Week 6 – Say grace. Eat well.

People who always have something to complain about annoy the crap out of me.  The reason they are continually annoyed at life is not because they have a particularly annoying life, but because they are encountering their lives through a faulty paradigm.  Sometimes I wish I could transfer telepathic understanding to them: “The root of the problem is not all of your problems, but you.”

I’m not talking about people who have bad days.  Everyone has bad days.  I’m talking about people who always have bad days.  I think part of the faulty paradigm is an expectation for a “perfect” reality that no real person ever experiences on a consistent basis.  This “perfect” reality is by nature intangible, unobtainable, unchangeable.  In lay man’s terms, these are the “grass is always greener on the other side” folks.

If you expect reality to conform to an idea that it can never aspire to, you will always see life fall short and be depressed about the life that is dealt you.  If you expect life to be what it is, however, you can come to appreciate it for what it truly is: an ever-changing, ever maturing, vibrant, vivacious and cosmic thing that we are blessed enough to be part of and privy to. Here are a few truths about life:

(1) Things are “born” in some fashion.  “Planted” suffices for, well, the plants.
(2) Things mature and change, according to the seasons.  These seasons could refer to Autumn and Spring, adolescence and middle age, or business and serenity.
(3) Things come and go. Nothing is ever present all the time.
(4) Things die. Sometimes things are simply not around anymore.
(5) Things come back.  Plants, and people, have offspring. There is also hope for a new creation where we will be resurrected.

So, what does this have to do with food?

People who complain about their food annoy the crap out of me.  Food is good! It is delicious! Is it perfect? No. Does it have to look perfect? No. Sometimes the food that is the best for you looks weird or is prepared in an odd fashion.  If you are eating real food but still finding things to complain about, the problem is not the food, but your expectations of the food.

Food is dynamic and alive. It grows, matures and dies. It comes in and out of season. If you don’t understand these fundamental things about the nature of food, you don’t really understand how food is supposed to work. “Real Food” acts like food in all these ways. In order for food to go against this vibrant, dynamic nature, it has to be altered, and much is lost in the process.

Case in point: the twinkie. Where does it come from? Don’t want to know. There never is a “twinkie season.” It never matures, dies or goes stale, like real food would.  It also lacks the taste, nutrition and earthiness of real food. What does the twinkie have going for it? Great advertising which promotes a feeling about twinkies that leads the eater to expect a sort of fulfillment beyond the natural purveyances of food. But I’m left wondering: where’s the cream filling?

Think about food commercials. They aren’t really selling food most of the time. They’re selling an experience, a brand or an identity.

Real food is silent. Real food is just food. But, somehow, there is something entirely more spiritual about real food. I think this is it: if you are able to see food for what it is supposed to be—raw, earthy, fragile, bold—then you can let it remain its tangible, silent self, and move on to understand things about your own nature and how you fit in with the world. If, however, you are chasing something through your food consumption that you can never obtain, you are stuck in a hamster wheel, and you will never learn or gain anything but frustration and discontent.

Here are some principles towards a better food paradigm:
(1) If it can’t go bad, it was never good in the first place.
(2) If it is claiming to do something for you other than feed you, get a reality check.
(3) Eat what’s in season. It will taste better.
(4) There is more variety in food tastes than “sweet,” “salty,” and “greasy.”
(5) If you don’t want to eat it slowly and savor it, you don’t want to eat it. Period.
(6) Expect the unexpected. And expect to change.
(7) There is always something to be thankful for. Say grace. Eat well.

WEEK 6
(Clockwise, from bottom left)
3 Beets
3 Onions
Season’s 1st Celery!
Garlic
Summer Squash
Radishes
Season’s 1st Peaches!
Broccoli
Season’s 1st Cucumber (It’s really hard to see in the shadow)
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Napa Cabbage
(Also)
Carrots & Purple Potatoes in the bowl
Eggs (again, the farm has new hens, and they are laying smaller eggs this week, so we received 18 eggs instead of the normal dozen)

By ekwetzel
2010-08-13

Continue Reading

Week 5 – McDonalds. From Here. For You.

McDonalds recently launched an advertising campaign titled “From Here. For You.” across Washington State to promote itself as a vendor of local food.  You may have seen the billboards, with slogans like “Picked in Yakima, Dipped in Fircrest” (for apples dipped in caramel) or “Grown in Pasco, served in Tacoma” (for fries).

This is brilliant advertising.  I applaud McDonald’s sensitivity to trends in the local food culture, and their ability to morph their image so astutely in order to challenge their current status in some groups as a nutritional pariah.  Whoever McDonald’s paid to come up with this advertising campaign is a genius.

That is the first part of what is suspect about this campaign, though. It is so sleek, so seemingly simple, and such great advertising, that McDonald’s must have paid a pretty penny for it.  My local CSA’s advertising attempts extend to weekly flyers printed up with recipes applicable to this season’s share.  CSA food is silent food. McDonalds, however, has to pay for many billboards (on freeways and online) in order to promote an attitude that comes so naturally to those who grow to love local food for the sheer sake of it.

Even if what McDonald’s ads claim is true and they do source the actual fries you eat in Tacoma from potatoes in Richland (which I have neither the time nor resources verify), the food that they grow in Washington’s rural counties is still bad food. McDonalds may want to take advantage of how hip the localvore movement is, but here are reasons why their food doesn’t even compare:

McDonald’s is Industrial. Their potatoes and apples are inevitably grown with fertilizers and pesticides that are heavy on chemicals.  McDonalds invariably chooses varieties of plants that will withstand the farming practices they choose and the transportation that inevitably is required.

Terry’s Berries is an organic farm, and the veggies grown are treated gently.  The food does not have to withstand processing and long travel; it gets picked, I take it hone and eat it. The food at my CSA is personal from the time it is planted to the time it is tasted.

McDonalds Only Tastes Salty and Sweet. McDonalds doesn’t serve food in a way that promotes its flavor.  Their food is a canvas upon which to paint the flavor you experience, using salt, fat and sugar (actually…with High Fructose Corn Syrup). When you eat McDonalds fries, you don’t taste a unique potato or a fresh potato or a local potato.  You taste a generic potato that has been processed in a factory, slavered with McDonald’s special fry flavor, and frozen until it is cooked in grease at your local fast food franchise.  Even their apples are meant to be eaten slathered in sweet caramel sauce.

Real food tastes like itself, and it tastes great.  You don’t need to drown CSA potatoes in salt to make them edible; it would be a crime to smother the natural sweetness of a CSA apple with a sugary dip.  My CSA food is original, unique, and it always changes. It’s important to keep variety strong in the plant world as well as in your diet.  The fascination with heirloom varieties in recent years came as a push towards foods that had unique and wildly fascinating flavors.

McDonalds Doesn’t Feed, It Fattens. The salty, fatty, sweet meals at McDonalds have little nutritional value, so even when you gorge yourself with a quarter pounder, large fries and a coke, you can still come away feeling unsatisfied.  McDonalds is good at creating food addiction.  I state this from experience.  Before I knew better, I used to love McDonalds. Hands down loved it. But, I remember how I could feel hungry even after two cheeseburgers, fries, a soda refill and an ice cream.  The food at McDonalds is more like non-food.  It looks like food. It smells appealing. It tastes great at first.  But, it doesn’t actually give your body what you need.

There are more nutrients in a CSA weekly share than you can squeeze into a multivitamin.  When we eat our local farm food, we have energy. The food is raw, so the nutrients have not had a chance to be “processed out,” which is what happens with McDonalds food. We get full, because our food is full of fiber, a complex component that it takes our bodies awhile to break down. McDonalds foods are made mostly of simple compounds that are quickly processed, leaving you wanting more.

What About the Beef? McDonalds conveniently left their beef off of this advertisement.  Sure, sure, they included milk.  But who drinks milk at a fast food joint?  Do you know anyone who does?

One of the worst parts about McDonald’s food production is their feedlots.  The cows are fed horrible diets and live under awful conditions.  The cows are diseased.  The workers that slaughter the animals are also treated terribly.  McDonalds chickens aren’t treated much better: they are raised in crowded conditions, often never seeing the light of day; the tips of their beaks are clipped to keep them from pecking at each other; and they are bred to be so abnormally fat that they can’t even walk under their own eight.

Terry’s Berries doesn’t sell meat, but there are local farms that do.*  You can treat your animals humanely and still make a living on them.  McDonalds exploits the lives of their animals and the quality of their food to make cheap, empty calories that lead to obesity in many Americans. Of course McDonalds want to have the image of a local company that connects rural Washington growers with hungry people in the Puget Sound.  It is a plastic image, though: unnatural, insubstantial, and one that entirely misses the point.

What it Means to be a True Localvore:
(1) Eat in season.
(2) Recognize that truly expensive items, like grass-fed beef, are meant to be specialties in your diet, not staples.
(3) Your food is not only grown locally, it also doesn’t travel cross country to be processed before ending up on your table
(4) Your food is grown in such a way to promote the local economy and the welfare of everyone involved in the food-production process (this includes friendly pest control methods as well as good treatment of employees)

Dear farmers out there, let your actions speak for themselves. When you’re doing food right, you don’t need an advertising agency to make you look good.  Your customers will end up loving you so much, they’ll see you for what you really are and appreciate you for it.  And, sometimes, they might even start blog projects in order to rant and rave on your behalf!

*A Few Local Sources of Good Meat:
Sea Breeze Farm and La Boucherie shop, on Vashon Island
– Cheryl the Pig Lady, in Tacoma (cherylthepiglady@hotmail.com or 253-535-6322)
Gradwohl’s Farm Beef, in Covington
Meadowwood Farm, in Enumclaw; we buy our raw milk here, and they also sell some meat
(Contact the vendors directly about which farmers markets they attend.)

For more information on fast food, check out Chew on This by Eric Schlosser & Charles Wilson, the documentary King Corn, or the dramatization of the industry in the film Fast Food Nation .  Another good book to read about food in America is In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan.

WEEK 5
(Bottom Left, Going Up)
Tokio Bekana
Tat Soi
Carrots
3 Onions
(Top Row, Left To Right)
Fava Beans
Summer Squash
Broccoli (Woo Hoo!)
Garlic Bulb
Purple Kohlrabi
(Right Side)
2 Huge Lettuce Heads
(Center)
3 Cups Of Raspberries
Eggs (again, the farm has new hens, and they are laying smaller eggs this week, so we received 18 eggs instead of the normal dozen)

(The food from the farm was so beautiful this week, and my rant about McDonalds so long, that I decided to pepper the post with extra photos of the veggies from the farm. Hope you enjoyed them!)

By ekwetzel
2010-08-06

Continue Reading

My Insulin Resistance Story

Discovering I Had Insulin Resistance

I had just switched from my regular OBGYN to a nurse practitioner that my friend recommended, and I scheduled a visit with my new medical professional to get her up-to-speed on my heath issues.  My last doctor never seemed to have the time to listen to my concerns, and I could tell right away that my nurse practitioner was different.  We had an hour to talk and get to know each other.

I told her about my bad neck, and how I was having a lot of success with my chiropractor in the last few months, but that the exercise I was able to do was extremely limited while I went through this period of adjustment and my body’s alignment was in a delicate state.

I told her that I ate well, cooked a lot, but that I knew I needed to lose weight.  The last time I saw my OBGYN, she reprimanded me about my weight, but with the limited exercise that I could do, it was really difficult to get the pounds off.  With my height and age, I should be less than 155 pounds; I weighed 185 pounds at the time.

I told my nurse practitioner that I had stopped menstruating and that I didn’t really understand why, but I figured it was just something that happened. I knew my mother used to go months without menstruating, and I had always had irregular periods.

Another aspect of my body that I had also always come to accept is that the women from my father’s side of the family are all very hairy. I know. It’s gross. We have think hair on top of our heads, on our arms, and everywhere else.

Laurel Schaberg, my nurse practitioner, turned to me and simply said, “There is a reason for all of these things that are happening to you. I think you may have a problem with insulin resistance.”

The indicators in my life that I had insulin resistance were:

BMI Over 25. In particular, my BMI was 30, I was at least 30 pounds overweight, and almost all of the extra fat was in my torso.  I tend to have an “apple” figure, particularly when gaining weight: big breasts, big belly, big waist.  These are all huge indicators of insulin resistance.

Craving Carbs & Sweets.  Carbs become sugar in the bloodstream. Insulin is the hormone that tells your muscles, “Dude! Blood sugar is in the house! Partake of it, my cellular friends!”  If my muscels are not listening to the insulin, though, they aren’t getting the blood sugar they need, and so my body craves more carbs even though I’m already eating enough carbs or even too many carbs.

Inability to Lose Weight, Even Though I Ate Well. If you eat modest portions and healthy foods, but you have insulin resistance, you can still gain weight.  Calories are not as crucial to my weight loss as are other things, like balancing carbs with proteins, and eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.

Irregular Menstrual Periods.  If you have irregular periods, skip periods or have polycystic ovarian disease, it could be because your insulin levels are messing with your other hormones, and keeping you from ovulating properly. It happened to me.

Hairiness (where there should be no hair). Again, the insulin imballance messes with your hormone levels, and one side effect can be un-feminine  hairiness in women.

Jitteriness, Crankiness & Fatigue When I Don’t Eat.  If I go too long without eating, it feels like the world is going to end.  As a person with insulin resistance, I have trouble not only using the sugar in my bloodstream, but my body is also incapable of storing unused blood sugar like an healthy person’s body would.  If Mr. Wetzel eats a big pasta dinner, his body will store the excess carbs and use them to sustain his body during a time of fasting (like when he sleeps or skips a meal). My body doesn’t do that. If I don’t use the carbs, they are turned into fat, and if I’m late for a meal, my energy reserves are all used up.  The phrase “I feel like I’m running on empty” is very true for people with insulin resistance.

How My Life Has Changed

I now am on a diet that helps my body deal with its insulin resistance, and I also take Metformin. Together, these two changes have helped me lose weight, stay energetic, and feel better emotionally and physically. I now weigh 162 pounds…that’s a difference of 23 pounds! I don’t even have time to work out; that’s just from making the dietary changes.

The basic rules for eating are as follows:
(1) Never eat carbs by themselves. Artificial sweeteners count in this boat, as well.
(2) Never eat more than 30 grams of carbs at once.
(3) Always link carbs with protein. For every 15 grams of carbs you are going to eat, you need to balance it with at least 7 grams of protein.
(4) Protein foods include: all meats (beef, chicken, fish etc), all dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc), legumes (i.e. beans), and nuts

I used to run our of gas during the day, but if I ate a carb-heavy snack I’d go on a high and then crash again. I can now sustain a calm and persistent energy level throughout the day.  Because my hormones are being kept in check, I also am not on a constant emotional roller coaster that coincides with my food highs or hungers.  I feel more confident about my food choices, my appearance, and my emotional stability.  Knowing that there is a medical reason for the way I feel help to make me feel less alienated, as well, and if reading my insulin resistance story help you to feel less alone, that’s what I was going for!

Are you struggling with insulin resistance?

What is your story?

If you want to read more about Insulin Resistance, how to determine if you have it, and how to eat differently to help counteract it, strongly I recommend that you check out The Insulin Resistance Diet by Cheryle Hart and Mary Kay Grossman, and that you sit down and talk with your doctor or nurse practitioner about your concerns.

By ekwetzel
2010-08-03

Continue Reading

Week 4 – The Shape of Things

The farm is dirty.  Food comes with the leaves attached.  Bugs are crawling on things.  It makes me very aware that we are not just eating vitamins and flavor, but real, living plants.

We all start somewhere: with a Happy Meal, with a microwave dinner, mixing up a package of Hamburger Helper.  I’ve used all of the above in my not-so-distant past as staples in my daily eating rituals.  However, the more I stopped and looked at what I was eating, the more I came to explore and appreciate the food I ate.  In order to have passion about food, you must first stop and pay attention to what you eat.

We moved away from boxes and tubes into the land of grocery vegetables, bagging all our freshly spritzed produce.  Paying attention to the curves and colors, we chose our produce based on how shiny and perfect it looked.  Yearning for fresher, more local options, we went to farmers markets, and ogled the unwaxed fruit, coming to appreciate the true luster of food.  We saw ugly veggies and were surprised at how delectable they could be.  The more we learned about our food, its nature and its origin, the more we came to appreciate the food we ate, and the more passionate we became about learning more.

The farm is food’s home.  Plants come from the soil.  They are alive.  They photosynthesize.  They bloom and bear fruit.  Their roots go deep.  Why is it important to be able to know the true shape of the food you eat?  Why is a world of wonky red spheres (like heirloom tomatoes), orange tubes with bushy heads (carrots) and light green flower/flying saucers (summer squash) better than a world full of cardboard boxes and plastic bags?

First of all: Food is beautiful.

Second: When you let yourself encounter the true face of things, you see that life is more diverse and surprising than you ever could have imagined.

Lastly: You discover that what you eat is at its best when it’s imperfect.  Tasty foods are often ugly or dirty, or covered in the leaves, roots or stalks that are apart of them.

I would go so far as to say that people are the same.

WEEK 4
(bottom left)
– Big bowl of Fava Beans
– Head of Cabbage
– 3 Onions, from Walla Walla, WA
(going counter-clockwise and up around the top)
– Fennell
– Carrots
– 2 kinds of Summer Squash
– 3 Kohlrabi
– Red Chard
– Bowl of Sugar Snap Peas
– Head of Lettuce
(plus)
– 3 cups of Raspberries
– The farm has new hens, and they are laying smaller eggs this week, so we received 18 eggs instead of the normal dozen

*Turnip photo courtesy of Stephen Proctor.

By ekwetzel
2010-07-30

Continue Reading

Treasuries

Your home is where your heart is. (Common proverb)

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ( ESV Bible, Matthew 6:21)

I love Etsy.com.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the site, it’s an online platform from which normal people can sell stuff they make or find; it’s like the mother of all craft fairs combined with the best finds from all thrift stores, globe-wide.

One really cool thing about Etsy is that users of the website make “treasuries” that you can browse, as well. A treasury tends to have a theme, like this one: rich and layering wonders

Whether window shopping at the mall or perusing online through Windows, “me browsing” has a tendency to lead to “me wanting” which sometimes turns into “me discontent with the things I own.”  It can be tempting to fill my home up with things that look cool, but that doesn’t really address the heart of the issue.  More stuff never gives more satisfaction.  Satisfaction is a status of the soul.

In response, I created a treasury of things I already own.  I went around my home, gathering some of my favorite things.  Here are stories about the items in my “treasury,” and the sometimes intangible reasons for my love of these objects:


THE OBSERVER’S BOOK OF WILD FLOWERS –
When I studied for a semester abroad in England, we took a day trip to a town (I cannot remember where) and I stumbled upon an indoor flea market. One of the vendors was selling this little book, which had beautiful little pictures and descriptions of British wildflowers. This pocket-sized book is my favorite souvenir from my semester overseas, in part because it reminds me of how fascinated I was with botany at that time in my life, and it makes me laugh at myself now, or I am still a terrible gardener.

THREE LITTLE DOLLS – I love these little ladies from abroad.  The Russian stacking doll is 3 dolls deep; it was given to me when I was in Elementary school.  The middle doll is from Bulgaria, and I received it in Middle school. The last is a doll from Asia that a lady gave me when I was about 4 years old to thank my mother for babysitting her son while she traveled abroad.  These dolls make me think of my childhood, and how I would go to exotic places in my imagination.

MY AFGHAN – I found this afghan at yard sale for $1. I love a great steal! This is my default afghan for road trips, camping, TV watching, picnics and the like.  It is bright and colorful, and wrapping it around my shoulders makes me feel like the warmth of the sunshine and the freshness of Spring grass are hugging me.

MY ALABASTER LAMP – I found this lamp on craigslist, fell in love with it, then hummed and hawed over buying it for about a month.  The cut in the alabaster makes me think of elves. The swirls in the alabaster are dark and mysterious, like something magical; this lamp feels like something you’d find in a D&D game.  I finally met with the lady who listed it, bartered her down a few bucks, and went home with a quaint item that makes me feel like I’ve got a part of Rivendell in my living room. (The shade was bought on sale at World Market).

MIRRO EGG TIMER – I needed a timer because the one on my stove doesn’t work.  I bought this on Etsy because it was cuter than the ones at Target.  Even thought it doesn’t “ding” after it’s done ticking away, I still love it.  I guess you could say it makes me pay more attention to how the food is baking instead of relying solely on external indicators to dictate when it’s time to come out of the oven.

70’S COFFEE MUG – When I was in college and I had to buy my own kitchen supplies for the first time, I realized I loved things that were 70’s Fabulous.  This mug was one of the first things I bought, and one of the only things I’ve kept from the mis-matched collections of my college days.  I think it embodies a bit of my creative spirit and tendency to create wild and colorful things.

WATKINS BLACK PEPPER SHAKER – Mr. Wetzel and I used to drive out to Walla Walla, WA to visit our friends, the Andersons, and along the way we would stop for gas at a store with a sign that reads “Antiques Fruits.”  We would laugh about the old and dusty “antique fruit” they had to sell…in reality the store sells local fruit and antiques that different local sellers scrounge up.  On one such excursion, I picked up this pepper shaker for about 50 cents.  It makes me think about how wonderful and quirky Washington state can be.

CASH REGISTER PENCIL SHARPENER – My sister is 10 years older than me, and I used to love stealing her things.  Not in a malicious way (although I once got punished for putting all her jewelry into a tin chest I owned and lying about it!). I always admired my big sister, and having stuff like hers – or stuff that was hers – was the equivalent to being like her.  This pencil sharpener was one of the things she didn’t care about me nabbing.  I’m not sure if it sharpens pencils anymore, but it surely remains a totem of my sisterly antics.

MY FAVORITE WEDDING CARD – This is a handmade card from my friend, Amberly. The picture is a newsprint cutout of a bride in a storm, and the caption she wrote reads “Pacific Northwest Bride.” On the side of the card are little raindrops she drew in ink and colored pencil.  I remember Amberly gave me this card along with a package full of cut-outs from old magazines she thought I’d like.  It was one of the most perfect gifts I have ever received, because it was personal, creative and it showed how well my friend understood me.  I keep this little card thumb-tacked to my wall because it reminds of that feeling of being understood and loved.

VINTAGE COCA COLA COASTERS – When I was in middle school, these coasters were promotional gifts for purchasing Coke.  I rediscovered them last summer when going through old boxes of my things at my parents’ house.  I had been meaning to buy coasters fir awhile, so I thought of it as a perfect opportunity to make good use of a boon from my past that we never really had to pay money for in the first place.  I find the pictures on the coasters amusing because they show what persona Coke was trying to promote in years long ago…and they also show how tiny the serving sizes used to be!

PICTURE FRAME FROM THE DOLLAR STORE – This little picture frame has always been one of my favorites.  I bought it in High School, probably when I went to the dollar store with my Grandmother.  I like how cheap it was. The starts remind me of how obsessed I was with stars in high school: I had dozens of ornaments hanging from my ceiling and I had painted stars all over my ceiling and walls.  My favorite starts were the ones I had people make for me that had little messages on them.

THE BOX MR. WETZEL KEEPS HIS WEDDING RING IN AT NIGHT – This little box is from Bulgaria, and it has always been one of my favorite boxes.  It is one of my smaller boxes, so when we got married, Mr. Wetzel started keeping his wedding ring in it.  There is also a silver dollar in the box (not sure where it came from).  It reminds me of the artwork in Bulgaria and my experiences there as a pre-teen. I also like the fact that it is no longer I who use it, but my husban =d has taken as his own something that I love.

THE DOVES FROM MONTANA – Last summer, Mr. Wetzel and I took our first road trip. We drove from Tacoma, WA to Albany, NY to see my parents.  We took our time along the way, getting snapshots of Old Faithful, camping in the Badlands, and passing up the water in Wall Drug, SD.  While we were working our way through Montana, we took a road less traveled by, ended up in the middle of an Indian reservation, and came out on the other side of Nowhere.  It was so rural, we went over an hour without a gas station in sight.  Eventually we happened across a store that advertised milkshakes and antiques, so we stopped.  In the store, I found these two doves and bought them as a memento of our trip and our growing friendship.

RECIPE BOX – I already mentioned I started loving 70’s Fabulous things in college, right?  Well, this recipe box is another example.  I bought it at a garage sale in Searcy, AR, and have kept my recipe cards in it ever since.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Consider how you esteem your possessions; it may reveal who you hold dear, or what you turn to for your identity. If you imagine your house burning down, and all your things turned to dust, it would be a trial for your soul (thinking about Job here).  However, who you are as a person would still remain. You are both tangible and intangible.  This is part of what it means to be “created in the image of God.”

Poetically speaking, the things we love are representations of the nature and quality of our souls.  If we lose all we own but keep our souls intact, new objects will rise up to remind us of who we are and to be representations of our essence.  It’s not the object that is important, but what lies at its core, an often intangible meaning that we assign to otherwise meaningless paraphernalia.

If your house burned down, and all your possessions with it, where would you turn to for your identity?  What would you choose to fill up your life?

By ekwetzel
2010-07-27

Continue Reading

Week 3 – The Vegetative State

I am little more than a cold, hard shell, at first.  It’s hard to imagine that any life lies within my core.  I remind you of a tiny bone, a bone caught in your throat that makes you catch your breath.

Deep within the earth, I take to the moist dark.  In the secret places, I begin to unravel, to change.  The shell is but a husk of my being; I am a fountain of life waiting to spring forth from near nothingness.  All I know of the light is that it is warmth.  I have no ears to hear. I have no eyes to see.  I have no hands to feel.  All I am is being.

Like magic, I push through the earth and into the air, and then suddenly sprout wings.  You may call them leaves, but to me it feels like I am soaring through the air as I grow and grow.  In the secret places underground, my roots run deep, soaking up the life force that helps me reach for the canopy above.

You may call mine a lonely life.  You may say that, since you do not understand my language, that there is no life in my veins.  You may claim that I am an island, desolate, without feelings, vacant.  But I know that I swell and stretch in each moment that I am blessed enough to find existence.  I know as I fill out and flower that there is beauty and purpose in my life.  There is glory in the way my leaves unfold in the morning, in my quivering stem, in my hearty belly of soil.

The season passes.  My seed scatters.  My flowers wither.  My leaves yellow and fall.  I start to shrivel.  I have no remorse about my passing. I once was hard and hollow; I have been bright and full; now I am soft. I lay down, at long last, having reached as far as my tendrils would take me.

You of the long life and wild breath, you think my life is simple.  You think my ways are beneath you.  You think a life like mine is no life at all.  I say to you that this is the life I was blessed with, and in it I rejoice.

You scorn me for not being able to satisfy you, as I am mute, deaf and dumb; however, I have grown my own roots, and life is deeper than you can comprehend.

What if you, oh man, were deprived of your sight; would you stop to have insight?  What if you were stripped of your hearing and powers of speech? As a man who smells and eats and walks about, would you be any less of a man?  Let us strip you of these senses, as well. Let us fill your mouth with cotton, and numb your every nerve.  If you were to feel no space, no scent, no taste, would you be any less human?  Is it what you perceive that makes you who you are, or is it something deeper that reaches into the dark, moist soil in which you are planted and catapults you on an arc of wild metamorphosis?

What are you, if not a seed waiting to sprout wings?

WEEK 3
(Top row):
– Beets
– Raspberries
– Carrots
(Middle row):
– 2 heads of lettuce (aren’t they bushy, this week?!?)
– Tatsoi
– LOTS of sugar snap peas
(Bottom row):
– Fava beans
– Eggs

Photo of the maple seed on pavement, courtesy of Stacy Wagoner.

By ekwetzel
2010-07-22

Continue Reading

Trusting Your Gut

We like to be told what to do.  When things go wrong, we like to be able to blame someone else.  We like our experts.  We like to follow people who we admire for one attribute or another in the hopes that we will become more like them.  These aspects of our nature are not true all of the time, but everyone exhibits this lemming mentality to some degree.

A great example of our penchant for this “following mentality” is found in our diets.

There are too many diets out there to count.  If you want to lose weight, be healthy, have young skin, or any other countless nutrition related goal, there is a diet out there that will give you a mantra on how to eat.  Protein good.  Carbs bad.  These fats good.  These fats bad.  Exercise.  Don’t stress out.

There are good principles to learn from the nutritional information available, but something is lost in the way our culture treats food and diet.  We act like food is scientific, something that the head has to understand and regulate for the benefit of the body.  But food, by nature, is for the stomach.  So, why don’t we let our stomachs guide our eating habits?  Why do we ignore or bellies, and comfort ourselves with esoteric information about calories, points and grams?

I can easily be addicted to sugar, but I don’t feel like I have the will-power to say “no” to sugar.  As a drastic move, Mr. Wetzel and I just tried a sugar detox program, and in week 6 we were supposed to cut out pastas and breads.  During this week, I was tired and lethargic most of the time.  It occurred to me at the end of the week that I was most likely suffering from some form of carbohydrate withdrawal. I already have problems with insulin resistance, so taking almost all the carbs that I normally eat out of my diet hit my system like a drought.

We decided to forgo the last week of the detox (no starches, including bread, pasta, potatoes and rice), and reintroduce healthy carbs, as well as a moderated amount of sugar, back into our eating habits. It’s been about a week and a half since, and I have felt more energetic and healthy ever since.

I remember when the idea of “listening to my stomach” was a foreign concept for me. I have had several roadblocks to overcome:

I did not trust myself. (Learn faith)

From PBS commercials to Health class to Girl Scouts to the dinner table, I was indoctrinated from a young age to approach eating choices as a program that I was a part of.  The people in my life that cared for me wanted me to be healthy and happy, but the way our culture approaches success is to superimpose a system onto the individual, and not let the system evolve around the needs and desires of that individual.  I remember being scolded by my grandmother for wanting to eat milk and cheese for a snack.  Two dairy products together just wasn’t done.  I was allowed to have apples and cheese.

This mentality carried over into adult life.  I avoided fats because I was told to.  I balanced my meals because I was told to.  If I had a craving that I didn’t think I should have, I would beat my body into submission.

Serving sizes don’t make sense. (Learn balance)

We are supposed to finish everything put on our plates.  Waste not, want not!  But when you eat to the point that you are so full you’re popping, all you really ever hear from your stomach is that it’s screaming at you.  I used to think that being done eating meant that I was stuffed.  Being stuffed is not a happy feeling, my friends, and should be avoided for the most part.

Don’t let the serving size determine how much you eat.  Eat slowly, and pay attention to how full you feel. Stop when you are ready, no matter what your plate looks like.

I was addicted to unhealthy foods and habits. (Learn temperance)

Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. For the most part, we know which foods are unhealthy for us.  If you don’t hide behind a dietary plan, but instead admit to yourself and those that you eat with, “I am eating this because I think I should,” or “I am serving this because I want to,” then you and you alone are taking the glory or the shame for your eating decisions.  In many ways, diets make us feel self-righteous about most of our food choices so that we can appease the guilt we feel when we cheat and eat things we consider “off-limits.”

Instead of bringing morals into the kitchen, let the food just be food. Approach eating as a person with a palette and a stomach. Use common sense. Don’t over-do withdrawal or indulgence, and pay attention to how the food you eat makes you feel.

I do not always make the right choices. (Learn grace)

You’re going to eat things you shouldn’t.  You’re going to over eat and under eat.  You’re going to insult someone by accident because your food choices contradict theirs.  You’re going to refuse good advice and follow bad tips.

Don’t worry about it! Be humble.  Learn from your mistakes. Be open-minded.  If you’re willing to be receptive to change, over time you’ll learn to laugh at the next diet fad that comes out. I can’t really explain it to your brain, but when you hear about the new studies and findings that others are getting so worked up about, you’ll just have a feeling in your gut that tells you there’s nothing new under the sun.  And that you’re hungry for that thing you always love to eat so much.

By ekwetzel
2010-07-19

Continue Reading

Week 2 – Time to Farm

I drove out to the farm the other day, fighting construction on WA-16 and congestion on I-5.  These day it seems like everyone decides to drive somewhere at the exact moment that I need to go to the farm. Traffic was never this bad in the winter or spring. What gives?

Not to mention how busy life has been, in general. Work is busiest for me in the summer, since I work for a real estate company. Summer season = real estate season. In addition, we are involved in church, and we want to deepen our relationships with friends and family. Then there are all the wonderful fairs and festivals that come with summertime that we haven’t even had the energy to go to. I’ve lived in Tacoma for almost 5 years, and I’ve never even been to the Taste of Tacoma. There are a lot of good things in my life, but it’s easy to feel stretched thin come July & August.

I have a little garden plot and some potted flowers. I dream of having backyard chickens and a big spice garden one day. Some days I think it would be nice and quaint to retire to the country, live of a few acres and grow everything we eat. But who am I kidding? We don’t have the gusto to farm. Mr. Wetzel and I are urbanites. And each summer we are far too strung out to have the energy to care for plants or livestock on top of everything else we have going on.

Sure. I could be romantic and impractical; I could quit my job and be a full-time gardener, but let’s get real here, people. I kill half of everything I plant. I forget to weed. The only reason my plants survive is I keep trying and get lucky with a few of them. Besides, I like my job a lot, and my skill set is much more suited to customer service and administration.

The other day I fought the traffic to get out to Terry’s Berries. When I arrived, it was a gorgeous, sunny day, but I needed to grab the produce, drop it off at home, and get back to work to activate a couple new property listings. When I arrived at the farm, we had strawberries included in the share, but the sign said: “1 pint of strawberries. Pick your own. Strawberry patch this way.”

My first thought was. “I don’t have time for this. I need to get back to work;” but then I realized how high strung I was, took a deep breath (or five), grabbed a green pint basket and thanked the goodness that I wore tevas instead of flip flops. I strolled out to the strawberry patch. I took my time. Soaked up some Vitamin D. Sampled a few extra berries during my toil (I imagine Terry must have known this would happen!).

When I got back to the car, bagged veggies on the back seat, I looked down at the warm little pint of strawberries snuggled into the shotgun seat beside me. “I picked those,” I thought. “Those are fresh, Erin-picked berries.” As I drove home, and eventually back to work, I carried a sweet, warm, calm bit of the farm back within my heart.

We don’t have to be full-time farmers. Mr. Wetzel and I will never be anything more than occasional gardeners. It’s important to us, though, to support local agriculture, not just for the food that goes into our bellies, but also for a connection to the earth that is found beyond air conditioned offices, USDA labels and the ether of the internet. We don’t need to give our lives to the soil. We just need to be reminded, once in awhile, where we came from and where we’re going. It helps to put everything in perspective. It helps us to slow down.

WEEK 2
(clockwise around the outside, starting with bottom left corner):
– Lettuce (2 heads)
– Dandelion Greens
– Fava Beans
– Summer Squash (there were yellow ones available, too, but I thought these little green ones looked tastier)
– Radishes
– Sugar Snap Peas
– Snow Peas
– Beets
– Raspberries (in the middle) (duh, right?)
– 1 dozen eggs

By ekwetzel
2010-07-16

Continue Reading

A Sentimental View of Lens Flare

new years 2009 kiss wagoner turco

Lens flare is getting a lot of flack from the geek community, these days.  Ever since J.J. Abrams decided to accentuate it in Star Trek (2009), it’s like lens flare is the bane of film’s existence.  Critiques, such as this “How It Should Have Ended” satire, epitomize the attitude many hold towards the lens flare that saturates the movie.  The mildest critiques I’ve heard are that the lens flare is distracting and obnoxious.

I, however, have always been a sucker for lens flare.

Lens flare is a beautiful imperfection that makes you realize the thing you are looking at is captured in a moment in time.  It calls attention to the fact that there is an observer involved in every act of art, and in this way connects the viewer intentionally with the object being viewed.  I believe lens flare helps to bridge the gap between artist and audience as well as the gap between art and object, because it finds a common ground in the natural imperfections of everyday life and turns them into a momentous occasion and opportunity for beauty.  Accepting lens flare in a work of art (or film) is the acceptance of a flaw.  Celebrating lens flare as part of a work of art is like receiving all the parts of a moment as worthy of beauty.

ekwetzel new years 2009 painting kiss

In the same way, when you love someone, you cannot only take them for their best moments, for the image that they want to portray to the world, but you must accept their humanity and their flaws.  Through relationship, you can come together and help each other to be better people, but one way you become a better person yourself is by bearing with the flaws of the one you love.  This painting, set on New Years day, depicts a moment in my friends’ lives when they were starting the journey of a relationship together.  We are not called to find the “perfect person” in life, but to find the one that will work with us and help us to be better, the one who will take our faults and help us morph them into something beautiful. When you’ve found someone that helps you be a better person and better reflect the glory of God in your life, that is when you have found “the one.”  When you’ve found the person who has a vision for your life which includes redemption of your faults and hope for your maturation, that is when you have found the person who is able to see you, not only for who you are, but also for who you strive to become.

My hope for these friends, and for any of you, is this: when you find the person who will accept you, not in spite of your lens flare, but because of it, that you’ll be wise enough to hold them tight and brave enough to face the new years that lie before you.

By ekwetzel
2010-07-12

Continue Reading

Week 1 – The First of 52 Weeks with My CSA

I believe God made berries to save me from sugar.

Mr. Wetzel and I have been attempting to wean ourselves off sugar and processed carbohydrates for about a month, now, and if it weren’t for all the fresh fruit available, I’m not sure we could be successful.  I come from a long line of sweet-toothed relatives, and saying “no” to sugar can be like saying “no” to oxygen.  Like most addictions, my sugar addiction has left its mark.  I found out this year that I have Insulin Resistance, a condition in which my body doesn’t respond well to the insulin in my blood stream. Insulin is what tells your muscles and cells, “Hey! There’s blood sugar available for pick up! Come and get it!”  When you have insulin resistance, it’s like the cells in your body have cotton in their ears, so in order for the insulin to be heard, it has to “shout,” which literally means the insulin levels in your blood stream go up.  Adverse health effect imminent.*

Carbohydrates raise blood sugar, and the more processed and refined the carb is, the more quickly it is processed, and the faster the blood sugar level raises.  Since my body has a hard time dealing with the insulin in my blood stream, I need to curtail how many carbs I eat at once.  I love sweet foods, but my body just can’t handle the blood sugar roller coaster processed sweets take it on.  Candies, chocolates, cakes, cookies, brownies, ice-cream…these are all the things my nurse has recommended I eat “in moderation.”  But, sometimes, moderation just isn’t good enough.  Sometimes when you love something that doesn’t love you back, you just got to give it up entirely (at least for a time) before you can understand how to practice moderation.  And that is why I have been trying to give up sugar for the last month.

Back to the berries.

If it wasn’t for fruit, I’m not sure I could give up sugar.  Even the sugar snap peas and fresh carrots have filled in a tasty void.  Summer share seems to be a lot about salads and snack foods, and this week has been no exception. Fruits nourish. Fruits have different tastes and qualities…not just a “sugary sweet” fix. With fruit, you don’t just  satisfy cravings; you eat meals.

A key thing that makes fruit an awesome source of natural sugar is that fruit has tons of fiber.  As you satisfy your sweet tooth, the fiber fills you up, and hunger cravings are satisfied.  Added bonus: fiber is good for your digestive system.

My favorite thing about all the berries, cherries and fruits from the farm is that they taste so good and so true in flavor to their name that they make it easy to eat healthy and locally.  When given the choice of a local, just-picked berry and a plastic wrapped candy bar with natural and artificial berry flavors, who would choose the latter? Fresh, in-season fruit is like the platonic form which all these artificially sweet fruit-flavored things are modeled after.

I’m making myself hungry. Time for dinner…

WEEK 1
(clockwise around the outside, starting with bottom left corner):
– Potatoes
– I was told this is Tatsoi, but I think it’s Komatsuna. Whatever it’s name, it’s an asian green, and it’s great as a salad green.
– Red Chard
– Lettuce (Romaine style)
– Shallots
– Carrots
– Radishes
– Kohlrabi
(In the bowls)
– Raspberries
– Cherries
– Sugar Snap Peas
…Plus a dozen eggs

Until next week!

*My knowledge of Insulin Resistance is limited to a layperson’s abilities to comprehend medical mumbo-jumbo, and my details about the condition come from reading a book my nurse recommended: The Insulin-Resistance Diet: How to Turn Off Your Body’s Fat-Making Machine by Cheryle Hart & Mary Kay Grossman.

By ekwetzel
2010-07-09

Continue Reading