For Ivy

The anticipation of entering the pool is always the worst.
Jumping into the abyss of fridged water
I feel its sting slapping my skin,
sounds of bubbles rushing past my ears before my feet
settle feather-like to the bottom of the pool.
Like the astronaut I am weightless,
blind, and deaf to the entire world;
here is my silent sanctuary
where I can’t see their faces, their fervent glances, or judging stares.
It’s just me striking the water, pushing and pulling to propel myself forward.
As I rise to the surface at the end of a set,
I relax against the lane line bobbing gently up and down
I sing to myself, “It started out as feeling”.

I’ve been stuck in a writing rut. So I edited this poem as practice instead of practicing for my jury examination in a week on the clarinet. Needless to say, I am screwed. Oh well. Enjoy!

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Who I am

They will all tell you something different;
My father remembers me the best day I was,
Strings in D-major canonizing the moment I was born.
My mother named me Jehovah Jireh,
after the heavenly providing that formed me in her womb.
My aunts and uncles, I saw me grow up in the church,
I was the good girl who came to all the Friday night Bible studies and Sunday messages,
but couldn’t seem to stay awake through them.
My friends and my siblings will tell you I am from poetry and books.
Felled, I could show you the lines upon lines of unwritten prose ringed in my mind.
My existence is a series of seditious sacrileges.
The English nerd of two math teachers.
The bisexual believer and questioning Christian,
The heavenly providing and the damned of hell.
No one stays the same,
I walk into your dictionary between the dichotomies to dismantle your definitives.
As a child, I used to think I was the antichrist,
all this havoc I wreak must have a meaning.
That is my story, but I want a different one.
Maybe, it does not matter where I’m from or where I’m going or who I am.
Not a daughter. Not an answer to a prayer. Not a sinner. Not a writer. Not a fighter. Not a battleground for you to defend your politics and your religion.
I am just a girl who is young and in love.
A tender gardener whose large loving hands can’t seem to fit her gloves,
who is learning to plant the seeds wisely one by one so she won’t wake up to find a bed full of thorns,
And she dreams of a day where she looks up at the sunset passing print painted patterns on leafy greens;
I could look up at all that liquid honey dripping sweetness before my eyes,
And think only of just how grateful I am to be alive.

(Picture was taken by Ivy Chen)

Statistics

firearm-handgun-revolver-gun-53351.jpegChildren are more likely to die swimming in a pool than being shot accidentally with a gun in their home.
But conventional wisdom fights this because it is more lamentable to die the target of some maleficent object than a preventable death.
Your silent pleas and dissipating bubbles do not inspire a national outrage.
Your footnote passing only invites a “What a shame”
as the neighbors read the news.
“I guess the parents just weren’t watching.”

Rat Race.

pexels-photo-429595.jpeg

Frustration hovers,
I’ve been carrying a Pandora’s box of worries throughout the day;
I’m drowning even as I’m running to the car rushing off to the next obligation on my list of things to do.
Stop.
It’s just a faint whisper of a voice that commands me,
but I allow myself to pause and abide at this moment.
Listen.
I hear the wind brushing the cascade of leaves above,
I hear the fluttering flags, pulsating in the throb of each gust.
Feel.
The texture of fibers, the crinkle, and crackle of the papers I am grasping.
It smells like April,
a sky pregnant with rain,
weekends reserved for musty bookshelves and warm snuggles.
I let myself cease at this moment that seems as if it could stretch into infinity.
But despite my best efforts, time trickles on,
The present will soon become the past,
the future holds out its hand expectantly.
So I sigh, expelling the foggy tension that had been stifling,
feel the steam levitating from my lungs, and track on.

{Book Review} The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan


Details
Title: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Author: Michael Pollan
Genre: Non-Fiction, Cookbooks, Education
Publisher: Penguin (August 28, 2007)
Age Range: Appropriate for all ages. (There is a shorter version for 10+ year-olds.)
Pages: 450 pages (paperback)
Buy at: Amazon
Audible| Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Google Play | iBooks 


One of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the James Beard Award


 

Wow, it has definitely been a while since I have posted a book review on my blog and this book has been on my mind for a while. (I received this book as a Secret Santa gift.) Though this book was written over a decade ago, the ideas are still as applicable as ever and they explain the discussion around going vegan or vegetarian. The premise of this book is that what we choose to eat has a larger impact socially, environmentally, and of course on our health.

DISCLAIMER: The following is a brief summary and then a review. Skip to the review if you want to avoid the didactics.


Summary:

Industrial Corn

This is the first topic that Pollan covers in his novel and it is frightening to see how much one produce pervades our society. America has a surplus of corn which is only growing because of faulty governmental regulations. To use up our bountiful corn, scientists have found ways to split corn into parts that can be used in our food. A prime example is high fructose corn syrup which is used as a cheaper substitute for sugar. Ranchers have also found ways to implement corn into livestock feed, specifically cows, which has led to a cascade of issues. Cows are natural ruminants with one of the most advanced stomach systems to digest the cellulose in grass. When fed corn, the pH of a cow’s stomach becomes acidic, eating away at their stomach walls which leads to bacteria in a cow’s bloodstream. As a result, cows fed with corn also need to be pumped with antibiotics otherwise they may be infected with a load of nasty stuff including E-coli. Pollan goes on to say that many of the current health issues connecting heart disease to meat, is really a connection between health issues and corn-fed beef. YAY! If that isn’t bad enough, Pollan tells us that the fast-food chain is one of the biggest purchasers of corn-fed beef and they work to obscure the origins of the ingredients in their food. Realistically, if every consumer saw the living conditions of animals in Concentrated Feed Lot Operations (CAFO’s) nobody would want to eat McDonald’s anymore.

Organic

This book took a surprising turn in examining the organic industry. Organic has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the food industry in response to public concerns over pesticides and GMO’s. However, Pollan notes how organic is becoming industrialized just like non-organic produce and when considering the negative externalities, it doesn’t look too much better. Organic is being bought up quickly by the larger food companies like General Mills because they sense profit in the public’s hunger for more sustainable food. As a result, labels such as “free-range” and “organic” become murky in the market as the FDA attempts to establish proper definitions. A chicken operation with a tiny square available for them to wander around could be defined as “free range” while the public may believe that “free-range” chickens careen freely on green pastures. And while machines may not be squirting pesticides all over crops, migrant workers, whose rights are often abused, toil all day to nurture organic produce. Depressing right? So what exactly are we supposed to do?

Buy Locally

Pollan believes buying locally will save the food industry. He follows Joel Salatin who runs Polyface Farms, a unique operation that depends upon the ecological niches of their animals. A summary of how their farm functions would not do it proper justice, but in short, Joel’s farm has a revolutionary way of directing animals to ecologically restore the land and preserve the integrity of their livestock. Interestingly, Joel only sells produce locally and refuses to partner with larger food corporations, he says doing so would go against the balance preserved at Polyface Farms. Buying locally preserves the transparency between the consumer and the source of their food. Meeting with your local farmer holds them accountable for their ethical practices in raising their livestock and preserving the environment. Buying locally also reduces your carbon footprint because you know your oranges came locally and not 2,000 miles away. Hurray! So go hit up those Farmer’s Markets on Sundays!

Crazy Hunter Gatherer

Pollan ends his novel with a personal narrative where he makes a meal almost entirely sourced from his own hunting and gathering expeditions. It’s a fun portion of the book that is more experimental than educational and Pollan concludes that this type of prehistoric food sourcing is enjoyable, but not sustainable in modern times.


Review:

After reading this book, I have decided to reduce my beef and pork consumption. This is extremely difficult because Asian cuisine is primarily centered around meat. (Think dumplings and meat pastries.) I allow myself to eat beef when my mom explicitly tells me the cow was grass fed. When I go out to eat I try to stay conscious of where my food is coming from. I believe my decision to make changes in my diet is what Pollan hoped for. He isn’t asking for a radical change, but he wants us to strongly consider ways we can make changes in our lifestyles for our health and the health of the planet.

This book isn’t just for vegans or vegetarians, I recommend this book for ANYONE who is looking to examine the ethics, origins, and effects of their diet. This book is definitely a thought provoker and sheds a shining light on the darkest corners of our food industry.

Though at times I felt bogged down by Pollan’s long descriptions, he kept my interest by using a tone of excitement and horror in detailing his personal investigations. Pollan went great lengths to examine the full spectrum of how food reaches our tables and you finish the book feeling satisfied he left no stone unturned. In my record, this book is a 9.5/10 and a lasting favorite read.

Mirror Moments

Today, when you sat next to me,
I noticed you had tiny hairs on your chin and it made me smile.
You are a girl who isn’t looking for attention to be this close to her;
I imagine that you look into the mirror every morning with blessings on your mind and none of the complaints.

That night, I stared at myself in the mirror,
in my jean jacket and dress,
with my hair brushed back;
I almost looked like the kind of girl who would be brave enough to kiss you,
and you would kiss me back.

Shakespearean Anti-Love Sonnet

It is hardest to admit to ourselves,

That we are not always looking for love,

More than someone to fill up empty shelves,

An angel to rescue you from above,

You want someone who can say the right words.

But happiness should not be a person.

People may stay for awhile but like birds

Leave with seasons, your pain only worsens.

But who can blame you for loving wrongly,

When they make the sun rise and fall for you.

Hide your affections in secret calmly.

When the storm passes, the wind never blew.

You could stand there and nobody would know,

All the passions held in your heart that flow.

#Tips: How to stop your screen addiction.

Think about this. Our thoughts are a commodity. Commercials flood our televisions and phone screens, companies vying for our attention. Advertisers have even found ways to shorten their commercials to 3 seconds before a youtube video! Then you have popular media culture, where social media apps like Facebook and Instagram have infinitive scrolling where you can drown yourself in other people’s lives. What we have in my generation is a group of young people segregated from time and space while they are locked into their phones and obsessed with materialism.

So what do we do?

When I realized I was spending more time in the virtual world than the actual, I made a series of steps.

  • Turning off unnecessary notifications.

Turn off your Facebook and Instagram notifications. Those applications are tailor designed to draw you in by alerting you every time someone likes your picture. When this happens, you are flushed with a hit of dopamine and it gives you the urge to constantly interact more with the app. In reality, you only need to check the app a few times a day for important updates, and turning off notifications can help your self-control.

  • Change your phone to grayscale.

I only did this just last night after watching a Facebook video by Vox. Ok, yes I realize the irony… but I swear I got off my phone after this video. Anyways, Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist says a simple cure for phone addiction is to turn your phone to grayscale. The idea is to get rid of the flashing colors that attract your eyes to certain applications. Red is used to stimulate hunger and desire, which is why fast food chains and your notification bubbles are all red! Without the color, your mind is not so easily ensnared by your phone content. The truth is, everything in grayscale looks awful, which of course is wonderful!

  • Organizing your phone.

Okay, the second idea that Tristan Harris suggests which is organizing your apps so you only see the necessary ones first. What I have done is taken my social media apps, my games, and put them on the second page of my phone. When you do this, it makes it a teensy bit harder for you to decide to click on those addicting apps. The time it takes for you to swipe over to those apps gives your mind time to remind yourself to focus.

  • Deleting distracting apps.

This is the last resort choice for those like me who don’t have self-control. Eventually, I found myself still unable to resist using Instagram for unhealthy amounts of time despite turning off notifications. I despised how much time I was wasting on the app so I made the final choice to delete the app. Eventually, it comes down to what you are willing to do to change your habits.

Why is this so important?

I’ve personally noticed that social media has made me careless with the physical time I spend with my friends and family. Social media creates a false sense of social participation when you like someone’s photo or status update, and it can make you feel closer to someone than you actually are. And social media ruins quality time with your friends, who can’t admit to checking social media while hanging out?

I can personally testify that making these changes to my phone have reaped dramatic benefits over the past few days. Without the distractions on my phone, I’m getting to sleep on time and then finding more creative power in myself. Proper sleep has also helped me make better conscious decisions and stay emotionally stable.

So what are you waiting for? Take back control of your life by stopping your screen addiction. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this and are encouraged to make changes on your phone!

The Tides Flow So Swiftly

You didn’t notice it before, but the tides flow so swiftly.
Almost 18 years have gone by without fanfare,
So take the time to be grateful for the small things.
Take out your headphones, put away all the distractions.
Just be. Look at the tide swirling around you
And as you stand there thinking about then, this, and there,
You can hear it moving ever so faintly.
The raindrops pattering the sidewalk,
A gasp of surprise when the Sunday school kids have grown,
The cars whooshing by, carrying people and their worries away.
They say we are fish out of water but look at you.
Swimming with fins, scales, gills, and all,
Even if it was only for a moment.

On loving her.

I keep my love for you in my backseat jean pockets,
A good luck charm for those rainy days that have no golden lining.
On the nights I can’t sleep,
Thinking of you puts my mind at ease knowing tomorrow is another day where you will be.
It is good the sun rises and falls, it means I am still alive to be with you.
Loving you is seeing the good in everything and nothing all at once,
Feeling the world through your hands, seeing with your eyes,
And realizing with the bitter crush of disappointment that you are not here.
Love like this should be kept secret,
Because once the cat’s out of the closet there’s no going back.
I’m a tender gardener whose large loving hands can’t seem to fit her gloves,
So I’m learning to plant the seeds wisely one by one.
Otherwise, I find myself in a garden full of thorns.