Shrimp-tutionalized

Knowing that I just moved to the area and am searching for kid friendly ways to Get Out Of The House, a friend told me about a local swim class she attends with her two little ones. If I remember correctly, the conversation went something like this:

“You know, there’s this great swim class we take the kids to—“

“Did you say swim class?”

“Yeah, it isn’t far, and it’s relatively inexp—“

“I HATE swim classes for kids. They are TORTURE. Let me tell you….”

I went on from there, probably for a good thirty minutes, disparaging every swim class between here and Berkeley.

I’m sure I appeared both selfish (or at least a bad listener) and crazy (or at least slightly obsessed), but being selfish and/or crazy doesn’t make it any less true that my experience with kids’ swim classes is one of misery.

In the funny way life has of being weird and coincidental, shortly after that heated one-way exchange, I was searching for an old email and accidentally stumbled instead upon an email I sent Andy in 2010, detailing every painful moment of one of Rachel’s first forays into Shrimp-dom:

Today’s Shrimp class was soooo not worth it. You know how it starts at 10am, ends at 10:30am, and then it takes until approximately 11:45am to get both of Rachel and me dried off, showered, dried off again, and re-dressed? Well today I had a definite plan for how I was going to reduce that time to about 20 minutes. Seriously. Of course, I failed miserably, and I ended up driving home in my wet swimsuit.

The five other moms and babies in class seem to have it all figured out. The moms put the younger babies (6-8 months) on towels on the changing benches, and the moms with older babies stand them up in the little closed off area the benches make. One mom even gets her seven-month-old to sit on a towel the whole time. Amazing. When I try any of these things, Rachel: 

  1.  falls down
  2.  crawls on the icky floor
  3.  cries
  4.  all of the above

The mom with the seven-month-old who sits on a towel without moving saw me struggling to keep Rachel from crawling away and said, “does she know the word ‘stop?’”

“No.”

 “Oh. Well what about ‘Red Light?”

Uh, no. She’s seven months old. She thinks ‘no’ is the funniest word she’s ever heard and has not a freaking clue what a red light is. I told the women this and she smiled like she felt really sorry for me and my obvious incompetence.

This was when I decided to wear wet clothes home.

I put Rachel in the stroller and she immediately started crying and reaching up for me. Okay. Rachel out and gym bag, diaper bag, and purse in. I pushed the stroller to the elevator with one hand. This did not go well. You know how the stroller alignment is all screwed up? Well, there’s an old-person class right after the Shrimp class, and I was forced to dodge canes and walkers lest I take some old lady down. I got a lot of glares. That was especially true when I couldn’t figure out how to push the stroller with one hand while carrying Rachel and her Froggie blanket through the swinging gate to leave. The gate swings IN, which is just plain stupid, but everyone looked at me like I was the stupid one.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so disorganized: no makeup, hair half wet/half in a ponytail/half in a bun, wet swim suit soaking my clothes, one hand busy knocking down old people with my run-away-stroller, the other hand struggling to carry a grumpy baby and her Froggie blanket, all while wearing disgusting, soggy sweats as I walked the two blocks to the parking garage where I was parked on the sixth floor. Rachel freaked out as soon as I put her in the car seat, so I had to drive all the way home with my left hand while my right hand was twisted behind me holding a bottle for Rachel. I could see a mom in a minivan behind me laughing as I drove down the garage ramp.

I’ll admit that one reason I felt so incompetent is because I’m used to being the one who has it all together. I certainly did with Collin. Collin thinks things are different with Rachel because I’m “old” now. I think it’s because I don’t co-sleep with her like I did with Collin so I get up every two hours between midnight and 6am and am too damn tired to do something like change a wet, squirming baby with one hand while sitting on a cramped, stinky pool locker room floor with five other moms and their kiddos watching me, waiting to see if I’ll screw up.

Anyway, finally Rachel fell asleep in the car. Yay! We were almost home and since it wasn’t yet 1pm, Collin would be asleep, too. I figured I’d get something hot to eat, maybe write you an email about today’s Shrimp fiasco, and then take a long hot shower.

Uh, no.

Rachel did stay asleep, but as soon as I got home Collin let Bella-dog out of his room, so she started barking and whining and Winston-dog started trying to rough house with her, then Collin turned his techno music &!*$ up really loud and the bass started thumping the half of the house I wanted to relax in. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my hot food and drink, so I went straight to the shower, desperate to get in there before Collin came upstairs and started running his day’s plans by me, such as, “can I experiment with smoking tree bark today? Can I drive the minivan to Taco Bell? Can I go to a girl’s house while her parents aren’t home and she’s having a pillow-fight-pajama party?” Honestly though, at this point I would have said yes to all those things just to get some peace and quiet in the house while Rachel was still sleeping.

Anyway, I finally managed to shower. Ready to recover from my horrible morning, I sat down at the computer with coffee and homemade blueberries muffins slathered with butter. Of course, that’s when Collin walked in and said, “Andy wants me to check my email right now.” Crap, crap, crap. So I turned on Martha Stewart, which I almost never watch, and guess what? It was one I had already seen.

Maybe someday I’ll re-write this to make it touching or funny or something more than what it is, but for right now, I just needed to get this off my chest.

Shrimp class sucks.

Author’s notes: if the person who advised me on a great local swim class is reading this (and I assume she is because I’m going to tag her on FB), now you know I am neither selfish nor crazy. I am, quite simply, still in Shrimp-covery.

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Don’t Shop at the Safeway!

“Don’t shop at the Safeway!”

This is what my husband and I heard time and again when we told people where we had purchased our new home.

We heard this from bankers, realtors, doctors, nice people, smart people, goofy people and everyone-in-between people.

Why, we wondered, did everyone keep telling us this?

Our neighborhood and the immediately surrounding neighborhoods are very nice. Exceptionally nice, I might even dare to say. Children ride their bikes on the streets and freely knock on neighbors’ doors in search of playdates. Adults host block parties and on Halloween they put fire pits in their driveways for hand-warming, marshmallow roasting, and so Aaron has something to attempt jumping into.

It is also true that the only way to get to our neighborhood—which is located a little off the beaten path—is through a poor neighborhood. It is, as one person euphemistically put it, a dark neighborhood.

“Ohhhh. Is there a bad drug problem there? Like meth houses and such?”

“Er, no.”

“High crime rate?”

“Not exactly.”

“Well… it doesn’t sound bad to me. As long as it’s safe, we’re fine with it. We really love that house!”

“Yes, but it’s… dark. Oh, and you wouldn’t want to shop at the Safeway.”

“Bad produce?”

“I wouldn’t really know. I don’t go there.”

Upon first meeting my primary care doctor and giving her our address she immediately said, “Don’t shop at the Safeway!”

When signing the closing papers on our house, the facilitating broker said, “Well, you’ll just have to drive down to the Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. You sure won’t be shopping at that Safeway!”

Well, let me tell you a secret: we shop at the Safeway.

There are armed guards, locks on the bathrooms, and only one point of entry/exit (easier to monitor). To enter the store I often walk through a plume of cigarette smoke and conversations that I, prudishly, might call inappropriate.

But I go there anyway. And I’ve never, ever, not even once, felt scared, threatened, under attack, or uncomfortable in any way, shape, or form (unless you count the fact that its Starbucks doesn’t heat its chocolate croissants before serving them. That is just not okay).

Today, though, I went to Whole Foods.

I don’t often go to Whole Foods. In fact, I haven’t been there in about a decade. Why would I buy overpriced organic health food at Whole Foods when I can get the same food at a better cost at almost every other store in the fantabulous-to-shop-for-food-in Berkeley?

But alas, those days are gone, and we are the furthest of far from the land of farmers’ markets and Alice Waters.

Because my husband and I want to eat healthy, organic, grass fed, and hormone-free food when possible (though let’s face it: most nights we just have Annie’s Mac-n-Cheese), we’ve decided to supplement our Trader Joe’s and Safeway excursions with trips to Whole Foods. Today was one such day.

No cigarette smoke greeted me as I walked through the door. Instead, I entered through a well-lit foyer with handsome displays of nice looking things that made me want to buy them.

It was overwhelming.

It was like Ikea, but without the free meatballs.

It was also a bit like a fair-trade, living wage Walmart: I couldn’t decide whether to buy coffee from the coffee bar, soup from the soup bar, bulk grains from the bulk grain bar (conveniently located by the salsa bar!), or get a facial.

The cashier had so little sense of humor I had to explain that one of my many jokes was a joke. To this she replied, in a tone slightly too defensive to call deadpan, “I was just teasing back.”

The woman behind me in line was clearly the blue-ribbon holder of the local stroller wars.

And the super-toned, Luluemon-wearing, iPhone-talking woman in the produce aisle clearly, CLEARLY, had gone shopping that day only to make me feel gross and lazy.

And that’s fine. All of this is fine. The cashier is probably overworked and tired, and I bet I’d be friends with the woman behind me in line (in fact, I bet I’d even be friends with the guilt-inducing super-fit mom from the produce aisle).

I shelled out the big bucks for my few items then headed to Safeway to get the rest.

And there they were: smokers smoking, talkers talking, and yes, even deadpan cashiers.

And you know what? I felt equally safe in the aisles of Safeway as I had in the maze of Whole Foods.

Self-segregation is self-perpetuating.

As innocent as it may seem, advising folks new to the area not to shop at the local Safeway—at the very least not at night, as some said—builds up the litany of beliefs we like to call “being safe,” rather than “being racist.”

Some of those who gave us their sage shopping advice were strangers to me. Some were people I know, and I know them to be quite nice and educated and all that good stuff. And yet… they felt inclined to warn us. To repeat what they’ve been told.

And isn’t that how it goes? Don’t shop there, it isn’t safe. And suddenly, I think shouldn’t go there, should warn others as well.

Don’t buy a home there; the neighbors a few blocks a way may not be right for you. Confused by this ambivalence, I worry about crime and safety and look elsewhere for my home. Property values begin to fall.

I have, unwittingly, become part of the cycle.

But I won’t.

I’m not saying that I’m saving the day, building up an economy, or blessing a particular store with my privileged-status self in hopes that it will become the seller of high-end organic goods and that all the doorway smokers will realize the error of their carcinogenic ways. That would be a bunch of malarky. What I am saying is that small acts of resistance are sometimes all that we can muster. I know that’s true for me right now, in these tired middle years. It’s certainly easy enough for me to say, “Hey! Look at me! I shop here and, believe it or not, you can too.”

Truth be told, I’m not even a huge fan of Safeway. I don’t feel a strong desire to put it ahead of other stores, and I won’t. I’ll go where I can get what I need when I need it. But each time I choose the Safeway by my house, I’ll give a little fist pump and nod to this, my (infinitesimally) small act of resistance. Silly, isn’t it?

2014: The Year That Really, Really Sucked.

2014 has been the worst year of my life. No really, it has been.

“Life,” of course, is lived more in stages and vignettes than in a totality of lived days. So when I say 2014 has been the worst year of my life, I don’t mean it’s been worse than the year my son passed away, or the times from my life I was completely destitute, or any other terrible year from a prior life of mine. I mean instead that 2014 has been the worst year in this stage of life—the stage in which I’m in my thirties, married with (what to me is) lots of kids, and have lived out one career and am in the early days of another.

But to be honest, 2014 is the only year that has been so consistently bad from start to finish. Rather than a series of vignettes, 2014 has been a 1.2-million-word Mission Earth kind of year.

“Why,” you may ask, “has this year been so bad?”

To which I respond, “it’s complicated.”

Complications aside, the simplistic glory of a bad year is how the good times shine all the brighter through the dark and mired days, such as:

–joyfully celebrating a fairly stress-free Christmas.

–seeing my oldest walk towards me, suitcase in hand, smiling and ready to stay a while.

–finding four walls to call home.

–witnessing a four-year-old’s first snow.

What I mostly see as I look for the constellation of pinpoints from 2014 is family. Lots and lots of family. Family gathering at the dinner table (always my favorite thing), singing in the van, packing boxes, and, yes, even saying goodbye.

Instead of a dearth of community, I see within those shining lights a husband and wife determined to make a go of it, walking hand in hand into new churches, a new neighborhood, a new town.

Instead of a lost career I see an exciting opportunity to be more, live more, create more.

Instead of children separated by miles, I see joy-filled, tear-filled reunions, brimming with tickles and stories and glitter and Elsa… so much Elsa.

Instead of overwhelming sadness, I see through always-threatening tears a friend’s newfound dedication to living a lovehard life, searching for her own pinpoint-constellation in this darkest of years.

Although I’ve always made them, I’ve never really believed in New Year’s Resolutions. If you have a goal, why wait for January 1? Why not start now? But this year I’m convinced that January 1, 2015 will start something new. Something wonderful, full of laughter and friendships and loving hard. A year in which I fail at times to exhibit patience and grace, but will succeed in forgiving myself, determined to try again. A year in which goal setting is less important than life living, and playing trains and creating crafts become my be all and end all.

Today isn’t the day to start. I have a cold. I’m tired and I’m cranky and the kids’ schools have been closed for what seems an eternity. But in these last two days, whether my family believes it or not, I will be working on building up a reserve of all the things I know I’ll need in the year to come. Should you have any of these things to spare—love, patience, grace, serenity, humor, wisdom—please feel free to send them my way. Your kindness may just help me close out 2014 with a happy bang, and usher in 2015 with the strength of community—virtual or otherwise—propelling me forward into my fresh start in a new place, shaking off the vestiges of west coast living to embrace fully this new chapter of east coast life.

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Why the Lutherans Won’t Have Us

“There is no way to capture the hilarity of what happened,” Andy said. “It simply isn’t possible.”

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Yesterday we attended a Lutheran church near our home. We aren’t Lutheran, but the church is close and it has the only service that will fit with Aaron’s nap schedule. Besides, having never been to a Lutheran church and being very much a fan of the ELCA, Andy has always wondered if perhaps there isn’t a raging Lutheran inside of him. I’ve tried to explain that there isn’t a raging Lutheran anywhere, let alone in him, but he won’t listen.

We walked in and were immediately greeted by warm air, the smell of chili, and Usher Darrel.

“Is there childcare?”

“Childcare? Um, let me check.”

When an elderly usher who has likely attended the same church since the 1950s doesn’t know if the church has childcare or not, it’s a sure sign it doesn’t.

“Should we just leave?”

“No, I’ll walk around with him.”

So there we were, one child happy to sit at the coloring table in the back of the (very staid) sanctuary, the other child happy to terrorize all present in the narthex.

Rachel and I sat side by side, neither of us listening but each happy in our own way: Rachel because she loves to color, and me because anything is better than sitting at home all day being terrorized into playing trains. I flipped through the bulletin and saw that there was indeed a Kids Time that the bigger children are escorted to right before the sermon starts. Score!

When the time came, I walked out with Rachel to introduce myself to the teacher. As I started to head back to the sanctuary, Rachel begged:

“Stay with me, Mama! Stay with me!”

Sure, why not? Like I said, anything beats all-day train attacks.

Even though Aaron is too young for Kid Time, he and Andy followed us down the hall. And what did we find? That the kids were going to watch VeggieTales! Merry Larry to be exact, and boy were they excited.

But no one was excited as Aaron. Aaron’s current obsession is trains, but it’s followed closely by his love of “BobMato.” Aaron’s eyes grew large when he saw what was on the screen and he struggled to get out of Andy’s arms. Andy let him. After all, surely Aaron would just sit and watch the movie. You know…. Like the 15 other kids there.

Uh, no.

Aaron went right to the TV and stood directly in front of it.

“Hey, I can’t see!” A chorus of protests rang out and the teacher kindly moved Aaron to the side. Andy ran to the teacher, arms waving frantically.

“He’s going to turn it off. He’s going to turn it off!”

“Oh, he likes buttons does he? Don’t worry. It’s fine.”

And it was.

For about 30 seconds.

The theme song kicked on and Andy and I exchanged looks. We knew what was coming.

Still at the front of the room, only slightly not in front of the TV, Aaron began to dance. And I don’t just mean dance. I mean dance. Like American Bandstand, Soul-Train-on-steroids dance. The kids snickered, but not meanly, and Rachel, poor sweet Rachel, didn’t even think to be embarrassed. This was, simply, Aaron.

For those who are unfamiliar with the VeggieTales theme song, it has a couple of drawn out notes that the fruits and vegetables are especially enthusiastic about singing. Aaron likes those parts the best. The first long note came…. “If you like to waltz with potatoes, up and down the produce AISLLLLEEEE…” Aaron howled. And danced. And howled some more. I smacked my forehead and turned around to avoid the teacher’s eyes. At this point the kids were way more into watching Aaron than the show.

The second long note came: “…It’s time for VeggieTales,UHALES,UHALES, UHALES,UHALES!” Aaron howled again. The cucumber fell, the tuba bleated, and the song ended. “Yayayayayayay,” Aaron clapped and shouted his thrilled endorsement.

Then turned off the DVD player.

I walked away.

Thankfully, the movie started right back up. Andy and I grabbed Aaron and for the next 30 minutes chased him up and down the hall. At one point, Aaron began climbing the steps to the chancel. Right before Aaron entered the spotlight, Andy realized what was going on and snatched him away. Oh. Dear. God.

The teacher approached me and I felt I had to explain.

“He’s really a good kid. He’s just… energetic.”

“It’s fine,” she said. “At least he’s joyful.” Yes! That’s it! We are successful parents because when all signs say otherwise, our kids are joyful. The thought buoyed me for at least five minutes.

Eventually we had to head back to grownup church and I begged Rachel to leave now. To get while the getting was good.

“No! I want to go to church!”

Well, crap. I couldn’t very well say no to that.

Darrel, oh-so-helpful-and-kindly Darrel, explained we hadn’t yet missed communion. “Take the kids up front! They’ll pat their heads and give them a blessing.”

Our youngest walks straight into koi ponds, ladies’ restrooms, and traffic. Only my good manners kept me from laughing.

“Now, Rachel. NOW,” I hissed once we were out of Darrel’s hearing range (which, frankly, wasn’t very far.)

We headed back out into the cold and found Andy and Aaron already in the van, Aaron in the driver’s seat, Andy sitting balanced on the edge of Aaron’s car seat. An apt scene, I thought.

Driving home we discussed what had happened.

“It’s close to home, but there’s no childcare.”

“That’s okay. Maybe I’m not a Lutheran after all.”

Sigh.

“So can we go to a Presbyterian church for service and the Lutheran church for the chili?”

Sure, why not. They already think we’re pretty terrible anyway.

(Seriously, this doesn’t even begin to capture what happened yesterday. He’s being, like, a gazillion times calmer. But do watch to the end; it’s pretty darn cute.)

(PS – if you know of any parents who have a similarly “joyful” child, please share this with them. I’d love to provide them with the virtual support of knowing they aren’t alone!)

(featured image courtesy of bible.ca)

We’re Here!

Well, we’re here.

Which, of course, means we are not there, something that I am reminded of by surprise tears and news of 6.1-magnitude earthquakes.

That we arrived at all is nothing short of a miracle. Once we settled onto our first flight and the chaotic reality of our cross-country travel set in, I leaned over to Andy and said, “I should be live tweeting this.”

I didn’t, but had I chosen to, my tweets would have read something like this:

“Crawling in hole to die: AJ just Duplo-smacked the woman behind us… On purpose.”

“Ha! Andy’s finally glad he listened to me about buying Aaron his own seat. #mamaknowsbest #sanityseat”

“Turn off the seatbelt sign. TURN OFF THE SIGN.” #travelingwithtwoyearold”

“OMG, I forgot the Benadryl.”

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Overheard from one passenger who walked by and studied our little section of hell: “Ohhhhh, there are two of them. No wonder.”

No wonder what? No wonder I had to get into the overhead compartment every five minutes? No wonder we had apple sauce all over our clothes? No wonder we had eighteen pieces of luggage plus a DVD player, pop-up tent, and the largest double stroller BOB makes? No wonder we looked more frightened, traumatized, and fatigued than characters from the Hunger Games?

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But all in all, it was really quite a successful trip. No bags were lost, check-in, security, and baggage claim all went quickly, and our ride was on time and parked nearby.

And so now we’re here.

Our temporary place is nice. Small, but nice. Two bedrooms, un-child-proof-able stairs, and a gas fireplace, also un-child-proof-able. There is a rabbit in our backyard, and Rachel devises “traps” for it daily.

My priorities for settling in, in some semblance of order, are:

Finding a church
Finding childcare
Finding a Trader Joe’s (done)
Finding an NPR station (done)
Finding a salon (done)
Finding a gym

As you can see, we’re essentially working backwards.

Overall the kids are settling in okay. Not perfect, but okay. We have found Aaron standing in the bathroom sink at 2:30am, and on top of a dresser shortly thereafter, with Rachel frantically attempting to talk him down and coax him back to bed.

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Sunday we went to our first Annapolis-area church. We had spent hours researching churches from Berkeley, and then researched some more from here, Saturday night.

Me: “What about this one? Looks like they have a lot of families.”

Andy: “PCA or PCUSA?”

Me: “I don’t know. I just looked at childcare.”

Andy: “What social justice outreach programs do they have?”

Me: “I don’t know. I just looked at childcare.”

Andy: “What does it say in their statement of faith?”

Me: “I don’t know. I just looked at childcare!!”

As you can tell, knowing that I have to work from home with no daycare/preschool options in sight, one car, and a husband whose work schedule is Monday through Friday, 7am to 6:15pm has changed my way of thinking just a teeny bit.

So we checked out a church with good childcare…

and ended up leaving after twenty minutes. .

Yesterday I looked at three childcare centers, and today I looked at another. I think it will fall together more quickly than I had anticipated, but by 6:30pm yesterday, with Andy stuck in traffic and having just found a tick on Aaron’s thigh, followed almost immediately by him peeing on the floor with the dog threatening to do the same, I felt like it couldn’t happen quickly enough.

But the boxes we mailed to our temporary place (we call it our “vacation home” to keep things fun for Rachel) are slowly trickling in, and after a week (one week today), we’ve found something of a routine.

Rachel already says things like, “Don’t worry. That’s just guns because they are practicing hitting targets.” (We live next door to a military training ground, apparently). We’re waiting for her to adopt sailboat slang and start asking for crab instead of chicken nuggets.

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I do love the freedom of knowing exactly how the weather will be when I step outside in the morning—hot. No layers to put on, or sweaters to pack. The sun will burn high and hot, unless it’s raining, and even then it’s far from cold. While dressing in the morning I’ve realized that the kids have a dearth of short-sleeved shirts, and man am I pale.

Give us a couple of years, though, and we’ll be tan, flip-flopped, and hanging out with the best of the navy and sailing families, attending the “Mariners” church, cooking up soft shell, and sending the kids to Mom’s Day Out at Anchors-a-Wee (I kid you not) during the summer, and busting out the snow suits and shovels in the winter, while I curse our muddy mud room.

Because sooner or later, we won’t just be here, we’ll live here.

RandJNapTown

 

 

Following Christ as a Lunatic Grass Farmer: An Interview with Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is a grass-farmer in Swoope, Virginia, where he and his family own and operate Polyface Farms, a multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm. Joel is the author of nine books and has been featured in Michael Pollan’s award-winning book Ominvore’s Dilemma as well as the movie Food, Inc. Often cited in conversations about and with Joel is that he describes himself as a “Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic-farmer.” He’s here with us today to talk about how his work as a “lunatic grass farmer” embodies the teachings of Christ.

So, Joel, how does your work as a lunatic grass farmer embody the red letters?

Christ as Creator established numerous principles for how this grand scheme would work. He established herbivores, for example, as pruners to make sure biomass did not go into senescence, but rather stay fresh and growthy, aggressively metabolizing solar energy into decomposable plant material that breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen. The whole earth’s ecosystem runs on sunbeams converted to tangible biomass through the magnificent process of photosynthesis. As a farmer, I have the distinct privilege of participating in this grand scheme, and as a human, I can either humbly encourage it or arrogantly fight against it.

The point is that all of creation is an object lesson of spiritual truth. So what does a farm that illustrates compassion, holiness, forgiveness, abundance, faith, and order look like? Does a farm that requires more and more chemicals reflect these Biblical principles more than one that has such a great immunological function it doesn’t need veterinarian care or pesticides? I would suggest that a farm that builds soil, heightens immunological function, produces more nutrient density, and runs on real time sunshine more consistently illustrates divine attributes than one that destroys soil, produces deficient food, runs on petroleum, and reduces immunological function.

Just like a local group of believers functions better when many different gifts and talents can be exercised, a farm functions better with synergistic and symbiotic multi-speciated relationships. Mono-speciation is a direct assault on God’s relational ethics, and yet simple crop or animal farms are encouraged in the industrial paradigm.

Life is fundamentally biological, not mechanical. Appreciating the pigness of pigs creates the moral and ethical framework in how we preserve the Tomness of Tom or the Maryness of Mary. Our industrial food system views food and life as fundamentally mechanical, to be manipulated however cleverly hubris can imagine to manipulate it. So in our human cleverness, we can innovate things we can’t spiritually, physically, mentally or emotionally metabolize, like feeding dead cows to cows to create bovine spongiform encephalopathy. This kind of assault on Christ’s ecological patterns stems directly from a disrespect toward life.

If life is sacred at all, then we should be farming in such a way as to honor the distinctiveness, the created uniqueness, of the plants and animals under our care. That extends to the eaters who partake of our fare. In other words, growing it faster, fatter, bigger, and cheaper must take a second seat to honoring the pigness of the pig.

You can read the rest of Joel’s interview here.

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Honoring the Dead: A Prayer for Peace

Today we are much like any other American family. We have cold watermelon, sweet tea, and .10 cent corn to go along with our burgers. I spent some time sprucing up the lawn, and guests will be over later to enjoy the sunshine with us. My mom’s was a military family, and I was raised to remember.

I want my kids to remember, too. So this morning, we did things a little differently than in years past. When my daughter asked when Grandma would arrive and we could eat yummy food and cupcakes, I took the time to explain that today is more than a “party” or time off of school: Today is a day to honor the dead.

“How?” she asked.

In answer, she and I spent time in prayer, not just celebrating the dead, but honoring them. Honoring them by praying for peace. Praying for an end to policies and wars and “conflicts” that steal our often painfully young men and women from us. Praying for the taken lives of soldiers who leave behind moms and dads, sons and daughters, men and women who love them.

We prayed for those with 8 x 10 photos on their mantles, showing sharply-dressed soldiers with closely cropped hair or neatly tied buns, a stern hat upon a still-youthful, trying-not-to-grin face. We prayed for the Sermon on the Mount to be remembered today of all days.

My daughter is young. She didn’t really get most of what I said, or know the full meaning of the things that we prayed for. But I think she got the point: today is not a party, or a barbecue, or a day to glorify war.

Today is a day for peace.

Related post: Celebrating the Fourth of July

 

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