Abundance & Losing It: A Shamefully True Story

I’ve been doing a LOT of inner work on my money mindset lately.  I’m growing my business in ambitious proportions, and we’ve been enjoying a quality of life that’s really pretty excellent for the past few years, even with the difficulties that we may have.

In short, I really love my life.  

People seem to think that earning more money is the best/quickest way to change your life profoundly, tho this isn’t actually true.  You might be able to afford new things, new superficial markers of recognition…but the truth is, earning more money generally just brings you MORE of what you’re already experiencing.  If you have shitty relationships, for example – having more money will ensure you have more shitty relationships, or else, that your shitty relationships get even worse.  If you eat crap now, you are not likely to switch overnight to an all-organic whole-foods diet…even if you insist it’s “only” money that prevents you from eating healthier.

If you don’t love yourself when you’re broke, you won’t automatically find the wherewithal to start a yoga practice, meet new, uplifting friends, and find your authentic self when you’re richer.  It’s just not true.  

Money is an amplifier – not a magic ticket to awesomeness.  

You’ve got to add your own bit of awesome, regardless of how much you make – to experience awesomeness in any capacity.  

 

So, I know I have a lot of “baggage” with money.  I was a spoiled only child, and money was used to manipulate and dis-empower me – by my parents, and later, by my ex-husband.  

I feel like there’s certain stories in our past, for all of us, that need to be told – released, like a catharsis – to be able to heal, grow, and move past them.  

This is one of them – a terribly humiliating story to share…  

 

It’s the story of how I blew nearly 100 grand in less than a year.  

 

(Sounds positively appalling, doesn’t it?  Toe-curlingly irresponsible.  Ridiculous.  Definitely, absolutely shameful.)

I feel like the things I write create this image of me as someone who’s always lived in poverty – but that’s actually not the case. I had a relatively “rich” childhood.  When I moved out at 19, I *thought* we were poor. Then I got divorced and realized a whole new level of poverty.  I got remarried, but not “back on my feet” – not by a longshot.  

Then, something huge happened:

My husband finally got a settlement check, for a legal case that we wish hadn’t even had to happen. His share was a lump sum of over $90K.

We were so broke we had to borrow the money for gasoline to drive an hour away to find a bank to cash the check. Our own bank wouldn’t honor it cause we were so overdrawn – and we were so jaded and distrustful of banks at that point, we felt terrified to even open a new account to deposit the money into.

 

It actually felt safer to drive home with so much cash it barely fit in our glovebox.

 

We KNEW what this meant: the END of all our bullshit money troubles. We would never have to tell the kids no about petty things again. We would get out of debt; buy a proper home, a new vehicle that wasn’t slowly dying, finally honor our hobbies and pursue our interests – we could travel.

We would take a trip to the coast, see the ocean, stay in a beach cottage, and give the kids amazing, fun memories to cherish. FREEDOM…such sweet escape, we dreamed of.

 

We did pay off our credit cards. I put just what I needed to pay them all off into a new account, and did so with a few quick phonecalls…boy, did that feel great.

We kept our clunker car for backup, found a modest but nice minivan that fit our family, and paid cash for that too. The sales associate didn’t know whether to peg us as crazy conspiracy theorists or bank robbers, when we showed up to buy that van.

We even found the perfect home – older, smallish, out in the country, far away from friends and shopping – but it had everything we truly needed. Space for the kids, a great yard and garden, etc. We imagined, even if we had no furniture or stuff, how wonderful it would be to never fear the possibility of losing our home for failure to pay every month – because we had enough to buy the house outright.

Incredibly, we were the first ones to notice the little gem, and we made our offer – they accepted!  We even signed a contract on it, but then – I freaked out.  In Texas, you have three days to nullify a contract on a home, for whatever reason.  

 

I was paralyzed with fear.  I realized that after paying closing costs and moving expenses, we might not even be able to afford to buy the one other big-ticket thing I really felt we needed: a nice mattress.

We’d been sleeping on the floor for over a year, living in project apartments.  I gave up most of my furniture in the divorce, and we’d yet to replace any of it.  We were constantly scrambling, and It seemed like there was never even enough money to buy an air mattress and pump, in all that time…

 

I was mentally and emotionally destroyed.

 

We voided the contract.  Passed up the house at my insistence (bolstered by my parents’ bad advice).

Instead, we decided to rent a place from my FIL, who turned out to be not as interested in philanthropy as I initially assumed. I deluded myself that he’d eventually sell us the house at a loss, since he didn’t want to live in it.

 

I decorated the place inside and out. It felt wonderful, like I was creating a personal sanctuary for my family that could never be destroyed or taken away.  We made loads of repairs, bought furniture, even installed a pool.

We got cats, which we’d always wanted but couldn’t afford to feed or take care of before.

Then the bills started rolling in: The house seemed to lack insulation; I was flabbergasted at the $450-$600+ electricity bills, when we’d previously been paying just over $100/month. The pool upkeep cost tons of money every week.

 

Our “friends” expected us to entertain, and we did. Barbecues and parties…we drank a lot at that house – first because it was fun to revel in not having to worry – and then, because we WERE worried.

 

My FIL asked us to either pay double or move out. He could charge someone over twice what we were having extreme trouble paying him every month.

At first, we thought we could take what money we had left and use it as a down payment to buy another modest home, and finance the rest. However, our previous credit and distrust of banks proved to be our undoing.  We got financed, but for an amount just barely enough to buy a home at all.

In two months, we offered on SIX homes, and were outbid every time by some opportunist investor (whom I referred to as ASSHOLES at the time) with cash to spare. I cried every time we got the bad news.

 

My husband’s illness got worse. Seizures at work. He had to quit his job. The credit cards that I’d almost cut up started to be used in constant succession for everything, as I had no other way to buy groceries.

It got colder, and we resorted to buying firewood to use in the “decorative” fireplace – because we were terrified to turn up the heat another degree and be slammed with another $600+ utility bill we couldn’t pay.

 

The kids and I cried bitterly, very hard, when we had to rehome the cats. I still sometimes have trouble mustering much feeling for the dog and snake we have now. I shut off that part of myself – the animal lover.  Intangible losses…

 

I was in utter disbelief. HOW could this be happening to us?

We tried so hard to make the right decisions, but my damned fear brought me right back again. We SWORE we’d never go back to this life again.

 

My husband found some apartments that offered reduced rent to low income applicants. We got back on food stamps. We sold many, many things at a pathetic, desperate loss – things that I’d bought with a satisfied smile on my face, “knowing” I’d never have to sell my things to make ends meet again…

Here we were, in the very hell we thought we’d escaped forever. Ironically, it felt about 100 times worse, being here after experiencing “somewhere else”.

 

I had to ask my parents for immediate help with our bills until assistance kicked in.

I had to swallow my pride and admit, with extreme nausea, that we were down to less than $400, when less than a year ago we had had $90K.

 

Just writing these words is so hard for me, even all this time later. Hot tears prick my eyes, and a wave of deep, disgusted shame is coursing through me still.

 

My deepest fear about earning more money is that I’ll just lose it all again somehow. It’s not even an unfounded fear – for I’ve lived through this nauseatingly, shameful scenario in real life. We had the funds we needed to make just about anything happen – and we utterly, completely, profoundly FAILED.

 

I resolve to change my story.

I AM worth more than this.

 

I deserve more than what I’ve been receiving…and I KNOW that I will never let fear hold me back from making the right decisions again.

 

I am a good steward of money – I will do wonderful things with it, for mySelf, my family, and for others as well.

The more I have, the more I can responsibly give back to the world. With great power comes great responsibility.

 

I release this story of the past, and embrace my new reality of financial abundance, prosperity, and responsibility!

Perfection and apologies

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog, and part of that has to do with perfection–or the lack thereof, actually. I figure if i can’t write a “perfect” blog post, then I just won’t write one. But that’s stupid. There is no such thing as a perfect post, or a perfect anything–so why and how did we get so conditioned to think in these terms? And why are we so hard on ourselves??

I read something recently that called any explanation a hidden apology, and that really resonated with me.

I used to be the master of explaining. I could come up with a bunch of reasons why I did or didn’t do X, and would be fully prepared to explain each in detail to any random friend, stranger, or internet troll who challenged me. It was that way when I went veg. It was the same when my kids got older and the question of homeschooling and then unschooling came up. Even when I had a toddler sick with pneumonia, I was stuck in the mode of explaining, defending, apologizing to everyone about my choices. About what exactly the nurse said to me, and why I didn’t feel comfortable accepting their treatment recommendations, etc..

When I would encounter certain people, “interrogators” who would question my choices zealously, looking for any flaw to exploit in my reasoning, this would produce a fight-or-flight response in me. I’d either go into overdrive, finding internet links and research to back my response–or I’d just be incapable of responding–feeling that anything I’d say would be used against me.

What it really must have looked like was that I was wishy-washy, that I only had external, empty motivations for behaving and believing what I did.

The fact is, I can give you a thousand logical reasons why I believe what I do–but probably lots of people could defend the opposite position. Ultimately, however, none of those reasons matter to you. They won’t resonate with you, and they won’t convince you to change your own reasoning (at least, not on its own!).

Your opinion of my reality is not the same thing as my reality. It doesn’t define it, and it certainly doesn’t create it. I don’t have to feel responsible for creating a good impression of my reality in other people’s minds. My happiness is not contingent on other people sanctioning it–telling me it’s “okay” or “not okay” to feel happy. I can choose happiness and embrace fulfillment on my path, regardless of whether the rest of society tells me it’s perfect, allowed, or legit. And I am.

I am deleriously happy with the life I’ve created and the choices I’ve made–even the ones that don’t make sense, even the ones that might appear to be “wrong” from someone else’s perspective.

So if I don’t write out a paragraph-long explanation for every article I post on facebook, or be able to clearly articulate exactly why I do the things I do, it’s not because I don’t have my reasons. It’s just that I am too busy enjoying my life to want to spend so much time trying to bring others into alignment with my choices.

I am Who I Am. You are Who You Are. No apologies. That’s just as perfect as it gets.

Part 3 – My Journey to & Beyond Vegetarianism

So in my last post in this series, I was feeling very unsettled and confused because wheat, the major ingredient in my diet, was suddenly being implicated as unhealthy, and the cause of my husband’s Celiac disease.

This Celiac thing turned our world upside-down.

At first I approached it like a random allergy, as if he was allergic to strawberries or latex:  “Bummer!  Sorry you can’t have this pasta….”

So we bought gluten-free pasta–which is expensive–so we would just make two separate types of pasta…  We soon realized just how much pasta we ate!

Now, my husband had been mostly vegetarian for most of the time we’d been together thus far–meaning, he would have meat when it was available, but for the most part ate a vegetarian diet with the rest of us.  He’s the chef in our home, but he didn’t want to frequently cook something that only he would eat.  Also, meat is inescapably expensive–even when it’s the hormone-injected “cheap cuts” at the big-box store.

  • One of the major caveats with having limited funds is that your diet is one of sustenance rather than health-promotion.  Ideally, we’d all eat foods that healed our bodies and supported optimum health–not just survival….but I digress.

As time went on, I read and researched more about Celiac.  I have prided myself on my continuing nutritional knowledge base since I went veg as a teen, but here I was being presented with a glaring discrepancy and confusion.

I didn’t understand how it was possible that large numbers of people could be allergic to something that’s widely promoted as staple of a healthy diet.  I mean, even in my impassioned vegan years, I’d never heard of a “meat allergy”!  Yet there are so, so many people with Celiac–and even more with wheat intolerance.  Some estimates claim that as much as half of the American population is sensitive to wheat!

My oldest son, who loves to critique and analyze the world, likes to ask me about nutrition pretty often:  “Is this good for you?  What about this?  Which one is better for you?  Why?”

When he asked about pasta, “whole grain” bread, rice, cereal….I never had an answer that I felt confident of.  My nutritional knowledge up to that point left me with the weak conclusion that whole grains were “just okay”–i.e, that they didn’t have loads of nutrition but weren’t supposed to be “bad” for you, either.  But what exactly did that mean?

Interestingly, the WIC program advocates “healthy whole grains”, and only lets participants choose certain cereals with “high whole grain content”.   However, a “food product” that’s as processed as dry cereal cannot be a health-promoting food, and so should be eaten moderately, if at all.  Anyway, Dora cereal is one of the allowed “healthy choices”–and if you’ve ever seen that stuff coagulate in milk, you’ll know it isn’t healthy just by looking at it!

I have been a fan of Dr. Joel Fuhrman since before his books were published, and I still very much agree with his central premise that the bulk of your diet must be whole, natural foods in order to be health-promoting.  Ideally, he promotes a vegetable-based diet instead of a grain-based diet–which is sound advice.  However, Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t implicate whole grains as BAD–just as grossly overused in the typical American diet.

  • I knew there was more to the story than just processed/refined grains versus “whole” grains…but what was it?

As you might know, when you turn your attention toward something, it grows within your consciousness.  Law of Attraction and all that..  Gradually, I realized that several of my other friends were avoiding not just processed grains, but grains in general, and I started asking them why.    I checked out Mark’s Daily Apple and bought The Primal Blueprint.

Also, another friend of mine began a journey of her own, called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is a very regimented diet that’s designed to heal your gut.  I asked her about it, and the only thing that stuck in my mind–other than it was often the best prescription for Celiac patients (!)–was that it included an awful lot of meat!

Meat in a diet that is designed for healing??  This grew stranger and stranger, I thought.

Yet another one of my friends lives on a farm, and she’s quite healthy.  It occurred to me that she and her family eat plenty of raw, unpasteurized dairy products, butter, eggs, and yes, meat.  Organic, grass-fed meat from animals that had been gently taken care of, allowed to roam free, and were slaughtered as humanely as possible.   If you know anything about the factory farming operations that most of America’s meats come from, you’ll know that this is about as opposite as you can possibly get from the family farm.

As I started unraveling the hidden mess of questions beyond just vegetarianism-or-not, I learned that even my beloved tofu wasn’t safe.

One of the major fallacies of the vegetarian and vegan movement is that it’s possible to eat so low on the food chain that you’re not impacting the environment at all.  Most vegans I know (and the vegan I used to be!) still eat processed foods that have just as much of a negative impact on the planet and sustainability as the foods they are so diligently avoiding.

  • So what it began to look like is this:  Foods–ALL FOODS–vary widely in their ability to promote or detract from our health, depending on how they are farmed/raised/created.  

Now, if you’re familiar with energy work and the quantum view of the universe, that is so obvious and simple–yet complex.

The positive energy that’s put into raising your own garden, or raising chickens for eggs, or even lovingly preparing a meal (as mentioned in my last post), affects the quality of that food, and carries the positive vibrations with it as we ingest it.  Similarly, mass-produced, over-processed, ready-to-eat, “dead” foods that are regarded mainly in terms of some CEO’s profit margin, carry those vibrations as well.

You don’t need a psychic to tell you that a commercial slaughterhouse is a place that’s thick with the vibration of fear, death, terror.  Animals feel–they are sentient beings, and those residual energies and hormones are present in the animals’ bodies at the time of slaughter, and become part of the meat you eat.  (That’s in addition to the toxic compounds and mega-doses of drugs they inject them with in order to keep the animals alive in such crowded, filthy conditions.  Can we say antibiotic resistance?)

However, vibration and energy go on to give further meaning to another argument that most people like to use to poke fun at vegetarians:

       “Plants feel pain too.”

I used to get so frustrated with people who would say that to me.  As if the “suffering” of a cabbage plant is somehow equivalent to the suffering of a pig or cow.  Absurd, I thought.  Of course those people were just trying to be thorns in my side, saying nonsense to goad me…  But actually, I’ve come to believe that they have a point.  (Yes, really.)

Plants are alive too, but more importantly, everything is energy.  The suffering of an animal is more evident to us than a plant’s because we are biologically more similar, more able to relate.  But to say that killing plants doesn’t matter is to reject the energetic, divine nature of All that IS.  In the quantum view, a rock IS a leaf IS a cow IS a person IS the sun and stardust…

The veg movement is focused on getting people to extend their compassion to non-human beings…but why stop there?  

I was starting to realize that that obnoxious song by Tool, about the carrot holocaust, was not so far off the mark, after all…

  • Life feeds on life.  The solution is not to remove yourself from the equation–that’s impossible.  Everything is energy.  You are responsible for the mark you make upon the cycle of life.  No matter what, the fact of your existence creates suffering in other forms.

You must strike a balance, there is no opting out.

~*~*~*~

So, what does this all mean??  I’m honestly still chewing on that.  🙂

The short answer is, I’m regarding my food choices with a lot more conscious thought now than ever before, and I’m realizing that mindfulness and energetics are essential to my diet.

I’m still learning so much–about raw dairy, fermented foods,  how to brew kombuchaurban homesteading, and raising our own egg chickens, eventually.

I think, lately, that labeling one’s eating habits as vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, etc, is misleading, limiting, and not focused on alignment with one’s body/health/Self.

Eating intuitively, seeking out high-vibe, consciously grown  foods is where I’m at right now.

It means that I’m not really interested in wrapping my identity up with vegetarianism anymore.  My diet still happens to be vegetarian–but the description (and stereotypes, and assumptions) of “vegetarian” is no longer all-that-pertinent to Who I Am…if that makes any sense.

My relationship with food is evolving…rapidly.

consciousness.  _shift_

Here are the links to Part 1  and Part 2 of this series…

Evolution of a Homeschool Family–One Year Ago…

I wrote this about a year ago, at the end of one of my more zealous attempts at “traditional” homeschooling. I found it amusing and wonderful to realize how far we’ve come since then.

So at the moment, shocking as it sounds, we literature-based homeschoolers are taking a much-needed respite from all things “schooley”.

Several weeks ago, I managed to have what I considered an uncommonly good, productive, well-rounded homeschool week–but by the end, the kids were fighting, cranky, and acting like next Monday’s lessons were so abhorrent as to have already ruined their weekend.

Burnout had struck. Even the most seasoned homeschoolers have to recognize that burnout happens with kids too, not just parents. What to do? Well, I am older and more mellow than I was, say, five years ago, and so I didn’t agonize over how to get them to focus on their Shakespeare (or worse, try to force them to do it arbitrarily)–I just quietly told the kids that it was clear to me that we all needed a break from schoolwork for awhile. My analytical oldest child pressed me for more information: “How long of a break? Do we still have to do math? Can we watch Netflix tomorrow morning?” and so on. Now, I am much more of a “ride-the-waves-of-inspiration” type of person, and so I didn’t want to set an arbitrary “back to schoolwork” date.

Instead, I tried to shift my focus toward joyful, cooperative living as a family, and figured we’d hit the books again once it no longer felt oppressive. I realize this is probably where some readers may see my non-Christian viewpoint peeking out from under the piles of books. Shouldn’t I be cultivating a respect for authority and creating deadlines for my kids to adhere to? What if they never want to think about math again, and gorge themselves mentally on “junk TV”?

Well, first off, I think that’s a load of bull. “If I let that kid watch TV, he’d do it all day long.” Math is unavoidable, and sometimes pretty interesting, or pretty, or interesting…..and I bet it’s even on Netflix somewhere. Anyway, what harm can possibly come from trying to consciously attempt to live more joyfully? Everything else must necessarily stem from a place of joy, or else it becomes drudgery–if not worse.
Homeschooled or not, I don’t want my kids to have uber math-whiz brains in exchange for even a week or two of rotten childhood memories. Would you want that? Really? Happiness is the priority, and as important as a good education is, our familial relationships should not suffer for it.
One of Charlotte Mason’s key concepts was that of Habit Training. (For the uninitiated, here’s a brief concept overview) I’m quite sure we don’t do this in the way that other, more religious/conservative homeschoolers might–but the core concept of habit training drives home the point that school time is about more than facts and figures, handwriting and memorization.

It’s about the cultivation of our minds, and the growth and development of our relationships. We are not raising children, but adults–and so when confronted with a problem, be it burnout, or something more simple or serious, I try to co-create solutions with my children, instead of against them.

Today, with no limits or structure imposed, my 8yr old was talking about herds of bison in pre-colonial America, and happily working in a Handwriting Without Tears book. My 11yr old was playing and laughing with his little brother, and yes, we watched some Netflix. It was surely what Charlotte Mason purists would call “twaddle”, but if Hello Kitty brings us closer as a family, I’m cool with that. People before things.

Questioning My Purpose as an Artist

So, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in nearly a month.  I haven’t been posting to FaceBook as often lately either.   While some of you might simply be grateful for the reduction in news feed clutter…  🙂  …there are multiple reasons for this shift, and I think the time’s right to discuss at least some of them.

First, I’ve just been genuinely busier with life lately.  My family now lives in twice the square footage that we previously did, and as any mama will tell you, that’s a major increase in cleaning and organizing!  We also have a yard that we are attempting to garden in.  There’s things to be watered every day, and new chores keep popping up just as often.  To top it off, in an increased effort towards self-sufficiency and sustainable living, we are building a giant greenhouse in the backyard for vegetable growing.  (No really, it’s giant–36 feet long.  My awesome husband designed the plans himself, but this low-cost greenhouse model is similar.)  I’ve also been attempting to eat healthier, and while I don’t always succeed, I am spending more mental energy on these pursuits than, say, my art or my blog.

Also, the passing of my mama, and the resulting improved relationship with my dad, are acting as a sort of directional beacon for me.  There’s only so many years that you have with your family, and childhood goes by in a flash.  I am a firm believer in the importance of a happy childhood, and there’s only so much energy I can divert into other pursuits and interests before I feel that my family might be getting the leftovers, so to speak.  I’m an introvert, and I need to have alone-time to “recharge my batteries” (hence the odd hours I sometimes keep)–but when you have four children, this isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish!  I’m compensating by withdrawing from external outlets to have more energy to devote to my family and home.

Lastly, and perhaps most profoundly, I’ve been sort of questioning my purpose as an artist.  Anyone who’s seen my website or FaceBook page knows I’m a chronic dabbler.  However, I’m not going to continue to do this because dabbling no longer inspires me.  It’s not fair to anyone if I’m not providing the most amazing, inspirational, dynamic art that I can possibly give–and for that, I need to “feel the love”.

I LOVE doing henna art.  I love that it’s never the same on any two people or areas of the body.  I love knowing that I can help someone to feel fancy for a week or three, or that I got the chance to help a pregnant mama really celebrate her belly.  I even love that it’s temporary–to me, henna art rides the wave of inspiration-energy as it was meant to be–dynamic, fleeting and organic.  I also love painting, when I get the chance.  Again, this is less than a simple endeavor with four children–but an inspired mama will try to find the space for joy in her life.

In the past, I’ve created jewelry, and I’ve sewn Waldorf dolls, but I’ve come to believe that just having an aptitude for such things does not mean that I ought to strive to create more of them.  In order to be aligned with Truth, Love, and Power (which is my goal), I need to do work that I feel excited about–work that moves me.  I might have the skills to create certain things, but if my energies are not in the proper place of love and gratitude, I just don’t feel that my work is truly of high quality.

The last thing I’d ever want is to be a “vendor”–someone who just creates and sells because they can, because it’s easy and thoughtless.  I could go be an employee for that experience, and you could get cheaper stuff at a big box store!  That’s the complete opposite of what I’m trying to accomplish with my art business.

I want to do art mainly for the joy of sharing and connecting with others.  To me, art’s not really art if it’s not inspired and inspirational!

Evolution of dietary thought: Does the past shape the future?

Hello all!  In the time since I’ve written last, I’ve been thinking a lot about my diet, and making some changes that are long-overdue for my health and well-being.  I want to write a series of posts discussing the evolution of my diet in both thought and action, from junk-food junkie to aspiring raw vegan.  (Back off, food police–I did say “aspiring“!  It’s an evolution, after all!)

When I was a kid, I ate lots of junk–whatever I wanted, really.  One of the curiosities of being the only child of fairly well-off, older parents, was that I got to eat nearly anything I pleased, with no regard to cost, and only scant regard to nutritional value.  I was nearly a teenager before it finally occurred to me that those numbers on the grocery tags and receipts actually meant something–that some people in the world couldn’t afford to buy anything they wanted at the grocery store.  I always realized that things like toys or nice clothes weren’t affordable for everyone, but food??  How could people charge so much money for something so basic and necessary?  (Insert Socialist cracks here for best effect 😉

As a teen, I was exposed to vegetarianism thanks to my mother, and with a combination of ethical, environmental, and health concerns, I felt very deeply that this was the path of higher consciousness.  My diet and my unique brand of spirituality have always been intertwined.  That’s one reason why I’ve always had trouble with “fitting in” to any traditional/organized religion, and why I eventually gave up organized religion like a painfully restrictive pair of shoes.

Naturally, over the past 16 years, my diet has gone through many “incarnations”, both ethical and nutritional in focus.  After the initial hump of figuring out what I could and could not eat (and a lot of microwave popcorn and raw cucumber!) at age 14, I started forcing myself to try new foods.  I gradually expanded my knowledge of veg nutrition and cooking, and my diet improved accordingly.  At age 20, I became a strict vegan (no meat, cheese, eggs, milk, butter, honey, leather, ETC), and stayed that way for over 2.5 years.

Somewhere along the line, I learned how to bake delicious vegan cookies and fry up some wicked tofu cutlets.  😉  However, finances (or lack thereof) did generally get in the way of “optimal eating” as I then defined it.  I managed to remain fairly careful about what I ate until my divorce, at age 25.

For a long time after that, I was in the sort of financial position where I had to eat whatever was cheap and plentiful.  I bought the healthy, whole stuff (fresh fruits and veggies) for my kids and ate whatever I could get ahold of cheaply and/or in large quantities.  We started receiving WIC benefits, and I found myself with way more dairy products than I was comfortable eating–but it was all we had, and so I ate it thankfully and had to reprogram my brain to accept things that were previously disgusting to me as food!  Ramen with cheese melted over it still holds a dually nasty/comforting impression in my mind.

At the same time, I also developed a sort of “hoarding mentality” when it came to pantry foods, which I still tend toward.  Our pantry is basically a supplemental back-up plan–a place that stores things I know I can make a week or more’s worth of meals out of, IF we have to.  A sound strategy, to be sure, but one that is fear-based; since for me, it’s grounded not in a place of frugality or prudence, but in the panicky, ill feeling of “What if we can’t afford enough fresh fruits and veggies this month?”

Under these conditions, I taught myself to cope with eating scarcely any fresh fruits and veggies, and large amounts of processed grains and dairy products–a far cry from my previous habits.  After two months of extreme hardship, we started receiving food stamps–and I gained 30 pounds in the first two months (yes, really).  It was so unbelievably comforting to know that we would all be able to eat until we felt satisfied–and honestly, when you’re that poor, you don’t have many other true comforts available. 

Now, I think living through that sort of experience can deeply throw off your inner equilibrium, no matter what your previous diet was.  Even as our circumstances improved, I found that I had very little energy or drive to be concerned about my diet.  I stayed veg, but instead of striving for nutritional excellence or ethical congruency as I had before, I just ate whatever was available and tasty so long as it didn’t contain meat.  It’s as if I turned off a part of my consciousness or applied a mental filter about what I was consuming.  I didn’t have the emotional energy, the inner strength, to question that deeply into my lifestyle choices at that point.  If I did, I would only find myself facing insurmountable challenges–or so they seemed at the time.

Just because we could finally make ends meet didn’t mean I could go trying raw veganism or eating a high organic diet–we didn’t have the money for me to care that much, and it was depressing.  So I closed that part of myself off, and approached eating as a necessary evil, for the most part.

This is just one of the many areas of “collateral damage” that hardships such as divorce and prolonged poverty can bring, of course.  I lost my inner power for a time, and with it, the ability to live with full consciousness and compassion.

So there.  I’ve briefly skimmed the surface of my dietary journey over the past 16 years.  Later on, I will have a post discussing the sorts of things that led me to vegetarianism (no soapboxing, I promise!), and then, a discussion of optimal nutrition that isn’t even veg-specific!  But you’ll have to excuse me, I have a smoothie waiting to be made…  😉

A Dream Home-Birth: Fourth Time’s the Charm

This is the intriguing narrative of the midwife-attended, natural birth of my fourth child, Nikolas.  


His birth will be forever connected with my mama, because she fell and hurt her hip the night before he was born.  True to her nature, she didn’t tell anyone about the fall, but simply said that she “wasn’t feeling up to coming over” to see my new baby, even though we lived a mere 10 minutes apart.  That seemingly minor event was the start of a sharp downward spiral for her.  Two weeks later, she fell again and broke her hip.  The surgery that was supposed to replace her hip sent her body into multiple strokes instead, and we never got to hear her voice again.  


We had had a misunderstanding on the phone the day before, and I am so glad that I rushed to the hospital to speak with her one last time before that surgery happened.  We used to talk on the phone for at least an hour, almost every day.  It took me months to figure out how to cope with day-to-day life without her patience and encouragement just a phonecall away.  I grieved a lot when she first got hurt–moreso than lately, almost.  I am still so incredibly upset that I deleted her last voicemail, not realizing that I’d never hear her voice again.  She only got to meet Nikolas once before the strokes happened.


Right, well…  On to the birth story!  It really is a good one, if I do say so myself.  I have very late babies, typically, and Nik was no different.  


Now, I am a self-proclaimed crunchy mama, in all its permutations and possibilities.  If you don’t wanna read about or support natural birth–or if you wanna nitpick and argue with me about how crunchy I *really* am–then maybe just don’t upset yourself by reading further.  =)  


Knowing that I seem to have never-ending pregnancies, we decided early on to be semi-aggressive with multiple natural remedies to support a “timely” labor.  


My midwives also happen to be two of my best friends, and I knew that they couldn’t legally attend my birth if I went over 42 weeks.  


My last baby came at 42 weeks, 6 days–and while it was a natural birth, it was also a stress-filled fiasco that I couldn’t bear to repeat.  Maybe someday I will write about that–but at present I prefer it to be a mostly buried memory, heh.


Due date by my own estimate: Nov 1st
…by my midwives’ calculations: Nov 5th 
…by the 25-ish week ultrasound: Oct 25th



For obvious reasons, we made the “official” due date the latest one that was reasonable–November 5th.  


Nov 9th (a week before): I had been having bouts of semi-convincing contractions nearly every day for at least two weeks already. I’d gotten my membranes swept several times as well, and had been taking labor herbals since 37 weeks. I took 4oz of castor oil, which gave me many more contractions but no luck.

Nov 10th: went to the city and paid out-of-pocket (thanks to my mom’s generosity) for a non-stress test, which showed a completely non-stressed baby, who looked to be due exactly on Nov 5th (so 40 weeks, 5 days at that time), and was supposedly 8.5 lbs already. At this point I was having near-constant, regular contractions, that would sometimes stay at 3 minutes apart for hours and hours….but nothing. (By this point, I was already in an end-of-pregnancy stupor, half-convinced the whole thing was a sham, and that I was never going to go into labor!  Since I was already an hour away from home, I also opted to go eat at my favorite vegan restaurant 🙂

Several days that week, I was up having the kind of contractions that make you go, “hmm…should I call somebody?” but every time I’d go to sleep, they’d either peeter out or stay in a holding pattern instead of getting stronger. Twice I did call my husband home from work, which was making him crazy and not really endearing him to his new boss, either.

Sunday, Nov 15th: I thought it’d be a good idea to take a walk, so I rounded up the kids and stroller and went to the park with the nice walking trail. We walked for about 1.5 hours, ’til it got dark, and then I stopped for an Auntie Anne’s lemonade (YUM), and thought I might as well pick up some more castor oil too. I figured I’d rather try castor oil again, before I’d even consider going to the hospital.  At this point I was 3+ cm dilated, and 50% effaced, and had been for a week at least (?). 

6pm-ish: I thought, it was early enough, and I was such a night owl anyway, that I should have another go at some castor oil tonight. I figured if anything happened, it’d be recognizable within a few hours (stupid!). I did NOT want to take the full dose again though, so I only had one ounce. It didn’t even give me cramping, and so I figured it was a waste and went about the evening–dinner, kids to bed, etc. 

***Disclaimer: I have NO IDEA if that 1oz of castor oil did a thing, or if my body was just ready, or WHAT!  I know my midwives were annoyed I didn’t call them when I took it–sorry! *hides*

9pm-ish: I set to work on my college paper–you know, the one I’d procrastinated about until the very last minute. Actually, it was due Monday at midnight–so starting it on Sunday night was some sort of record for me. I had a CD of random Euro-dance music playing throughout the whole night–not my usual style, but for some reason it was what I wanted to hear. All the while, I was having contractions, but no physical feeling of it being different than the last 3 weeks, LOL. On the other hand, I knew the new moon was on the 16th, and I had a curious vibe about that in the back of my mind–but it wasn’t anything I felt like I should share, lest I was wrong again!

Whether it was the labor hormones, the dance music, or just a particular interest in the subject matter, I don’t know–but I wrote a really bang-up paper:  Eleven pages on the problems with America’s public school systems and how to fix them. 

Nov 16th, 4am: I had been having to pause typing to focus on my new, orange tree-of-life tapestry during contractions for who knows how long. I was tired at this point, having walked for 1.5 hours earlier, and given that I usually go to bed around 3am, but I felt like I shouldn’t go to sleep for some reason. I called up my husband and we talked; I told him something might be starting to happen, but not to hold his breath for it.  I stayed up and did a bit of crash cleaning–I think I scrubbed the bathroom floor, even.  (Again, obvious–nesting–why didn’t I really believe it?!!)

5am: I was having to hold onto the countertop to brace myself against contractions as I finished up the dishes. I still didn’t think it was “real labor” though, and I was half-expecting it to go away once I lay down. All the same, I felt like I didn’t want to be alone, and my husband only had one more hour of work anyway, so I called him and he came right home. I sat on the couch folding laundry, and I didn’t look that “serious”, so he played video games for awhile. No, he didn’t get in trouble for that. =)

6am: I was putting away laundry and couldn’t walk across the apartment faster than a 90-year-old.  My husband told me I should call the midwife then, but once I finally sat down, I realized that I barely felt up to talking, let alone finding my phone. I think he called, and then gave the phone to me–I can’t remember….

7am-ish:  My lovely midwives get there, and I’m sitting up in bed looking cranky and feeling sort of like I wish I could go to sleep and do this later! They check me, and I’m at 4-5 cm. Gahh, ONLY?? Things keep going, and at some point I start needing to hum, then moan, then holler through the contractions. They’re not painful so much as they make me want to crawl out of my skin–I always experience labor that way, tho I’m not sure it’s a good description… 

8 or 9am, something: They check me again, cause I’m feeling pushy, and WOO, I’m 9+ cm….but there’s a lip of cervix in the way. Apparently his being posterior made me dilate and efface “crooked”, so I need to change positions to put pressure on this lip of cervix to get it to move. Now this sucks. I can’t push yet, and I have to be in a position that makes me lean forward. The contractions are noticeably more intense this way, so I’m whiney and changing positions with great bursts of energy in between every contraction, and sometimes in the middle of them, trying to “get away” from this feeling. I was on my knees on the floor hanging over the bed, on all fours, on the toilet even–and wishing I could fall asleep in between. 

Almost 10am(??): Finally I’m sitting/kneeling in the middle of my bed and CANNOT NOT PUSH. I think my water broke about then, I’m not sure. They tell me I can’t push the baby out so close to the bed, so I rock forward onto all fours. My sweet husband is holding my hand, in my face whispering encouragement to me, my midwives are behind me with hot oil compresses, and I’m excited now, cause I know it’s almost over. I think I must have forgotten how hard it is to push a baby out, cause Nik didn’t just slip out after his head came–I had to really work to push his shoulders and belly out, too. It was funny, because I was on all fours, they had to pass Nik to me through my legs so that I could sit/lay down and hold him. I have no idea how long it took to push him out, but it felt longer than my others, so I was curious about his weight. 

Nikolas was 8lbs 1oz, 21 inches long, and born at 10:11am on the new moon of November. I was 41 weeks, 4 days.  (Earliest that I’ve ever gone into labor “on my own”–ha!)

My husband’s dream-premonition of the birth date was, annoyingly, correct. =)  What I didn’t know until then was that the 16th of November is also his uncle’s birthday–the very uncle whose generosity and support for our family was absolutely crucial in the early, difficult times.  We gave Nik his middle name in thanks for that support.  

I am SO THRILLED that I finally got to have a homebirth, and I will be forever thankful to my two dear midwife-friends for making it possible, and for taking such good care of me (or rather, making me take care of myself!). 

After my last, traumatic birth, Nik’s was soul-moving in its calmness and simplicity



I couldn’t have wished for better.