Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear little shit: You might...

Heredity is what sets the parents of a teenager wondering about each other.
Laurence J. Peter

Dear little shit;

I apologize in advance for all the crazy, terrible, funny stuff that is going to happen to you in your life. I will embarrass you until your cheeks burst from blushing on more than 18 occasions... and I so look forward to it. Your dad will probably trump my efforts. And because your dad and I are goofballs, you might really enjoy your childhood... or develop an anxiety disorder because of it. Can't say for sure yet. You might love having us as parents... or you might not be able to stand us.

In fact...

You might get all your presents wrapped in newspaper,
But your mom is an eco-freak which benefits your planet.
You might hear about planes every day of your life,
But your dad is a pilot who supports your freedom.
You might have plain brown eyes and plain brown hair,
But those are genetic advantages against skin cancer and stereotypes.
You might never be a tall, slinky model,
But I'm forcing you to be a doctor so get over it (j/k-you just won't be tall).
You might grow up having to communicate in multiple languages,
But we hope you learn to appreciate your heritage.
You might be the kid wearing hand-me-downs instead of new labels to school,
But you'll build character not worrying about superficial stuff like that.
You might get dragged on weird family vacations far from Disneyworld,
But we hope you learn more about the world and your role in it.
You might have a strange, big, mixed family,
But that means you have lots of aunts and uncles to learn from.
You might not have two grandfathers,
But you'll have one who can fill the job twice.
You might make mistakes here and there and feel bad,
But know you're learning and we love you just the same.

...and we'll always be there for you to help you along the way (picking our noses and everything).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Death Cab for Margie and the Good Debate

At the end of an argument, you will be shaking fists.
At the end of a debate, you will be shaking hands.


Just a few days ago I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Souda, Greece with a few friends. We were waiting for a cab to take us into downtown Chania, a beautiful little town in northern Crete. When the cab driver finally appeared, we were ready to get into town and enjoy some authentic Greek food. Mind you though that the road between our little hotel in Stavros and the Old Harbor in Chania winds and twists, up and down. So my friends were nice enough to let me have the front seat since I have a tendency to get carsick (note to other carsick sufferers-don't travel through Costa Rica without first preparing yourself for those roads!). With my friends chatting in the back, I decided to make nice with the natives. The cabbie and I started talking about everything, from the political demonstrations to the idealization of communism to... FOOD.

"Oh the food is delicious... I hope none of you are vegetarian."

Ummm... He seems like a nice enough guy, right? "Actually, I am". And so it begins....

Coming out as a vegetarian, I imagine, is similar to coming out as a gay person. People have one of two* reactions: 1) The Friend-who-can-relate: "I have lots of [gay/vegetarian] friends!" or, "Oh, I have this other friend who is [gay/vegetarian] too!" Thank you for trying to ease the pain of coming out and attempting to show you can relate. 2) The Evangelist: "You're going to hell".

What? What did I do to offend you? Coming out as either vegetarian or gay always seems to put that one closed-minded person on the defensive... the num-chuck-like admonitions come swinging: "You can't get enough [protein/family values] like that"; "You're missing out on the great [food/pussy]"; "You're going to hell". (Did you catch that the first rebuke in each phrase is for vegetarianism and the second is for homosexuality? I hope so...)

While I was tempted to react by either 1) challenging my portly cab driving friend to a race down the beach to see who was getting the right nutrients; or 2) to educate my hairy little friend about the structure of a protein and that it is made up of amino acids which are found in every food, thus allowing for many combinations of vegetarian foods to be complete proteins (i.e., whole wheat bread and peanut butter, brown rice and black beans, etc), or 3) giving him a list of vegetarian and vegan superathletes who do damn well (if not better) without meat.

But had I done any of those things, I would have lost the argument. Because really, one can never win an argument. Once you enter an argument, you have already lost because at that point each person is only trying to force the other to accept their truth. However, in a good debate, two people are trying to understand each other's truths.

Just yesterday I entered into a good debate. Fate, or the Facebook Gods, brought a friend's status message to my attention. While the topic itself isn't important, our status-comment-tango turned into a dance of Facebook messages where we tried to understand the other's point of view. Rather than trying to change each other's view, we just wanted to understand each other's perspective... thus, a good debate.

While I wonder if I could have beat Death Cab in a footrace down the beach, it wouldn't have changed his mind. Maybe one day he'll have a good debate of his own and can learn a thing or two about vegetarianism... but I won't hold my breath. I'm grateful for the two contrasting experiences though cause it taught me a thing or two about communication and that if I want to get my point across, I have to be open to points coming from the other direction. "Arguments are fueled by aggression; debates are fueled by expression."

*There is actually a third reaction that is perhaps more common than I give credit for: "Why?" but in the open-minded sense of the question, not the other way: "Why?!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Tarahumara: Head-to-(Running)-Toe Inspiration

When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.
Tarahumara Indians

I used to love running. I ran almost every day between high school and England. While my distances varied, running was the one constant in my life that could slow my mind and tune me back into my own voice and my own rhythm. At Davis, I ran along the Country Road until I could pop onto dirt trails that helped me forget the collegiate surroundings. In San Ramon, I took to suburban trails that were only a mile away from the freeway but were miles of quiet serenity. I jogged in every place I traveled--London, Puriscal (Costa Rica), New Orleans, and Burgos (Spain). But something happened and I left my blue Adidas in the corner for a while. I started training using CrossFit Endurance last year and I forgot how to love running. Instead, it was a chore every day to run X amount of time or for this many intervals. I didn't have time to let my body fall into a rhythm and let the world melt away. Between the homesickness and the weight of assignment-running, I hit a funk and everything from my body to my social network suffered because of it.

A friend of mine lent me a book I have had on my to-read list for over a year now. Christopher McDougall wrote Born to Run, a book about amazing athletes, a tribe that loved running, and living life the natural way. If I manage to get past the first chapter of a book, it usually means I'm hooked and if I'm hooked, I'm usually pretty inspired by the time I put the book down. After reading about ultramarathoners, the benefits of vegetarianism, and the triumphs of average people who became ultimate athletes, "inspired" was an understatement. I've spent the last year and a half trying to maintain a workout routine with Clint. We routinely fall off the CrossFit bandwagon, the way Kirstie Alley falls off the resist-the-donut wagon or Whitney Houston's I-want-to-sing-again wagon. With the extra time I have while Clint is deployed, I have the ability to focus on setting a workout routine again (and subsequently, on myself again). And with the motivation that comes from knowing other vegetarians (and vegans!) have accomplished amazing things just with their two legs, I feel like maybe this ride on the CrossFit wagon might be more sustainable and permanent. I needed a little reminder that I used to live for the trails. I'm even excited to incorporate a few CFE workouts if they can boost my pace up (but this time, I'll know to incorporate them less often). Just in the past few weeks, I have felt happier about my progress and happier in general. I feel like I'm gaining a sense of my old self back, a part of me that loved to run and loved to live.

The Tarahumara are a tribe that love to run. But sometimes I wonder if running helps me to love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gratitude for Awareness

A person dies by suicide about every 15 minutes in the United States.
Every day, approximately 90 Americans take their own life.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

I was checking out the PostSecret website and saw this:

Is it weird I'm grateful that "Please Don't Jump" Day is my birthday? Or maybe I'm just grateful there is a Please Don't Jump Day at all. I'm grateful for the people who increase awareness about depression and suicide and do their part to help others see that suicide is not the only option in life....

Inspirational Friends: Say it "Little and Loud"

A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.
John Maxwell

Imagine a small place far away. It's a little place with beautiful flora and beautiful smiles. This beautiful place is on a small island and it's about to get a great big heart.

My friend Vivien is about to venture over to Fote, a small village in the Solomon Islands. She will spend a month immersed in the culture helping an NGO enrich this little community. Hearing, er I should say reading, about the journey she'll be embarking on reminds me that there are great people in this world who do care, who do want to end suffering, and who do have hope for a better future. For me, that inspiration is priceless and I am grateful. For the people she is about to help, that dedication is an improved livelihood.

Bon Voyage, Viv!
(For more on Little and Loud, the organization helping Fote: Little and Loud)