On the Verge of Vegan

Last week my children and I watched the documentary “Food Choices,” and since then we have started to make some changes. I’ve tried to do a vegan/plant-based diet a few times before, but was motivated by the desire to loose weight and/or wanting to detox from all the junk I’d been putting into my body.


It was always so complex to me that I’d eat like a rabbit, and only last a week or. Plus, I never included my kids. A lot of what was shared on “Food Choices” wasn’t brand-new to me, but there was also plenty of information I didn’t know, such as grass-fed beef leaving a high carbon footprint and how the ratio of Omegas was adjusted.  

As a single mom who isn’t a good cook to begin with and has two picky children who like completely different foods, I dread mealtime. I find dinner particularly overwhelming. I usually go for easy and pleasing, which typically equates to unhealthy. I have felt guilt and shame for feeding my children the accepted American diet, and feel like I’m poisoning my own children. In essences, I kind of have been. Most of us are. But that’s okay because it’s all FDA approved right? Wrong. We are setting them up for failure, but for some reason, “Food Choices” was my turning point.

I suppose I’ve been working our way to healthier already, though. My kids were starting to get a little chubby, and I realized we were eating out entirely too often. Not only was our healthy being depleted, so was my bank account. I started cooking at home more. Their weight improved in a very short amount of time (oh to be young again). But our meals revolved around meat. And more times than I’d like to admit, we’d skip the veggies. 

I’ve known a large amount of meat isn’t good, but I also felt stuck. When I say I’m not a good cook, I am not exaggerating. My children used to suggest I should go on “Worst Cooks in America.” And let’s discuss how many times my smoke alarm has gone off when I do cook. Actually, on second thought, let’s not discuss that at all. 😉 When my husband was alive he stopped a fire or two in the kitchen. 

I finally learn how to cook a handful of chicken dishes that my children absolutely love, so that has been our go-to. And it felt good to be feeding my children home-cooked meals they enjoyed. I think I needed that confidence in myself before I could even consider making such a big change to a plant-based diet. 

My son has decided that he still wants to eat meat, but he understands that it will only be a couple of times a week if it fits in with whatever else I’m cooking. For example, last night was lentil tacos, but he had ground beef, and tonight he had a hamburger, while we had vegan burgers with lentils, rice, and oats. 

My daughter on the other hand doesn’t want to eat meat because she saw how animals are treated and slaughtered. Technically, she looked away for the “bad parts,” but it was enough to have her in tears the next day asking why God made her an empath because her heart hurt so much for the animals.

While I’m disturbed by the treatment of animals, too, I think watching that would only make me cut back on my meat consumption. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are what sold me. I would say that right now we have more of a vegetarian thing going on, but I believe that my family needs to take it slowly if we are to sustain this as a lifestyle change. And I can’t say I won’t ever eat meat again, but it will not be my primary source of food. 

What I have realized in the past week-ish of trying to cook plant-based meals is that there are so many alternative options out there. Sure, many of them are complicated for me, but there are also some simple recipes, so that’s where I’m starting. Cooking right now takes more time to plan and make, but it’s so empowering to be taking these steps and making our health a priority. I feel so accomplished. And goodness, the fact that my super picky eater is enjoying most of it is such a relief and a blessing. 

It’s not just about cutting out meat, though. Sugar is a poison. It’s a drug, and like all drugs it is addictive. It affects people’s health and moods. We have been cutting down on the processed sugar, too. And honestly, I have seen a positive change in my mood and my daughter’s mood (my son doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth to being with). 

It’s really quite amazing how quickly things start to change when you put the right things into your body and remove the bad things. Some people can make complete lifestyle changes overnight, but going slowly is working for us. And I’m not knocking those who eat meat and sugar, because they are still in my house and likely always will be to some degree. It’s a personal choice, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan because everyone’s nutritional needs will vary depending on many factors. I just know that working my way towards being a vegan is what makes sense here. The bonus is, I can already see how it’s going to be saving me money to eat a plant-based diet. 

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Fear No More 

Two years ago, after recovering from a surgery, I started taking Pure Barre classes. I knew right away the pain I was feeling wasn’t normal. And two months later, I was under the knife again having major surgery. It was supposed to be an 8 week recovery, but that wasn’t even close to my experience. It was so bad that in the early days I cried and at times, wished to be dead. It was a few months before I could go an entire day without needing someone to help me stand up. Nearly two years since that surgery, I still have pain, though considerably less (thank God).
I was cleared to workout again before the holidays, and have gone running on occasion. But I have held myself back from “real workouts” out of fear even after getting the okay from one of the top doctors in his field of medicine.

Fear will ruin our lives if we let it, but I’m so tired of holding myself back. I’m so tired of living in fear. I do it in every area of my life. I’d shut my heart off to the world after all the emotional pain I’ve been through. But recently someone found a way to opened my heart up again, only to turn around and try to crush it.

And it hurt. But you know what? I’m okay. And I think it made me realize that I don’t want to go through life afraid of pain – physical or emotional.

So, today I went back to Pure Barre with a mix of fear and excitement. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the class.

But I went anyway. And you know what? It was hard. It hurt. And I had modify some moves. But I didn’t leave. I persevered. And I know that I will reach my goals. At one point the instructor even came over to tell me I was doing a great job. Talk about encouragement!

Pain is where we grow – both physically and emotionally. I’ve known this, but I wasn’t ready to face it again until it found me on its own and reminded me that pain isn’t what stops me; it may slow me down but only I am what stops me. 

And now I’m excited. I’m excited to see where life takes me. I’m excited because I know it will make me a better person. I’m excited because when I push through my fear, it loses some of its grip on me, which gives me the reassurance that I can do this again and again. I can face fear and overcome it. I won’t allow the fear of a broken heart or the fear of working out to the point I need yet another surgery stop me. My body is sore and fatigued, but my spirit feels renewed.

So I’m ready to take those steps in fear both emotionally and physically and see what transformations will come.

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A Year Without Facebook 

​It’s embarrassing to admit, but I used to be addicted to social media. My drug of choice? Facebook. 
I realized a long time ago it was a problem, but I couldn’t control my time on there unless I deactivated my account. It was always short lived, though. I gave it up for Lent one year and felt wonderful, but quickly fell back into my old habits.

When my husband died in 2010 Facebook became my pseudo-therapist. I poured out my emotions for everyone to see. I needed to purge the pain raging inside of me. Sometimes I’d post 7 times in one day. I was essentially publishing my diary and all the dirt that my grief journey was collecting.

The attention fueled me to continue, and I cared very little that it wasn’t all positive. Some people walked away because they couldn’t stand to see the mess I had made of my life, others couldn’t help but watch the train wreck that unfolded before their eyes. They could pop their bag of popcorn, and watch the chaos that consumed my existence from the comfort of their homes. Still, there were many who offered me unconditional love and support, and stood by my side through it all. Those are the people I am most thankful for, though I cannot fault any who walked away.

Facebook evolved into my place to vent about the ridiculousness of the world at large and especially our own politics.

I decided that my New Year’s Resolution for 2016 would be a year without social media (i.e. mainly Facebook). I wondered when I took on the challenge if I’d make it, and if so what my life would look like a year later.

I’m delighted to say that it was the wisest and healthiest decision I could have possibly made for myself and my children.

2016 was one of the best years of my life. I was present in my life and with my children. They didn’t complain that I was “always on my phone” because I wasn’t. I focused on what’s truly important – my children, my life, that which is in front of me in reality, not everyone else’s lives, not what’s going on 3,000 miles away, and definitely not the political spectacle that seemed to define the year for so many.

My head wasn’t in the sandbox, though I tried to keep it there as much as possible. I knee what was going on, but not being connected and consumed by the social media frenzy gave me the objective perspective I would have never gotten otherwise.

From what I can tell, 2016 was marked with anger, hatred, and division that seems reminiscent days long past in our nation politically, racially, and genderally (yes, I know it’s not a real word).

I would have been swept up by the fury had I not unplugged for the year, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed my life nearly as much. More importantly, my children wouldn’t have enjoyed  me as much, and they are what’s most important.

Yes, what’s going on in the world and our nation are very important, but nothing is as important as our children, families, and communities.

Here’s the thing: We will never all agree on anything, so to get along best we need to be willing to agree to disagree. Sure there are moral issues that need to be addressed, but we get so worked up over things that are not truly significant in the long here.

Here’s something else: There are so many worthy causes that need to be fought for. We can’t all fight for all of them, so it’s a good thing our passions are different. While I care deeply about animals (to the point I may have yelled at someone recently who was trying to hit a dog, and I have rescued 6 animals in the last 4 years), my passion is more for Human Trafficking. I have a cousin whose passion is animals and not people.

My point is, the world can balance itself if we invest in our passions. If we spend our time taking care of our families and our communities, and bringing awareness to the plight of those both near and far in a non-hateful way we could get so much more done. If we stopped using social media to attack others and spread hate. If we used social media to solve problems instead of just complain about them.

I’m not judging because I’m guilty of many of these things myself. But the truth is if we don’t stop worrying about everyone else’s lives and start taking care of our own then the world will continue to self-destruct. 

Be the light the people around you need to see. 

As for me, I’m staying off of Facebook. I know my limits and the past few days have shown me I’d rather not be sucked back into the vortex of chaos. 

Peace, love, faith, and contentment to you all. 

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A Sick Kitten and a Changed Boy

​We adopted Marvin and Coco one year ago today. The kittens were part of my children’s Christmas presents. Little did we know then that 4 month old Marvin was sick. We took many trips to the vet over the next few months and spent hundreds of dollars trying to get him well.
There was no pushing this kitty away when bacon or salmon were around, but I knee something was really wrong when I offered and he wouldn’t take it – he wouldn’t eat and barely drank anything.

We went back to the vet in May, and he told me Marvin needed surgery. The assumption was he had swallowed something that was obstructing his intestines, but I couldn’t afford the $1,500 price tag after all I had already spent. So, they sent us elsewhere.

We ended up at WellPet Humane in Atlanta. The owner came in on her day off because it was deemed an emergency and the other vets were booked solid.

When she called in the middle of surgery, I assumed it was to tell me it was worse than expected and would cost more than originally thought. Sadly, it was to ask permission to euthanize our beloved Marvin. He was dying and and there was no way to save him. To finish the surgery would be inhumane because he would starve to death in the following weeks. Of course, I gave my permission to end his suffering as my heart broke and my eyes flooded with tears.

I gained my composure and went to take my babies out of school early to say our goodbyes. My sweet, innocent Avery thought we were just going to go visit him while he recovered. But Nathan saw my tear stained face, and said, “He didn’t… did he,” as tears welled up in his eyes. It wasn’t a question. He knew Marvin didn’t make it.

I hadn’t felt such grief since the early months after Tom’s death. I had lost pets before including one I’d had from the time I was 3 to 20, but none had ever made my heart ache like this.

My sweet, sweet boy, who has been through more than any child should, lost his beloved kitten just 6 days after the 6th anniversary of his Dad’s death. Our whole family felt it. Coco hid in my closet staring at the wall refusing to eat unless I carried her to the food bowl for weeks.

Marvin and Coco have both blessed our hearts more than I knew animals could. And Marvin (both his life and death) did something even more powerful than I could have ever imagined – he softened my sweet boy’s heart.

Marvin’s death allowed me the opportunity to comfort my son like I should have and couldn’t do when his Dad died. It gave him the permission he needed to cry – the permission that had been stripped from him when a close family member told Nathan that he was the man of the house now and needed to be tough. Marvin brought our family closer together in life and even more so in death.

God knew that sweet kitten wouldn’t live long, but he needed love while he was here – and we gave it to him. God also knew we needed Marvin more than he needed us.

It still aches. We still cry and tell each other how much we miss Marvin. But in the seemingly simple act of adopting a shelter kitten we were given such a gift that transcends grief and pain. 

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A Martha Stewart B-Day (Just Kidding)

Martha Stewart, I am not, but for my daughter’s birthday, I tried. Sorta. I only let her invite 6 girls silently hoping that not all would show because I wasn’t sure I could pull off a birthday sleepover. There were 13 girls for my 9th birthday sleepover, and my Mom never allowed me to have another birthday again (and she could be compared to Ms. Stewart in some ways). I knew this wouldn’t be easy. Thankfully for me, only 3 came to the party.

There were 13 girls for my 9th birthday sleepover, and my Mom never allowed me to have another birthday again (and she could be compared to Ms. Stewart in some ways). I knew this wouldn’t be easy. Thankfully for me, only 3 came to the party.

I turned to the ever helpful Pinterest for party ideas. I hit the jackpot and decided on a handful of them. We never even got to them all and now have fun crafty supplies for another time. But while my kids were in school, I tried my hand at decorating.

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I turned to the dollar store table cloths for this gem. The picture doesn’t do justice to the jagged and uneven edges of the strips, but you can clearly see my finely tuned cutting and tieing skills at the top with nice even lines. Lovely, huh? I expected my daughter to hate it when she came home, but she loved it. She also loved that I taped balloon-covered table cloth on the front door.

The girls all loved painting letters and doing their nails. I bought popcorn and candy for a movie, and they had a great time. I didn’t do any party games because that’s not my style – well neither are 20160917_084908 crafts,but that was a big hit.

And I was able to do it all under $100 including pizza, drinks, cupcakes, and breakfast. I asked my birthday girl if she enjoyed this party better or the one she had at Sweet and Sassy’s two years ago. She emphatically said this one! Now I know how to save $300!

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I seemed to have forgotten that my daughter is only 8, and it doesn’t take much to make her happy. I don’t have to be Martha Stewart for her, and thank God for that because I don’t come close.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl!

 

 

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A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

I stay as far away from the news these days as possible. It’s not that I don’t care about what is going on in the world, it’s just that I have decided to take the “ignorance is bliss” approach for a while. I did, however, hear the story about Jacob Wetterling, and my heart broke.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. And I suppose it hits my heart a little harder right now since I have children around his age. When I read what that young boy asked his abductor, the tears just started flowing from my eyes. “What did I do wrong?” He asked. As a mom, I wish I could wrap my arms around him and say, ‘Nothing, dear sweet, innocent child. You did NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING wrong!’

Children are afraid of monsters under the bed, while parents are afraid of monsters out in the world. I refuse to even type his name, but the guilty man is a true monster.

It’s sad that we can become desensitized to the horrors out there, but those words are haunting me. I pray they don’t haunt Jacob’s parents. I can only imagine what they are feeling right now and have been feeling for the past 30 years. I pray I can never do more than imagine. I pray for peace for that family. I pray that God keeps a hedge of protection around my own children.

I am always excited for my kids to get home from school, but today I know I will be hugging them extra tightly and reminding them that NOTHING they do could ever make them worthy of bad things happening to them.

God bless the children in the world.

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A Lost Thing

 

I found this on my computer from the end of 2015, and it just resonated with me today…

Once upon a time my life was the antithesis of a fairy tale. It read like a nightmare more than I could have ever imagined. My world shattered the day I lost my husband. The funny thing about the word “lost” in regards to the dead is that I don’t believe they are truly the ones who are lost. I believe that when someone we love dies, we lose a piece of our heart to the other side, and we are the ones who become lost as we search for it.

The day Tom died was just the beginning of my journey as a lost thing. What I didn’t realize then was that lost things desperately want to be found things, so much so that they cling to any hint of interest and the possibility of finding a home. I found a few temporary homes along the way – one that I thought for sure would be permanent. But each time I was just setting myself up for failure and disappointment.

Then one day I made a home for myself, and I realized that I wasn’t really lost anymore. Eventually I became a found thing because I found myself. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen after one defining moment. Sure I experienced a handful of defining moments in life, but really I cannot pinpoint a single conversation, event, experience, idea, or decision that created this significant change. It was an accumulation of those moments that led to other moments, which all connected together to kept pushing me a little closer to where I was supposed to be.

Can I explain how each of these things impacted me? I can look back and say “It all started when…” and “This event happened where I met that person who had that conversation with me and it triggered this idea and then I went to the other place and…” And so on and so forth. I can see in hindsight just how the pieces have fallen into place, but it was the divine hand of God that orchestrated the whole thing. And it all started when I started leaning in towards Him. The more I leaned in the more I saw His hand at work. It wasn’t what I wanted, and it wasn’t what I pictured, but it was exactly what I needed, and really life has been better this way for so many reasons.

No longer am I a lost thing. No longer do I have to search for a home and settle for less than the best because I was never created to settle for something less than what God has for me. He helped me build my own home and I found myself.

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