tell you, being a little good at a lot of things does not work. If you can act and write and paint and sing and you also have other talents, great. But chances are that if you’re working on your new album and filming a movie, you aren’t going to be able to devote that time that you wanted to spend on solving the Riemann Hypothesis, designing that new video game you thought of in the shower, and also growing your own food. And that’s if you don’t have children.

We each have our own particular aptitudes, sets of knowledge, capabilities, and interests. If you want to grow your own food, that’s great. If I want to do what I can do with my abilities, receive currency—my effort and merit measured out—and then exchange that currency to someone else (like a grocery store) for that store’s product (thus rewarding them for doing their work as I am rewarded for doing mine), then that’s wonderful. That’s the world in which we live.

The solution to unhealthy food is to fix the food and/or to fix our bodies so that we are not punished for enjoying the foods that we love. The solution to the environmental impact of transporting foods across distances is to use clean, renewable energy. We won’t exhaust sunlight transporting out-of-season strawberries halfway across the continent so that I can eat them when I want to.

If you want to make time to grow your own food or solve unsolved mathematical equations, good for you. But don’t criticize someone for using his or her property for a different purpose.

PS: I’m an environmentalist. I really am. I am just not a farmer. I like plants but we just thrive in totally different environments. They thrive in sunny, warm, humid environments where there are also things like insects and dirt and I do not care for any of those things in the least.



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Thank Yew: My Thanksgiving

photo of turkey pictures
So, I’m not going to rant about how half of the history that they teach in elementary schools is horrifying lies. Or even really complain about how when Lincoln founded the US’ Thanksgiving as an official national holiday with a specifically prescribed date, his statement of the subject makes it sound like a holiday for Americans who are of Abrahamic faiths.

Because, you know what? Unlike more official religious holidays, Thanksgiving is really just an American holiday, with its religious undertones purely optional. Even if, as my family did, you only celebrate the Santa-and-getting-what-you-want side of Christmas (I refer to it as “Santamas”), you still probably call it Christmas and may have noticed what the first six letters of the holiday are. You still hear crazy people who believe that any cashier giving them a generic religious greeting rather than one specific to their own religion is contributing to the collapse of America and dooming the world to catastrophe. Thanksgiving is just, well, Thanksgiving.

And speaking of Thanksgiving, have you heard this nightmarish song from the same total weirdo who produced Rebecca Black’s Friday? Patrice Wilson’s latest victim . . . I mean “client/star,” is Nicole Westbrook. I had it in my head all day on Thanksgiving—until I listened to Songs For An Evil Queen, a two-disk playlist which my best friend recently and painstakingly assembled especially for me because he is the best person ever.

I do not really like Thanksgiving food. I mean, cheese does not really factor into the meal very much. Or at all. I like cranberry sauce (but mostly I love the cranberry sauce that I used to get from Boston Market. That stuff was the best and way better than canned or homemade cranberry sauce, though I have not had it in a decade), but until I was in my early teens, I just did not see an upside to Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes? No thank you. Stuffing in which my mother has hidden mushrooms and who knows what else? I’d rather die. Green bean anything? Don’t insult me.

And then I discovered that Hidden Valley Ranch dressing is a magical serum that transmutes uninteresting meat like turkey into a delicious food. Specifically, a delicious vehicle with which to ingest ranch dressing. It can’t be just any ranch, though. Hidden Valley. Other ranch dressings are … nightmarish imposters.

I should know. At this point, I am an expert in ranch dressing.

After the meal, usually cooked by my mother (this year, it was the two of us, my grandmother, my eldest aunt, and my mother and aunt’s cousin who is delightful but whom I see much less frequently). This was the first Thanksgiving since the family dog died (she passed away on the fifth of October of this year), and the fourth Thanksgiving since my youngest sister died (e. coli at the NC State Fair; fortunately, the livestock are now separated from where children are allowed to go. It would have been nice if they had done that before 2009). My youngest sister, Jaime, died on 2 November 2009 and would have turned fifteen on the twenty-eighth of November of that year, so Thanksgiving often falls on an awkward time for my family.

This year, I had a wonderful time with my relatives. I drank a bit too much delicious wine and the pies were not opened until it was just me with my mother. When I am done writing this post, I am going to go eat a slice (read: one quarter of the entire pie) of blackberry pie, because hot damn pie is delicious. After I was done visiting family, a wonderful friend of mine came over—after having more than one Thanksgiving—and he and I watched Justice League because it is an awesome show that we both missed out on when it first aired.

Also, Disaronno, my favorite beverage on the planet, was involved. On the rocks, of course. I did not make it into an amaretto sour like some kind of . . . monster.

And, of course, I considered the things for which I am thankful. No one at our table prayed openly or anything like that; that has never been a part of my Thanksgiving experience, though my grandmother and aunt, at least, are Christians. We mostly exchanged stories, most of which we had all heard before. Old people are adorable.

I considered the things for which I am thankful. A non-exhaustive list? I am thankful for my magnificent friends who are the only reasons for which I have not given up, moved to as cold of a place as I can find and found some life-sucking job that will pay me enough that I can play video games and, in all likelihood, reach five-hundred pounds through simply no longer having any motivation to interact with other humans in person. Even just keeping in contact with them online is enough to keep me sane. Or close enough.

I am thankful for my wonderful and absolutely out of her mind insane mother. She is all kinds of weird but she cannot help it.

I am so thankful that I have a computer that works, and works well. Computer troubles leave scars in your soul.

It has been such an honor to write for Zelda Lily and I absolutely love doing it. Even on weeks like this one when I almost forget until the last minute because my schedule has been crazy.

I am writing a book (the first part of a series). I am so thankful that it is coming along nicely, that I have a detailed outline of the book’s events already assembled in order and a clear idea of where the series is heading. I am especially thankful that my unreasonably awesome best friend is my collaborator. He is so brilliant and, while I would be writing even without him, the stories and characters and settings would not be the same without him. Plus, he’s often the voice of reason when we are blamestorming, and that is all kinds of necessary. I hope that, next year, I am thankful that we are done writing this book and that we have found a publisher.

I finished the first draft of another chapter just before writing this, in fact.

I thanked the Gods for being awesome, but I did so in private.

I am especially thankful that President Obama was reelected. Thankful that I will never have to say “President Romney” unless I write a story about a gloomy alternate universe.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, you beautiful people. I hope that you enjoy your delicious leftovers if you still have any.



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Post-Election Reflection: What We Could Have Had

I voted in this election, of course. And I was so excited when Obama was reelected—as were the vast majority of my friends and family. Also, the actors and celebrities whom I follow on Twitter. An Australian actress whom I adore tweeted about watching Obama’s inspiring victory speech while working out at the gym. The entire world was watching us, and I do not have to awkwardly explain that “we tried our best,” or “please don’t hate all of us,” over the internet to my friends in other countries (as I did, as a senior in high school, when Bush was reelected). Our country is continuing to move in the right direction. We still have a President who thinks that gay people, women, and religious minorities are actually people and that zygotes and corporations are not. I almost* couldn’t be more excited.

But we did miss out on a few things that an end to the Obama Presidency and a Romney administration would have meant.

First of all, a Romney White House would probably have meant an end to the First Lady’s crusade against childhood happiness. Because seriously. I am so tired of her Disgusting Food And Miserable Activities initiative. You know what? Elementary school is Hell on Earth. You’re a powerless, miserable child whose entire day, at home and at school, is planned out by adults. The one highlight of a typical third grader’s day? Lunch. People complain about cafeteria food, but if you live in a household where hot dogs and pizza and fried anything is a rare treat, lunch in elementary school is this magical time when you get to eat delicious food and socialize with your peers—or read a book. Food is happiness in its purest physical form, and I, for one, want for children to be happy.

I trust that I do not even have to explain to people why jumping rope outside or playing some kind of sportsball in your backyard is, even if you enjoy it, a hideously inferior activity to anything that you might do indoors. Legos, action figures (or Barbies, etc), books, television, video games—children today have so many delightful ways of entertaining themselves that have nothing to do with the insect-ridden, overly warm, overly humid, exposed, way-too-bright outdoors. Playing outdoors is for barbarians. As a child, I only did it when forced to. And I was forced to.

Guess what? Forcing children to play outside and to eat that gross green stuff that grows in dirt? It does not work. My family only drank water at dinner, we had a “salad night” at least once a week, and my mother used even meaty foods as mules to smuggle even more vegetables into our gullets. In my complaints about my (less than pleasant) childhood, this does not even make the top ten, but it’s not something that I remember fondly, either.

And then I went off to college, where I slowly began to realize that I did not have to eat like I had been required to for all of my life. If I made double-stuffed Oreos (or, more likely, quadruple-stuffed), I could discard the gross chocolate wafers that had no crème on them for a roommate to eat. You can control your weight with how much you eat, and how often (plus riding an exercise bike in front of a television); you do not have to make eating a miserable activity, even some of the time.

As an adult, to quote the fabulous Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation, “I stand by my decision to avoid salad . . . and other disgusting things.”

Okay, so the second thing that we missed out on that we would have had with a Romney Presidency: Mitt Romney Sucks Pass It On. It was a simple post made on Tumblr. For those of you unfamiliar, Tumblr is a blog site where users can upload images, text, or even music or video, which can easily be “liked” and “reblogged” by others on Tumblr. Personally, I tend to take screencaps from shows that I watch, add text from the scene in question, and that makes up the vast majority of my original posts to Tumblr. My most popular original post to Tumblr is from a few weeks ago (taken from ABC’s Once Upon A Time), has 120 “notes” (a number derived from the likes and reblogs that the post has received, mostly from strangers). It is not unusual to see posts with several thousands notes.

One simple, unassuming text post titled: “Mitt Romney Sucks, Pass It On” did not include anything beyond a title. It has received over ten million notes. That is, for the record, a lot. It is, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the single most popular post ever on Tumblr. With a Mitt Romney Presidency, imagine how many likes and reblogs it could have gotten over four years.

Third, but not last, is all of the poor hurt feelings in our neighboring country of Canada. Just look at this graphic (also on Tumblr), depicting Canada’s disappointment that pro-Obama Americans will not be flocking across the border to a country that has gun control, universal health care, same-sex marriage, and the right to choose. This picture is adorable.

Finally, and most seriously, a Romney White House might have meant a serious reduction among the crazies. If you’ve watched NCIS or Law & Order or just about any other crime drama, you are probably familiar with the ironically named “Patriot” movement or similar movements. These are whackadoo militia-types who are paranoid and crazy. They do not register the births of their children or socialize them normally (even beyond the normal crippling social isolation that comes with homeschooling). They do not vote or obey speed limits or traffic lights. They are, in essence, a bunch of terrifying, well-armed anarchists who often have some very racist views.

Now, if you know someone who is a gun-nut, that’s just weird. But, weird like my obsession with superheroes. Admittedly, my obsession with superheroes does not really equip me to kill people, but my point is that these “Patriots” (who do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the US government) are scary and you should not just assume that someone who is super into guns is one of them.

The “Patriot” movement sprouted up while Clinton was in office, went down when Bush was in office, and then cropped back up with a vengeance when Obama was first elected. In other words, if the political Right is unhappy with the President, the absolute fringe of the fringe right loses their minds.

If Romney had won, these lunatics might have taken four years off to only be normal amounts of crazy.

 

*The absolute Most Beautiful Human On Earth retweeted one of my tweets on Election Day, which kind of almost completely overshadowed the entire election for me because I have “very sensible” priorities.



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What Makes You Happy?

photo of food is happiness pics
This post isn’t about ABC’s Once Upon A Time series, but a lot of that Disney-influenced fairytale show revolves around people pursuing their own happiness (which, in some cases, means destroying that of those who have wronged them). And that show, among other things, definitely has me wondering about different people’s definitions of happiness, and what sources they find for it.

Plus, you know, happiness is kind of integral to human existence.

And there are a lot of different types of happiness.

For example, there is a sort of happiness that comes from hate. I don’t mean the angry, raging sort of hatred. And I do not mean bigotry. I mean a calm and pure hatred for an evil person who has grievously wronged you to such a degree that you can only imagine what your life would be like if you had never encountered that person. A cold hatred of sufficient intensity is such a sweet and satisfying sensation that it is almost an ecstatic experience. One can only imagine (legally, anyway) how satisfying it would be to erase the object of one’s hatred from existence.

Some people come from a different line of thinking, and believe that true happiness comes from forgiveness—from letting go of that hatred. These are probably the sorts of people who don’t cope with the world by fantasizing about murder (like, is there any other way to read about Chris Brown or Michael Vick or Casey Anthony and stay sane?). Personally, I don’t know how they …

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