Tips, Tricks & Top Picks: May

Fun:

I had the privilege of attending a conference this month in Southern California. CFED West (California’s Fire EMS and Disaster Conference) is the states only “all risk” conference, meaning they include not only fire and EMS but also law enforcement, military and homeland security. Although for most readers attending a conference is routine and rather mundane, for this Multifarious Mama is was awesome. The classes were good, the venue was fantastic, the people were fun and the beer was cold.

Who could complain about being stuck here for a conference?
Who could complain about being stuck here for a conference?

I decided to jump a little outside of my comfort zone and partner up with a coworker in the renown Paramedic Competition (serious- that conference flyer describes it as “renown”). We had never worked together before, and only met in passing five years ago, but we held our own and walked away with a respectable second place (I’m biased, but I think we earned first). This conference experience was good for me in several ways, the most important being that this was the first time I had been away from both of my kids for something other than work. I have girlfriends who talk about how much good a break will do ya’, and I found out it really is true. I missed my kids more than I can begin to explain, but I came home feeling recharged and ready to jump back into the routine. That is a refreshing feeling to have.

We missed first by a 2% margin. Next year...
We missed First by a 2% margin. Next year…

Food:

Where do I begin? I have dozen of favorites in mind this month. There’s nothing like eating out all week in Palm Springs to inspire some food favs! I am finding it increasingly easy to eat a vegan cuisine even when on the go. It’s true that there aren’t a lot of menu options at most restaurants, but I can almost always find at least one. If there are no entree’s that are dairy free, I make up my own meal by ordering half a dozen sides – it’s cheaper that way too!

Highlight of Palm Springs was this A-mazing beet salad!
Highlight of Palm Springs was this A-mazing beet salad!

I had to share this amazing find: deep fried avocados. I generally try to avoid fried food, and I no longer cook with oil at home, but I made an exception with this meal and I am glad I did. We attended a taco festival and just as one would expect, it was all meat. Of all of the vendors who were trying to make their taco unique, this taco stand was the only one who offered something other than carne or polo asada.

Deep fried avocados with a mango-cilantro salsa.
Deep fried avocados with a mango-cilantro salsa.

The kids and I split a plate and it was so good we had to go back for more!

Round two was just as good as the first!
Round two was just as good as the first!

I am not one for infomercials and I have never shopped QVC, but when I came across these “As Seen On TV” taco bowls at my grocery store, I had to bring them home. Turns out its super easy and it dressed up a standard meal.

Lentil Taco Bowls
Lentil Taco Bowls

Free Thought:

My PFLAG chapter participated in a Safe Zone training this month. I had never heard of this class before but I am so thankful that I attended. The local community college is setting a precedent with it’s inclusion of this type of training, and they came into the community this Sunday afternoon and spent four hours sharing it with a couple dozen interested participants.

Safe Zone training, in short, is a class that discusses some of the challenges associated with the LBGTQ community being integrated into a heterosexual-dominant world. A portion of the time was devoted to terminology and dispelling myths, another portion was spent in group activities, challenging us to look at our own internal beliefs and perceptions. There was laughter and even some tears as we moved around the room, sharing experiences and fears. The result of this training is not just a group of people who are sensitive to LGBTQ terminology, but the training creates a ripple affect.

It is impossible to leave this training without a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with being the loan gay high schooler in a town, or the single trans employee in a company. I left with inspiration to do more, stand up for those around me, and create a safe and accepting environment for my friends from the LGBTQ community. The most exciting part about this training is that those who have participated earn a laminated placard to display, signaling to not just a LGBTQ youth, for example, but anyone that their particular space is safe and bully-free. The educators at the community college post these signs outside of their classrooms and one teacher commented that there were two boys that came and ate lunch in her room every day simply because they recognized that this was one space that they were safe from being hassled and harassed. I’m excited about this program and I have a blog in progress with more information. (Here is a link to the training material that another university posted.)

The Safe Zone symbol creates a safe haven for those needing relief.
The Safe Zone symbol is a safe haven for those needing relief.

This months book was by Sam Harris, an atheist neuroscientist. I first discovered Harris through this YouTube video, showing a clip from a debate he participated in at Notre Dame. Letter to a Christian Nation is Harris’s response to the onslaught of emails he has received over the years from Christians debating and arguing their belief in God. Years ago I found myself asking questions, challenging the mainstream ideas of Christianity. I was never satisfied with the fact that billions on this earth would go to hell simply because they were born on the wrong continent and indoctrinated with the wrong religion, thus never hearing the salvation message of Christ. Seeking to reconcile this, I asked my closest friends and respected peers for some explanation. Every response fell short and my discontent grew. Having spent 13 years in emergency medical services I have seen my fair share of unfair and miserable circumstances. There are faces that haunt me still, imagines that will never fade from my memory. It only takes a handful of catastrophic losses and torturous deaths to leave one questioning where God’s hand is in all of this suffering. I detest the phrase “everything happens for a reason” and I have grown weary of the prosperity gospel logic of this culture which so flippantly dismiss genuine human suffering and manipulates situations of devastation and grief for their own religious agenda.

Needless to say, reading this book hit the nail on the head. I am not be the most articulate person, and when asked for an explanation of my apostasy my words fall short in comparison to the clarity and tenacity with which Sam Harris invalidates the arguments of mainstream religion.

One of my favorite quotes from the book.
“It is time we recognize the boundless narcissism and self deceit of the saved. It is time we acknowledge how disgraceful it is for the survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a living God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs. Once you stop swaddling the reality of the world’s suffering in religious fantasies, you will feel in your bones just how precious life is, and indeed how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgments of their happiness for no good reason at all.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 8.56.09 PM

This book is worth the read from believers and non-believers alike.

Favorite Photo:

IMG_0784

He's really into his mower these days.
He’s really into his mower these days.
The landscape of the West Coast never gets old.
The landscape of the West Coast never gets old.
This is what life is all about.
This is what life is all about.

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