Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Today is a blustery day in my neck of the woods. The leaves have just started turning and falling, the wind it blowing pretty good. It.......looks like Halloween!

I haven't yet seen what the town square has to offer for this fine, blustery Halloween night. But, I'm sure I'm due to find out around 3pm or so. Good luck playin that "soul-saving" Christian country music in this weather. I hope it rains. I'm pretty evil like that.

Tonight, I plan to honor the dead around midnight. Shortly before, probably. We also have an entire night of horror movies queued up on the old external hard drive. For you horror fans who don't have a terabyte of horror movies, AMC has a Halloween series marathon running all day and night tonight. You can't get better than that. The only thing missing is Trick R Treat, which needs to be a staple, now.

I don't plan on getting any trick or treaters, I think those are finally extinct in my town, but we'll see. The Jack o Lantern is lit, the candy is ready, the meditation is planned. So, I want to wish everyone out there a very Happy Halloween!

And, remember, don't put the Jack O Lantern out until after midnight. Sam doesn't like it when we put it out early.

I'll just leave this here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Food Surprises Can Lead to Food Phobias

I would take you......on a very strange journey.

Oh, sorry. That was the beginning of Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, it's accurate. I would like to take you on a journey through the life of a person for whom the relationship with food is a love/hate thing. It's a delicate situation. Anything can set off either a "food hate" or a "food phobia". How does something like that start? I'm about to tell you.

Picture it. You're at a......pot luck of some sort. Church, school....whatever. Being a person with a lot of food dislikes, potlucks are dangerous. But, you don't know that yet. You're about to find out, but for now, all is well.

People have made relatively normal food dishes so far. You've had a surprisingly enjoyable dinner. This is significant because some people like to get creative with their potluck food and make Eggplant Parmesan or coleslaw. It's okay when it's foods you are familiar with and like. Potlucks are like the lottery, you never know what numbers you're going to get or if they're going to be winners. You don't know this yet. You are young, wide eyed and naive. To you, everything in life consists of macaroni and cheese and pumpkin pie. You are not aware that there are more foods out there. Everyone lives on macaroni and cheese......don't they?

Now, after your main courses of bbq pulled pork, baked beans and au gratin potatoes (3 things you've eaten before and like relatively well), you're ready for desserts. There are many to choose from. You scan the dessert table (this is a fairly large potluck) and you start seeing things you've never seen at any family dinner, ever. Upon approaching the table, cautiously since hardly anything on it seems familiar, the lady that is supervising it starts explaining to you what everything is. Here is when your horror starts.

We have a mixed fruit salad with these little roundish things in it that look like tapioca. She calls it "Frog's Eye Salad" and your eyes bug out of your skull. How is this even remotely appetizing?? Well, you're not eating any frog's eyes, so you say 'no' to that. Then we have another mixed fruit salad, this one is called "Waldorf Salad". You've heard of this one, your clinically insane relatives make this one at American Thanksgiving. You've never been able to actually sit down and eat a fruit salad, mainly because the only fruits you like are peaches, bananas and blueberries and you definitely don't want those in the same bowl. Remember, your food can't touch. So, you say 'no' to that.

After the lady cycles through pretty much everything on the table, including minced meat pie (ground beef, brown sugar and raisins in the same pie crust. You have GOT to be freakin kidding me), heavenly pink salad (which looks innocent enough until you notice little particles floating in it,  they're pistachios), and an assortment of cakes (carrot cake, freakin seriously?!), you eye two plates. One has the most scrumptious looking brownies you've ever seen on it, waiting for you to gobble two or three of them down. The other has what look to your untrained, young, naive eye like oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips in them. Hot damn! You love chocolate chips! So, you pile 2 of those on your plate with your 2 chocolate fudge brownies and head back to the table. Don't pay attention to your parents raised eyebrows at how much sugar is actually piled on your plate, they obviously wouldn't understand.

Your parents have taught you that you do not waste food. If you take it, you damned sure better eat it because if you don't you're going to be eating it for breakfast the next day. They don't know that this is a failed parental tactic, they won't know that until you call their bluff on it once in the future when you're about 12, but that's neither here nor there. For now, you are scared of nasty meatloaf for breakfast and you heed the warnings about eating what you take and not looking like an arse. Won't be problem right now, though, right??? A plate full of cookies and brownies? Hell, you can eat this in your sleep!

You pick up a brownie and look at it. Admire it. Covet it. It looks like any normal brownie on the outside. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just chocolate fudge and cake. Oooey, gooey, brownie. You take a giant bite out of it and for about 3 glorious seconds you are in chocolate fudge heaven. After that 3 seconds of slow chewing, your chocolate fudge heaven turns into a chocolate fudge and "something crunchy" nightmare hell. You don't know what it is at first. But, you don't dare spit it out. Your father would freak. You just chew, eyes wider than before, yet not really raising any alarm. You swallow and then take a careful look at this brownie you've just bitten into.

It's freakin' walnuts. Some sick, twisted, masochistic freak as decided to ruin a perfectly good brownie by putting freakin' walnuts in it. Holy hell. How are you going to choke down 2 ruined brownies? It's like when you make brownies but you burn them and don't know it until you eat one. Ruined. 

You manage to gag down the rest of the brownie. You feel sick. You don't want to continue, but you've got two more there. Mocking you. "Bawhaha! We've got walnuts!" Eff you, brownies! You cautiously move on to the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. You don't know one person that's ever put chocolate chips in an oatmeal cookie, but there's always a first time. You pick up a cookie and eye it. You're looking for hidden walnuts. There doesn't seem to be any, but without deconstructing this cookie in public, you have no idea. It looks okay, take a small nibble. The nibble turns out okay, no stealth walnuts. So, you take a giant chomp and chew. Holy hell! That's......not a chocolate chip! It's a..........*gag*........raisin! Oh my god! You not only have to gag down another ruined brownie with walnuts, but now you have to eat another oatmeal cookie with nasty raisins in it!

Yep, that there happened to me at about age 6. My diet was already screwed because of my mother's fears that I wouldn't eat. I had a very hard time with food from......birth. I'm extra sensitive with food tastes. I think they now call this a.....super taster.....or something equally dorky. Super tasters can have selective eating disorder. And, I definitely have that! I've always had a limited diet, always. I probably always will. But, for the purposes of this story, there are two things I hate in this world. One is walnuts. The other is raisins. They ruin anything they're associated with. With the minor exception of Raisin Bran. I'll eat that. Why, I have no idea.

That incident there lead me to be very suspicious and cautious of eating foods that other people prepare if I'm not around to watch. I don't like to eat at other people's homes because of this. You just don't know what you're getting. That spaghetti you're piling on your plate could be full of extra hot italian sausage, which can ruin a plate of spaghetti for some. That cheese rice could have broccoli in it. That jello salad could have pistachio nuts in it, why people do that I have no idea. It also made me hate brownies. I have been unable to really enjoy brownies for most of my life. I loved them until that incident. Now, it's a flashback to the crunch, crunch of walnuts ruining. I also detest oatmeal cookies now. 9 times out of 10, people put raisins in them. 

My point with this story is that food surprises can lead to food phobias for certain people. I usually tell people exactly what I'm making when I make food for others. I also tell them exactly what's in them. If the table lady had told me that those were fudge brownies with walnuts and oatmeal cookies with raisins, I wouldn't have taken them. I would have been one disappointed 6 year old kid with nothing edible on that table, but I still wouldn't have had to gag down 4 items that were pretty much useless to me.

A couple years ago, I tried to overcome this particular flaw. Well, I see it as a flaw. I decided I was going to eat as much unknown stuff as I could that year. Some of it worked, I found some foods I do like and now I can eat them without any worries. But, it also added to the problem. You know they say that selective eating disorder can be overcome. I'm starting to have my doubts about that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Colorful Life of the Dark

My friend Magaly over at Pagan Culture is having a blog party called So Good, So Dark! Everyday from October 13th until October 21st, several bloggers will be posting things to show why darkness is not necessarily evil. This will be my contribution to that party.

Today, I want to talk about facing the darkness. In her introduction post for the blog party Magaly mentioned light being recognized as the default for good and dark being the default for evil. But, I argue that people just don't see that the dark has a life of it's own. It's completely neutral, as is light. There are just as many evil things that take place in the light as there are in the dark. Of course, we have some very dark, very evil people in this world. But, I don't think darkness gets it's fair shake.

Think about the bat. No, not the baseball bat, the flying, furry bat. Bats are nocturnal animals. While you sleep, he's up eating your mosquitoes. I'd say that's a good thing. Owls are also nocturnal. Probably up keeping the rodents at bay. Also a good thing. The physical darkness has quite a colorful life if you were to light it up with infrared and look at it. Watch it all happen.

But, on a personal note, facing the darkness within ourselves should not be seen as a bad thing or evil. At some of the very darkest times in my life, facing what was actually going on allowed me to see the light there. Think of an addict in rehab, going through the withdrawls from his addiction, dealing with the anxiety and physical implications of that. Is that evil? Certainly not. Going through this time will most likely save his life! There are scores of people, right now, in therapy for something. That can be a pretty dark time for people. But, it's in no way evil.

Inside everyone is a dark side. I've noticed that many people try to shun that side of themselves and I've also noticed that those same people are also the most fake. They haven't gone through the process of self-acceptance and facing their own inner dark. It usually shows in their language.

We can't overcome any of our own fears or flaws without going into the dark and actually seeing them. It's a hard process, but that doesn't make it evil.

There is also a lot of connection with the dark and the supernatural. Like no hauntings ever take place in the daylight, amirite?? Afterall, the witching hour is at 3am. In the dark. However, even a ghost in the middle of the night doesn't have to be evil. Obviously, I have a lot of internal struggle over whether or not I believe in the supernatural. I have personally experienced some things I can't explain. But, I still would not classify those things as evil, or bad in any way. None of my family has ever been hurt by these things. Why does everyone assume that there will be some sort of supernatural killing at 3am. They've been watching too many horror movies.

Finally, facing death. Probably our darkest moment on this planet. There is so much fear surrounding death that some people feel they can't face it without an afterlife attached to it. But, were we all miserable being dead before we were born? Can you remember any pain associated with not being here? I can't. Death will be exactly like it was before we were alive. We were perfectly content. I think facing the fear of death is probably one of the most significant things we will do as human beings. Whether it's facing the death of a loved one, or of a precious pet, or maybe of that animal you just had to kill to sustain your own life. And, facing our own demise. Certainly, none of those things I just mentioned are evil. But, they are certainly dark.

In closing, if there is light, there has to be dark. You can not have one without the other. A life with no dark, would be a life with an absence of light because there would be no concept for it to exist. If you love one, you should love and embrace the other, as well.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Difference Between Online Reality and Offline Reality: Reconnecting with Real Life

When I first got on the internet, I joined a lot of chat rooms. Remember those? LA Live chatroom was my favorite. I got into a lot of trouble in that chatroom. After awhile, though, I came to a point where I figured out that the people in the chat room weren't real people. They might be real people on the other side of the monitors, but the people they were inside the internet chat room were not real people. The things that went on inside the chat room were not real life. The internet provides opportunities for people to be someone else. Most of them are not the same people offline that they are online.

After chat rooms came forums. I joined every forum I could find for every single subject I found interesting. The same types of things that went on in chatrooms also went on in internet forums. Faceless names, trying to make people believe they were who they said they were and that they did what they said they did. Reality was far different offline than online in that instance, as well.

I used to frequent a forum for mothers. I won't name the forum because I steer people away from that forum, now. I don't recommend anyone go there for any reason. But, I was a member there for about 2 years, possibly more. I was still hard to grasp the fact that the internet would never really be real life and that the things that happen online don't necessarily take place offline.

Like Earth Hour. I know that certain groups really want this to be a real "thing" offline. But, the sad reality is that it just isn't. No one is talking about Earth Hour offline. No one in my town even knows what Earth Hour is.......

Another example, online there is a thing called "extended rear facing" in reference to how long you should keep your children's car seats facing backward before finally spinning them around so that the child faces the front. I had never heard of it until the internet. I didn't know this was a thing. So, here I was, asking everyone I knew from real life about "extended rear facing". Each one of them responded to me with some variation of, "extended what?!". Not one person that I know face to face has ever heard of extended rear facing car seats. Everyone I know did the exact same thing I did. We spun the kid around when he was too big to face the seat anymore. Once the child is uncomfortable and his/her legs are bending against the seat, it's time to face forward.

Our kids are all alive. We drive defensively, not like douches. So, even though we know accidents happen, we haven't had any.

What I found out is that "extended rear facing" has a niche following online. But, in real life, offline, in reality, extended rear facing is only now starting to be a "thing" and not in very many places. More power to you, if you feel like your kid needs that, if you live in a big city and the dangers are such that you feel you need to keep them faced that way longer, fine. But, it's not a thing for a great portion of the U.S. and never will be. However, the negativity that other mothers were getting from some of the......"women"......on that site about the fact that they didn't live or drive in an environment that would necessitate extended rear facing and therefore didn't do it, was abysmal. It became counter productive and not very constructive. Women that were really in the market for some good advice and social connection instead got some bullying from a fringe group of internet society.

Same thing happened with baby wearing. I went to school in Southern California. Only one of the greatest hippy mechas in this country. Not one person that I know face to face wears, or wore, their babies. Great idea, if that's for you and you have the means to do it, fine. But, holy cow the abuse that came to women who didn't wear their babies.....insanity. This is not a "thing" for most of society. Baby wearers, like extended rear facers, are a fringe group of society. Or, they are a fringe group of internet society. Offline society may not even know these people exist, nor do they care. The group on that site, however, was under they impression that everyone should know.

It came to the point where being on the forum wasn't really adding anything to my life. It was really just a place for trolls and I'll go out on a limb here and bet that probably 40%  of the "women" who are supposedly members of that site aren't women at all and are really men trolling other men and hoping to troll whatever women might happen to be on the site. Another 50% of the members are people who will say whatever they can to make it look like they are perfect and do all of the latest fad "things", they probably really don't do most of it, if any, offline. The last 10% are the fringe groups.

I left the site about 2 years ago. It was necessary. Internet and real life are not the same and most of the people aren't the same. They might be the same people technically, but the character they play online isn't the same as offline.

The internet kind of teaches us to self segregate. I became somewhat of a hermit when I started playing on the internet a lot. It's been work to actually unplug and disconnect from the internet and instead, reconnect to real life. Part of that is understanding that the two are actually different realities.

I left some other forums last year. One was a pagan forum and another was a forum for survivalists. I left the survival forum because they're hostile to anyone who isn't a conservative republican. I am not, I'm a left leaning libertarian. Sadly, even though I grew up in a family of survivalists and hunters, according to the internet, the lifestyle isn't for anyone who is not a conservative republican. In fact, while checking on some of the places I'd left for this post, I checked that site. There is a thread titled, "Why are there liberals on this site?!". The body of which includes, "Why would they come here other than to troll??".

The pagan forum was the exact opposite. I'll bet you're thinking I left it because of the arguments about who is and is not pagan, right? Well, you'd be wrong. I left it because of the hopeless internet liberals. According to the internet, paganism is for internet liberals. If you are anything other than an Obama fangirl/fanboy democrat, you are not pagan. If you disagree with Obamacare at all, you are not a pagan.

By the way, an internet liberal is not the same as a real life liberal. Internet liberals are only liberals on the internet and when they can troll other people with it. But, leaving those two forums became the only way to deal with the problem. It was counter productive to even stay on them. On one there was some discussion of survivalism, but more of it was just a bunch of mud slinging across party lines. On the other, there was pagan discussion in between political mud throwing. The discussion revolved around new age-y practices though and I'm not into any of that besides meditation.

So, today, I'm finding that I again need to disconnect from online life. Not totally, but I need to get out of some environments that aren't adding to my lifestyle or life in any way and are instead either distracting me from it, or affecting it negatively. I read Reddit, so I went through my subs and got out of a bunch of subs that were just not going to add anything constructive. I deleted accounts to several separate forums and deleted bookmarks to those and some others that were nothing but a bunch of drama or devolving into a bunch of drama. I deleted Twitter and signed up under another name to only follow breaking news.

The bottom line is that it's easy to get too wrapped up in internet life. It takes away from my offline life and it's around this time of year that I take a look at what I'm doing online and start decluttering. So that I can reconnect to real life. I consider this work just as important as the work I'm doing offline to get my house ready to be closed up for the winter.

Autumn cleaning and decluttering. Add the internet to your list, today!