Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Loving the Unbeliever: The Page

There's a "most popular girl in school" contest going at Circle of Moms.  Various Mommy-Faith bloggers entered their blogs for the Top 25 Faith blogs contest and readers have the chance to vote once every 24 hours for their favorite blogs.

This all would have remained a quiet little contest had one Christian blogger not pulled herself from the contest in order to protest the presence of pagan blogs.  Apparently she didn't have a problem with the Jewish, Muslim, and Roman Catholic presence in the contest- just the pagan.  And then, she blogged about it and named a few pagan blogs by name.  She didn't want to be in a contest alongside "those women".

And then, she blogged about it.  The reaction she received, at least from what I've seen, has not been positive.

This situation got me to thinking about a blog post I wrote a few months ago called "Loving the Unbeliever."  The gist of the post goes like this:

 All too often, we Christians are characterized by what we stand against.  We expect others to hold to our religious and moral standards and when they don't, we gossip about them or we boycott their businesses or introduce legislation to trample their rights.  THAT IS NOT CHRISTIANITY.  That is not Jesus Christ....
I know of people who are leaving the Faith, in part, because of the way American Christians are living out their lives in battle against those with whom they disagree.  They are known by what they stand against rather than what they are for.  Again, let me say, those people do not represent Jesus Christ any more then the 9/11 hijackers represent Islam.  May the world know that we are Christians by the love we show to one another, even those who appear to be our enemies.  Loving people does not mean we have to agree with everything they stand for.  But it does mean extending KINDNESS, assistance when needed, mercy, friendship, and a constant recognition of my own faults and not my neighbors'.  My sins are great enough!  

For what its worth, I think its great that different faiths are represented in this contest.  And I don't believe that my thinking this way means that I am in any way compromising the truth of Christianity.  People are free to disagree with me and I'm fine with that.

Do me a favor- take a second to read the page up above called "Loving the Unbeliever."  I think the message is important and since most of the words don't come from me, I feel pretty confident about sharing them.

Loving the Unbeliever 

ETA: The "Most Popular Girl" line above is in reference to that Brady Bunch episode where Jan and Marcia are competing for the title at their high school.  Its supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and not meant to mock the contest or anyone involved with it.  :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Thousand Mile Journey Begins With One Step...

I've been all over the planet when it comes to food.  I have a love-hate relationship with the stuff.  I really hate carbs but I really love fruit.  I see my relationship with food as a journey that started many years ago.  It began with one step...

One afternoon, when I was 13 years old, I saw this episode of Degrassi Jr. High:

Even though this episode is more about journalistic integrity then it is about animal rights, something struck a chord with me.  I wrote letters to PETA and ASPCA asking for information on cruelty to animals and received tons of information in return.  Although I didn't wear a lot of makeup at 13 years old, I determined never to wear anything tested on animals... a conviction I still hold to this day.

A few years later, I decided to embrace vegetarianism.  I could not imagine killing animals for food.  I used to picture it in my head... the slaughterhouses, the hatcheries... I even visited a turkey farm once and I still can't eat turkey to this day.  The idea of eating meat was disgusting to me.  Flesh, fat, blood... (I'd better stop writing all the nasty stuff now or I'll go back to my veggie ways!).

Being a vegetarian presented a number of challenges throughout the years.  I went to Bible school in England for six months when I was 19.  The school was actually situated on a farm, so the food mainly consisted of meat at least twice a day.  Obviously, I didn't partake of that so oftentimes I was left eating mashed potatoes topped with Taco Bell hot sauce when chili con carne was served or just French fries on Fish 'n Chips Fridays rolled around.  I survived on bread and cheese that I used to hang out my bedroom window because it was cold enough outside to keep the cheese from going bad.  How I managed to gain weight while at Capernwray I'll never know.  Hefty bowls of crumble and custard probably didn't help.

No one else in my family was vegetarian, so I got used to eating sides.  My Thanksgiving meal consisted of mashed potatoes, stuffing and creamed corn- my plate colored with yellow, white and brown.  The food was and is always delicious.  I'd constantly pick pepperoni off of pizzas or try to eat around meat when it was in something I couldn't avoid eating.  Heck, I married the son of a butcher!  Meat is a big thing in Mark's family. He put up with my inability to cook good meat for a long time.

A few years ago, I started making the shift from vegetarianism into raw veganism.  Raw vegans eat only uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  People on this diet look healthy, lean and vibrant.  Whether or not they actually are healthy is another story for another time.  I tried to incorporate as much raw into my life as possible.  I bought all the appliances- a BlendTec, an Exaclibur dehydrator, a juicer... I concocted tons of delicious and some not-so-delicious raw foods and I lost weight.  Unfortunately, as many raw vegans find, this lifestyle is difficult to maintain because you are hungry all. the. time.  Even when you eat a ton, all you are eating is carbs and if you oxidize carbs like I do, you burn through them like a baby burns through breastmilk- incredibly fast.  I initially lost weight on this diet but ended up gaining it back when I started eating cooked again.

Enter veganism.  I read T. Colin Campbell's book The China Study and became totally convinced that eschewing dairy as well as meat and eggs from my diet was the way to go.  Casein causes liver cancer dontcha know... It seemed like the perfect middle ground between vegetarianism and raw veganism.  I started listening to tons of vegan propaganda.  I said things like "I don't eat animals or their bodily secretions."  I didn't impose my veganism on anyone, but I felt very judgmental toward those who continue to eat animals.  I bought the Earth Balance, Garlic Aioli and Grain-based "meats."  I tried meat substitutes like soy and seitan.  And I ate a lot of rice, pasta, bread and potatoes.

I joined Weight Watchers but their calorie-restricted, low fat approach proved to be a total failure for me.  I know it works for others and that is wonderful.  But it didn't work for me because calorie-restricted, low-fat diets don't work for some people.
I got fatter and fatter...

How is this possible?  I'm a vegan for crying out loud!  I am supposed to be one of the healthiest people on the planet and yet I'm ballooning up!  I don't drink soda and I don't eat animals or their secretions!  Why am I fat?  Why does my liver hurt?  Why am I pre-diabetic?  I have no energy and a headache almost everyday.

Blah blah blah blah blah...

I went to my doctor who diagnosed me with fatty liver disease and told me I needed to try and eat eggs at least and better yet, some meat.  She said "Check out Nourishing Traditions" (a book I already owned) and take cod liver oil.  You need to eat protein.  No, beans do not count because they are so high in carbs.  Nuts are good, but if you're trying to lose weight, eating lots of them won't help you.

I thought- okay, I can do a vegetarian version of NT, right?  I started soaking my grains and nuts.  I made sourdough bread.  I started eating yogurt (yuck!).  But I didn't lose weight.

Then I found Carrie Thienes, founder of Northwest Holistic Nutrition.  We worked together for several months and she helped me so much.  Basically, Carrie shot straight with me- I need to eat more protein and fat and way less carbs.  I'd carb-loaded my way to obesity.

"Would you consider eating meat?" she asked me.

Oh man!  This was what I was afraid of... but at this point, I was feeling so bad that I didn't care.  Carrie told me I needed to basically hit a low-carb, Atkins-like diet if I wanted to lose weight and start feeling better.  Instinctively, I knew she was right.

"Yes," I answered.

A few weeks later, I visited my brother's restaurant, the Lazy Dog Cafe, to eat my first meat in 17 years.  It was difficult, but I ate what I ordered and I haven't looked back.  Sure, there's been a large gross-out factor to overcome, but that's dissipating every day.

What happened to my vegetarian convictions, you ask?  Well. honestly, when I realized that my vegetarian diet was making me sick, I decided to put myself before the animals.  There are ways to be a responsible animal consumer- eating grassfed organic meat, drinking raw milk, buying pastured, free range eggs... Supporting small, local farms encourages the adoption of more sustainable farming practices.  When there is a greater demand for organic, grass-fed meats and raw milk, suppliers will have to change their ways to meet the demand.

There's a lot of bad information floating around out the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism.  The results of The China Study have been called into question by folks who have analyzed the raw data and have come to significantly different conclusions than Dr. Campbell.  In fact, many prominent vegans and raw vegans have returned to meat or dairy consumption around the same time I did.

So where am I today?  Well, I'm about to take a new step in my "thousand mile journey."  I've discovered paleo...

Paleo?  What the heck is paleo?

Very simple, people who follow a paleo diet consume meat, veggies, fruits, and some healthy fats like coconut, nuts, avocado and olive oil.  They do not consume grains or legumes of any kind, processed food, sugar (natural or otherwise) or dairy (the exception being butter or ghee).  It seems restrictive, but I don't think so.  The basic idea is this: At every meal, eat protein, tons of veggies, and a little healthy fat.  If you're trying to lose weight, keep the fruit and nuts to a minimum.

This is a very low-carb diet, similar to Atkins except without the fake sugar and cheese-a-thons.  I'm excited to try it.  Between now and the Apostles' Fast (when I have to go vegan again, ggrrrrr....), I'm doing the paleo thing.  I will follow the Church's fasting rules on Wednesdays and Fridays though, but believe it or now, I can still be mostly paleo if I eat tons of veg any maybe throw a little legumes in there for filler.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm excited!  Everything paleo I've tried over the last week or so has been freaking delicious!  A few recipes have included:

  • Thai-Inspired Stir Fry with Spring Vegetables from the Simple Food for Spring e-book that I mention below
  • Carnitas from the same e-book paired my own concoctions for Mexican coleslaw and Salsa Fresca
  • Paleo-Tacos from Sarah Fragoso's blog Everyday Paleo .

So as you can see, I've been around the dietary world.  I'm sort of thinking I may have found my home. Wish me luck and please, please pray for me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Simple Food

Nourishing Days: I love love love this website.  I haven't read much in terms of this gal's life (except that her family is grain free and lives on a homestead) but I've tried tons of recipes from her site and I've loved them all.  She's written two cookbooks: Simple Food {For Winter} and Simple Food {For Spring}.

The recipes ARE simple, delicious, and nourishing.  There's a nice mix of meat and meat-free dishes.  All the recipes are grain free.     If I'm not mistaken, the only dairy used in the recipes is cultured dairy.  The ingredients are seasonal, so they should be available at their peak freshness making the food extra delicious

I've based the next two weeks of dinners off the recipes in these cookbooks.  My family, including my very picky kids, have loved everything I've put in front of them.

Highlights from Simple Food for Winter include: Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup, Slow Cooker Dijon Chicken with Broccoli and Grain-Free Buttermilk Biscuits.  BISCUITS!!  Made without flour!

Simple Food for Spring includes such favorites as: the best RANCH DRESSING I've ever had.  Ever.  Ever.  Thai-Inspired Spring Vegetable Stir Fry, Braised White Beans Scented with Rosemary, and Grain-Free Scones.  SCONES!!  Made without flour!!

There's a really nice variety in these books.  We're fortunate to live in an area where a lot of the winter ingredients are available year round and we do get a cold night every now and then so we'll be using these cookbooks quite a lot.  They are reasonably priced as well at $10 for the ebook version.

So check it out, yo!  You won't be sorry!

PS- I signed up to be an affiliate so if you click on any of the links above and buy the books, I get a little something something.  I really believe in these cookbooks!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Carb Overload

I want. To die.

Well, not really.  But my insides feel like they are going to explode!  And its all because of carbs.  I've eaten more bread in the past 24 hours then I have in months and I'm feeling it.  YUCK YUCK YUCK!

Tomorrow, I begin the 4 Hour Body plan.  That, combined with South Beach, will hopefully get me down another 10 pounds in the next 5 or 6 weeks.  I'm psyched to get started, actually.  I've already lost 10 pounds on South Beach... and when I lose another 10, I get to pick up a special something-something for myself.

The main idea behind the 4 Hour Body is this: Give yourself the Minimum Effective Dose of what works and then commit to it completely.  Apparently, a lot of people are having great success with it.  There are over 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.  I know someone who is using it and has lost over 10 pounds.  And its pretty easy.  Here are the main points:

1. Eat one protein, one legume, and one vegetable at every meal.  The protein should be at least 30 grams or more of protein.

2. Keep meals simple and repetitive

3. White foods are verboten... the exception being cauliflower.  Mmmmm....  Oh and no fruit or dairy.  Booooo!

4. Try not to snack.  If you're hungry, eat more at meals.

5. Have one binge day a week.  He's not talking gluttony here... he's just recommending that one eats some of the forbidden foods one day per week.  For me, that will be Sunday.  Then I won't have to say no to all the coffee hour goodies!  Apparently this helps shake up your metabolism.

Really, the book explains it all.

There is nothing incompatible with 4HB and South Beach... except that you are allowed to snack and have dairy on South Beach.  The diet is called "Slow-Carb" but really, it basically sounds paleo to me.  And that's okay.

All my problems would be solved if I could just eat eggs.  I can't do it.  The only way I'm able to get them down is in cauliflower pizza.  Maybe I need to sneak out and buy a few heads...

"Keepin' It Real"

I was gifted with a blog award this afternoon by Matushka Anna over at Praying With My Feet.  I am totally honored and excited!!  Drumroll please:

Matushka Anna created this award for " bloggers who share glimpses of their real life even when it's not magazine-perfect. Not that you have to be that way all the time, just on occasion."  I'm squeeing with delight!  I've never won a blog award before.

And now I get to pass on the award to another blogger who is "Keepin' It Real!"  This blogger is a woman I deeply admire.  She has shared her personal struggles online, homeschooling her challenging children nd dealing with some serious health issues of her own.  She is always brutally honest about her journey and I appreciate that a lot.  She inspires me to be present where I am at and to "do the next thing." 

The next winner of the "Keepin' It Real" award is...

ALANA from Morning Coffee!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One Boring Blog

I wish I was more interesting.  I have lots of stuff I think about writing, but in the end, it all gets shoved to the wayside in favor of pithy status updates on Facebook.

I added a new feature to the sidebar- that scrolling Amazon thing is a list of books I am reading.  I've got one other to add to the list.  I'm reading it honor of "Lady" Lydia Sherman:

A brief description from Amazon:

Faust (The Creation of Confederate Nationalism) makes a major contribution to both Civil War historiography and women's studies in this outstanding analysis of the impact of secession, invasion and conquest on Southern white women. Antebellum images based on helplessness and dependence were challenged as women assumed an increasing range of social and economic responsibilities. Their successes were, however, at best mixed, involving high levels of improvisation. The failure of Southern men to sustain their patriarchal pretensions on the battlefield also broke the prewar gender contract of dependence in return for protection. Women of the South after 1865 confronted both their doubt about what they could accomplish by themselves and their desire to avoid reliance on men. The women's rights movement in the South thus grew from necessity and disappointment-a sharp contrast to the ebullient optimism of its Northern counterpart. Faust's provocative analysis of a complex subject merits a place in all collections of U.S. history.

Hopefully, anyone who is familiar with Mrs. Sherman's writings will understand the irony of why I'm reading this in her honor.  I don't have time to go into it right now...

I'm way behind today- and its all my fault.  So, I'm off to make another few practice loaves of altar bread (the Orthodox make the bread at home that we use in the Eucharist) and Garlic Cheddar Biscuits to accompany the Buttermilk Chicken of tonight's dinner.  

Also on today's agenda:

1. Staying OFF the computer!!
2. Getting all the day's lessons done in the shortest possible amount of time
3. Laundry laundry laundry
4. Pack six boxes of books (Have I mentioned here that we are moving in three weeks??  Aaaaaaah!)

Better get too it.  Procrastination is my middle name!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Spanking: Not a Solution for Disobedience

A quote from the FABULOUS book Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives:

If the parents say, 'Stay here,' then the child must stay where they told him.  But a child is a child; he cannot sit still in one place.  What usually happens is that the parents spank the child for being disobedient.  But that is not a good manner of teaching a child obedience.  Maybe sometimes a spanking is called for, but then it should be out of love, and the child must feel love.  Parents should never spank their children when provoked by anger.  For if you are going to correct someone when you are angry, you will achieve nothing.  You will only hurt both the person and yourself.
If you want to bring someone onto the right path, to teach and advise him, then you must humble yourself first and talk to the person with a lot of love.  He will accept your advice, for he will feel that it is given with love.  But when you want to have your own way at all costs, then you will achieve nothing.  That is how resistance builds up in the child.  When a child is disobedient, spanking is not a solution.
~Elder Thaddeus

First off, let me just say that I STILL fail to see how spanking a child, even "in love," can possibly make a child feel loved.  So obviously, I would disagree with Elder Thaddeus here.  But I love the rest of this quote and I think he's spot on for the most part.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Throwing Out What I Thought I Knew

Elizabeth Esther has again hit the nail on the head with her post "Wait. What?  Catholics are Christians too?" .  Ohhhh, I can so relate to what she has written here.  Two years ago, I didn't know anything about Orthodoxy... but I thought I did.

For example:

  • Orthodox Christians believe in a false gospel.  
  • Orthodox Christians are just Catholics without a Pope
  • They worship Mary 
  • Icons are idols and violate the second commandment
  • Mystery is baaaaaaaaad
  • They believe in transubstantiation (they don't) so they believe they are eating the actual Body and drinking the actual Blood of Christ
I'm ashamed of myself and thank GOD I've been forgiven and absolved of that sinful and presumptuous attitude.  I made judgments based on what I thought I knew or what I had been told about it.  I definitely believed that anything distinctively Roman Catholic was heretical and that while there were some Roman Catholics who were "saved", Rome as a whole taught a false gospel and was therefore leading millions astray.  And since Orthodoxy sort of looks like Roman Catholicism, I just lumped them in with the Catholics.

And then, my friend and (now former) wife to my pastor told me she was looking into Orthodoxy for real.  I was FORCED to read primary sources.  I had to learn for myself what they believed so I could argue her out of converting.  Just like a good Calvinist... arguing about *everything.*  Eventually, I had confront what I thought I knew about Orthodox Christianity and ask myself if I was guilty of mis-characterization and judgmentalism (I was).  When I realized that I actually knew next to nothing about it, I decided to throw out everything- my misconceptions and my Calvinism- so that I could learn with objectivity.  I maintained my Christian world view, but I didn't start with the assumption that Orthodox Christianity was false.  I mean, there has to be something to a Christian Tradition which has been around since Pentecost and maintained remarkable continuity of doctrine and worship in all times everywhere.  Protestantism and even Roman Catholicism can't make those claims.  I think that attitude - looking at Orthodoxy as objectively as possible and NOT starting with the assumption that it was a false system or that I needed to find out how to disprove it- made all the difference.