Triple Duty

Okay, so these days we are living more frugally.  One income, two kids, the desire to be debt free... you have to.

Also, I have been reading a great blog about a family that is slow living.  It is inspiring me.

Plus, we got a water leak in our pipe connecting from the meter in the front yard to the basement.  We know this because our water usage went from our normal 3000 gallons a month to 7000.  We can shut off the main valve in the basement, and the meter will still turn.  I am currently working on a barter deal with someone on craigslist with a backhoe to dig up our pipe so we can locate the leak.  But I digress...

So, we have a leak and this has almost doubled our water bill.

Now, I thought I was pretty thrifty in getting double duty out of my shower water.  But now I've discovered triple duty.  Woo-hoo!

Water use #1:  Either I or hubby takes a shower with the drain closed.  This way, the tub fills up as we shower.  (This also enables me to take a longer shower without feeling guilty about wasting water and propane.)

Water use #2:  When the tub is half full, it's time for the girls to get in.  Bath time!

and here is the latest, really thrifty part...

Water use #3:  When the girls get out of the tub, I do not drain the tub.  (I like to do this anyway in the winter to allow the ambient heat released from the water to warm the house)  I turn off the water at the toilet and for the rest of the day, we refill the toilet tank with the bath water.  I keep an empty gallon jug handy for scooping up the water and pouring into the tank. (editor's note: I have found that our small plastic trash can works much more efficiently at the task of scooping the water)

I got this idea because I am getting ready to switch over to family wipes instead of toilet paper.  I was researching what to make them out of on the internet.  One link took me to a forum where there was a great conversation going on the topic.  The comment that caught my attention was a person talking about how awesome the toilets are in Japan and how they are so much more efficient over there.  They have a model with a sink that is above the toilet so the water you use to wash your hands drains down and fills the toilet tank.


That is when I got to thinking about all that lovely bath water... and the light bulb above my head glowed. :)

( I know, some of you are still wondering about the whole family wipes thing.  I'll post more on that later.)

 Say What?

The kids wanted a snack and I remembered we were given a box of graham crackers at the food pantry.  I pull it out and start reading the ingredients, looking for that evil villian, hydrogenated fat.

Ingredients: enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid), sugar, graham flour, vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following oils: interesterified soybean, canola, palm).....

Um, what was that?

Interesterified??  Helloooooo???

Time for an internet search.  The results?  Essentially, this is used in place of the trans fat forming hydrogenation process.  But the verdict is out whether it is in fact any better for you.  It's kind of like global warming - it just depends on which expert you listen to.

It's still some crazy bastardization of natural food, and therefore, if I was choosing my own food, I wouldn't include graham crackers in our diet.

But for now, the old phrase "beggars can't be choosers" comes to mind.

 Good Pantry Eatin'!

Well, I said I would share when I came up with some stick to your ribs, good enough for a carnivore, vegan recipes.  Last night's dinner definitely qualifies.  Totally simple and we didn't talk over dinner because we were too busy shoveling the food in our mouths.

Even the girls, after a bit of coercion and arm twisting to try it, ate every last bite.  Angelina even kept asking for more bites (I had to feed her to get her to try it) in such rapid succession that I finally told her just eat what's in your mouth and then you can have more!  It rated two thumbs up from hubby and Trinity.  (Angelina was too busy eating to bother rating :)

After this lead in, you aren't going to believe this recipe.  Remember, that we are dealing with a lot of canned food as we had a bad month and got most of our groceries from the local food pantry.

Flexitarian Shepherd's Pie

5 or 6 medium potatoes, cut up and boiled til soft
1/2 stick of butter
soy milk
1 can chili beans, 15 oz
1 can baked beans, 16 oz
1 can mixed vegetables, 15 oz (or similar size for all the canned products)
shredded cheddar cheese

1. Mash the potatoes with the butter and salt.  Add enough soy milk to make the potatoes nice and smooth.
2. In a large bowl combine the chili beans and baked beans.  Drain and rinse the vegetables and stir them into the beans.  Pour into large casserole dish.
3. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the veggie-bean mixture and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with a little cheese.
4. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

That's it!  Done.

I did opt to use the butter in the mashed potatoes and a sprinkling of cheese because it fits in with my rules.  Animal products shouldn't be the substance of a meal, but they can complement it.  I think their use is marginal compared to the amount of beans and veggies being eaten.  But you can easily use non-hydrogenated vegan margarine and either eliminate the cheese or use a vegan cheese instead to make this a totally vegan dish.

I'm already looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today.  Mmmmmmm!

 Dress Up Time

What's your bliss?

I discovered Angelina's today.

A package arrived from Grandma Mary.  Along with a Christmas book all wrapped and ready for under the tree, it was filled with every girls fondest dream... dress up stuff.  Think loads of tulle and jewelry for every occasion.

The girls were in hog heaven.

Especially Angelina who had to wear as many pieces of jewelry as was humanly possible.

(btw, Angelina is still bearing the remnants of her African tribal paint from an earlier run in with a black marker)
pure joy

the peacefulness of bliss

Trinity is listening to a shell.

...still listening...

this would have been oh, so sweet, sans the black marker!

I call this photo "I Need More!"

 What am I Doing?

As of weighing yesterday morning, I have lost 8 pounds.

I think I should post a bit more about how I have been eating since I decided to go flexitarian.  Here are the basic principles guiding my eating:

#1  Eat vegan as much as possible.

This is the number one rule I am most concerned with.  If I try to eat vegan when I can, then for those times I can't, it is okay because then it is a small part of my overall diet.  For instance, our neighbors had us over for dinner last week.  I was able to sit down to a big bowl of chili and even sprinkled shredded cheese on top without guilt.  I could socialize without concern because I knew that I was eating vegan at home the majority of the time.

#2  Avoid partially hydrogenated oils.

One of the big changes I made was purchasing a vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine to replace butter in our house.  I am checking any packaged food that we buy and avoiding hydrogenated oils.  They are insidious and in so many foods that you wouldn't imagine.  My girls were wanting cookies and I checked the ingredients.  Sure enough - partially hydrogenated oil.  (btw...they do this to increase shelf life on food products)  So, I purchased a bag of chocolate chips instead and we made our own cookies.... which also netted us the benefit of using a cup of whole wheat flour in the recipe as well.

#3  Eat more whole foods.

I am trying to avoid packaged foods as much as possible and stick to cooking from scratch.  This is something that we have mostly done, but one area that I am getting tough on is the snack foods.  I have a junk food loving husband who likes to keep bags of (Aldi's cheap versions) Dorito's and potato chips constantly stocked in the pantry.  I am happy to report, they are not in our pantry any more!  Fortunately, he is willing to compensate with munching on raw almonds instead. (though we are out and it is time for a trip to Costco!)  Another aspect of whole foods is eating "non-white" foods.  This means cut back or out, white bread, white rice, and white potatoes.  We have always been into whole wheat or whole grain pastas and wheat bread, so no biggie there for us.  Harder will be eliminating mashed potatoes.  For one, they are cheap!  For two, our kids love them. (as do we)  But again, once in awhile isn't a problem.  They just can't be a staple of our diet.

#4  Eat less.

This is a biggie.  I think we just get in the habit of eating a certain amount of food.  But the Healthy at 100 book clearly indicates that overeating is just not something that the long lived people groups do.  So I am paying attention to how much I am eating.  I make sure that I am stopping before I feel full, (my usual stopping point) and I am packaging up my kids leftovers and popping them in the fridge instead of cleaning up their plates for them.

#5  Cut back on refined sugar.

Huge step for me.  This isn't easy to admit, but I have become a sugar fiend.  Notice though, I said "cut back" not "eliminate."  I have still had some sugar treats (i.e. birthday cake, cookies, etc) but I am making them specific treats and avoiding excess. (specifically, I am finding more natural ways to sweeten foods, like maple syrup on my oatmeal, not purchasing sugary cereals, and avoiding constant sugary snacking)

#6  Keep motivated.

For me, I do this in a couple ways.  One is that I checked out a bunch of vegetarian/vegan cookbooks.  I enjoy looking through them to get ideas of how to incorporate vegan eating in my normal eating and copying down recipes that look too good to miss out on.  Another thing I am doing is watching shows that are motivating.  One is The Dr. Oz show in the mornings, and the other is The Biggest Loser.  Both of these help me maintain my motivation in getting healthy.  And, of course, I am always on the lookout for good internet articles or sites that will keep me focused on good health.

My next step will be to incorporate exercise into my daily life.  I have been sick this week, having caught the cold that Angelina and hubby had last week.  But I am very excited to initiate this into my routine.  Can't wait!  I brought our TotalGym into the living room where it can not be avoided. *grin*

Speaking of the TotalGym, I think I will sign off now and go peruse the exercise manual that came with it and start formulating a workout routine.

(for the "why" I went flexitarian, read this post)

 Can't Resist

I may have to go dumpster diving soon.

Actually, I was just reading about an organization that picks up the food being thrown away from various groceries.  It is then cooked and served to the homeless.  Now there is an idea to be explored!

Having recently joined the ranks of those whose food future is in peril, I would dearly love to get my hands on  some free food.  I could totally get into that.  I have gone dumpster diving in the past, back in Arizona.  I remember talking to a police officer about it too - whether or not it was legal.  I remember him answering that it was technically illegal, but it would just depend on the officer and the situation whether or not they would actually enforce it.

Amazing, isn't it?  That taking trash out of a dumpster is illegal.  Who would've thunk?!

 Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of thanksgiving, I am posting a link to an awesome article that I hope will help you to be more thankful today, and every day.

The Only One

 A Star is Born

Yeah, read that title with a lot of sarcasm!  Trinity sang on stage last night at church with the 4 year old - kindergarten class.  Of course, we were sitting on the opposite side of the sanctuary from where she ended up and couldn't even see her.  I had to run out and head back in two doors down so I could get her on video.  Otherwise, even David and Angelina wouldn't get to see her!

So here she is in all her performing glory. ;)
(don't forget - you need to scroll down and pause the player first so you can hear the videos)

 A Foggy Morning

I took off with the girls to the nearest town today.  We were going to hit the food pantry/thrift store and then Walmart.  It was 9:30am and the sun still hadn't managed to burn a hole in the fog.

I love driving through the fogged in countryside.

I love how things suddenly loom up at you out of the murkiness.
Barns, and trees, and hillsides,
and cows...

...who were wondering why I was stopping in the middle of the road. (literally... I tend to drive there too...  must have something to do with no pavement, no lines, no rules)

To take your picture of course!

 Dancing Queen

I never did upload the videos I took of Trinity dancing last winter.  At the time, we were on dial up so it was nearly impossible.  

For awhile, Trinity dancing was the equivalent of Elaine dancing in the tv series Seinfeld.  She would crack me up!  I never was able to catch some of her more "Elainesque" moves, but these are fun to watch, regardless.

note: you will want to scroll down and pause the music player at the bottom of the page before starting the videos

 To Weigh or Not to Weigh - That is the Question

I was trying to decide it I should weigh myself this morning.  I really debated whether or not to do it.  After all, I am trying to change my eating habits for health reasons, not necessarily for losing weight. (although, I am wanting to do that too!)

This was the conversation I had in my head before the shower:
"I probably haven't lost any weight, after all, I have only been eating vegan for 2 days.  Over the weekend we had David's birthday with cake and pizza and I've been eating cake every day since then.  I could really set myself up for disappointment if I weigh now.  But...

...if I see any weight loss, even just one pound, it could also strengthen my resolve..., I'm going to do it.  This isn't about weight - it's about getting healthy and taking care of myself.  I can always weigh later when I start to feel the difference."

And with that, I got in the shower, resolved not to weigh myself, at the very least, for another week.

When I got out of the shower and dried off, I threw all caution to the wind and hopped on the scale.

I've lost 5 pounds.
I'm still in shock.

 The Making of a Flexitarian

I never explained why I was looking for vegan recipes that would please my meat eatin' hubby.  
Here's the background.

We recently got on WIC. For those of you who aren't familiar with WIC, it is a program designed
to make sure that low income families are able to provide nutritious food for children under the 
age of 5 and pregnant mom's. They of course follow the standard nutritional guidelines. One of 
the things they do when you first get signed up is give you advice on what your kids should be 
eating. I got 'ding'ed because I let my children drink lots of juice (very watered down) and only 
occasionally give them milk. This flies in the face of conventional teaching on nutrition.

Coming from a background of working for a nutrition company and having been a raw foodist, I 
have become ambivalent towards milk. It seems to me I have read information that would 
suggest that milk didn't do your body good as the dairy industry would have us all believe. And 
certainly my raw food stint left me partial to raw products. But our culture bombards us with the 
message that we should all be consuming dairy regularly for good health.

Well, after the gentle verbal spanking from the WIC counselor, I was given my coupons for 
loads of milk, cheese, and eggs. (among other things) I decided to do some research about 
milk again before I started pumping my children full of cows milk. What I found were a couple of 
books that confirmed my feelings about milk.  

The first was "The China Study, Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term 
Health" by T. Colin Campbell, PhD.  

"The vast majority of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative 
illness can be prevented simply by adopting a plant-based diet." - Campbell  

This book essentially lays out very carefully how Campbell went from being a farmers kid and 
writing his dissertation on how animal proteins could be more efficiently produced, to an 
advocate of a plant based diet.  

He found that there was a direct correlation between animal protein and cancer. You can 
almost hear the food industry giants' heart palpitations even as you read those words. Gee, is 
there any wonder that this information is not being widely spread?!  

His initial study injected rats with a deadly carcinogen, then gave one group a diet with 5% 
protein and one with 20%. The rats fed a 20% protein diet all developed cancer. The rats fed 
5% protein all did not. It also didn't matter how much of the carcinogen was introduced. He 
gave one group a very high dosage of the carcinogen and fed them a 5% protein diet, and a low
carcinogen dosage to the other group but fed them a 20% protein diet. Anyone care to guess 
how that came out? The group on the 20% protein diet produced substantially more cancer than
the high carcinogen group. He found he could literally turn on the growth by switching them from 
the low protein diet to the high protein diet, then turn it back off by putting them back on 5%. In 
fact, the growth was shrunk by the low protein diet.

All this initial research was done with casein, which makes up 87% of cow's milk protein.
(making my children drink lots of milk, low-fat or otherwise, is not looking good!)

The next step was to test plant based proteins and see if they had the same results. What they 
found was that cancer growth was NOT promoted, even at the higher levels of protein intake.

All this information is in just the first 60 pages of the book. He goes on to tell of all the 
supporting research that is out there and of course, as the book is titled, the China study where 
he was able to see how his findings held up when humans were involved. He also delves into 
why this information isn't disseminated widely when you would think that it would be a huge step 
in resolving the cancer crisis in our country.

Good reading. I highly recommend the book. If you need motivation to eat healthy, this book 
should do it.
book. This one looks at four people groups that are known for producing centarians. (def: those 
who live to the age 100+) Not only do they live long, but they are healthy and vital and maintain 
their cognitive abilities. This book is fascinating because it shows that becoming a senior 
doesn't mean you have to face the health issues that are common here in America.

Overall, the long-lived groups had very similar diets. (and they couldn't be more different than the
standard American diet!) These are the four people groups studied and the percentage of 
animal food in their diets compared with the typical American diet:

Abkhasia 10%
Okinawan Elders 5% (this group has the highest rate of centarians)
Vilcabamba 1%
Honza 1%
Americans 52%

Overall, these people ate far fewer calories than we do here in America, at 1800-1900 calories 
a day. Not only are they eating fewer calories, but they are eating nutritionally dense, whole 
foods.  (perspective: a quarter pounder with cheese and a large fry at McDonalds will run you 
900 calories. Add a chocolate shake and you are 1280 calories for one meal.)  

Robbins book covers the other aspects that play a role in the health and longevity of these 
people groups with lots of great chapters like: Born to Move - why your cells and your bones 
crave a challenge, The Strength of the Heart - why loneliness will kill you faster than cigarettes, 
and Keeping Your Marbles - simple things you can do to prevent Alzheimer's.  

But I will let you read all about for yourselves. Back to the issue of vegan eating.

After reading all this information, I am committed to becoming a flexitarian. Never heard of that?
Yeah, me either. A flexitarian is a fairly new term and still being defined. Vegans and 
vegetarians apparently have an issue with the term, which is why I have an issue defining myself 
as a vegan or vegetarian. For most vegetarians, the motivation is animal rights. Obviously, 
having butchered my own chickens this summer, I am not motivated by my concern for animals.  
My motivation is strictly health. And, based on the information at hand, a mostly plant based 
diet of whole foods is the key to optimal health. So, am I going to have issue with the occasional
meat, cheese or egg that crosses my lips? No. There are definitely nutritive values that can be 
obtained from them (B12 is the first thing that comes to my mind) and as a small part of my diet,
should not be a stumbling block to good health.

Plus, I have to wean the family off our animal centered diet and move towards this flexitarian 
eating. We are currently loaded up with milk, cheese, eggs, and chicken. These will be eaten, 
but I will try to make them less and less the centerpiece of a meal.

So there you have it. And just for fun, here's a You Tube video that I found about a meat eating 
cowboy that went vegan. (for health reasons) And since the weight results aren't in this clip, he 
lost 30 pounds! (I knew you'd be curious ;)

(note: you will need to pause the music on the player at the bottom of the page to listen to the video)

 The Renewing of My Mind, part II

....So, I picked up that little paperback Bible I had bought at the beginning of the year and started reading it, so I could show him how wrong it was.

But that wasn't the only reading I was doing.  I also read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck and then his sequel to that one, Further Along the Road Less Traveled.  It was the second one that really made an impact on me.  I remember this one section of the book in particular.  He outlined different levels of spirituality, kind of like a ladder.  On the bottom you have the people who need to have the structure of formal religious meetings and texts, and as you work your way up the ladder you arrive at a place that most closely depicted new age philosophy.  So naturally I could see that I was at the top of the spiritual ladder. (very easy to accept that you are so wise and advanced compared to others!)

What this did though was allow my mind to relate to Christians.  Before I just thought they were all ignorant hypocrites.  Now I was able to see that I was just more advanced than those Christians that had to believe in the Bible and go to church.  Up until now I was taking the good I found in the world's religions and accepting it into my life - but not Christianity.  That night I realized that I could also accept the good in Christianity.  After all, I did believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that he had died on the cross and rose again.  That was the nuts and bolts of being a Christian.  So I decided to "reclaim Christianity" into my life.  That was December 18, 1997.  

I talked to a couple of my good friends that night about my decision and my other best girlfriends by the next night.  Not being very familiar with scripture, what I didn't realize is that I had literally fulfilled Romans 10:9 "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  I had believed and confessed.

That night I had an amazing dream:

I was living in a house.  It was a big house and it was filled with many people.  The house belonged to the devil, and though we were not locked in, we could not leave.  It was our own fear that kept us trapped in the house.  I tried sneaking out a back door once, but I got out into the woods and thought, "This is useless.  He will find me - what's the point of trying?"  Dejectedly I headed around to the front of the house to go back in.  The devil was out front and just laughing at me - a horrid, sinister laugh.

Then I found myself in a group of people and we had escaped from the devil's house.  We were making our way down a very steep and rocky path, full of switchbacks.  At one point, I saw a witch coming up the path.  My first reaction was of fear, thinking "Oh no!  She belongs to the devil.  We'll be caught!"  Then I calmed down and thought, "No.  We have come too far.  We are safe."  Sure enough - she passed right on by us.

Our group made it down the path and found ourselves at the ocean.  To our east was a castle on a cliff and as we approached, trumpets sounded, the gates opened, and out came Jesus, wearing royal robes.  Everyone ran to see him, but not me.  I went and hid by an embankment and cried because I thought surely He had forgotten me while I was gone.

I quickly put aside my tears though.  There was a beautiful stream of fresh water flowing down from the mountains.  I had to go immerse myself in it, rolling around, reveling in it.  

Then I heard one of my group call my name.  I stood up, turned around, and there was Jesus.  I walked over to him with my head hung low as I was a mucky, wet mess.  Once I stood in front of him, He put a crown on my head and a ring on my finger, and asked me to marry him.  I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him, and the feeling of love was beyond description.  It was as if though everything was permeated with a love so strong that you could feel nothing else.  Even the air was thick with love.

What I didn't know then, but learned later as I started studying the Bible, is that the church is called the bride of Christ.  The Jewish marriage tradition is a symbol of our relationship to Jesus in scriptures.  So while it may have seemed strange to dream of Jesus proposing, it is actually quite scriptural.

Well, I spent the next two weeks reading through the entire New Testament.  I couldn't get enough.  It was amazing to me what I found in the Bible.  I would sometimes literally just shut the book, and look at it and wonder how I could not have read in there before what I was reading now.  I was reading some of the same verses that I read when I was wanting to find stuff to prove how wrong it was - only now those verses were, well.... alive.  There was depth and meaning and they touched my heart.  Before it was just black ink on paper, lifeless, practically meaningless.  Now, I could hardly read without my heart just bursting and my mind reeling.  

Then I remembered the words from the hymn we sang in the Baptist church I grew up in - Amazing Grace - "I once was blind, but now I see."  Boy, did I ever understand that now!  My intention had been to just incorporate Christianity into my hodge podge of beliefs.  But now that the Holy Spirit had opened my eyes to the truth of God's word, I also saw how everything else being offered to man was a lie.  I spent hours on my knees praying, thanking God for what He had done.  I literally couldn't help myself.  I would get overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy and just have to drop to my knees and pray and worship.

This brings us to New Year's Eve.  I went to a church instead of a bar - ha!  There's a first time for everything! ;)  There was nowhere else I wanted to be that night, than in God's presence, worshiping him.  During the worship, at the end of some of the songs they would just carry on with some music to allow for a time of prayer.  After one song, I was silently praying while the music continued to play softly.  I suddenly was stricken with a thought that grieved me to the core.  I thought, "I want to do your will God, but I have been doing my own will for 30 years!  How am I going to be able to do your will???  I can't do this!"

Just then, a man in the front of the church began speaking in tongues. (and since I had plowed through the New Testament already, I fortunately knew about this phenomenon!)  I believe he was speaking in Hebrew, but I obviously will never know for sure.  But the first time I heard Hebrew I recognized it as sounding like what this man had spoken. 

Anyway, I digress.  

So the man starts speaking in tongues and the pastor interprets.  He says, "Prepare a place for me in your heart and do not worry about my will for you.  I will guide your feet upon the right path."  There was more after that, but I don't remember it.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I knew that was the answer to my hearts agony.  God answered the cry of my heart within seconds of its anguish.  I knew God could answer prayer, I just hadn't expected it to be so literal!

Well, I was a smitten kitten.  Who wouldn't be in love with a God who cares so much for one so insignificant and unworthy as myself?  His grace and mercy are truly unending.

My father baptizing me on my 31st birthday.

In writing this, I can recall other times that God has revealed himself to me in very undeniable ways.  And I think about how as an unbeliever I was so skeptical.  It was like I wanted the proof first and then I would believe.  This is of course the exact opposite way it usually works with God.  

First you step out in faith and believe.  
Then God will prove himself over and over and over to you.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

 The Renewing of My Mind - part I

This is the story of how I went from being a Christian, to not being a Christian, to being a Christian again.  I have been wanting to record this for awhile, and, well, no time like the present.

I was raised in a Christian home and went to church regularly as a child.  I accepted Jesus at the tender age of seven and was baptized.  But unfortunately, that was the extent of my understanding about church - a child's understanding.  By the time 1983 rolled around and Darth Vadar said, "You underestimate the power of the dark side," I was 16 years old, my parents had just divorced, and I was already struggling with my faith.  If all you know is the story of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, and Daniel in the Lion's Den, you don't have very sure footing on the shifting sands of life.  (okay, I knew a little more than that, but not much)

At the age of 18, I lost my virginity to date rape.  I was really confused.  I had planned on waiting until I was married and this situation threw a monkey wrench into that plan.  Hmmmm... how do I reconcile all this with what I had been taught in church?  My initial reaction was that I had to marry the guy.  I continued to date him for quite awhile.  But he was into drugs and I was decidedly not.  His college housemate was a cocaine dealer and I can remember how people would show up at all hours of the night.  Then, apparently drug etiquette is that you cut some lines and share with everyone at the house.  They all liked me because I wouldn't touch the stuff, so less they had to share.  This was soooo not what I wanted for my life!  I eventually broke up with him, but this left me feeling like I was in some sort of religious limbo.  Could I still be a Christian now that I hadn't married him?

Two years later, now 20 years old, I was raped again.  If you are a rape survivor, then you can probably empathize with how weird it is for me to put that in black and white.  I hauntingly remembered the anniversary of that event for many, many years.  That was the breaking point for me.  It was at this time that I completely walked away from the faith of my childhood and embraced New Age teachings.  I needed to find some way to work out what had happened to me in the big picture of the meaning of life.  I became a big fan of pretty much anything other than Christianity, and I quickly echoed all the typical rationalizations for why the Bible is just a book like any other and not something to base your life on.  When I went back to college, I even got an A+ on a research paper in which I trashed religions.

I was "spiritual" not religious.

I can remember on Sunday mornings when I was in college, I would hike out and sit on the edge of a rock cliff and commune with nature.  I called that going to church.

Fast forward to the year 1997.  I was getting ready to turn 30 in May that year and I became pretty reflective about life, the universe and everything. The first decision I made was to quit smoking since I couldn't pass it off as a childish phase anymore.  I gave up drinking too, as alcohol would make me want cigarettes.  The next decision was to see for myself what the religions of the world had to offer. (vs. just accepting what other people had said)

I went to the book store and purchased a Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, The Compassionate Teachings of Buddha, and just to be fair, I picked up a small, paperback Bible.  Although, honestly, while I read the other texts, I didn't read the Bible.

At least not until that fall.

I took a road trip from New Mexico to Maryland to visit my mom.  Me and my dog, A.T., cruising route 40 across the country in my Jeep Wrangler.  I timed my travels on the way back so that I would end up in Nashville on a Saturday night.  This was during my country dancing phase.  I went dancing all the time in Albuquerque, mostly at The Caravan and Boot Scoots.  Twice I had been asked to partner up and go professional, but I was afraid it wouldn't be fun anymore if I went competitive.  So, now I had a chance to dance in the famous Wild Horse Saloon.  At the time it was where you would see them dancing on one of the country cable shows.  I left my dog in the Jeep, put on my cowboy hat, and headed in to my destiny.

Once inside, I got a soda and hung out watching the dancers.  Soon a very tall, handsome young man came over and asked me to dance.  I said yes, of course, and he whisked me out on the dance floor.  He was a great dancer and we were having a lot of fun.  We took a break to get a drink and he asked me if I wanted to know why he had asked me to dance.

"Sure."  This should be interesting.

"I saw that you are the only other person in this bar besides me that isn't smoking or drinking alcohol." (you have to read that with a twangy southern accent)

Wow.  He was pretty observant.  And he was right - we were definitely a minority in the bar scene.  He didn't smoke or drink because he was a Christian.  But he didn't seem put off by my profession of being spiritual, not religious.  So, we danced and talked all evening and by the time we had to call it a night, we were exchanging phone numbers and addresses with promises to stay in touch.  And we did stay in touch, even when circumstances tried to prevent it. (loooooong story on that one, involving my Jeep being broken into in Oklahoma City on the way home and his number being stolen along with a lot of other stuff)  We carried on a long distance relationship for several months.

But one thing just bugged the heck out of me.  He had a pure and simple faith in the Bible that drove me crazy!  How could he expect me to believe the Bible?  I was educated and well traveled.  I wasn't just believing that stuff because I was born in a Christian nation and raised in a Christian home.

So, I picked up that little paperback Bible I had bought at the beginning of the year and started reading it, so I could show him how wrong it was.

to be continued...

 Man Pleasing Vegan Recipes

I have always said that you can find anything on the internet.


Like the other day when we were given a couple 55 gallon barrels from one of our neighbors to use to store corn.  I wondered how much corn it would hold.  Helloooo Google!

I typed in "how much corn will fit in 55 gallon barrel," hit enter, and up popped the answer I needed.
(280 pounds or 5 bushels for those of you dying to know)

But today the internet has let me down.  See the title of this post?  That was what I was looking for.  What did I get?  Nothing.

I'm beyond belief.  How could such a obvious conundrum vitally important topic not be clearly labelled and found on the internet? Surely there have been other wives wanting to improve the quality of their families eating habits.  And surely many some a few of them have decided to (mostly) eliminate animal protein from their diets.  I need some good recipes that my carnivorous husband will be happy to sink his canines into and not feel deprived.

Vegetarian - I could come up with on my own.  But vegan is challenging.  Even when I ate raw food, I ate raw cheese.

If anyone knows some great recipes, puuuulllllleeeeeease share them with me!  And as I come up with hearty recipes that even reluctant meat eaters salivate over, I will be sharing them with you.

BTW, here is a pic of the beautiful sunrise yesterday....just 'cause. :)

 No Poo - Final Verdict

This is one day after a baking soda scrub.

I am officially a convert.

Let me backtrack a bit.  I started this experiment of going without shampoo and conditioner back on September 6th.  At the end of October, I added too much water to my baking soda and instead of a paste, it was watery.  I used it anyway, and I did not have that nice clean hair look afterwards.  So the next time I got in the shower, I decided I was going to go back to shampoo.  Forget this crazy, weird, no-poo thing.  I was going to have a head full of suds again and that familiar softness that comes from conditioner.  That happened to be exactly 8 weeks after I had started the experiment.

It was a disaster.  I don't know what kind of miracle I was expecting of the shampoo...I guess some version of a commercial model, walking around with a smile and constantly bouncy beautiful hair blowing luxuriously around my head.  It was instead rather ordinary.  In fact, it almost didn't look really clean.

And the next day...egads!  I wanted to put a bag over my head as my hair looked greasy, lifeless, and like I hadn't paid any attention to it for say, a couple years.  This was not good.

So, back to the baking soda paste I went and I have to say, fortunately, one fall off the bandwagon and onto shampoo did not undo all my weeks of not stripping my hair of essential oils.  After one baking soda scrub, I did feel like a hair model!  I am very happy with how my hair looks these days - less frizzy, healthy, clean.

My final verdict:  2 thumbs up! :)