Archive for August, 2010

The Long and Short of It

When I changed my eating and workout routine about 16 months ago, there were many things I didn’t know.  I didn’t know exactly why I had a heart attack.  I didn’t know if I would actually stick with the whole vegan thing.  I didn’t know how I would feel about what I was doing or what to expect from others.  And I didn’t know how much different I would be these many months later.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot and can answer all these questions.

I know why I had the heart attack, as I’ve written in a previous post (http://wp.me/pN0q4-4k).

I know that a vegan diet is not hard for me.  I don’t miss anything.  If this sounds like an exaggeration, I promise you it’s not.  I used to miss real ice cream, but not anymore.  I actually crave the foods I’ve become accustomed to eating and have learned to cook many of the things I love without milk or eggs.

When I began this whole transformation, I felt like I had to explain a lot about why I was doing what I was doing.  I felt a little defensive when people asked or challenged my choices.  And then I realized that many of these people were, themselves, feeling defensive.  I don’t know if they thought I was judging them or what, but there was certainly some tension.  As I’ve said before, that totally surprised me.  On the other hand, I’ve been so touched by the attention my friends and family have paid in trying to accommodate me when I visit them.  And I feel terrible for how stressed this whole thing seems to make them feel.  The truth of the matter is that no matter what someone is serving, it’s rare that I can’t find something to eat. I wish so much not to be such a stress trigger for them.

Finally, I didn’t have a clue about the way I would physically change.  Between the food and the very routine workouts,  I feel so good.  And my whole body seems different.  I have great energy and I feel like all the moving parts are moving well.  I feel both light and strong–like it’s easy to move through the world.  I think about the first time I ran the neighborhood path.  I could barely make it down, forget about back up.  Now, when I’m running, I barely have to think about it.  Muscles have shape and clothes fit better than ever before.  And while I did lose weight (that happened right away when I changed my eating), it took this long–about 16 months–for me to actually feel so physically different and solid and strong.

When people ask how I’m feeling, I can say without hesitation that I feel better than I can ever remember feeling.  I’m grateful for all that’s happened to me.  I hope that this inspires someone to make a change without the kind of motivation I had.

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Mama Robin and the Blessing of Food

Like many this past spring and summer, I watched a couple of robin families nest and raise their babies.  As I kept my distance, I studied mama and papa robin taking turns, back and forth, finding food and taking it to the nest for the wobbly heads set precariously atop skinny, outstretched necks.

They worked really hard!

Watching them made me reflect on how much of our lives revolve around planning, shopping, cooking, and eating food.  And to do it in a way means something both physically and deep down in the heart and soul of a person?

It takes a lot of work!

Tonight, as we sat down to the amazing gift of dinner, fresh and delicious with summer vegetables, I was so happy and satisfied with my life.  Food, and the celebration of it with my family, gave me that sense of contentment and gratitude.

Yesterday, there was a story on the news about all the hungry kids in our country.  Millions of kids don’t have enough to eat.  This whole summer, kids have been hungrier than they are during the school year because they don’t get their free or reduced price school lunches.

Whatever you might think about this situation (I know people who resent the fact that they’re supposed to be responsible for someone else’s kid), we must remember that it’s not the child’s fault that they can’t be cared for the way that they should.  In many cases, it’s not the parents’ fault either.

The recession has brought tremendous economic stress to many.  When an absence of food becomes one of the ways that this stress is manifested, its harm is more than an empty belly.

But our government doesn’t seem to understand this.  “Last week, the particularly beleaguered Harry Reid tacked an amendment onto a jobs and education bill that would expand funding for teachers and increase federal matching funds for state Medicaid expenses but would pay for the spending by cutting food stamps” (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/8/4/17420/55139).

Cutting food stamps to pay for education and healthcare.  Food stamps.

My dad lost his job when I was a senior in high school.  I remember going to the store with my mom, watching her try to hide her food stamps from public view.  I shared her embarrassment, but this is what a mother does.  No matter the cost, she feeds her children and around the dinner table, there is grounding and connection and fulfillment.  Our dinners together were healing and provided a sense of normalcy amid the stress of my dad’s unemployment.

Many of us take food for granted.  We rush through our days and hurry through the drive-thru or order pizza and move on without considering all that food can do for us.  From its preparation to the sharing of our days with one another around a table, food happens and provides us opportunities for lots of health, learning, and unspoken but profound meaning.

That so many, for one reason or another, don’t or can’t find those moments, is a tragedy.  We must see the bounty that our food has to offer and resist the urge to deny it to those who likely need it most.

Eat and live well.

Capitalism, Responsibility, and Teens

The last two times my daughter went to Goodwill, she scored 16 items for a grand total of 97 cents.  That’s right–sweaters, skirts, shorts, t-shirts, belts….  97 cents.

I love that she’s not tied to the Abercrombies and Hollisters of the world.  I love that she’s not interested in looking like everyone else.  I love that she has a job and recognizes how much work it takes to earn her money and that those stores are selling an ideal at very expensive prices and sorely lacking ethics.

This morning on NPR, there was a story about how the teen retailers were hurting in this recession. Teens, they reported, unable to find work, have cut back on their shopping just like everyone else.  Teen trend-setting companies are hurting.  They need teens to spend.

Given the shot in the arm that the country has had these last two years, it would seem that now might not be a bad time to teach our kids to be frugal and smart–to save when they can for the inevitable rainy day.  Unfortunately, because we have become such a retail/service society, we find ourselves having to talk out of both sides of our mouths.

For the last 20 years, we’ve watched our manufacturing fly out of the country at the behest of big box stores that took over our communities.  Walmart, for example, demanded that manufacturers lower their prices or risk not being carried in their stores–a death knell for a producer of almost any good these days.  These manufacturers took their companies and formerly good paying jobs overseas.

So now we have a service industry-based economy that, to be successful, demands that we all participate fully as consumers.  The way the CNBC-Wall Street-types talk about it, it’s almost a patriotic duty to spend.

This Catch-22 conjures up questions about what we have become.  The “citizen” and “consumer” are fully conflated (though we like to talk pretty about democracy and citizenry).  The reality is that Wall Street is running the show and that we all now live and die by the Dow and S&P. The most important thing that happens everyday is that we are sold ideals that revolve around stuff.

The pressure of economic success (and, in turn, tax revenue for roads, education, healthcare, etc.) falls on the shoulders of the citizen/consumer.

And so here I am, the mom of a kid that is making and spending and saving money responsibly.  But the success of a chunk of the economy depends on her and kids like her and that they spend their money.

I won’t be encouraging my teens to spend.  I’ll continue to talk pretty about democracy and what it means to be a citizen.  In the meantime, perhaps these companies need to scale back their expectations, begin changing their business strategies, or watch their corporate ships sink.

Our generation has learned the hard way that you can’t spend your way to success or happiness.  Hopefully, our kids won’t have to make the same mistakes to learn the same lessons.

My New Favorite Summer Vegetable Combo

I picked up my weekly load from the farm on Friday and ideas began whirring around like fireflies. Crisp, perfect sweet corn, gorgeous cherry tomatoes, fragrant fennel, and summer’s most prolific, the zucchini, were just a few members of the huge heavy wooden crate, but those few just seemed to make beautiful sense together just then.

I grated the zucchini, sliced fennel bulb, and threw them into the roasting pan with 2 ears of corn, the tomatoes, and some olive oil.  I roasted them at 350 for about 20 minutes. (You could certainly grill all of these, too!)  Meanwhile, I boiled salted water and cooked fettucini.

I cut the corn off the cobs and, after draining the pasta, tossed it with all the vegetables, salted and peppered it all and then added about 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh basil.

I hope you love this combo as much as I do!  Happy summer!