Monthly Archives: January 2012

Regifting

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My own favorite blogger, Clare from Fitting It All In, posted this today and I just had to share it with you all! Regifting is totally a thing, right? 😉 Enjoy!

What pep-talks are meaningful for you?

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Promise

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Phew! Bloggy silence! A whole week without posting! Let’s remedy that. :p

So, to catch y’all up in the world of this college vegan, school (including a neurobio class presentation on how your brain tells you you’re hungry; upcoming – a presentation on how rats are nice to each other and share chocolate) and handling a life explosion have been taking up most of my time this week. You all don’t need the details.

But today, I went hiking! The Caltech Y sponsored a hike to the Arroyo Seco, L.A.’s main water shed. And what did I see there? I saw promise.

I know. Doesn’t look like much. Let’s go back aways.

Meet Roger, JPL engineer and oak tree enthusiast. He’s a volunteer guide at Hahamongna Watershed Park and told our group about the types of oaks around the area. The Englemann Oak are native to Pasadena, but oy have they been having a tough time. Fires, wildlife looking for lunch, crowding out by the Coast Live Oak, and humans bowling over native flora and planting yards full of non-native species instead have decimated the original population.

Roger, however, has decided to do something about it. For the past decade or so, he’s been collecting acorns that fall from the mature Englemann Oaks during the winter, growing them for a few months on his own, and then planting them back in Hahamongna. However, Roger’s endeavors aren’t just a one-man show. Because of his young son, Roger’s been involved with the Tom Sawyer camp for elementary and middle schoolers at Hahamongna. He gets the kids to think about where it would be best to reintroduce the trees in the park and how to make sure the young trees survive during the times when the camp isn’t running.

Basically, Roger’s teaching young kids how to think about conservation efforts. And then he lets them play in the dirt.

And those little foundlings the camp’s planted? They’re growing.

And that shows promise.

Chances

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Chances are odd creatures.

They’re elusive, prowling around unseen on the other side of life. They like to hide in the nooks and crannies so you have to search for them. Sometimes, though, they’ll pounce from out of nowhere and catch you broadside.

Chances can be little. Chances can be large. And chances are known to leave behind tears of all shades and laughs of all flavors. Wonderful, terrible, the awful of both ugliness and beauty. People meet chances differently, too. Some people welcome chances be they wild or tame; other people try to shoo chances out of their life like vermin.

But the thing about chances – no matter what you do with them, they’re still going to be there all the same. You cannot domesticate them and you cannot throw a rope around them and reign them in snarling whenever you want one. Really, you just have to face them as they come.

To be honest, I’ve hated chances. They’re all fine and well for other people, but I quite prefer predictability, thank you very much. Through my adolescence, I meticulously structured and stuffed and regulated and expecation-ed my life in the hope that there just wouldn’t be any room, chances would be too big to get in, so any chance that did happen to come along would wrinkle its nose in distaste and just keep walking.

Hah. That didn’t work. Turns out chances don’t care about whether your life is rigid or not.

So now I embrace chances with open arms, right? Uh, no. Not quite. Loose ends still stick my emotional pincushion. But by actually allowing chances room in my life, I’m finding them much friendlier creatures. For the most part. Turns out, some chances are worth it.

Like the chance I took at Trader Joe’s the other day to have an actual conversation with the person bagging my groceries. We got into how I want to be a wildlife vet and currently volunteer at the Waystation, and it turns out that the cashier’s young daughter is into animals. And that turned into me agreeing to email his daughter to chat about her interest in animals and hopefully figure out some ways to nurture that.

Or like the chance I took on a Target run in taking the time to laugh at the cashier’s joke (Yes, I do treat my cashiers as people and not just extensions of the credit card processing machine.) and explain that haha, no, I wasn’t quite buying murder weapons. That the Fruit Loops, duct tape, and cardboard coin rolls were actually for an enrichment project for animals at a place called Wildlife Waystation. That sure, I can tell her about volunteering there and write down the website.

And then there was the chance I took today. More half-finished and half-pending than completely seen through. It was also a reminder that not all chances turn out gloriously – but might still hold value. As president of the Animal Welfare Club at Caltech, back in November I took a chance and suggested that we host a presentation by Wildlife Waystation’s outreach team. And then I think whoever the god of logistics is suddenly decided to stop being bored. There room reservation issues, scheduling issues, supply mishaps, and a *minor gust* of Santa Ana winds that got Pasadena declared a disaster area the original date of the presentation. And then there were ambassador animal issues, rain, short notices, and lack of attendance by people who had RSVP-ed.

But. There were presenters. There were audience members. And there was an animal.

Kamm, a super awesome WW volunteer, with Barney the Barn Owl

Aaaand that’s about it. Anticlimactic, hunh? I’d say no. Because that may be it – but the end of that statement needs a “for now.” People now know about the Waystation who didn’t know about it before. They’ve heard stories of maltreatment and rescue, met a barn owl up close, and have the notion of doing something for animals at least existing in a back corner their mind. Maybe that’ll lead to more volunteers. Maybe it’ll lead to more donations. Or maybe it’ll just lead to someone from the audience being a little kinder to an animal carried by chance into their lives some day in the future.

And I think that’s important enough to not merit a “just” in front of it.

Chances are curious creatures. Who knows what could happen.

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Eyeglasses

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Sometimes I wish life had eyeglasses. Not the kind that correct what your retina’s doing. The kind that would let you see, in a more figurative sense, more clearly.

If life had eyeglasses, people would be able to see themselves for real. We’d be able to see our weaknesses and stop exaggerating our faults. Emotional hurt would be as visible as a scar – so maybe others would better understand what it is they’d done to us. Those layers of toughened skin that develop over the years of life’s chaffing would glow with a demand for respect instead of dulling beneath the mask of a stony demeanor that inspires nought but contempt.

We’d stop seeing ourselves as too fat or too thin, as composed of waistlines that are too big or cup sizes that are too small. We’d start seeing ourselves as the fearful symmetry of building up and breaking down, of push and pull, of muscles and ligaments and bones and vessels, all blossomed from a single cell into the capability of arms and the strength of legs.

We’d stop seeing life in black and white. We could no longer blind ourselves to others through a wall built of differences; the similarities between creatures with hearts than yearn and hearts that break would always be apparent in the enemy of war, the bum on the street corner, the jerk in the office. If life had eyeglasses, excuses of otherness would no longer prove a curtain that could be pulled around pain caused. The comprehension of a lab animal about to be injected again, the despondency of a pound animal watching another family walk away, the regret of a wild animal that knows its been seen through the eye of a barrel – hidden from our eyes no longer. Smog-choked trees, oil-stained oceans, sewage-poisoned water – we’d be forced to see the traces of conviction on our hands.

Narcissism, bullying, verbal abuse, codependency – they might just go away. When the lie about you and what a piece of shit you are is lain false right before your mind’s eye, when life’s eyeglasses keep the truth of your real value from being covered by the insecurity of “what if” and the darkness of your own self-criticism from obscuring what is true – maybe the wounds of words would no longer forever maim.

If life had eyeglasses, we would see how important our smile just was to that stranger. The fondness in a lover’s glance would never be lost on us again. The soul-shocking depth of a child’s trust might finally be seared into our memory.

Maybe, if life had eyeglasses, we’d finally be able to see ourselves.

Pumpkin Burgers

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I’ve been listening to my housemates play the kazoo for the past thirty minutes or so. Our dining service decided to just hand out free kazoos today. Never a dull moment. 😉

I went with a total experiment for dinner tonight and made kale and pumpkin burgers. And they were delicious!

There's totally still room for gourmet in the college environment 😉

Here’s what I did:

Combine 1 can pumpkin puree, 2 cups kale that’s been steam-wilted (college translation: cover and stick it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes), and 1/2 c oats. Stir well until the mixture is homogenous. Put scoop-fulls of the mixture on a hot griddle/sauce pan (I coated mine with Pam, but oil would also work) and cook for three minutes on each side on medium heat. My mixture made four burgers.

Plop on a plate and enjoy 🙂

I topped mine with salsa and some nutritional yeast. You could also incorporate the nutritional yeast into the burger, add whatever other spices you’d want, or increase the amount of oats for a crunchier burger. The basic mix turned out to be delicious on its own, but there’s a lot of room for whatever add-ins your taste buds might be wanting.

Yellow vegetable AND greens. Yummm. 🙂

Greens Galore

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Happy Monday everyone!

An unofficial resolution I’ve made for this year is to eat more vegetables and less sugar. It’s not that my sugar intake was atrociously high before; I just know that being intentional about building my meals and snacks out of real, whole foods instead of defecting to quick-fix granola bars will keep my body happier in the long run. Though of course that’s not to say I won’t occasionally opt for the soy raspberry mocha (thank you Red Door cafe!) or vegan snickerdoodle. 😉

A few days ago I bought a big ol’ bag of a blogger favorite: kale! To put it bluntly, kale has SO MANY VITAMINS. It’s ridiculously versatile for something green and leafy, too. Stir-fry it, stick some dressing on it, turn it into a chip… kale is not your average rabbit food.

So here’s what I’ve done with it so far:

Green and Savory Raspberry Vinaigrette Saute

Hello lunch! 🙂 I mixed about 1/3 c of Trader Joe’s Raspberry Vinaigrette with about 1 Tb of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (like soy sauce but with waaaay less sodium) and threw it in a sauce pan with 1.5 or so cups of kale along with 5 halved, precooked brussels sprouts.

Let sizzle:

Once the kale has turned a darkened green and looks less perky, the dish is ready to go!

Homemade Kale Chips

Okay, so this was my first attempt EVER at making kale chips. Internet perusing research basically boiled down to toss your kale in whatever seasoning you’re going for plus something to make it stick and then toast it in the oven around 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 7-10 minutes – essentially, until your kale is crispy but not burnt. I’d air on the side of less heat and longer time. Checking your kale every so often using the very scientific “prodding test” works pretty well 😉

For my kale chips, I used a simple blend of lemon juice and nutritional yeast.

Welcome to the frightening land known as the communal college kitchen.

To make the kale chips, I squeezed half a lemon into the bowl, tossed a handful of kale around in it, and laid out the kale fairly dispersedly on an ungreased cooking sheet.

Next, I sprinkled about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast over the kale.

Popped the kale in the oven for 7 minutes, and then it was done!

The lemon is definitely the predominant taste. I’ll probably use olive oil or something less acidic the next time.

Do you have any favorite kale recipes?


Dead On Arrival

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Dead on arrival. Three of the hardest words to hear.

Let me tell you about yesterday.

I was on my way to work in the Waystation office when up ahead, through my dashboard window, I caught sight of a squirrel thrashing violently on the side of the road. It has obviously just been hit. Immediately, my adrenaline rushed and the thoughts “there’s an animal in pain” and “I need to help it” took hold of me in about a picosecond.

I pulled over at the next cross street and ran back to where the squirrel was. It had been at most a minute from when I first saw it. But by the time I got there, the squirrel was no longer moving.

Rationally, I knew what the situation was. I knew the squirrel was dead. No pulse, bleeding from cranial cavities, eye coming out of the socket – I knew the squirrel was gone.

But irrationally, I still hoped there was a chance it could be saved. That its pulse was just really faint, and with medical attention NOW it could still be saved. Or… that even if it weren’t revivable, that if I brought the squirrel to the wildlife division of the Humane Society five minutes away, if I got there and it were still alive, that the vets could at least help the squirrel die more quickly and less painfully through euthanasia.

So, in a tug of war between rational and irrational, the part that’s really me won out and I did the only thing I could – I pulled off my sweatshirt, cradled the squirrel in it, and booked it to the Humane Society.

I arrived still shaking from the mixture of adrenaline and concern. I managed to convey what happened, but the prognosis was already clear. The front office called in the squirrel as a DOA. Dead On Arrival.

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that term. At the Marine Mammal Care Center last summer, we’d had pinnipeds come in as DOA’s. Was I as emotionally shaken then? No. Those animals were never alive to me. The situation had already been compartmentalized. There was no other option for response besides resignation.

I’ve had to deal with an animal being euthanized before, too. But euthanasia is always an end-of-the-road resort. It’s what happens when the animal can’t get better, when it would be cruel to prolong a deteriorated animal’s suffering any longer. It’s clean and painless and releases the animal from any more hurting.

But the squirrel – I saw it when it was still alive. I saw it when its heart was still beating and its neurons still firing enough to cause thrashing. And then, the next time I saw it, it was dead. And it was dead because of something that hadn’t needed to happen. The squirrel had seemingly been perfectly healthy. Its fur was soft and well-groomed, its body filled out and not emaciated. The squirrel most certainly wasn’t at the end of its road.

Why am I going through all of this? To justify my investment in a pretty-much-already-dead squirrel, I suppose. But aside from the emotional component of making me feel better for not having left an animal I had seen alive to rot on the side of the road – rationally, do I think my mad dash for the squirrel was worth it?

Yes. I believe that life intrinsically has dignity. Life is worth something. Life isn’t something to just discard. And while by the time I got to it the squirrel might have been officially categorized as “carcass,” at one point, the squirrel was a life on this earth too. Its body held a being that could feel the sun on its back, could smell the waft of freshly cut grass on the air, could experience both pleasure and pain. I think it was worth it, not leaving what was left after the departure of that life to be mashed to a bloody pulp on the side of the road. I think it was worth it, giving the last physical connection to that life a chance to be disposed of with dignity. And from an even more pragmatic point of view, that carcass was full of microbes, and rotting road kill is only going to culture more germs. And attract flies, which will bring even more germs. And then it might rain, or the street cleaner might come by, and water would wash all those germs into the storm drains and go from there to who knows where in the water supply… From an epidemiological stand point, not just leaving the squirrel there was very much a cautionary public health measure.

Hmm… that’s a concept… reverencing life in one way foster life in other ways too…

How do you nurture life?