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The Dark Side of Chocolate

After reading an article protesting Hershey on the Huffington Post site, I ventured into the world of Fair Trade cocoa, a domain I’d purposefully left unexplored.  Chocolate is amazing – and, let’s face it, essential to a woman’s diet at least once a month – so why would I want to ruin the deliciousness with tales of trafficking, child labor, and unjust prices?  But today I took the plunge and watched The Dark Side of Chocolate, forever changing my perspective of that melts-in-your-mouth treat.

Did you known that farmers in Africa, more specifically the Ivory Coast where most chocolate is sourced, are paid only one euro for a kilo of cocoa beans, which produces over 40 chocolate bars?  And did you know that the primary source of labor on these plantations is children ages 7 to 15?  Yes, boys and girls the tender age of seven are kidnapped or tricked into harvesting those ever so desirable cocoa pods, their only wages the beatings they receive if they work too slow.  Not to mention the amount of pesticides they are exposed to throughout their careers.

I think the best parts of the documentary, however, were the interviews with the CEOs of the cocoa factories.  I almost thought I was watching a comedy.  They came up with some of the most creative lies I’ve ever heard: there are no child laborers, the busloads of kids are just there on vacation, yada yada.  Then they’d sit back in their chair and smile, knowing that one little documentary team could not possible harm them as they sat on their thrones of money, broken laws, and chocolate.  Nestle even has the nerve to offer “nutrition education” to African children – the ones not enslaved on the cocoa plantations, that is (Nestle.com).

Will all of this change my chocolate eating habits?  I will be totally honest: not entirely.  The images of crying children and smirking CEOs will probably stay my hand the next time it reaches for a candy bar, but it probably won’t stop me from getting chocolate syrup on my next sundae, or from stealing some of my boyfriend’s chocolate Pop Tarts (which, along with containing no real food, are most definitely not made with Fair Trade chocolate).  But I did sign the “Raise the Bar” petition asking Hershey to responsibly source its chocolate (RaiseTheBar.com). And it will be a long time before I can eat a Hershey bar without remorse.

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Wake Up and Smell the Sage

I’m gonna venture into personal territory again, but only because it’s relevant to what I want to share.  There is a story behind this story, and this story won’t make sense unless you know the other story first, and this story won’t be any use to you unless it’s a sensible story… make sense?

I hold little value in rituals, but about two weeks ago, I tried the smudge ritual.  Smudging is the burning of certain herbs to cleanse a house, an object, or a person.  Several friends of mine are avid believers in ghosts & spirits and have used smudge sticks against them, but I never bought into all that supernatural mumbo jumbo.  I do, however, believe in negative energy, and I believe that if it’s strong enough, it can infuse a place or an thing with unwanted darkness.  There was definitely negative energy left in the house where I now live.  For the two months I’d been here, I was having nightmares almost every other night, some so bad that I’d wake my boyfriend with my cries and tears. At first I thought it was just the stress of the move, the holidays, the everlasting job search.  But stress and I are old friends, and I knew this was not one of the tricks he usually played on me.  This was outside me, bad karma left behind by my predecessor.  The circumstances of my move to this house were not entirely happy: my boyfriend lived here with his girlfriend of several months, and when he left her for me, she left this house, her hurt and anger lingering like perfume.  I moved in a few months later, slipping somewhat guiltily into her place, and fell prey to the unhappy specter she’d left behind.

I tried every calming herb and tea I have in my arsenal, and none of them worked.  Finally, desperation led me to the junk drawer where I’d thrown a sage smudge stick, part of my moving away basket from one of my more supernaturally-inclined friends.  The rational part of me still thought this a silly idea – how could burning this clump of dried sage have any effect on the “negative energy” my delusional subconscious feared?  I half expected the ritual to fail simply because I didn’t believe in it, but I followed it through to completion.  Every website or book I’d consulted provided lots of pagan singalongs to chant during the ritual, but I kept it simple and silent.  Words are like fireworks; they look pretty for the few seconds they hang in the air, then they sputter and die.  Thoughts, however, hold their power as long as you hold onto them, so I held compassion and regret in my mind as I walked the smoldering smudge stick through the house.  Compassion for her, because I’ve known the pain of heartbreak too often to wish it on anyone else; regret that life led me this way at her expense.  Willing my good will to trail behind me with the sage smoke, I covered every inch of the house, blew smoke into every corner.  I drew on the power of threes, because if I was putting my trust in one pagan ritual, I might as well add another.  I traced the outline of the bedroom door three times with my sage smudge, willing no bad energy to cross that threshold again.  Then I cleansed the room, drawing a protective circle in smoke three times around the bed.  Finally I sat on the bed, the smudge in front of me, and breathed in its healing smoke before carrying it outside to lead the unwanted energy out.  A big part of me still felt this whole ceremony was silly, especially because sage smells exactly like weed when you burn it.  But it was done.

Despite my misgivings about it, I haven’t had a single nightmare since the cleansing ritual.  I didn’t want to speak of it until I knew for sure it had worked, however.  Then last night, I had a dream, the first one I’ve had since the ritual.  My boyfriend woke me up, saying it sounded like I was having a nightmare, but it wasn’t at all.  In my dream, many of the men I’ve cared for came to me, only to spend one night with me before leaving me.  This only slightly saddened me, for even my dream self new that all these men were destined to leave me anyway because there was someone waiting to come into my life and call it home.  Maybe my excursion into pagan rituals has muddled my mind, but I think that dream was a sign that I made the right choice coming here and that all will be well from now on.

I don’t know if it was the sage or my own inner spirit that countered the gloomy energy attacking me.  But I do know that it dispelled whatever was causing my nightmares – maybe my own guilt at causing another woman’s heartache.  If you feel like you could benefit from some kind of spiritual cleanse, I would recommend sacred sage.  It’s definitely cheaper than a therapist!

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Bras Liberate Women From Sex Slavery

"Any existence deprived of freedom is a kind of death." ~ Gen Michel Aoun

With all the chit chat about the Susan G. Komen controversy still floating around the interweb, this story was a nice change in the boobs genre.  If you’re looking for a real way to help women, donate to something like Free the Girls, where the money and goods are actually put to good use.  And it’s a great way to recycle old clothing.  Who doesn’t love recycling?  And saving girls from trafficking?

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Mother Nature Loves Her Daughters

I know I was just here, but I have to share this with whoever, if anyone, is here with me.  Especially if you’re a woman.  Rejoice!  Mother Nature is helping us bear the beautiful, heavy chains of womanhood.  They wrap around us in sensuous curves, giving us beauty and power, but also force upon us the duty of life, and the choice to protect it.  But those of us who make the choice to enjoy life without creating it have to live with the effects of synthetic birth control pills that eat away at our very womanhood.  Birth control pills cause breast and reproductive cancers, and can even lead to reproductive problems in the children we do chose to bear.  But now, we have an alternative:

Neem, the Miracle Plant!

Say hello to neem.  The fruits and seeds of this tree make an oil to stop the fruits of our wombs.  It’s a spermicide, and can be taken internally to prevent pregnancy.  It has been proven to be almost 100% effective in animal tests (not that I approve of animal testing).  Could this be our miracle oil with which we anoint ourselves and our power to choose when we share our bodies?  I will most definitely be doing more research into this.

Testimonials of Neem Working as Birth Control

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What’s Really Hiding Inside King Cakes

Time to shake a tail feather… it’s Mardi Gras!!

This is one of my favorite holidays of the year, simply because of the fact that it’s all about celebration.  It’s not honoring a holy birth, rejoicing at the miracle of resurrection, or remembering a historic dinner.  Mardi Gras is a day (or in some places, a week) of decadent pagan frivolity.  This is the day to enjoy all of life’s temptations before the gods of organized religion take from you that which you love most for 40 days to test your willpower.  Good thing we have Mardi Gras to fill our bellies before the dark days come!

And oh, how I love cajun food.  Especially king cakes, the popular dessert of the holiday.  But though I hate to propagate negativity on such a joyous day, I think today is an excellent time to examine just what goes into that delicious dough.  After working at two bakeries and a health food store, the topic of bread is very near and dear to my heart.  Because, lets face it, what better combination is there but baked goods and carbs?  Though I’ve already warned you of the dangers of gluten (a tasty killer, but a killer nonetheless), I have to admit that I chose pizza over my gut and live a gluten-filled life.  But there are two words I avoid at all costs: bleached and bromated.

You’re probably familiar with the process of bleaching; you do it to your hair, your clothes, your teeth, all to get closer to that perfect, pure whiteness.  Do you know they do it to foods, as well?  How did you think they make white bread white?  Freshly milled flour is actually yellowish, though it will whiten as it ages.  But America is the Fast Food nation, and we don’t like to wait for our food.  So the whitening is done chemically, with such things as peroxide and chlorine.  Other chemicals are added to increase shelf life, turning that innocent pile of grain into a mini-pharmacy.  Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?  It gets even tastier.  The bleaching process causes a reaction in the flour, producing alloxan.  Never heard of it?  I hadn’t either until I read this article on Dr. Mercola’s site:

“So what is so bad about alloxan?  Alloxan, or C4 H2O4N2, is a product of the decomposition of uric acid. It is a poison that is used to produce diabetes in healthy experimental animals (primarily rats and mice), so that researchers can then study diabetes “treatments” in the lab. Alloxan causes diabetes because it spins up enormous amounts of free radicals in pancreatic beta cells, thus destroying them.  Beta cells are the primary cell type in areas of your pancreas called islets of Langerhans, and they produce insulin; so if those are destroyed, you get diabetes.”  (The Little Known Secrets About Bleached Flour)

Getting hungry yet?  Well, there’s one more ingredient we need to discuss before we can enjoy our Mardi Gras king cake: potassium bromate.  It’s added to flour to make dough stronger and to speed up the rising process.  Bread can’t be American if it takes too long to rise, you know.  What you don’t know is that when it comes to food, America tends to make bad decisions, choosing cheap over nourishing.  Bromates have been banned in several countries for its carcinogenic properties – that is, it causes cancer – and though the FDA has admitted this, they only “encourage” bakers not to use it.  Take a walk down the bread aisle and seen how well that’s worked.  (How and Why is Flour Bleached)

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to be completely aware of your food’s ingredients, unless you never eat out.  But who can resist the endless salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden, or the quick and easy dinner of pizza, delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less?  And if you’re a Papa Johns fan like me, you’ll be disappointed to hear that they don’t list their ingredients on their website, nor will they send you a list if asked.  So take a bite and take a chance, who knows what’s in their dough?

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Welcome to the Matrix, Folks

I can honestly say I’ve never had a single sentence make me as angry, as disappointed, as disgusted as this:

“I think it is time we stopped using the term ‘animal’ when referring to the precursor of the meat that ends up on our plates.”
(“Holy Crap It’s the Matrix For Chickens”)

This came from an article on i09 about the new factory farming technique heavily reminiscent of The Matrix.  Chickens are strung up in vertical “leaves” to reduce space and lobotomized in order to “make the doomed birds’ existences as easy as possible.”  In other words, they are turned into essentially brain-dead husks of meat attached to feeding and waste tubes to feed humanity’s insatiable appetite for cheap food.  This is wrong on so many levels, I can’t even begin to count them.  First of all, if you have any compassion for life, this should enrage and sicken you.  I have nothing against eating animals, but is it really necessary to cage and mutilate them first, then lobotomize them to save them from the tortures we inflicted on them in the first place?  I know it’s been a long time since I ate meat, but I can’t imagine animals – and yes they are animals! – would taste very good after a life of death.  Can’t you taste the depravity?

No, you can’t, and that’s because nothing of that taste is real.  What do you think they pump through those feeding tubes?  The blender version of a gourmet meal?  Factory farmed animals are fed almost solely on GMO crops, namely corn, which is not part of most farm animals’ diets and therefore is reeks havoc on their digestive tracts.  Mixed with all those yummy GMOs are growth hormones, antibiotics, and lots of other tasty treats that ensure the animals get as big as possible as soon as possible.  So yes, Mr. Andre Ford, you are partially correct in stating that what ends up on our plate is not an animal.  It’s a mix of chemical and meat genetically engineered to be as cheap as possible.  Bon appetit.

Andre Ford's "Centre for Unconscious Farming"