Care and Keeping of Me: Veganizing my Life

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Earlier this year I decided to write about weight loss and health once a week. My first post was supposed to be about binge eating and counting calories and instead I wrote this. My wee blog that boast three comments on a “successful” post grew enormously. I didn’t have a single negative comment, all 100 comments were encouraging. However, I quickly became a shrinking violet. Do I really want to blog about my weight so publicly? If my blog continues to grow will I have trolls? I did have a few people contact me with serious mental health issues regarding PTSD or self-harm or eating disorders. I’m kind of at a loss of what to do to help them and I decided all I could do is STRONGLY encourage them to seek professional help. I am moved by the response to that post and I hope it helps others, but I freaked out over the attention.

I’ve waited for a bit and once folks realized I mostly blog about babies and books, I’ve seen a drop in pages views, comments, and shares. Now I am comfortable again. If you joined me after my eating disorder post and you’re still here then “Hi!” (waves excitedly). We probably have more in common than eating disorders and you are most likely a kindred spirit. Thanks for sticking around.

Now that I’m comfortable blogging again, I want to address my idea concerning a regular feature on weight loss and health. The focus will not be weight loss, although that will be a part of it, because I want to write about my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Care and Keeping of Me posts will discuss weight loss, cooking, exercise, journaling, mental health, etc…. This puts my sole focus off of the number on the scale and will encompass my entire live style change to live in a way kind to me, my family, and the environment. This week I’m discussing new project: becoming vegan.

Last year, while on maternity leave with Persy Jane, I watched several documentaries on vegetarianism, factory farming and health. I decided to become a pescatarian. After reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals last April I decided to go completely vegetarian. I have been completely vegetarian since April 5th, 2013. I have accidentally ingested meat three times since then and I can honestly say that I have no craving or desire to ever eat meat. Last year I told myself that if I went a full year being vegetarian with no health issues, cravings, or surrendering I would go vegan in April of 2014.

Eating Vegan

There are two reasons why I’m going vegan:

  1. The dairy and egg industry is every bit as cruel to animals as the meat industry. Cows are kept pregnant, separated from their young, and constantly pumped for milk. The egg industry has no use for male chicks and grinds and burns live chicks they view as extraneous. Personally, I felt that eating dairy and eggs was not eating in a kind manner. My family is still consuming dairy and eggs and I will discuss that later.
  2. Dairy is my trigger food. I crave dairy: ice cream and cheese in particular. This craving is never satiated. I can eat a large vanilla frosty and immediately want another. The more I eat, the more I want, and the worse I feel. I get stomach cramps and gas, my skin breaks out, and I feel sluggish and tired. I know this is the dairy doing it. When I was dairy-free while nursing Atticus (and for a little bit Persy Jane) my skin cleared, my stomach issues abated, I slept better, and I quit craving dairy. I have been vegan since Saturday and I’ve already lost 5 pounds. 5 pounds. I lost weight because I didn’t eat desserts, cheese, ice cream, and candy. My stomach issues are already getting better and I am less sluggish at work.

My Family and How We Eat

I’ve made the choice to be vegan and Sam has agreed on being vegetarian at home. We do not purchase meat at the grocery store. Sam eats meat at work or if her dines out and Atticus and Persy Jane eat meat at daycare. Hope has been vegetarian for over a year, but recently informed me she wanted to eat meat again. I believe that being vegetarian is a choice my kids will have to make on their own. After all, I can pack all the vegetarian food I want, but if they want to eat meat they will be able to.

I plan on writing a longer post about grocery shopping, but I’ve been using Nature’s Garden Express for the bulk of our organic produce. I also get one gallon of low-pasteurized, grass-fed milk (the mamas get to stay with their babies) and a dozen free range eggs from a local farmer. While I support veganism, I also know it is important to vote with my dollar for at least a switch to a kinder way of farming dairy and eggs.

I will keep you all updated on my progress!

 

A Whirlwind Week in Review

springbreak2014Last week was insanely busy. Hope was on spring break so I worked half-days to spend some time with her. I thought there would be downtime last week for blogging and reading and, boy, I was wrong!

Here is my week at a glance:

Monday: The day was rainy. I accomplished a fair amount of work for the four hours I was there. I grabbed some lunch at Moe’s alone because Hope wanted to Facebook chat with her friends rather than go to lunch. I read a good chunk of Alias Grace while eating a burrito and with no mess. A proud moment for sure. When I got home I had some letters and postcards in my mail box and that was a treat. Then I spent some time piddling around the house and tidying. I made some hummus and some vanilla coffee creamer. It was a quiet, homey, rainy day and I loved it.

Tuesday: Chaos descended at work. I found out 45 minutes before I left that I had to completely vacate my cubicle and find a “temporary” home in the library. Construction on new offices was beginning. While I was excited about being out of a cube and into, an office having no notice and this being the very busy end of term season led to a minor meltdown. I used every expletive I know under my breath (okay, many were uttered aloud). When I arrived home — 45 minutes late — I took Hope to lunch. Then we spend the afternoon doing chores and chatting.

Wednesday: I left work at a reasonable time and went to see Divergent with Hope. I really enjoyed the movie; it was like The Matrix meets The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter. I probably won’t read the books as I hear the next two are a disappointment, but I did enjoy the film. After the movie we went shopping for Hope’s spring formal dress. She bought a cute, strapless mint green dress. She looks adorable in it, but so grown-up!

Thursday: Work was uneventful and then I ate lunch at the cafeteria with Sam. Afterwards I went to Target with Hope for more shopping and grabbed the kids’ Easter basket supplies. I did manage to squeeze in some reading time at the coffee shop between shopping and picking up the kids from daycare. Go me.

Friday: THE BUSIEST DAY EVER. The morning started with grocery shopping at Aldi and Kroger. Then I raced home to put away groceries and shower. Then — huzzah! — one of my closest friends from college, Amanda J., called to say she was in town for our reunion. We met up for lunch and talked for ages about politics, books, and our lives. It was awesome. Then at 3 o’clock I had a hair appointment. Not only did I get my hair cut and dyed the purpliest its been, but my friend and hair dresser Jessica also did my makeup. That night Sam and I got glitzy to go to my 10-year college reunion. It was okay, I wish more English majors had been there. When we had enough of being fancy we left and went to Chili’s. We sat at Chili’s for an hour snacking on chips and talking.

Saturday: I worked at the library all day and some of my college friends (Amanda J, Sara, and Becca) stopped in and we talked and laughed for ages.

I had such a wonderful week of doing stuff with Hope and seeing friends. I will say that I am a bit tired and Sunday I took an awesome two hour nap that was much needed.

To thine own introvert-self be true, I am planning on laying low this week. I really want to finish my book, do a little writing, and pick up some knitting.

 

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

When I read a really great book on the joys of writing I realize I’m completely in the wrong line of work. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in the library and especially in the fields of resource sharing and creative outreach. I also don’t really want to be a writer. I mean, I want to be a writer, but not in a “I sit in my study writing novels and poems all day” kinda way. My true calling is teaching; I desperately want to teach creative writing. College or high school would be idea, but I also have a desire to teach creative writing in a therapeutic way with abuse survivors or do writing workshops in prisons or shelters. My desire to write, create, and connect with others is a direct result of adoring the written word. A love of writing stems from a love of reading and writers learn their craft from reading.
It is my absolute, fundamental belief that writing and reading are not two separate things; it is a conversation. The writer doesn’t write in a vacuum and the reader doesn’t passively soak up words. This is truly active engagement in a complexly layered conversation. When I read an author’s work I am interpreting every word, paragraph break, image, plot point, comma, etc… I’m taking on the author’s world but through my eyes. When I write I express the world I see around me, but influenced by all the brilliant reading. Suffice it to say I want to help people express themselves via creative writing and to learn more about the world (and themselves) through reading excellent books, stories, and poems.
Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer is the type of book that has me all fired up to start street preaching writing. The premise of the book seems simple on first glance; she takes particular elements of a written work — words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialogue, details, and gesture — and looks closely at an author’s employment of these elements. Reading with this method allowed me to fully see the razor-sharp precision of each of Flannery O’Connor’s word choices, I understood the gestures characters use in Kafka’s work that aids in making the unbelievable believable, and I really need to get my hands on some Anton Chekov short stories because they are apparently manna for writers.
More than a creative writing manual, Reading Like a Writer is a veritable bon bon tray of delicious book talk. I have now added Francine Prose to my list of writers I wish were my friend. Seriously, coffee and book talk with Francine Prose would be pretty freaking exciting. There is a list included in the book of all the works discussed making it easy to “join” in the conversation. I highly recommend this to writers and to readers in need of busting a reading slump by kindling that excitement for literature.

Goodbye, March and Hello, April!

March_Highlights

In March I…

Spent a lovely day out with a dear friend thrifting, eating delicious food, playing literary trivial pursuit, and drinking gallons of coffee.

Began the Chronicles of Barsetshire Readalong with Avid Reader. Guess what, I loved the first book!

Kept up with journaling and enjoyed it

Raved about Margaret Atwood

Thought a lot about what to read this spring and assembled TBR piles galore

Completely blew up my blog writing about my struggle with a compulsive eating disorder. (I am still really blown away by the response I received to this post) And this post was Freshly Pressed! My first!

Survived and recovered from our basement filling with poo-water.

Mini-reviewed some books.

Created a list of bookish things to do before I hit 40 (in 2020)

Resolved to conquer my yarn and make something

As evidenced by the pictures above, we’ve appreciated the warmer weather and later days to spend time at the park enjoying the outdoors. Atticus and Persy Jane are sleeping better at night from all the hours outdoors. I should probably mention that I am lacking in pictures of Hope because – now that she is a teenager – she gets to decide what gets posted and this month Hope said no pics.

On to April! April will be a spectacular month. I have some general reading goals and a few things I’d like to make/create, but April will be busy at work with the end of the semester approaching and I have tons of upcoming events. April will be a month of just “going with the flow.” Here are a few things I’m looking forward to in April:

  • Hope is on spring break next week and I’ll be working half-days so I can spend some time with her.
  • My 10 year college reunion is coming up on April 11th! I am so stoked!
  • World Book Night!
  • Readathon!
  • My 34th birthday!

While I have things I want to accomplish, I realize that this “season” of my life is about enjoying each day with my kids. Right now all of my little peppers are in transitional phases: Hope starts high school in the autumn, Atticus is in the middle of potty training, and Persy Jane is a feisty and independent toddler.

Plans? Yes! Flexibility? Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m really looking forward to April and enjoying the budding springtime with my family. Happy April to all!

My April TBR

My March reading — as usual — didn’t shape up as I expected. I read three good books, but it took me a while to get into The Warden and I felt that The Invisible Woman was so similar to a previous read and I got a wee bit bored at times as a result. Expect a review of Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer some time this week.

On to April!

Aprilbooks
I have big ole reading plans for April. Readathon is the day before my birthday this year and I’ve asked Sam for an entire 24 hours of reading. All I ask for is the gift of time this year. I will be popping in for meals and cuddles with the kids, but the rest of the time I plan on spending out of the house and reading. The TBR I’m about to share doesn’t reflect my readathon books. I’ll probably add some graphic novels and YA selections before readathon time.

April Books:

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (I AM STARTING THIS TODAY SOHELPMEGOD)
The Alienist by Caleb Carr (and if I like it I may follow it up with the sequel, Angel of Darkness)
Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

I’m pumped about April and ready to go!

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

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The quotation is from Trollope’s The Warden. I cannot find who created the artful display of the quotation.

Last night I finished the last thirty pages of Anthony Trollope’s The Warden, glanced at my cat and wondered aloud why I waited until now to pick up a Trollope novel. I loved this book and I’m reading to jump head first into reading ALL THE TROLLOPE!

This slim novel, under 300 pages, is the first novel of the six volume Chronicle of Barsetshire series. The plot concerns Mr Harding, a warm-hearted, fairly naive, music-adoring warden of the Hiram’s Hospital almshouse for elderly men. He has twelve elderly men, former farmers and laborers, who reside at the hospital. One day a well-meaning doctor, Mr Bold (who happens to be the love interest of Mr Harding’s youngest daughter) questions the generous income of Mr Harding. Due to the increase in value of the property and a poorly worded will, Mr Harding has been make a hefty salary while his charges — while well-cared for — see no increase in the money they receive. The fall out leads to several characters wrestling with difference between what is legal and what is moral. This is a novel that praises the value of doing right by your conscience.

The tone of this novel is unlike Victorian novel I’ve read. I would classify it as a Victorian Barbara Pym novel with a male protagonist. Each character is vividly unique and the dialogue is engaging. This book certainly has a heavy dose of wit and shrewd society skewering, but without cynicism. I especially enjoyed the brief jab at Charles Dickens as Mr Popular Sentiment. It was hilarious and spot on.

I gave this novel four stars on GoodReads only because it took me a bit to get into the pace of the novel and I hear that out of the series The Warden is the weakest. I enjoyed reading The Warden and I know I will adore Barchester Towers, the next book in the series and the April read for the Chronicles of Barsetshire readalong.