My Art Room is Clean, Let’s Play!


It was early spring when we first started talking about having yet another garage sale, but it didn’t happen until mid-October.  By then it was such an “Okay, we’re freaking doing this – go!” kind of thing that for three days straight I blazed through the house purging, cleaning, reorganizing – the whole nine – to be ready by the weekend.

Saved for last, my art room took up a good chunk of those three days.  It had been abandoned most of the summer, desperately needed dusting, and I knew that if I reeeeeeally put my feet to the fire, I’d find a ton of stuff for the sale.  I don’t typically keep more things than I really need in the rest of the house, but my art room is an exception. Like, makes-up-for-all-the-other-rooms exception.  There isn’t a paint swatch from Home Depot that I won’t keep for “a project!”  I’ll cut up and keep an empty kleenex box if the design is right.  Paper goods (books, magazines, card stock, scrapbook paper, kleenex boxes, etc.) and mark-making utensils are my kryptonite, and, because I have this space all to myself, decorating it with weird junk from the thrift shop has also been a source of “extra” that was never really necessary.  But kinda.

The purging began first – opening every drawer, every box, every file folder.  A lot of stuff went straight into the garbage.  I think I hauled at least four full bags out to the alley!  I finally went through two boxes of photos I’ve been dragging around with me for 15 years. Result:  89.7% of them in the trash.  I forced myself to really be honest about every item: Do I really love this?  Would I really miss it?  Is it colorful enough?  C’mon, are you suuuuure you’ll use it?  In the end I set aside a LOT of items for the sale.  We’re talking legit poundage here, friends.  Do you know how heavy 50 pounds of scrapbook paper is?  50 pounds!  I had empty containers, boxes and bins that I now didn’t know what to do with. The corners of the room were clear.  There was nothing under the bed anymore.  Once I cleaned and dusted and vacuumed and moved the furniture, it looked, well, positively amazing.

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I had to change it!

Feeling accomplished and unencumbered but not quite satisfied, I switched gears to “let’s make this joint really feel like me” mode.  I busted out the Mod-Podge and made a new inspiration board to hang by the desk.  I moved the inspiration board I already had to a more prominent location – right in front of my face if I’m sitting at the desk. I re-labeled boxes and drawers. Framed a photo of Frida Kahlo (hero!) and put it on the desk, too. Painted the doors of a little cabinet. Switched the doo-dads and trinkets around. Changed up the wall art.  Edited.  Re-edited.

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I also made promises.  To me.  That all this work would not have been done in vain.  That I would sit in this space, make stuff in this space, dream some more in this space.  That I would, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, but especially in this space, live up to the mantra that I doodled and then had permanently seared into the flesh of my left wrist last winter:  live colorfully.

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To that end, making time for art was priority uno.  I’ve had these “I swear I’m committing!” moments before.  I can’t say it won’t fizzle out like all the others, but it feels different this time.  I hope like hell it’s different this time because there’s a little pile of embers that have been glowing in my soul for years now, begging to be ignited into a blaze of creative fury and color and true me-ness.  To help facilitate success (or at least some appearance of longevity) I made a little art game for myself.  I had c0me across a stack of cards that I had pulled out of an issue of Flow magazine months ago.

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They were for writing down “beautiful moments” of your day and though I intended on using them, never did.  The pile almost went in the trash when the purge happened. But at the last second it occurred to me that they were the perfect size and style to use for prompts.  Which kind of prompts I didn’t know at that moment, but I set them aside. When my room was done, I pulled the stack back out and started filling them with art prompts – little artistic tasks I could do on a (hopefully) daily basis. Just something that would allow me to play without pressure or high expectations that could be completed in a short amount of time if necessary.  I’m kind of totally in love with them.

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I’ve shared the first couple prompts and their end products on my Facebook page (or see right sidebar), and am planning to post a new prompt every couple days.  I’ll do this regardless of audience, but won’t you come play along with me?  Don’t be shy.  I love art but do not consider myself an artist.  I am untrained, undisciplined, and unimpressed with convention.  These are simple exercises that anyone who wants to add more art, craft or color to their life can do.  You can do all of them, some of them, or just stalk.  Totally up to you. There’ll be no pressure or timer or judge, which means no worries!

I can’t think of a greater motivational force than cleaning your art space.  There’s a saying about never trusting an artist with a clean studio, and I do love when it gets messy because that means I’ve been busy working, but having a shiny clean slate on which to begin again gives me such a shove back into the deep end.  I’m gonna try to keep my head above water this time.

Hope to see some of you join me!  :-)

 

Medicated Me: No Guilt


I don’t know why I’m writing this.  Actually, I do.  It’s 1:50 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon and I’m trying to keep myself from going to sleep.

I’m so tired.

Over the last year and a half I have been trying to wean myself off my depression medication.  After more than six years on it, I suddenly started feeling like I didn’t want to be hitched to that wagon for the rest of my life.  (I also started having strange heart palpitations which I was sure was due to the meds.)  I wanted to “feel” feelings and remember what the highs and lows of emotions were like again.  I wanted to be more “present” while raising my son.  I imagined myself as a success story:  “Area Woman Learns to Live Happily, Naturally.”  Many starts, stops and crazy brain zaps later, I did it.  I’ve been off medication over four months.  And I hate my un-medicated self.

Medicated Me wasn’t perfect, but most days she felt like she was keeping her shit together.  She didn’t snap at her son or throw shade at her husband.  She didn’t have mood swings in the space of six seconds.  She took naps, but didn’t sleep away entire afternoons and evenings.  She didn’t fear work, chores, or plans.  She may have had situation-specific reservations, but not fear.  Medicated Me didn’t always choose the best foods to eat, but she ate.  She had the energy to cook.  She had energy in general. And not boundless energy, but enough to hammer through whatever needed to be done on any particular day, with a decent and optimistic attitude to boot.

Un-Medicated Me is exhausted.  She is heavy, uneasy, and constantly ill.  Every cell in her body feels like its revolting.  It’s sometimes hard for her to imagine just standing up.  She has problems making the simplest decisions:  Should I make a grocery list or not?  Should I comb my hair or not?  Never mind the answer, the questions themselves hang like a wet robe on her back.  She prefers not to talk unless she has to and when she does, her words have an uncharacteristic and unflattering bite.  Un-Medicated Me has a difficult time leaving the house, fulfilling promises, and completing basic chores.  She is full of guilt and pain.  She’s ugly, unkempt, and dangerous.

I am so tired of her.

Where not long ago stood a calm, mostly happy, functioning individual now lays a disheveled stranger with a gaping hole in her chest.  Through it spills the blood of those I have or will disappoint if I don’t do something about Un-Medicated Me.  I have to stop the bleeding.

Before I ever took an antidepressant, I was one of those people who thought depression was just “all in your head” and that if people “really wanted” to get over it, they would if only they weren’t so lazy.  (I wish I could smack that girl upside the head now.)  Going on medication saved me from about 27 bad decisions I was fixing to make at the time, and saved further damage to people I loved.  I never hurt myself, but I routinely thought about throwing myself down a flight of stairs or driving my car into a ditch or a telephone pole just enough.  It was a really terrible, messed up time of my life.  Medication rescued me from those dangerous thoughts.  I remember the clarity and reason and calmness coming back to me in the weeks that followed and being so happy about it that I resolved to never, ever let myself go back to that ugly place.

No, I am definitely not going back to that place.  I can see what has been happening to me the past four months, how I have deteriorated.  I’m aware of how the cycle starts.  I know how quickly it can escalate.  I remember how bad it got before I used the tools available to me to get better. Nope, this time I won’t drag my feet because I have been there, done that.  It’s back to medication for me and there will be no guilt about it.  I got a chance to feel the highs and lows again – it ain’t for me.  Feeling feelings is a heavy burden sometimes – it ain’t for me.  And given my current status, it’s hard to argue that I’ve been real “present” for my son.  This wagon I gotta hitch myself back onto?  It’s bound for Happiness.  I’ll go back there any day.

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Yum! Fried Summer Squash


Our garden has been overrun with lovely summer squash.  Here’s what we’re doin’ with it all.

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I gotta admit that I’ve never been a big fan of any kind of squash, but I always forget that my Serbian mother-in-law does some simply tasty stuff with the long, yellow summer variety so I do, very much, like at least one type.  So we added it to our garden this year and holy-holy did it take off.  It overcame the cucumbers and crowded out the red cherry tomatoes to the point that we had hardly any of either.  (But that’s okay, we’re total suckers for the orange ‘Sun Sugar’ cherry tomato variety and those were well out of the way of the killer squash!)  With so much squash being produced, I’ve been busy the past several weeks prepping it for the freezer and making the MIL-style fried squash below as part of our dinners.  It’s easy and delicious.  It’s not currently kid friendly at our house because the boy is in a “if it’s not smothered in Nutella or bacon I’m not eating it” phase, but you serve this up with some ranch dressing on the side and I bet more than a few of your kiddos will love it!  Ready?  Let’s get to it:

Fried Squash

  • 2 fresh-picked summer squash
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. flour (I use white whole wheat, but any kind will do)
  • assorted seasonings (see below)
  • salt
  • 3-4 heaping Tbsp. oil for the frying pan
  • ranch dressing for dipping (optional)

First, prep the squash.  I do this by cutting off most of the skinny neck piece and a little bit of the large bottom end, so I can stand it up flat.  Then, use a knife to cut off all the outer skin.  (A veggie peeler usually has a hard time, especially if it’s a real bumpy squash). With skin removed, slice the squash in half lengthwise.  Use the tip of the knife and make shallow cuts along both sides of the seedy middles, then use a spoon to scoop and scrape the seeds out until they’re nice and smooth. Next, slice each half lengthwise about 3-4 times depending on how big the squash is…but don’t worry about being exact or anything, the width of the pieces really doesn’t matter. Then take those long pieces and cut them in half to shorten ’em up.  You should now have between 24-32 pieces in total.  Since you’ll be frying them, they should be relatively flat for even cooking, so if any of the pieces have a curled-up end or an awkward back side, just lop off the little imperfections with the knife.  Then, put all your pieces in one layer on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle liberally with salt. Set aside for at least 2 hours.

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When you come back to the pan, you’ll see a lot of water has collected in it.  This is totally a-okay, and it should look like that.  When you’re ready to cook, pour a good few heaping tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and heat it on medium-high.  Let it get nice and hot while you prep the dredges.

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Beat the eggs in a shallow dish and set aside.  Put the flour in a separate shallow dish and add any seasonings to it you think you’d like, mixing together with a fork.  I currently use Vegeta (a Croatian vegetable-based dry seasoning mix), salt, pepper, garlic salt and paprika.  You don’t have to add anything at all if you don’t want to, but I’d at least shake a li’l salt in there.  When the oil is hot, take a slice of squash and dredge it in the egg until it’s completely coated.  Follow with the flour mixture, again until it’s completely covered.  Slowly drop it in the oil, and repeat with as many slices as you can fit into your frying pan.

squash1

Allow the squash to cook about 3-4 minutes and then carefully turn them over and cook another 3-4 minutes.  The coating should reach a nice golden color, but the squash are done when you stick a fork into it and it slides right off.  Put the cooked pieces on a plate lined with a paper towel and continue until all your squash has been cooked.

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Serve with ranch dressing, if desired (but they’re totally good on their own!).

These make a great main course accompanied by salad and bread if it’s just the two of you, otherwise it’s a unique finger food/appetizer or side dish.  If I’m being honest, we make them just for the hell of it, usually at like 10:00 at night.  Also if I’m being honest, I can eat the whole damn plate myself.  :-)

Did ya make it?  Lemme know in the comments!

 

 

Fall in Minnesota: Woohoo! Bring on the SAD!


There are plenty of reasons to be sad when summer ends, especially if you live in a northern climate like Minnesota.  When the patio parties and backyard barbeques come to a halt, all we can talk about is what kind of winter is ahead.  Cold but no snow?  Yards of snow?  Mild?  Frigid?  Remember the Halloween snowstorm of ’91?  Yeah!  I trick-or-treated in that shit!  While we rake our leaves and get Halloween costumes planned for the kids, there’s an underlying tide of sadness and depression that takes hold of our collective psyches.  We get a little huffier, a little slouchier, and a little less motivated to do things.  When Daylight Savings Time hits, it really gets bad.  We’re suddenly waking up each morning and driving home from work in the dark – it’s the stuff of zombies!

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I remember the first time I saw a television ad for a prescription drug for something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) years ago.  Like most drug commercials, I’m pretty sure I snorted something to myself like, “Yep, another made-up disorder so we can take more pills.  Sheeesh.  Who isn’t depressed in the winter?!”  Apparently I never realized what happened to me every year at this time, because now I wish I had a steady supply of those pills delivered to my door beginning October 1st straight on through April 30th.  Seriously, people, it’s a thing.  And it sucks.

Now, I’ve talked with you recently about how crappy my sleeping habits are.  Whelp, they’re magnified times one hundred after the Daylight Savings switch. Though I tend to get to bed a little earlier in during the colder months, it’s no help to me in the morning.  I. Can’t. Wake. Up.  I can’t.  I almost have to be scared awake by something – a pounding on the door, the smoke alarm, the dog running circles – to feel like sitting up and putting my bare feet on the floor is worthwhile.  And this is scary territory.  I have a kid that needs to get to school!  Beginning every day by either waking up late or purposely stealing a few more minutes in bed leads to some serious guilt that stays with me all day long.  There is no “Good morning, sunshine!” in my house.

Sleep issues are definitely a big problem when it comes to SAD.  (How fitting that SAD is the acronym, right?!)  But it goes so far beyond that, affecting every part of your day. I’m sure different people suffer varying degrees of symptoms, like most any ailment we could have.  Unfortunately I’m also pretty sure that those of us who are depressed and anxious people who require medication the rest of the year probably fare much worse.  Everything turns into a chore.  Let’s say I have to run to the grocery store for a few things.  I don’t want to run to the store.  Then I would have to get up, put shoes on, find a coat, go out in the cold, sit in the cold car, drive a whole mile, get out of the car, walk in the cold, trudge through the aisles, stand in line, carry bags to the car (which still isn’t warm), drive the mile back, unload the car, put away my coat and shoes, take the stuff out of the bags, put it away… While I do hate the grocery store in town and never really want to have to go there, at least in the summer my thought process about it looks much different.  Oh, I need to run to the store.  Grab keys, jump in car, bop over, bop back, done.  And that’s almost literally how my brain thinks about it when it’s sunny and 80 degrees.  When it’s 40 degrees or less, well, that quick bop turns into a logistical and emotional nightmare that, in many cases, keeps me from even going.  Just like with generalized depression, a person can have the capacity to know what they need to do and earnestly want to do those things but the malfunction brought on by the change of season is so strong it can paralyze you and keep you from doing the simplest of tasks.  Going to the store.  Taking a shower.  Doing laundry.  And it’s not just the mundane things that become difficult.  This condition keeps me from doing things I normally love, like reading, cutting paper up, coloring with the kid, and watching movies with the mister. It can be very, very difficult to overcome.

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So those of us who have the pleasure of dealing with this quite literally slog through our days.  Some days are better than others, but taken as a whole over the course of a northern winter, it’s rough.  I personally have a hard time committing to anything that’s not completely necessary.  If it weren’t for work and school, I would hibernate in my house all damned winter long, coming out of my blanket fort only for Christmas.  Oh!  Christmas!  Yeah, trying to get through that when you feel like a sopping wet pile of laundry that’s been run over by a train is super enjoyable!  My heart desperately wants to be 100% invested in all the activity, hustle and bustle, and warm fuzzies that happen in December but I’m always left disappointed, year after year, because my brain just won’t let me have my freaking life.

Having a positive attitude is something I always try to have, but it’s really hard this time of year.  If I want to find the silver lining, maybe it’s that I don’t become belligerent or rude or mean.  Just real meh.  Like a blob.  A vegetable.  A sack o’tatoes.  There must be peace in that somehow, right?  It’s gonna be a long haul this year whether or not we have a mild winter.  If you’re out there struggling like me, know you’re not alone.  I’m pretty certain there are thousands of zombified sacks o’tatoes in Minnesota and beyond.  We’ll all get together May 1st or so.  Deal?


Question:  Do you suffer from SAD?  How do you cope?  Vitamins and light therapy are therapies I’ve read about.  Are they working for you?


PS – To my loyal readers, this is a long way of saying that The Healthiness Project is on hiatus for a while.  Even though it would probably be beneficial to try and continue it, I just…I don’t have it in me.  It’s always on my mind but I can’t seem to make any progress due to all of the above right now.  Boo.  I’m sorry.

 

A Letter To My Eight Year Old


Hi Pickle Pie,

Good morning!  It’s your birthday!  Yay!  We’ll be hurrying (as usual) to school this morning, but I have so many things I want to say to you that go so far beyond “Have a good day,” and “Do your best.”  But let’s introduce those things by asking you a question:

Do you know how much you’re loved?

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I know you know we love you, buddy, but you don’t understand how much.  It’s very easy to tell people you love them.  When you grow up, you may throw those three precious words around a bit flippantly.  I hope you won’t, but as you continue to grow we hope to teach you that loving someone is a lot more complicated than just saying it.  And trust me, kid, sometimes just the words can be complicated!

We love you so much that we spend a lot of time asking you to do things for your health.  Sometimes that means wearing a hat outside when you’d rather not. Or brushing your teeth a second time when it’s very clear you cheated on the first attempt.  It’s why we tell you to play outside.  It’s why I don’t buy very much junk food at the store and why you can’t get a bag of M&M’s every time we stop at the gas station.  It’s why we want you to try new foods.  Because we love you so much, we stop such shenanigans as purposely falling on your knees or back on the old wood floors in the house and not allowing you and your friends to shoot your Nerf guns at point-blank range.  Yes, especially in the face.  We love you so much that we always want you to tell us if your body doesn’t feel right, and it’s why we expect you to give us an honest description of what you’re feeling so that we know how to best help you.  Sometimes you just might need a hug and others might require a midnight run to the emergency room.  Your health and physical safety are the most important thing to us.  We only have one Pickle and we want you to stay healthy so you can keep giving us a run for our money for years (decades!) to come.

We love you so much that for every question you ask us that gets a “Yes” answer there will probably be three others that get a “No.”  So you’re right, to a point, when you observe, “Uggggghhhh, Mommy!  How come the answer’s always no?!”  It’s hard to wrap your handsome little head around, I know, but trust us, later in life you’ll appreciate why and you’ll do the same exact thing to your kids.  Let’s be clear:  it’s not that we like saying no.  Many times it breaks our hearts.  But here’s the thing, dude:  it’s the BIG and/or important (and sometimes very little) things that we’ll say “Yes” to.  Like, can you have a hug?  YES!  Can you use your imagination?  YES!  Can you go explore the park with a magnifying lens and notebook?  YES!  Can you listen to music?  YES!  Can you make us dinner? YES!  Can you clean your room? YES!  Can you FaceTime with your cousins out of state?  YES!  Can you read a book?  YES!  Can you send drawings in the mail to your grandparents?  YES!  Can you daydream?  YES!  Can you help your dad work on whatever he’s building in the garage?  YES!  Do you see the pattern emerging here?  We say “No” when you incessantly ask for toys, video games, tech time, and candy because that stuff isn’t very important.  That doesn’t mean those things don’t have a time and place, but the things we want to say “Yes” to are things that will help you learn, discover, dream, seek and maintain connections to people, and take responsibility.  When you grow up, those ideals will serve you far better than how much stuff you have.

We love you so much that we ask you to do chores.  Wait.  Maybe we don’t love you that much because we’re really, really bad at keeping you on top of the very few chores you do have.  So, I guess when we get a little less spacey about it it’ll mean that we love you a whole hell of a lot.  We tell you all the time that being part of a family is very special and it’s important for everyone in the family to have a few jobs that everyone else knows you’re responsible for.  Can you imagine what would happen if I stopped cooking dinner each night?  Or if your dad didn’t fix things that get broken?  When you have your own family, they’ll count on you to use your best and favorite talents to make life better or easier for everyone.  We love you so much we want you to take on those roles automatically, not wait to be asked or make excuses.

We love you so much that we make you do your homework.  I know, right?  Total drag.  But here’s the thing:  second grade homework is not hard, dude.  And we know you can do it.  Sometimes you tell us we’re being “aggressive” when we make a big deal about your schoolwork.  Well, maybe you’re right.  But, like everything else I’ve told you so far, it’s for a good reason.  We’ll never tell you that you must get straight-A’s at school.  If you get 89% on a math test, no biggie! Misspell a word every once in a while?  Not the end of the world.  Shoot, you kids these days get the advantage of spell-check.  You know what we called that in the old days?  A dictionary.  Only there was one problem with that:  how do you look up how to spell a word that you can’t spell?  You’ve got it easy, pal.  Here’s the straight dope about school:  it matters.  You don’t have to be valedictorian.  You don’t even have to go to college as far as we’re concerned.  But no matter what path you take in your life, you need to know how to spell.  How to write.  How to read.  How to do at least some math in your head.  Do you know that I still balance my checkbook with paper and pen, sans calculator?  Okay, it’s easy because I’m never dealing with real big numbers but I do it for the brain exercise.  No matter what type of career or lifestyle you have, these things will matter.  Knowing how to deal with different authority figures, like how you have to get used to a new teacher each year, matters.  Learning how to share a public space with a bunch of different people matters.  Being able to make friends matters and where better to do that than in a room full of other kids?  You don’t need to love school (or homework) but we want you to love the idea of learning so that when you’re on your own you can take the tools you were given and be motivated to keep learning.  We love you so much we don’t want you to ever, ever shut your mind.

We love you so much it hurts.  Every day you bring us joy, humor, smart-assery, and a sense of peace in a world that, trust me, sometimes seems allergic to it. You might complain about not getting to eat Sour Patch Kids for a snack, or being told “No” when you can’t get a new Xbox game, balk every time you’re asked to clean your room, and get a little too mouthy when it comes to your homework but kid, we love you anyway.  We love you in every way.  There is nothing we wouldn’t do for you and we wouldn’t do anything to harm you.  Your dad and I are alright, but you – you’re greater than the sum of your parts.  Stay in school so you understand what that means.

We love you like crazy.  Happy 8th birthday!

A Party, Ruined By Politics & Missed Prozac



Disclaimer:  A Nice Little Life is not a place you’re gonna typically find posts related to politics, for reasons exactly like the example below.

 

Over the weekend, the mister and I hosted a pig roast in honor of our son’s eighth birthday.  Yay!  Party!  Fun times!  Libations!  Food!  Woohoo!  October in Minnesota cooperated and we were able to hang out in the backyard, fire pit roaring, brisk but not freezing.  It was perfect.  You know how this awesome, feel-good vibe gets kicked in the privates in a nanosecond?  Let someone start talkin’ politics.  A few of our guests, who shall remain anonymous in name and relation, got into a heated and completely pointless debate, the volume of which took over every other conversation that was being attempted by other attendees.  There was no standing-in-your-face or punches thrown, but there was plenty of “passion” and an indulgence in rudeness that, frankly, killed the rest of the night for me.  Imagine both sides of our current political climate represented in this exchange doing nothing but repeating verbatim the shit they hear on the TV and read in the hackery that has become the political blogosphere, all the while completely oblivious to the fact that 1) they’re both uber-partisan shills and playing the part very well 2) they’re horrifying everyone around them.  I wanted to leave the yard, run into the house, up the stairs, and cry in the fetal position underneath as many blankets as I could find.  At my own party.

I don’t know how long the conversation lasted, and I tried as hard as I could to stay out of it, but when I got to the point of increased heart rate and physically shaking, I tossed in a few cents of my own and immediately regretted it.  In my mind those cents were going to be, “SHUT THE FUCK UP, ALL OF YOU, OR GET OUT OF MY YARD!” but instead I tested the waters and threw in a quick, few-word opinion about I-don’t-even-remember-what-now.  Stupid.  You can’t discuss anything with people who get so out-of-body over politics.  You can’t.  The moment they realized that they were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they should have had the decency to think to themselves, “Whelp, ain’t gonna change this guy’s mind,” followed by an out-loud, “Hey, did you guys watch the Alcatraz show on History a couple weeks ago about the guys who escaped?”  But no.  I managed to get back out of the conversation relatively quickly and unscathed, but the real damage was already done:  these blabbering idiots ruined my good time.  That’s bad enough if you ask me, but perhaps the worst part is that none of them have any idea that they ruined my good time and, in the case of at least one guy, probably don’t even give a shit because ‘Murica.

They have no idea that I’ve spent nearly every waking moment since Saturday night ruminating about the whole situation, about how ugly it was.  Once in bed for the night I practically worked myself into a full-on panic attack:  Why didn’t we stop it before it got so outta hand?  Why does politics do this to people? Why do we let politics do this to us?  Every single argument that was made, even the bad ones, could have been done with more finesse and less disdain. They were strangers before tonight and now they probably hate each other. Of course this is why so many people hate politics – you can’t hope to find common ground when you’re yelling, interrupting, and putting words in each others mouths because you’re not actually listening.  This rumination, which is caused in part by my clinical anxiety, has damn near eaten me alive.  I’ve been unable to get to sleep and it has affected my mood.  Thanks a lot, fools.

Can I give you some advice?  Don’t let this happen at your party.  Also, don’t forget to take your meds for two days leading up to it, either, in case you do let this happen at your party.  (It’s not actually Prozac that I take, but you get my drift.)  And most importantly:  if you might-maybe-possibly be a person that would get involved in a conversation like this and might-maybe-possibly act like these clowns did, do me a favor:  learn how to have a conversation like a grown-up.  I mean, you are a grown-up.  You’re not putting a good face on your politics and you’re not going to change any minds when you foam at the mouth.  You might passionately believe that your First Amendment rights mean you can say what you want, when you want, but don’t forget that you may have to suffer consequences for your speech.  For example: you ain’t gonna be invited back to our yard.

Food: You Kinda Need It, Yo



Meat, bad.  Broccoli, good.  Chocolate?  Off the table.


Let me tell you about Phase 2 of The Healthiness Project while I stuff my face with a cheese-filled tortilla, sour cream and salsa on the side.  Nom, nom, nom…

Major revamp – that’s the challenge I’m giving myself for the next three weeks as I play switcheroo with what I eat (and don’t).  Essentially, there’ll be no more cheese-filled tortillas with sour cream and salsa on the side.  Okay, there’ll be tortillas and salsa but no cheese or sour cream.  My ultimate goal will be to finally and comprehensively embrace a whole food, plant-based eating style that I can sustain for the rest of my life.  What is whole food, plant-based eating?  It’s basically veganism, but without the horrifying/political/I won’t touch anything that came from an animal aspect.  (I’m not against that sentiment it’s just not part of my personal motivation; though I will say that I’m terribly concerned about the environmental aspects of the unsustainable way we raise cows, for example).  It also says “no” to oil, highly processed foods, and refined white flour and sugar. It espouses whole grains, nuts and seeds, and as big a variety of fruits and veggies as possible.  If it came from the ground, you should eat it.

cookbooks

I’ve been messing with the concept for nearly a year already and have made good ground:  I don’t drink cow’s milk anymore (unless it’s in a mocha from a coffee shop), I don’t use margarine or butter, I rarely eat meat (though I still cook it for my dudes), we have a decent garden every year, and my fruit and vegetable consumption has increased dramatically.  I’ve also stopped buying soda (though I will pick up a fountain drink at the gas station from time to time).  I’ll tell you right now, though: chocolate? Off the table.  I don’t (and won’t) care if it has milk in it or not.  It’s not a staple I use to keep me alive!

potatoes_patience

^^^ I dunno who Paul Sweeney is, but I like his argument here! ^^^

My desire to move in this direction started with a general but constantly annoying feeling that I knew I (and my family) could eat better.  At first this manifested in wanting to buy free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs, and all organic produce, but that quickly got overridden when I realized I’d have a hard time paying for them. We may only be a family of three, but I don’t have an unlimited food budget.  Then I saw the documentary Forks Over Knives and a new plan was hatched…er, sprouted.

I’m not going to get into specifics of the movie (it’s on Netflix if you haven’t seen it) but what it made me realize is that there IS a less expensive way to eat healthier.  My whole life – growing up and as a woman with a family to feed – the basis of planning every single meal began with the meat.  What’s for dinner? Check the fridge and freezer to see what’s there.  Pork chops?  Ground beef?  Steak?  Hot dogs?  If meat was AWOL, take-out was picked up or a pizza was delivered.  Meat is expensive, people.  That not-unlimited budget?  When I bought meat the way I used to buy it, it consumed nearly half of the amount of money I had to spend.  Not only is it expensive, but in my circle it’s also over-consumed, which just adds to the price of it.  Same goes for yogurt, butter, eggs, mayo, and my most precious  – cheese and sour cream.  Have you seen the price of eggs lately?  If you consider these items your staples, there ain’t shit left for the truly good stuff.  Though the animal-based products haven’t 100% been written off my shopping list yet, their dramatic reduction has left a considerable amount of cash to use towards the vegetables, fruit, grains and seeds that used to get bypassed.

cherries

The “A-ha!” moment I experienced watching the movie served to bolster things I was already doing:  cooking most dinners every night, trying to send the kid to school with homemade lunch, avoiding fast food, not buying boxed meals or treats, and keeping junk food out of the cupboard.  I figured I was half way there.  And I am, really.  The movie also continues to remind me to keep striving.  As I’ve said before during this series, there is always room for improvement and, though I may have learned how to saute veggies without using oil and dramatically cut down our meat portions, I still have a long way to go.

Dealing with my food woes isn’t just about what I eat – it’s also about how I eat and that might be the harder of the two to change.  As of now I rarely get a chance to eat breakfast (bad), I never eat lunch (unless I have a day off and even that’s no guarantee; also bad), and I’m a little too fond of dessert (bad, but doesn’t have to be).  Dinner is the one meal I do consistently well at.  Breakfast would be relatively easy to address if I could get my butt outta bed on time, but as we’ve learned, that’s still a work in progress. Lunch gets screwed up because I’m a house cleaner and I’m not fond of taking breaks while I’m working. Hell, I hardly stop to pee let alone bust out a lunchbox to get food in my belly!  Time is money, people!  Dessert doesn’t have to be bad, I just need to swap fruit for donuts…or something.

new_fave_foods

As far as what I’ll share here on the blog, I’ll be sticking mostly to the “what” and simply make a mental note to try and address the “how” changes on a daily basis.  I hope to share food logs showing what I’m eating and how I’m feeling.  (Note:  Right after watching FOK, I went immediately into three weeks straight of plant-based eating.  I lost at least 10 pounds and felt really, really good.  Like, seriously good.)  Cooking tips that I’ve learned and a few recipes will probably show up, too.  I’m not going to make judgments on how other people eat or sit on a throne and tell you this is the best way to live.  There are tons of ideas and “diets” out there. Americans are fanatical about them and as one fizzles out a new one roars onto the scene to replace it.  Raw, clean, Atkins, Mediterranean, gluten-free, starch free, sugar free, Weight Watchers…the list goes on and on and ON.  And people fight over it! I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor or a scholar for that matter, and I don’t know your needs or philosophy.  I encourage any of you who are wanting to change your diet, in any capacity, to join me.  All I can say is that for me personally, over the course of the last year I’ve boiled it all down to a simple concept that works for me:  I’m going to eat anything that is uncontested, uncontroversial, and non-polarizing,* because really, it’s those uncontested foods that make up the breadth of plant-based eating anyway. When’s the last time you ever heard someone say broccoli or apples are bad for you?


 

* Okay, there’s one exception: bread.  C’mon!  I married a European!🙂

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    All rights reserved by Sarah Obradovic, 2011-2016. All content is my own unless otherwise noted. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and expect the same of you. Please do not use my images on your own website without my express permission. I don't bite, so please just send me an email at sarahobradovic@gmail.com. Images may be pinned to Pinterest - otherwise why would I give you the button? ;-) Thank you!