Thick is bloodier than water… November 8, 2012

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Michael won.

I was furious. It wasn’t supposed to happen. My arrogance and stupidity got together and planned a pity party with no refreshments. I didn’t understand. I had won junior class president the year before, only challenged by one girl who received two votes–her own and that of her twin sister. I was supposed to be a shoo-in.

But before we elected our senior class officers, Michael decided at the last minute to throw his hat in the ring, and he got all of his buddies together from the Future Farmers of America (the FFA) to support him, boosting him on their shoulders to victory. This was made possible because I lived in a rural community where the FFA was the largest club in the school.

As painful as it was to lose to Michael, even more aggravating was the discovery that my friend, Howard, had gone behind my back and voted for my opponent. Howard explained to me that he felt compelled to do so because he, too, was a farmer, and the pressure from the club to get behind Michael was more than he could resist.

I was so pissed off. Howard and I were friends. Now granted, we hadn’t tilled the soil together or considered the best way to herd cows, but we had done many more important human things which should have engaged his loyalty in my direction.

For instance, we sang in a quartet together. That means there were days of rehearsal, little road trips, late-night talks about girls and how parts worked, giggling, crying…and oh, speaking of crying, I was there with Howard when he discovered that his girlfriend, Jackie, was dating Ben behind his back. (By the way, another farmer.) Actually, Howard was not sure that Jackie was being a two-timer, so one night the two of us went out in his 1958 Chevy coupe and found Ben and Jackie, parked in Lover’s Lane, necking away, with Ben plowing where Howard had already planted crops. Howard was devastated. I stayed up with him all night, talking, crying and coming to the early morning decision that Jackie was just no good.

So you see, we had history. We were friends. And honestly, sometimes being a friend is much stronger than being a relative, especially a farmer. I just didn’t understand.

Howard knew I was angry. I stayed that way for at least a month. We would talk, but I made sure that he was aware that out of revenge, I was withholding some of the better stories that I could have been sharing. Actually, within a couple of weeks, I was glad that I wasn’t president of the class. Being vice-president meant I didn’t have the responsibility, but still got out of class, still got the respect of students and teachers, but Michael was left to deal with the sticky messes. But I didn’t tell Howard that’s how I felt. No, Howard was on my crap list. And it really wasn’t a list–just Howard’s name, signed at the bottom.

Finally one day, Howard took me aside and tried to explain. He said, “You know, blood is thicker than water.”

I just stared at him. “Is there a bloodline of farmers? And what’s that got to do with anything?”

But in a moment of pity I looked into his eyes and realized that Howard was afraid. And whenever we’re afraid, we go back to patterns of behavior ingrained in us long before we are able to resist. After all, even if your parents were abusive, they were still the first ones to put a bottle in your mouth and tell you about Santa Claus. It’s hard to forget that. And if your parents are farmers and you’re a member of FFA, it makes you feel like you’re betraying your kin if you vote for your buddy instead of your barn-mate.

I didn’t exactly forgive him, but I realized he was thick. Emotion, truth, gentleness, loyalty and faithfulness were unable to get through a crusty hide of tradition and false respect.

We eventually made up. If I recall, it had something to do with him meeting a new girl, who also cheated on him–so we had to go out together and chase down the latest infidelity. (For some reason Howard had very poor success in maintaining the ongoing affection of loyal girlfriends.)

I remember this story because I always want to be reminded that not all blessing comes from my family tree. Not all wisdom comes from my little village. And not all growth can be spawned from my little garden patch of understanding.

I need newness of life–and that includes new people with new ideas, new faces and new ways that may at first seem contrary to me, but in the long run, expand my heart and make me a better human.

Thick is what bloodies the waters.

Dear God, help me not to be thick-headed, building concrete around my brain.

Heavenly Father, help me not to be thick-gutted, padding the fat around my waist with additional reinforcements.

And Almighty Creator, keep me from being thick-hearted, protecting my emotions from the experiences that will make me more understanding instead of so doggone sure of myself.

I didn’t get to be senior class president. Part of it was because a dear cohort chose a farmer over a friend. But what I learned is that God always allows us to grow, even from our disappointments, as long as we don’t get so thick that He can’t reach our insides.

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Peanut Better … July 19, 2012

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I like peanut butter.

I do. If you’ll forgive me a bit of presumption, I think it’s safe to say that most folks enjoy the stuff. There are those who have allergies to it, and always some who will insist that it’s “just too something or other,” but peanut butter certainly has not survived merely because of its partnership with jelly. Especially since I’ve been cutting back on eating too much meat, peanut butter is a great source of protein. Unfortunately, like meat, it is an overwhelming storehouse of calories.

Español: Mantequilla de maní

Español: Mantequilla de maní (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do not understand why we live in a nation that can work on several I-phones at the same time and have numerous reality shows funded, leading to no seemingly sensible conclusion while raising funds for all sorts of causes, many of which are nearly impossible to explain, yet we can’t come up with a way to make peanut butter that’s low-calorie.We have also failed at the search for really good-for-you pasta. Sugars, carbohydrates and fat seem to escape the purview and perfection of our scientists. We have come up with products that are fat-free, but normally that just means they add more sugar. We have come up with products that are sugar-free, but their textures, taste and timeliness are debatable.

Is it too much to ask to have someone seek out a government grant to make peanut butter plausible to our diet? Maybe it’s because we talk about healthiness in this society as we come up with a double-decker sausage McMuffin (since the first one certainly was not large and greasy enough). Is it really necessary to have three hamburger patties with bacon and cheese?

It comes down to the issue of healthy, wealthy and wise. That is the order that we have placed these three pursuits in while advertising our vision for a successful existence. But I don’t think it would hurt for us to begin with wisdom. If the most nutritious and healthy foods are also often those products that are least in calories, why can’t we take a hint from Mother Nature and learn how she makes delicious treats without stuffing them to the rim with calories? Isn’t there a scientist somewhere who might actually want to help humanity instead of padding the bottom line of drug companies? I guess if we worked on food that was healthy and low in calories, using wisdom in doing that, there are other companies that might suffer temporarily–until they made the transition over to better choices.

For instance, we were making plows in this country until World War II started, and then those who were making farm implements just changed over to constructing bombs and airplanes. I realize we have become dependent on oil, but there’s no reason to believe that within a decade the oil companies couldn’t turn their profit margins over to better, more practical choices. If you start talking about a healthy diet, the farmers and ranchers get very nervous because they wonder if they will be able to get rid of all their crops and cattle.

So if you decide not to lead with wisdom, it’s going to be very difficult to be healthy. And if you’re not healthy, you’re probably not going to have the initiative or the lifespan to achieve wealthy. So I would suggest that we change the old saying from “healthy, wealthy and wise” to “wise, healthy and wealthy.”

And let the first piece of wisdom be an attempt to put nutritious food in our mouths that is low in calories so that we can eat a lot of it and feel very satisfied without putting on excess pounds and loading ourselves down with obesity and health problems.

Why don’t we start with peanut butter? Yes. Let’s make it peanut better. Let’s find out if we can make a product that is absolutely filled with good taste but is lower and lower in calories. Why don’t we make pasta that is not packed with carbohydrates, which shoot up our weight and our blood sugar?

It is a worthy project for some aspiring young researcher, who would like to really help this society instead of debating health care for our populace, which is suffering under the load of food that is inevitably destined to make them too plump.

Peanut better. Yes–I will believe that our country is going forward when the citizens are the primary concern of both the government and the corporations, instead of maintaining a traditional approach to sales and commerce, leaving us unhealthy, pretty stupid and without enough time to get wealthy.

Let me know when peanut butter has much less to butter me up and is better for me. Until then, I will continue to eat it–cautiously–convincing myself that it’s better than Sloppy Joe.

   

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