Food, Keeping the Peace, Life

Sitting In Your Season And Cultivating Your Best Life

Every now and then, I come across a real gem in the piles and piles of books that I purchase, collect, and basically hoard until I’m able to devote the time to read them. I don’t believe it’s all a happy coincidence though. There’s a time and season for everything, right? The title and the cover definitely has to draw me in and I like to think that has something to do with my selection. But before anything else and without me even knowing, God has worked his plan and purpose into my selection. He knows that it’s something I NEED to read right now and he never makes mistakes. This time Cultivate was speaking to me and it makes perfect sense now because I’m in a season of growth.

Summer is going by so fast and everyone and everything is busy and growing, including our garden. In late Spring, I found myself growing seedlings from anything and everything I could get my hands on and filling our Tower Garden with every vegetable and fruit it would hold. My kids have even gotten into it, especially my daughter Grace, eating basil straight from the garden, taking care of the slips in the window sill, and helping me plant and look after our seedlings. For months now we’ve been watching things blossom and grow. I’m usually slacking in the green thumb area, but this time around I’ve found a lot of success and managed not to kill too many plants. Growing my own foods from seed has been so therapeutic and rewarding.

So it was amazing to pick up a book like Cultivate that likens where I am in my life right now to gardening, especially since I’m actually in the thick of it myself (the gardening I mean, of course). The author also had a daughter named Gracie like me and we had shared a lot of the same life experiences. If I’m being honest, I’m in the thick of it in my life right now too. I’m an almost 45 year old stay at home mom and I hit a major speed bump. I always knew being a mom was part of my purpose and the sacrifices we’ve made as a family have been so worth me being stay at home mom. So going back to the “working outside of the home world” after twelve years was not my cup of tea, nor did it feel like it was filling my need to serve and fulfill my purpose. I had been pursuing other interests that were leading me absolutely nowhere thus far. I was feeling like I was being called to something more, but I just didn’t know what that something more was.

Then along comes this book and I realize, I’m right where I’m suppose to be. Right now I don’t need something more. Something more may come later. Does that ever occur to you when you’re feeling lost that you really aren’t lost at all? You always hear there is a time and a season for everything, but I guess I never realized I was in a season of my own right now. I didn’t realize that being at home and here for my kids right now was all the purpose I truly needed. More importantly, that it matters a lot and that it’s enough.

Embrace Your Season

In our society, we’re conditioned to think that we always have to become something more or start something new, because if we don’t, we won’t be enough. We’re always wanting to jump from point A to point Z in our lives to find our next purpose, without thinking about the time in between. What if we’re just suppose to sit in our season, whatever it is, and let ourselves grow?

In reading this book, I discovered that you can cultivate a purposeful life right where you are at this very moment. That doesn’t mean that if you’re going through a growth period like I am, that it’s easy street. On the contrary, it’s hard as hell! There are major growing pains, there are stumbling blocks all along the way, there’s loss, and you have to rely on others sometimes during the process. It also requires a ton of patience, which I can always improve on. But just like my garden, the growing can be so beautiful and inspiring if you just let it happen!

I’ve had some growing pains like pursuing my Masters Degree, which may or may not pan out. It just might not be the season for it…still TBD. That’s just like the growing pains my squash is having as it keeps developing all female blooms and no male blooms, which consequently will make no squash. Clearly it’s the season for girl squash…whoop whoop! Money has been a stumbling block for both me and my garden. Until I got back to business, money was a little tighter and that also meant waiting until now to purchase the dirt for our raised bed garden. Our sweet potato slips have been growing and ready for weeks and finally they have the loose, rich soil they needed to be planted in.

Loss and Being in the Wait

As for loss, we all experience that regularly. It’s the sad part of life. Loss of a loved one, loss of a friendship, loss of a dream, or just feeling you’ve lost your way or purpose. I’ve experienced all these types of losses. In my growth, I’m not immune to loss and neither is my garden. I didn’t give my plants enough water and they shriveled up. Then I gave them too much water and not enough sun, so they wouldn’t perk back up. It wasn’t a total loss, but a loss nonetheless. Not every seed germinates, not every seedling takes to being transferred, and not every plant produces fruit. Our strawberries will probably not produce a single fruit and our one strand of cilantro may not last the summer, but they served their purpose and some bird or insect will benefit. Everything has its time, it’s purpose, and it’s season.

Gardening takes a lot of patience and time. You can’t have a full grown plant overnight. You are at the will of the weather and garden pests. There’s a lot of waiting for a fruit or bloom. Sometimes there’s too much rain and sometimes there’s not enough. You depend on the sun to come out, the clouds to provide just enough shade, and the rain and soil to provide just enough nutrients. When you’re growing, you have to be patient in the time and space you’re in. You have to be comfortable in the wait before whatever may come next. You have to be open to change and you have to rely on the help of others when things get tough or trying. Think about how our children rely on us as they navigate childhood and grow up to be amazing little humans. They need us to grow to their full potential, just like our garden needs the weather.

Giving Yourself Grace

One other important lesson from the book is the one of grace. This is something we all need a little more of. When you’re in a season of growth, you have to give yourself grace. There are going to be good times and bad, but you have to embrace them both. You have to be easy on yourself because you’re not always going to feel like sitting where you are. You might become completely stir crazy and wonder when something is going to change. We all have to do better at giving ourselves room for making mistakes. That’s when the real growing happens. That’s when you see all the rare beauty.

I recently transferred some rain lillies from my mother’s garden in the Keys home where I grew up. My mom reminded me that they are the same flowers I’ve seen in pictures that she used to put in my hair as a child. I mistakenly let them sit out of water for a day or two before I replanted them and another plant I brought. For days they just sat wilting in the window box I planted them in. I thought for sure I had killed them all and I was disappointed in myself that I didn’t transfer them quick enough. The other plant never took to the soil, but then, when I wasn’t looking, the roots of the rain lillies miraculously took hold in the dirt and the blooms opened up up for a few days before they fell off. Even after my mistake, there was still beauty, if only for a moment.

Time To Grow

It’s so true what they say, you grow through what you go through. If you’re going through a growing period, you’re not alone and you’re in the right place. Don’t feel like you have to be more or do more. I promise if you read this book, you’ll feel better about standing firm in this place. Embrace this time fully. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at all the beauty that is waiting to blossom in this season for you.

Food, Keeping the Peace, Life

On Veganism and Perfectionism

The Rough Road To Veganism

It was about two and a half years ago when I started feeling very sick. My anxiety was spiraling out of control. As a result, my stomach started bothering me pretty regularly. Food and I have had a love-hate relationship for quite some time now. So when I found out my regular tummy aches were due to Gastritis, I went on a mission to make food not only my friend, but part of my healing process. This began my long road to veganism.

I began eliminating different foods from my diet, starting with meat because it can be very hard to digest. Then I removed most spices from my cooking to see if any of them were irritating my stomach. I ate only fish and eggs for a long time, but eventually I gave them up too. Trust me, giving up seafood for this island girl is no small feat! But little by little, I was feeling better, my stomach was healing, and I was losing weight in the process.

I started to eat my five small meals out of bowls to control my portion sizes and I continued to eliminate different foods such as processed foods and even grains. Then, this coffee with creamer junkie, cheese addict, and Greek yogurt loving mom gave up dairy! The pounds started to melt off. The more things I removed and replaced with more fruits and veggies, the better I felt. I was becoming more energetic, feeling stronger, sleeping better, and I wasn’t having any more digestive issues. Less than a year later, I had lost 40lbs just with changing my diet. I was mostly eating veggies, legumes, nuts, fruits, and some whole grains. My diet wasn’t perfect by any means, but I knew I was on to something.

What The Health

I watched every health documentary out there. All of them made an impression, but the one that impacted me the most was What The Health. After watching it, I knew that the choices I was making for my diet were not only helping me, but they were making a difference to animals, our environment, and the entire planet. I felt like I was headed in the right direction, but what if I made a mistake? What would people think? How would people react if I had a chunk of cheese one day or if I accidentally ate a dish not knowing it had meat in it? What if I sneaked some chocolate? (all things that have actually happened)

When we are talking about our health and life choices, we shouldn’t be worried about what anyone says. We all make mistakes and not one of us is perfect. But as humans, we tend to care a lot of how others see us. Someone makes a change for themselves for the better, and our human reaction is to scrutinize their choices and tell them why their choices are wrong. Even worse, we like to call them out if they fall short of what their ultimate goal is. These are some of the reasons why I’ve avoided putting a label on my diet or lifestyle up until this point.

Vegetarian, Vegan, or Some Other Label

There were a couple of times in my past that I attempted to become a Vegetarian. It never lasted too long though because I would fall off the no-meat wagon and be too afraid to continue, lest I made anymore mistakes. There didn’t seem to be a lot of non-meat substitutes back then and definitely no was there room for error. In my heart, I wanted to be Vegan for such a long time, but it scared me. I’ve always leaned toward the lifestyle because it seemed the most humane, environmentally friendly, and healthy way to live. So this crunchy granola girl was all about it! But again, it didn’t seem attainable or sustainable.

If you went vegetarian or vegan, not only were you scrutinized by your meat-eating peers who constantly asked where you were going to get your next protein from, but the vegan community did not seem welcoming to those of us who were either mulling over the idea or just starting to make a few small changes. I also didn’t like how meat-eaters or mostly plant-based eaters were sometimes treated. I mean, how can you encourage or welcome these potential changes in others if you subscribe to perfectionism? Of course, we would all like to be successful in our choices, but if you’re going to only focus on how we should avoid failure, then that will give negative vibes to those attempting to make a change.

We live in a world of labels that can sometimes attempt to put limitations on what people can be or they can foster an idea of perfectionism, which in reality, does not exist. You can read about my thoughts on labels from a previous post here . As humans, we can only do our best to achieve our goals and even the smallest steps and choices toward that can make a huge impact on our lives and the lives of others. It’s time to stop worrying so much about what people or things should be called and stop trying to fit them in a perfect little box, with no room for ever going outside the lines. Care what people think, but if we truly believe in something, we should sit firmly in that choice without letting others’ opinions effect that choice.

Veganism Doesn’t Equal Perfection

I chose Veganism and I started the process about a year ago. Yes, I’ve made mistakes along the way and I’m sure I will keep making them. My goal isn’t perfection. It is to do my best to be healthy, to be compassionate to animals, and to be environmentally conscious. So if I accidentally eat something that is not completely free of animal products, please don’t judge me. Just encourage me to keep going and keep trying! Call me plant-based, vegan, veganish, or wannabe vegan…it really doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that I’m eating mostly plants and it has been life changing!

I feel great and it’s awesome to see my husband and kids slowly making these changes as well and embracing a more vegan lifestyle. They are mostly plant-based eaters now and I truly believe it’s because I’ve accepted where they are in their journey, and I have never asked them to live up to some idea of perfection. If you want to encourage others to try veganism and this way of eating, then accept them as they are, flaws and all. Most likely you’ve been where they’ve come from or made your share of mistakes. The idea of perfectionism has no place in any community, nor does it allow for love if that love is only conditional on our performance. If we are more accepting of mistakes, we can strive for excellence together instead of demand perfection of one another.

We’re In This Together

Life isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s amazing! I’m so happy with the the choices I made that led me to this point. All of it has brought me so much peace in my life and such peace of mind. I’m excited to see how using these foods as my medicine, adding more daily activity, and continuing to focus on my overall wellness will have even more positive effects on my life, my family’s life, and the lives of others. So, if you want to try to eat more plants and even give veganism a try, go for it! I’ve got your back. I guarantee you it will change your life in ways you probably can’t imagine. And hey, if you “screw up” and eat a burger or decide it’s not for you, that’s cool too. No judgement here…only love.

Peace, Love, & Plants,

Food, Keeping the Peace

It’s A Peacecatarian Life

If you’re reading this, hopefully the title has at least intrigued you. I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but I promise it will at least sort of make sense when I’m finished. If not, please pretend that it did.

For the past few years, I’ve been slowly changing my lifestyle. It’s basically become the theme of my 40’s. They’ve been little changes. Nothing too drastic. But they’ve all contributed to my more peaceful state. I mean, for the most part, I’ve lived a pretty great life that has been very healthy, pretty active, and even full of adventure and excitement at times. Sure I’ve had lots of setbacks that ultimately revealed themselves in extra lbs. But last year I made some great strides in getting back my healthy in that area too. Changing your lifestyle is a process. It’s not something that just happens overnight, even if you’d like to snap your fingers and make it so.

So when I decided to stop eating meat it was many years in the making. Growing up I ate meat. Hamburger helper was a staple. I also ate anything else I wanted because I basically burned it off dancing for many hours, at least four times a week, horsebackriding (the thighmaster had nothing on this workout) and working at the ranch weekly. I loved being with the horses and could always picture myself living on a farm. My parents made healthy meals for us and we rarely had soda or sweets. When you’re young though, you are invincible and you aren’t too concerned with what you’re putting into your body or where it’s coming from.

Now I’m not saying all meat is bad nor is it all created equal. I have loved me some meat in my day and I’m not saying I will never in my life have it again. I mean, c’mon, is there anything better than bacon on everything? But for now, meat and I are on a hiatus. I do eat mostly veggies and I would love to say I’m veganish, but there’s no way I’m giving up eggs or cheese at this point. There are a lot of great vegan products that I use though and I’ll share them in a future post. So because I do eat fish, I guess I would be considered a pescatarian. I like to say I’m eating for my inner peace and even a little peace of mind…hence the Peacecatarian.

As I said earlier, I arrived at this decision over a long period of time. I eliminated many things in my diet last year when I was feeling bad. We determined my tummy troubles were due to my anxiety, but during my experimentation with different foods, I realized I was kind of over meat. At this stage of my life I wasn’t eating much of it anyway and when I did, it was really only chicken. Meat like some foods is a bit harder to digest, so I started substituting with other protein alternatives. I was amazed at how much I didn’t miss it. Plus, in total honesty, every time I reflect on one of the million documentaries I’ve watched over the past few years on our nation’s food, where it comes from, how it’s grown, how we are badly effecting our environment, and in some instances, how the animals are being treated, it feels like I made the right choice.

There are many types of diets and lifestyles out there. Mine is still developing, but I think that’s why I sort of coined this name for it for me…Peacecatarian. I want more of everything that brings me peace and that’s the lifestyle I desire and deserve. Whether it’s food I eat, the products I use, the exercises I do, the things I read, the things I watch, the people I surround myself with…I want it all to be peace driven. What I’ve found is that a mostly plant-based diet and a somewhat minimalist style of life is what is giving me the most peace of mind, so I continue to pursue that.

So I’ll keep making my weekly mason jar salads, eating my nut cheese, and I may even experiment with some tofu and tempeh recipes. But my coffee at home will still be swimming in creamer and down the road, I may even one day have organic, grass fed bacon wrapped beef. I won’t get it right all the time, but there’s peace in this probably imperfect path. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Peace, love, and plants,
Darlene xo