A week of relief & celebration

After sixteen years, 4 different schools, and well over $100k, I am finally a college graduate!  Sitting here on the couch, browsing on the internet and awaiting the arrival of Hugo for a quick bite to eat during his evening work shift, I am glowing with happiness and so relieved that my Bachelor’s degree is finally complete.  What began as two years of undergraduate work at the University of Vermont, eventually morphed into restaurant management school, years of work training and several junior college courses.  After completing my Associate’s degree about seven years ago, I continued accumulating work training and the equivalent college credits through our local college.  As I was laying on the couch after my recent fifth knee surgery this past summer, I got bit by the repetitive I should finish school bug that had bitten me many times in the past.  In prior years, however, the thought entered my mind, I applied for a few schools, submitted transcripts and let the idea die on the vine as I lost interest and didn’t see the serious need to move forward, since it was expensive and unnecessary given my current position.

For some reason, August of 2018 was different and thankfully so.  I applied at three online universities who offered similar degree paths and were roughly the same price per unit.  After narrowing it down to Union Institute & University, I closely analyzed the final budget for my college pursuit, applied for financial aid but got denied, and approximated the additional costs associated with purchasing books and those fun, random fees.  Within a couple of days, I was registered for 8 months worth of upper division classes, multiple Amazon school textbook orders were en route to our house via 2-day Prime shipping, and I was finally committing to finishing something I started in 2002.

As I have said in prior posts, finishing my college education at the ripe old age of thirty-four, all while working 50 hours a week in a taxing career, was both a carefully orchestrated dance of time management, and one of the most satisfying pursuits of my young adult life.  As I ticked through every homework assignment and research paper, I was, and still am, proud of myself for sticking to it and doing a damn good job.  Without being cocky (just stating the facts folks), I got straight A’s for every assignment in every class since August.  Now, before I pretend I am going to be some outrageous summa cum laude valedictorian of my online, accelerated learning, let me soak in my remaining 30 seconds of peace and happiness that comes with finishing the damn thing :).  Long story short, my paper degree will be processed and mailed out in 4-6 weeks and I can add this satisfying line to my resume for future promotional purposes.  It just feels good to check something off of your life’s to-do list, knowing that you set out to achieve it and that is just what you did.

 

So many questions

I might be having an existential crisis.  Or maybe I am just sick of working in a downtown Los Angeles office building, devoid of sunlight and fun.  It seems like every day I become increasingly more uneasy with accepting my current job as my workplace reality for fifteen to 20 years longer (who am I kidding, there is no way I am working twenty more years!).  Regardless, I keep returning back to my ever-present thoughts about wanting to build a business, develop a product, pursue my writing, start a partnership with my love Hugo, or basically do anything in my power to walk away from being a government employee that is bound by the strict confines of a 9-to-5 job (in my case, 5am ’til 3pm, when I finally break through the hellish LA traffic that owns the nearby freeways for twenty-three hours of the day).

Hugo is jamming to our favorite Americana music in the kitchen as he makes pork and tofu dumplings for dinner.  As he prepped ingredients over the past hour, I sat at the table whilst he chopped and we collectively brainstormed all of the ideas we have about our business pursuits.  After making a list, getting excited about things together and dreaming of all the directions we could go, I realized once again just how blessed I am.  I am thankful for having Hugo as my support system – it doesn’t get better than having your best friend there by your side, always willing to hash out the day’s events and dream my wildest fairy tales with me.  He just shouted from the other room, “I’m so lucky”, a reminder that he feels the same way.  It warms my innards to know we are in this thing called life together.

So back to the issue at hand – what direction do I go and how the hell do I get there?  The certainty of having a steady career, with excellent pay and benefits, as well as a guaranteed retirement, brings some serious security with it.  On the flip side, exploring the unknown and pursuing your passion has a crazy appeal to it.  Maybe its because the latter brings an uncharted, entrepreneurial path that is riddled with adventure and no promises, both of which are missing from my current work.  Or sometimes we just might be drawn to that which we don’t have or circumstances that differ from our current atmosphere.  Either way, I am craving a change and its just a matter of time before I make some moves (exciting, huh??!?).

For now, I will get my clothes ready for a 3am alarm, pack my lunch pail full of the healthiest options I can muster up, try my best to get some solid rest, and, once again, wake up to start another Tuesday in the City of Angels.

Eat & Support Organics: For you, the animals and the planet

My husband Hugo and I have repeatedly experienced scenarios with coworkers and friends where they question why we eat organically.  When we sit with these people at lunch and they catch a glance of a drink or packaged item of food, we are often questioned regarding what it is and where its from.  Their aggressive line of questioning is often summed up with an awkward, uncomfortable look of relative disgust, since we are obviously the weird ones who eat strange things.  In addition, if we happen to say we bought the delicious and healthy item at Whole Foods, their look also encompasses a sprinkle of ‘you wealthy little snob who shops at the expensive grocery store.’

As I type up this quick synopsis of how almost every encounter with those around us at snack time goes, I realize, even more than before, how crazy this uneducated behavior truly is.  Both Hugo and I were not raised in an area or around people who were so confrontational and unfamiliar with quality sustenance.  And honestly, this shit gets annoying because we eat organically for a variety of reasons, none of which the majority of people understand.  After awhile, I get tired of being asked what I’m drinking (kombucha), explaining what it is and why its delicious and nutritious, and then receiving a rude look and snarky comment.  In my opinion, those who are eating conventionally deserve the scowl, seeing as the farming process degrades the earth, the involved animals, and our bodies.  I guess I could go on about this forever and I do truly wish I had more, well organized time to retort when confronted.  In the end, my intentions are to educate others about my personal, multi-faceted love for organics and why it should be important to everyone.

First off, growing and producing organic food is the only sustainable, long-term approach we should have and need to have.  With the bulk application of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, conventional farmers are killing their overworked soil, allowing lethal run-off into our streams, rivers and oceans (which in turn contribute to algae blooms), and killing our bees.  Our poor honey bees – the mass army of soldiers who pollinate nearly all of our food, therefore enabling us to eat and survive as a species – are dying at a rapid and alarming rate, primarily as a result of exposure to the main, cancer-causing ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate.  It is disgusting, scary and widely used by ignorant people everywhere and, in turn, honey bees nationwide are meeting a sad, toxic fate.  While I could write about our declining honey bee population all day long, please read more via my included links.

Second, raising organic meat and planting and harvesting organic produce is the only ethical and healthy way to farm.  Organic standards for animals require the livestock to be free of antibiotics and hormones and to be fed a strict diet of organic feed.  In addition, the majority of organic meat producers also provide lovely quarters for their animals, which include large outdoor areas, access to grass and fresh air, and living conditions that do not include overcrowded, factory-style barracks.  Of course all of these variables are dependent on the type of animal and the farm’s location on the globe.

Finally, eating organically is good for you!  When fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, dairy and everything else we ingest, is humanely raised without synthetic pesticides and other chemicals, the antioxidant level is drastically higher, the taste speaks for itself and the human being actually consuming it is not coating their insides with carcinogenic sludge.  Case in point – Dr. Mercola attests to increased antioxidant levels and the Pesticide Action Network explains pesticide accumulation in our bodies.

I will never forget the car ride with my mom from a short few years back that is forever ingrained in my photographic memory.  While driving home from a long, relaxing day at the beach, during one of her many trips to visit Hugo and I on the opposite coast from her, we took the scenic route through the massive expanse of citrus farms just west of our house.  While winding through this particular farmland in the late afternoon, off to the right of the car we both observed one of the more disturbing things I have seen – a man wearing a full-body, hazmat style suit, face mask and boots spraying chemicals on a crop.  Although our observation only lasted for a brief moment as we passed by, the image was forged into both of our minds and we continue to talk about how sad and frustrating it was to see.

To think of just how much and how often pesticides are sprayed on conventional crops is beyond troubling because my heart hurts for the school kids who are inhaling the fumes and being coated with the particulate mist downwind from these commercial farms.  My heart hurts for the farm workers who may not be educated on the effects of exactly what they are using on a daily basis, or maybe they are yet they need the income and are willing to take on the extreme health risks from exposure so they can provide for their families.  My heart hurts for the cows, pigs, chickens and every other innocent animal who is pumped with hormones or antibiotics, or both, to increase their size, up their production and keep them sickness-free, since they are overcrowded and not taken care of, thus leading to poor health and zero immunity.  When the herbicides run into the ground water or enter a farmland adjacent stream, slowly flowing into larger bodies of water and eventually into the ocean, they pollute our oceans, kill those who live there and contribute to deadly algae blooms.  My heart hurts when beaches are closed and fish are floating dead to the surface.  And finally, my heart hurts to think of a developing baby being exposed to mass amounts of pesticides as their uneducated mother eats our mass-market fast food around the clock, polluting her body and the blood supply to her unborn son or daughter.  In the end, my heart just hurts.

So, given my thoughts and raw emotions behind why I care so much about organics, it really makes me both mad and sad when all of these people I engage with at work or in public either have no idea about what it means to eat organic or they scoff at the idea of a quality, non-toxic item costing $1 more.  Their lack of manners, common sense, and brain cells astounds me but, regardless, I will always continue to explain what kombucha is, tell them where I bought it, and say, with a big smile, that it tastes delicious.  I’ll do this probably until the day I die because you never know, maybe my rambling about the honey bees might just change someone’s mind.