Monsanto, Bald Girls, and Chili with Beans. Also Congress.

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In America, every month is declared “Earth Shatteringly Important Issue” Month, have you noticed? Due to the recent implosion of the country’s political system, you might have missed October’s various claims to fame.

I became quite familiar with these “awareness months” when I worked on Capitol Hill. My first day at work for the Sierra Club in D.C. (long before you could watch the congressional circus on C-span), I was asked to peruse the daily debates in the Congressional Record for any mention of environmental issues.

Heady stuff, right? The import! The historical implications!

The first issue I read devoted several pages to a long, flatulent debate over whether October should be declared National Chili Month or National Chili with Beans Month, beans being vitally important to a certain congressman’s district. Now that I think about it, my disillusionment with Washington began right there with my first Congressional Record.

bowl of chili large

Chili with Beans

Who would have guessed that future sessions of Congress would make chili beans versus chili beef look like a productive debate? At least they passed budgets and kept the parks open in those days.

Ah well, I don’t want to add more hot air to the ranting about Congress – this post is supposed to be about the month of October, not Congress.

Mostly these National Blah-Blah Months pass right through my brain without pausing for processing, but October carries several monikers that warm my heart and which might also be food for thought as we watch our government “at work” (or not) this month.

October is National Co-op Month

I’m a big fan of cooperatives, where you buy into a collectively owned business or operation and then, well, cooperate with each other.

The word cooperative comes from cooperation, of course, which means “to work together.”

Are you listening, Speaker Boehner?

Let me tell you about the town where I live, Mr. Speaker.

Old Greenbelt, Maryland is a cooperative community designed and built during the Roosevelt administration. It’s a National Historic Landmark because it was the first planned community in America, and it’s internationally recognized for its collectively owned homes and open land, all run with strong citizen involvement. A co-op grocery store, credit union, nursery school, restaurant, and several artists’ co-ops thrive in our town.

The democratically elected Board of Directors runs our town for the benefit of its members.

For the benefit of its members – did you catch that, sir?

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote that: “Communities of this type presuppose that the people living in them are going to be interested in the welfare of the whole community and that they are going to be successful in bringing about certain changes in human nature.”

Like, say, giving a damn about the poor and the sick and the elderly and our veterans? That would certainly be a change in the nature of our congressional leadership. Eleanor hoped that co-op residents would be “less selfish and more willing to share their security with those around them.”

Imagine that, Mr. Speaker. Imagine if everyone could have a decent healthcare plan like yours.

First Lady of Greenbelt

October is – Are You Kidding?

The first week of October is National Hair-Pulling and Skin-Picking Awareness Week. Don’t laugh. I know – they could have chosen a more catchy name. But it is what it is. I wrote a post about this last October which remains one of my most popular, probably because it does have a catchy title: Hey Girl, You’re Bald!

It’s my personal story of growing up as a hair-puller (trichotillomania) with bald patches on my head and eyebrows and eyelashes. A weirdo, in other words. Although this form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder caused me tremendous shame, guilt, and anxiety, it also taught me to be less judgmental of people who are different from the norm – if there even is such a thing as “the norm.”

Being a weirdo taught me acceptance, compassion, and empathy — something else that certain members of the House of Representatives might consider this month.

Being a Christian — which most Tea Party House members boast about — is supposed to teach one compassion and empathy, and maybe even lead to those “certain changes in human nature” that Eleanor Roosevelt dreamed of. But in the words of President Jimmy Carter:

Photo: We couldn't agree more.

October is non-GMO month

I know, I know – these guys need a little marketing help with their name, too. Just think of it as National Safe Food Month. Non-GMO month started three years ago as a way to educate people about the dangers of genetically modified organisms in our food. In case you aren’t familiar with Frankenstein Food, this is a type of genetic engineering that crosses plants or animals with DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other life forms. Eeewww, right?


Biotech firms do this to create plants that can withstand direct application of poisonous pesticides and herbicides (because of course consumers want their food drenched in toxics).

Most developed nations have restricted or banned GMO foods, but the U.S. government approved them based on studies by the very companies that create and profit from GMO’s. Surprise! Monsanto doesn’t think there is anything to be concerned about.

(In case you are interested, Monsanto’s political action committee spent $654,000 on the elections in 2012. And yes, they maxed out on Speaker Boehner.)

Although a significant majority of Americans say they want their food labeled with GMO content, Monsanto and other biotechnology lobbyists have fought against labeling and have managed to keep these ingredients a secret. Monsanto contributed millions to stop a 2012 California proposition that would have required labels. They’ve already contributed nearly five million to beat back a similar vote that’s about to happen in Washington state.

You need to do some homework to keep this stuff out of your kitchen and your body, but you can find the information if you work at it. The following ingredients have a high potential for being genetically modified: corn, canola, soy, beets, cotton, malt, citric acid, maltodextrin, and soy lecithin. More than ninety percent of the soybeans grown in America contain Monsanto’s GMOs.

Corn on cob BW

Careful what you eat!
(Thanks, WPClipart)

Buying organic products is the best way to guarantee your food is safe, and some companies have taken a pledge to stay away from GMO’s. Visit this great website to find out more about the dangers of GMO foods and how to avoid them.

After all, if you’re one of the thousands of workers furloughed because Congress can’t get its act together, you’ve got plenty of research time on your hands – it’s not as if you can afford to go anywhere without a paycheck.

While you’re at it, why not sign this petition in protest of this outrage:  Believe it or not, Monsanto is about to win the prestigious World Food Prize … for creating GMOs! I’m sure this has nothing to do with the five million bucks Monsanto contributed to the World Food Prize foundation a few years ago. Because that would be wrong.

There, see? I wrote a nice little post about October and totally ignored the goings-on in Congress. Well, except for the briefest mention.

Enjoy October! And buy organic!


Hey Girl, You’re Bald!



Trichotillomania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Hey girl, you’re bald!” My friend pretended not to hear, as our escalator descended, leaving the boys’ laughter behind. I heard well enough, and my stomach lurched as if we were on a carnival ride. Those cruel words were called out decades ago, but I can still hear them.

I’ve lived most of my life with the shame and embarrassment of having large bald patches on my head, and oftentimes no eyebrows or lashes. My condition made me sit in the back of the classroom all my life, when I’m naturally a front-row kind of gal. It’s kept me from going swimming, from spending the night with friends, from ever going to a hair stylist.

Once I told a boyfriend that I had been in a car accident and they had needed to shave my head, and the hair never grew back because of anxiety. Turns out his father was a medical doctor and told my boyfriend that he didn’t know what my issue was, but I was a liar.

Once Dear Abby told a girl who had written in that it was a throw-back to the monkeys who pick lice off each other. Oh. My. God. She should have been horribly punished. You can imagine how this helped a teenager who already thought she was a freak.

I suffer from Trichotillomania, “the hair-pulling disease.” It’s one of a spectrum of disorders classified as “impulse control disorders.” There’s a lot of discussion about how it should be classified – it resembles obsessive-compulsive disorder, and they are now researching a family of disorders called “body-focused repetitive behaviors.” One in fifty people have it to some extent.

I know the classification and science are important, as far as getting research dollars and insurance coverage and such. But for me, it’s a personal issue. I don’t really care what they call it.

I never intended to tell you about it, blog friends, but I’m sharing this because I just found out that this is Trichotillomania and Skin-picking Awareness Week. I wish there had been such a thing when I was growing up. I’ve been hiding long enough, and if I can help just one person suffering in shameful solitude, I thought it would be worth it to speak up. Here’s a link to an organization that can help you, or your loved one, if you have this disorder.

The Trichotillomania Learning Center, TLC: http://www.trich.org/

In the meantime, if you have a child that does this, please don’t slap their hands away. It won’t help. If you know someone with bald patches, don’t ask them, “What happened to your hair?” They’ll tell you if they want to. And while I’m making suggestions, if you’re prone to saying, “It just made me want to pull my hair out,” well, maybe you could stop. That phrase makes 1 in 50 cringe.

I want to add my happy and miraculous ending. I’m eternally grateful to my therapist, Joanne, for introducing me to the practice of “tapping,” or Emotional Freedom Technique, which has given me three years, two months and seven days of pull-free living. If you’re curious, check it out:   http://eft.mercola.com/   I don’t understand how it works, but it does, using the same energy meridians as acupuncture, but without the needles. (Yay!) My fine, straight hair has grown back thick and curly, as if I had been through chemo. It is without a doubt the most beautiful head of hair on the planet.

Thanks for listening. Back to my regular rambling posts later this week.


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