Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gratitude Tuesday

Today, as every day, I have much to be thankful for.  But this week, I want to focus on one major blessing in my life:  My mom.  

We grew up poor, but I had an amazing childhood.  I always felt loved.  I had good food, all cooked from-scratch, every day.  She taught me to grow my own food and how to prepare or cook it.  It's because of her that my vegan meals are so tasty today.  She raised me to be compassionate and always give people the benefit of doubt.  She's not perfect (I mean, she was a child of the 60s and 70s), but she raised three very responsible, healthy, socially-conscious, giving, yet completely different children.  My brothers and I were fortunate enough to be brought-up on a large plot of land, mostly hills and woods, where we could play free from the threat of random violence.  We ran barefoot, climbed trees, swam in creeks, "rescued" lizards and turtles, threw darts at each other (thanks Jeff!), and never had to come home before sunset.  I am sure that it's because of our parents that we all have such an appreciation of nature as adults. 

After our parents divorced, mom worked her ass off to provide a safe, clean home for us, even moving Matt and I to Nashville to provide us with more career opportunities later in life.  I've seen her work 80-90 hours per week when her second husband was laid-off from his construction job, just so the mortgage wouldn't be late.  She's been through so much and taken some hard hits over the years, but she always gets up, brushes herself off, and takes on the next challenge, all while sporting perfectly manicured nails.  I'm sure there have been times when she's questioned "why me?", but if she hadn't had the opportunity to set such a strong example, I don't think I'd be the person I am today.  

Because of her, I know how to be a hard working woman.  Because of her, I know how to cook amazing meals with the simplest ingredients.  Because of her, I know how to be a caring member of society.  But most of all, because of her, I know how to be a great mom.  

I love you, mommy!

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Friday Funny

We can all use a good laugh once in a while.  Heck, I'd argue we need them constantly.  So, for your end-of-week giggle, I present, The Friday Funny: 

Wanna know why I gave up dairy?  Find my story here:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gratitude Tuesday: The Beginning of a New Habit

I'm starting a new habit.  The plan is to take time every Tuesday to post a short blog of things I'm grateful for that week.  The world can be a depressing place at times, and I hope that by writing down what brings me joy, I can make my world a little brighter each week.  It's been said that giving thanks is a great way to invite more positive forces into our lives, so why not give it a shot?  I love happy things, so why not invite more of them?  

I think I'll start with ten (in no particular order).  Here it goes:
1.  My beautiful little family consisting of a sweet, handsome husband and a funny and wild little girl.  They make me smile just by thinking about them.  
2.  Two precious fur-monsters who leave dog hair all over my house.  I wouldn't trade them for anything.
3.  My job where I'm able to earn the money to buy organic food to feed my little family, along with the other necessities that present themselves.
4.  Gorgeous spring weather!  The walks after work and the time spent gardening while Charlotte buries herself in mulch are some of my favorite ways to spend an evening. 
5.  Whole Foods and Trader Joes.  Even though I can't get them to open stores in my town yet, I'm thankful that they're close enough for me to shop them on the weekends and find the unique products that aren't available here.
6.  Evenings with Charlotte watching great educational programs like Cosmos and Blue Planet.  I hope that I'm instilling in her a love of science that I only discovered as an adult. 
7.  My amazing in-laws who care for our daughter as much as we do and who take excellent care of her when we can't be there.  She's already incredibly smart, and I'd like to think they've had a great hand that.
8.  Green and black tea.  Drinking tea throughout the day is one of the small joys I have the opportunity to experience on a daily basis.
9.  Chamomile tea.  To help bring me down after having too much green or black tea earlier in the day.  ;-)
10.  My home.  We are so fortunate to live in a nice home where I have room to garden and a big bay-window where the sun streams in every morning, and being close to the city-center is a welcome change after our time spent living in the wilderness.  

Why don't you make a little gratitude list for yourself and see if it changes your outlook?  It can't hurt.  Feel free to share yours in the comments.  I think sharing in each other's positivity is a great way find more joy in life.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The power of your surroundings

A strange thing happened to me earlier this week.  As I was returning from a bathroom trip, one of my coworkers approached me smiling with his smartphone in his hand, saying “Let me show you something!”  From the smile on his face, I assumed he was going to show me something funny or goofy.  What appeared on the screen was a nature documentary… at first, very sweet.  It was obviously very old, probably from the late seventies, and featured many familiar animals you’d expect to see on an African safari; lions, elephants, zebras.  I said, “awe”.  I thought, “cool.  This guy knows I love animals and wanted to share these images with me to brighten my day.”  What happened next, though, completely ruined my afternoon.  As I was watching the screen, a man got out of his car, I assume to take a better picture, (a very dumb move, of course) and proceeded to be attacked by the pride of lions.  It happened so fast, I didn’t know what I was seeing until he was already dead.  I had just seen a man killed, rather violently I might add, and my coworker was smiling, saying “what an idiot.  Can you believe this guy?”  My stomach turned, and I could feel my blood pressure rising.  I promptly let my coworker know that I didn’t appreciate being shown such horrible imagery. He looked perplexed by the revelation that someone could be disturbed by what he was gladly sharing with anyone who’d look.  I, though, was perplexed that this sort of thing was readily available for anyone and everyone to view freely on this wonderful thing we call “the internet”.   It got me thinking…


I put valiant effort into surrounding myself with positivity.  I purposely avoid the news media, especially near bedtime.  If I’ve learned anything about myself in 31 years, it’s that I am a very empathetic person, and certain types of imagery affect me deeply.  Seriously, after watching The Ring, I didn’t sleep for a week out of fear that the creepy little black-haired girl was coming for me.  I love The Walking Dead, but I have to watch it in broad daylight early in the day to avoid nightmares, and sometimes that doesn’t work.  I couldn’t even finish watching Blackfish because it was so depressing.  In the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid anything that is emotionally draining, violent, or negative, opting instead for comedy and inspiration.  I’ve had to let go of people in my life who seemed to have a constant dark cloud over their heads.  And the crazy thing is, it works.  I had to come the realization that I can’t change other people, but I can limit the amount of time I spend with those who don’t have interest in bettering themselves.  I can’t control what’s on channel 2, 4, 5, 17, etc., but I can control whether the TV is on or not.  I choose to listen to my news rather than watch it. 


As for the instance that prompted this rant, I will never understand why anyone thinks that these sorts of violent, disgusting images need to be available for public viewing.   If someone had TOLD me that a man was brutally mauled by a pride of lions while sight-seeing in Africa, I would still have felt awful for him and his family.  There’s no need for someone to put the video of it happening out on the internet.  I can hear all about the atrocities occurring in other countries where leaders are bombing and poisoning their own people, and I’ll feel terrible for them.  I don’t need to see video and pictures of dead bodies scattered on streets to get the full picture of what’s happening.  And all the while, there’s a segment of the population that will sit by watching and salivating over this sort of thing.  And those people are the same ones who will call and write to networks for showing two loving people sharing a consensual kiss because they happen to be of the same gender.  It’s mind-boggling. 

I believe in positive reinforcement.  I’m vegan, but that doesn’t mean I go around showing people video of animals being slaughtered to try and convert them to my way of life.  I think those sorts of images just undermine the movement and reinforce negative stereotypes that make PETA the butt of jokes.  I think you can help many more people think about what they’re eating by showing them a picture of a happy cow or pig playing in a field at a farm sanctuary.  The goal is to show them that this way of life is liberating and enjoyable, not guilt-ridden.

Maybe it all goes back to the tech revolution.  People don’t focus so much on words these days, but rely on images to tell their story.  Why tell someone about your vacation in beautiful detail when you can just say “here are the pictures.”?  In some cases, this is harmless, rather enjoyable, in fact.  But we need to think seriously about the imagery that’s being put out there for our future generations to process.  Do you think I want my daughter to see the safari tragedy that I witnessed yesterday?  Hell no!  How would that serve her?  I can teach her to respect the instinctual behavior of wild animals without subjecting her to nightmares of a man being ripped apart. 


I guess what I’m getting at here, is that it’s gotten out of hand.  We’ve become so desensitized to violent imagery, that it’s completely acceptable to share these pictures and videos without giving a single thought to how it might affect those who see it or the families of the victims.  But the kicker is that we, as a society, will sit by and watch 50 people be shot on live TV without batting an eye, but throw a huge fit if a woman shows some cleavage on the red carpet.  Our value system is completely upside-down.  I don’t have an answer for how to deal with the big-picture, but I will say this:  We have the right and the ability to choose what we see in most instances.  I truly believe that just as you are what you eat, you are what you ingest in other ways, too.  Maybe it’s time to turn off the TV and read a book?  Maybe it’s time to close the news magazine, and instead work in the garden?  I stopped watching the news over two years ago, and you know what?  The world kept turning, bad things kept happening, and I still knew about them.  I knew because I have a radio, I have Facebook, and I have podcasts.  You don’t have to stick your head in the sand and be oblivious to what’s happening in the world, just choose the source more carefully.  If you’re like me and heavily affected by the negative forces constantly put in your face, surround yourself with positive people who always have a joke to tell and a smile to give.  Find Facebook pages that offer inspirational quotes and jokes daily.  (“God” has a very funny page.)  You can watch space documentaries, my personal favorite.  Even better, go outside with your kid or dog, or both, and play.  Smell the fresh air, feel the wind in your hair, look at the REAL world that’s right in front of you.  It’s amazing how your view of life can change when you don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with hatred and violence. 


What about you?  What suggestions would you offer to bring more happiness and positivity into your life?