Once upon a time, I didn't eat meat. At all.
This made for memorable conversations. Questions about whether chicken or fish is considered meat. Arguments intended to change my mind. Dialogue with people who didn't or did agree with me, who knew more or less on the subject than me.
It was mostly enjoyable.
Because given an eating situation, I had a hard and fast rule: No Meat (including chicken and fish). My body felt pretty good about this, and so did I. I felt like I was doing something to alleviate stress on the planet. I felt good not eating meat when I knew its production requires so many resources while too many people go hungry. (Food and hunger is always a hot button issue for me.)
I remembered not only do I actually enjoy meat (once in a while), but I also felt good about supporting the farmers who were raising their animals on large pastures of grass, who made their living from taking care of chickens and collecting their eggs. Also, maybe my body was craving it? (It certainly was while I was pregnant. I was anemic, a problem that only changed once I started eating grassfed beef again.)
Some days I kind of miss the label.
It made food choices I felt good (or at least better) about easier for me. Some people were upset with me for it, some people did wonder where I got my protein.
But my issues with meat (the main one being the exorbitant resources it takes up) were alleviated.
A problem I have with not being a vegetarian is that it is too easy for me to slide away from choices I feel comfortable with, especially when I am in an unfamiliar environment...until I make some sort of "last straw" choice and I know I need to get back on the wagon NOW. (I'm not very good at the "wait til Monday" or "wait til I get home" changes.)
A last straw choice happened last night.
Which means I'm "back on the wagon" today.
I find myself sort of wishing food blogging was my thing, because it would bring me some accountability. But it isn't. Also, my camera chord is at home, and I don't need a third blog to keep up with (not that I exactly keep up with this one). (Click here if you want to know what we've been doing behind the scenes at The Social Eater.)
Still, I am going to record my food choices this week. I'll just kind of keep a running record under the tab "7 Days of Conscious Eating." No pictures for awhile.
Follow along if you're interested, of course.
What do you do when you find yourself straying from choices you feel are important?
The boys are sleeping.
I'm not sure for how much longer, so I'm going to try to type quickly.
I've been sitting here, thinking about what to do with my fair trade efforts next.
I write once a week, but I really haven't had the structure of time set aside just to work recently. I think summer weekends tend to be quite busy, and since my working time was usually Saturday morning/afternoon (prime get-together/travelling/much-needed family time), my efforts have been kind of squished into the more empty spots of my days.
I know that I cannot change a system that is so often bent on "more for less" on my own. I don't despair over that, but I also am not quite sure where to go from here.
I'd love to host a screening of "The Dark Side of Chocolate," hold a little discussion, provide fair trade chocolate-based snacks, that sort of thing...but who would come ? And where would I have it?
I don't know HOW to change things, but I know that doesn't mean I get to give up.
There is no giving up on something I am passionate about.
Discouragement at times, yes. But no quitting.
I do know that I can make changes to what I do. I know that I can do something to make sure I am gracious and knowledgeable when someone does want to have a conversation about fair trade/small farmers/ workers rights/slavery.
I know that I can try things and fail and try things again.
Not only can but should and need to.
It's about time to try (a few new) things.
Last Saturday was the first time I held "work hours" for this first project on my agenda.
I'm finding out that "courage" has been necessary only to get started. From there? I feel like I can't be stopped. I feel like "I can do this." I feel like I'm on a mission, and it's right, and I feel completely passionate about it.
The more research I do, the more I think I'll focus mainly on the fair trade end of things.
Because there are child slaves involved in the non fair trade end of things.
And while I think the welfare of ALL small farmers is important, I've always been motherly (maybe from birth?). Right now, I feel like a mama bear, ready to do whatever it takes to rescue "her" babies.
Whatever it takes.
I get that I can't change it all on my own
but that's not going to stop me from doing what I can.
I get that there is SO MUCH wrong with the world, and it's overwhelming, and sometimes we can feel ourselves shutting down, waving it all away, closing our eyes because it's just too much to handle.
Also? We're comfortable with the way we've been doing things.
That's part of how I want to get involved. I want to make good, slave-free choices easier, more accessible for the busy, overwhelmed consumer. I'll do the research and lay it out, share my journey, and hopefully make not supporting slavery practices more natural than supporting them. (For a real eye-opener, check out Slavery Footprint.)
I'm still working on getting the new site up (the real hold-up is the name. I mean, really, Nolan was almost born before he had a name).
In the meantime, here are some slave-free ideas for Valentine's Day this year:
Equal Exchange My Fair Valentines (If we come in contact between the time I receive these and the time I run out, you'll be getting one of these from me!)
Theo Chocolate Gift Sets
My blog friend, Love, celebrated her birthday yesterday.
Some people don't tell their birthday wishes in fear those wishes "won't come true." Some people hint around for weeks or months or slyly leave gift idea lists out.
Love posted her wish right on her blog.
Love recently returned from a trip to Uganda where, among her many adventures, she saw that the people of a village called Busoga drink water that looks like this:
They use it to cook with, bathe in, drink from, and their animals drink from it (and likely pee in it), as well.
So, for her birthday, Love wants a well. For the 550-ish people in Busoga, because, in Love's words,
[God's] word is really complex, but really simple, too. Love God. Love others as yourself. How much would I love to drink that water? how much would I love to serve a glass of that to our children? i don't want to drink that water and they shouldn't have to...it's as simple as that.
I read her wish. I read all of Love's posts because they have been a tool to open my world and change my perspective.
But I have to tell you something.
My first reaction to Love's request was, "no."
No, I can't do everything. No, this opportunity isn't for me. No, I don't want to participate.
Mostly valid responses-there is nothing wrong with knowing where to stop or when to pass up an opportunity in favor of another.
Sometimes it's important, even- I really want to do a 31 Bits party in time for holiday shopping, but I know I can't do it on my own due to the upcoming arrival of my baby boy. Can you imagine if I pushed through and did it anyway (in just a few weeks)? Not a good idea this time around. Not every opportunity is for me- or you. We can't do everything.
But when I say no to something that seems like a good thing to do, I think it's important to determine why. There are good reasons (like a healthy family environment)...and there are not-so-good reasons.
Like I just don't want to. Which is often another way to say there is so much wrong with the world, so many needs to be met, so many causes and passions and fundraising going on...that I'm feeling overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that I'm just going to sit down and veg out right now.
With the rise of technology, we find ourselves piled with info, needs, requests, ways to make the world a better place. Not all of them use our money wisely. We get discouraged. Sometimes it's hard to see how we can really make a difference. It's just so much. Compassion fatigue happens. It's real.
Why don't I want to get participate in this? (Because there are good and not-so-good reasons.)
What is the money and/or time requested being used for? (Because there things I am not willing to give money to.)
Do I have the money and/or time to donate?
Do I believe this cause will meet true needs?
Is this a wise use of my resources?
Questions like these help me process why I do what I do.
Which is what I did with Love's request.
In that process, my heart changed. I decided that this was an opportunity I most certainly want to be in on.
I may pass up another opportunity in the future- and that's okay if my heart is right in that decision.
But this one? I'm in.
If you want to get in on it, too, please click here for more information.
This post is part of the Just Write link-up, a weekly exercise in free writing ordinary and extra-ordinary moments. I am not so good at writing about single moments yet, but this is, indeed, a free write. In fact, I ended up writing about something entirely different than I was planning- a typical free-writing characteristic for me.
I am drinking hot chocolate made from the last of my Equal Exchange cocoa while I write this. Choosing fair trade chocolate has become a simple, non-negotiable way that I can support healthy families, economies, and communities. Anything that involves food and community easily pulls at my heart strings.
10 years ago, I made a decision to go to college for a degree in secondary education. I was not always in love with my decision, but I chugged along and achieved my goal. I worked as a substitute teacher while I transitioned to my new multifaceted role of youth pastors wife, then landed a job as a pre-GED teacher in Reading. It was a job that left me frustrated many days, wishing for something else, running back to my old numbing agent (stuffing my face).
Teaching is not something that pulls on my heart strings. I did it because I wanted another opportunity to get to know and speak hope into lives of teenagers. My number one goal was mentoring teenagers because I was a teenager when I started the whole process and I saw the need (including for myself).
I remember turning down the first opportunity to teach GED classes because it didn't fit with my goals.
I don't completely remember what had me going for the second one, but I think it had something to do with proving I could do more financially and professionally than substitute teach. It was more about my pride than anything else,I think.
Not my heart strings. Teaching didn't pull at my heart strings.
My pride led me to a job...with adults. Not teenagers. Adults who'd dropped out of school for one reason or another, who felt angry, discouraged, overwhelmed, unsure of what to make of the little white woman fumbling her way through how, exactly, to meet the widely varying needs of each student at the same time.
I fell in love. Still not with the teaching, but with the students. They opened up my world like no one else. Some of them let me into their worlds, shared their stories, taught me more about life...and I did the same. I coveted smaller-group times so I could see that light bulb moment. You know, that moment where something just "clicks" and becomes like second nature? I love that.
I discovered that I am not a great teacher, but I am a really good tutor.
I discovered that many people living here now have the same heart-strings-pulling effect as food and community.
I came home many days feeling so drained, but I just knew I was gathering all this experience for a reason. (Sound familiar, Katie?)
This morning, The New York Times posted that Reading is at the top of the U.S. poverty list. You know, the city full of people I fell in love with.
My head is spinning because that kind of news feels like an insurmountable wall. But I will find a crack, a hole, a ladder...because I'm kind of bent on staying here. This is my city now so I am responsible for being a part of it's restoration.
I'm thinking it's about time I wrap this series up. I mean, pretty much. Being the food-lover that I am, the same topic is bound to come up again.
I'd gone meatless for about 9 months, flip-flopped back to eating meat, then back to meatless again.
There's a lot I could write about the process, but for the sake of being (sort of) succinct, I'm going to tell you right now what I think are the most important things that have come out of the eating journey I've been on and also where I'm at now.
My original intentions for eschewing meat were mostly a reaction to a problem I saw. Hunger + a lot of water and grain used to produce meat= eating meat not making sense to me. I felt really good without meat in my life. Making one decision in response to a conviction I felt led to other unexpected places to explore. Things like how food choices effect the environment, communities, families, and my own body. I realized I cared (and still do care) about all of those things because they are all gifts of sorts, components of life humans are responsible for because they sustain life. And we all want a full and satisfying life, don't we?
I am still on this journey. The life journey, the how my decisions effect so many big-deal aspects of living journey, the what-I-put-in-my-mouth journey.
About those months that I chose to try eating meat before I pushed it all away again at the thought that I had just eaten Roy Roger's chicken and I'm not entirely sure it was chicken- I really love food, people. I mean, really. I think there is so much meaning in it, in all kinds of ways. Sometimes, I just want to try the drool-worthy pulled pork my cousin just made or the perfect steak my dad just grilled. Most of the time (pre-pregnancy), I feel best on a mostly vegan diet, with some organic eggs thrown in. I really don't need a lot of meat in my life...but occasionally, I do. I'm actually fairly iron-deficient, even without a baby taking what iron I do have, and although I tend to eat a lot of beans and spinach, it hasn't been enough.
I was calling myself a vegetarian to make things easier for everyone else, but I was feeling guilty during those times I wanted to eat meat... even though I do believe that meat can be eaten in a way that is thoughtful to the environment, communities, hunger issues, families, and my body. I didn't like being told what to do by myself. I didn't know how to explain ok, I'm only okay with eating certain kinds of meat, so I usually just don't eat it, but I am okay with this particular beef, so that's why I'm eating it now and not the meatloaf you made for dinner last Saturday.
So I didn't. And in trying to shove away the rules, the labels, the how do I explain this to everyone, I ended up behaving in a way that is opposite of what I believe to be true.
That is part of my journey.
Today, I no longer call myself a vegetarian. What I do:
- I do say, "I don't eat a whole lot of meat." Which is generally true.
- I do think it's important to limit consumption of meat to benefit all of the categories (environment, communities, families, and self) already listed.
- I do think it's important to get educated on how food choices effect all of those categories.
- I do actively seek that education (which is an ongoing process).
- I do think it's important to make the best decisions I can in a given moment, not only for me, but also for all of those same categories I keep mentioning...
- ...without going crazy...
- but also not using "not going crazy" as an excuse.
This post is part 2 of a 3-part series. To catch up, check out Part 1 here.
About 9 months into my non meat-eating escapades, I started to think that maybe I could eat some meat in keeping with my desire not to use up pounds and pounds of resources in order to do so. I could eat local grass-fed beef! Free-range chicken! Wild caught fish!
Bonus? Meal times in my house would be a lot easier.
I thought about it and thought about it, and one day I just did.
And then I did it again.
In fact, I ate local, organic, grass-fed beef for dinner the night Tim and I told my parents and siblings about my pregnancy. It was delicious. I mean, really delicious.
Here's the thing, though.
There are a lot of means to producing a pound of meat out there. Steps in quality, if you will. Maybe I didn't view my new ventures into local, organic, and grass-fed meats strictly enough, because soon I was taking those steps, making compromises in my eating choices...until one day, I sat at a rest stop eating Roy Roger's chicken tenders.
I was grossed out.
I needed to be done eating meat for awhile because with too loose a rein, I was no longer doing well with making choices in keeping with my own convictions.
So I stopped. With the very next meal.
I realize I can be a bit difficult to keep up with. Sometimes I will be asked, "do you eat meat right now?" It's a completely fair question. Because while I will sometimes call myself a vegetarian to make the answer obvious, I'm on a path. I veer. I've made choices I'm not proud of (and some I am proud of!). I've made exceptions while calling myself a vegetarian for differing reasons. I'm learning.
For me, it was never about the label. I don't need it. Labels don't define any one person as it is. They don't talk about heart, about value, about passions. They can give a starting point from which to have a conversation, and they can make understanding a bit easier for someone wanting to know (or in my case, cook for!) the labelled person.
And that's a very good thing, because understanding where I stand on food issues has been quite an (unexpected) process even for me.
I stopped eating meat the day after Christmas nearly 2 years ago.
I'd been on my way down that path for awhile, my sister was doing it so I felt like I could do it, and my body was just screaming for a change.
Mostly? You all may have already noticed, but I like to see people well-fed. When I realized that the production of meat requires many pounds of grain to produce (while I know that people are going hungry), I wasn't okay with that. So I chose not to participate.
For me, it's not about the animals.
I'm not grossed out by meat.
I didn't start out with the intention of taking better care of the environment or benefiting my health (although taking better care of the earth did become an interest of mine and I did become healthier).
The not eating meat part of things was pretty easy at first; I just didn't eat it. Most people didn't even notice, and in fact, I didn't mention it to my own mother for months. When anyone did notice, sometimes they would want to know my reasons, but for the most part, people just wanted to know what I would eat when I came over for dinner.
I tried to make that as easy as possible. I wasn't picky about non-meat options. I could easily make a meal out of sides, and I would bring along a dish to share whenever possible and my host was ok with it.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Dessert Hummus- with extra peanut butter and extra chocolate chips
I didn't talk to much about my choice unless prompted (and even avoided talking about why I stopped eating meat on this- my personal blog) for 2 reasons:
I know that some people have had very bad experiences with non meat-eaters.
While most people took on a "you do what you wanna do" attitude about my choice to avoid meat, I also talked with some people who reacted utterly defensively when they heard of my choice. One of the reasons is because some of those people have had some cram-it-down-your-throat, rude, and offensive encounters with vegetarians that were not at all considerate of their receivers. People are going to get on their high horses in order to prevent another attack if they think that is the kind of thing that is coming their way.
Makes sense, right? But I'm not out to cram anything down any one's throat, to point fingers, or to make everyone follow up on my convictions. So I made a real effort not to.
There are many, many great causes to get involved in.
photo taken from this post
In our age of information anytime, anywhere, it is very easy to learn about seemingly-countless needs and often-corresponding projects to address those needs. I have my favorites, and sometimes I address those here. But because of so much available information, it's really easy to come down with a case of compassion burnout. While I believe eschewing meat can have an impact, I also believe there are much more significant ways that a single person can meet needs. And...I like to believe that everyone will participate in those causes they have looked into themselves and are passionate about. It's just not possible to get involved in them all.
This post is part 1 in a 3-part series. For more reading from sarahkoller.com on this topic, check out Meatless Misconceptions.
I was awake around 5:30 on Saturday morning for no reason other than being pregnant. I used some of the time to do a little immobile nesting. I updated the budget with all the receipts I hadn't entered yet, did some planning for meals, and did some reading on Equal Exchange and the corresponding blog, and looked into joining up with a possible CSA. (I've done the CSA thing before but wasn't thrilled with my experience, so I didn't keep it up. However, I think there is a lot of merit in giving it another shot.)
All that reading got me hyped up. Sometimes I just need to be reminded that my choices include consequences for myself and for other people in big and little ways.I planned my shopping excursions to include more earth/farmer/local- conscious choices while still keeping my budget in mind. Actually carrying out that plan took some time, especially because I'm a slowpoke these days, but it felt good.
Today, in church, I wrote down this sentence soon after it was spoken: "If you want to live, do it."
I'd made a tentative plan to leave the meeting soon after it ended, but that didn't happen. Instead, I stayed and talked for an hour.
In that time, I was reminded by some sweet women that pregnancy is quite beautiful.
I was reminded that that thing that's driving me crazy because I'm not doing it? That's when I know it's exactly what I should be doing.
I was reminded of the importance of accepting help in order to be a good mother.
There is so much that is important for me to remember, to live by, to hold close to my head and my heart, but I have a hard time remembering it all at once.
I need other people to help me with that.
That's why I'm thankful for internet, for websites and blogs (and the people that write them) that inform me and inspire me about things like fair trade and adoption.
I'm thankful for community and relationships with people who are willing to share their stories and earned advice with me.
Because I need to be reminded of truth every day.
Tim and I are off on an adventure!
In the meantime, I want to share some of my favorite posts out of those I've come across this week:
My Friend is Sick: Should I Give Food or Money Jeannett brings up some great points and ideas about giving within our own cultures. (I'm hoping I remember her words when the next occasion arises!)
The Friend I Want to Be Kelle has me inspired to practice being a better friend right now.
Palms Up Stephanie writes candidly about her own efforts to encourage intentionally.
Recipes for Mom Ashley provides a detailed tutorial on how to cook dried chick peas- and how to do it well. (Hello, money saver!)
What are some of your favorite posts or articles from this week?