Milk, Cheese, Butter, and Other Things I’m Going to Miss

You know when you find out something that you really didn’t want to know? At first, you try to avoid hearing it altogether. You turn off the TV, hit the “back” button, change the station… Basically, you do the adult equivalent of covering your ears and saying LA LA LA LA LA until you’re safe. But you’re not really safe. It may take years, but the thing you didn’t want to know is still true and, one way or another, it’s going to find a way into your business.

I have recently re-learned just such a thing. It’s something I first learned almost 9 years ago when, for some unknown reason, I decided to accept an informational pamphlet from a festival booth promoting veganism. Now, I’m not about to start putting down vegans. More power to anyone who seeks out the kind of knowledge I’ve actively tried to avoid, and makes their life choices based on that information. That’s really how we should all live our lives–choosing what we do based on the whole truth. But I knew that I didn’t want to know about CAFOs, the atrocities committed at commercial slaughterhouses, or what price those chickens paid to have such large breasts (hint: it’s not plastic surgery). I’m usually the kind of person who can never get those things out of my mind, and they haunt me.  Due to my own moral dilemmas, I had already quit eating beef and pork years before that–animals I knew I couldn’t look in the eye and kill myself–and I simply don’t like shellfish. I found those restrictions to be inconvenient enough. So I’ll never be sure why I picked up that pamphlet. But I did.

I learned a lot of things from that little pamphlet. More than I expected. But the thing that stuck out to me at the time was the cruelty of the dairy industry. I hate to pass on the kind of information that keeps me up at night, contemplating my place in the universe, but in short: In order to keep producing enough milk, dairy cows are bred every year. Even at organic and “humane” dairies. As soon as the calves are born, they are taken away from their mothers. The calves are used primarily for meat–veal, mostly–and the mothers are put right back on the production line. I don’t want to anthropomorphize these animals for you. But please research how almost any mammal reacts to losing its young. They mourn. Now imagine willfully putting an animal through that year after year after year. Imagine a baby animal, ripped from the care of its mother, not understanding why. Never knowing affection, or what it is to be nurtured.

Or don’t. I’m trying not to. I’m still trying to pretend all this isn’t true. Or that it somehow doesn’t matter.

When I first learned this information, I found it sad and decided I didn’t want to support this industry anymore. However, I knew becoming vegan was a huge leap, so I decided to become a vegetarian first. I gave up chicken and fish, and I was a vegetarian for almost a year. During that time, I got pregnant with my daughter. I was so sick for the first four months that I could barely eat anything, and all of the vegetarian staples I had come to rely on–beans, onions, basically all vegetables–became repulsive to me. Then I started to crave chicken. I hadn’t been a vegetarian long enough to get through that experience on my own, and I didn’t know any vegetarians I could ask for help. So I ate chicken. (For the record, it was delicious. Sorry.) It was the first filling meal I had been able to keep down in almost four months. So I started eating chicken and fish again, and then got caught up in my new life as a mom, and kind of forgot why I had decided to become a vegetarian in the first place.

Over the years I have checked my moral compass on the eating of chicken. I have looked chickens in the eye and decided that, if I was really hungry and there was no one to do it for me, I could kill one and eat it and still look myself in the eye afterward. (I will note that, if my children were hungry, I could kill pretty much anything to feed them. But that’s not the situation we’re in.) I have done my best to purchase meat that I believe has been raised, and I hope slaughtered, humanely, and my standards for this have increased as I’ve learned more about the food industry. But I developed a convenient blind spot when it came to dairy. Until now.

Now, having read again in an unrelated place that cows mourn for their young when they’re taken from them, the knowledge I had run from has come flooding back to me. I tried searching for “humane dairy,” but alas, in order to produce milk, and in a sufficient quantity to be sold as a product, cows must be impregnated and then separated from their new babies within a day of birth. Over. And over. And over again.

At the moment I became reacquainted with this information, I was nursing my infant son. And sure, there are hormones involved in my sudden and strong empathy with these cows. But there is also logic. And I can’t get it out of my head.

So, although it’s not happening today, I can’t see a way around eliminating dairy from my diet. Milk. Yogurt. Butter. Cheese. Ice cream. Some of my very favorite things. Things for which finding an acceptable substitute may prove difficult, if not impossible. This realization comes at a time when I am already gearing up to eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates again. (I swear someday I’ll write about my first 16 months off of sugar, a dietary change that was, incidentally, derailed by my second pregnancy.)

Now comes the research. Planning. Putting together the picture of what my diet, and my life, will look like without these things. I know from my experience giving up sugar that a massive change like this is possible. I also know how deeply challenging it will be. And I know how rewarding it will be when I come out on the other side.

Everything You Need to Look, Feel, and Be Your Best!

Alright, ladies. It’s time to talk about being at your best. I’ve been hearing a lot of groaning lately about diets and housework and balancing family and career and fun. But face it: As a woman, these things are your job. And don’t worry–it’s easy!

All you have to do is drink at least 80 oz. of triple-filtered water a day, from a sustainably-sourced, plastic-free, reusable bottle. Also, make sure to eat (and feed your husband and children) three meals and two snacks a day, all homemade from healthy ingredients and containing plenty of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and every color of the rainbow. Make sure you use moderate amounts of healthy fats, little salt, and no sugar. Avoid carbohydrates, processed foods, factory-farmed meats, unfermented soy products, and gluten. Count your calories and track your macronutrient ratios. Either eat vegan or paleo. Ensure everything you eat is completely organic. And don’t forget to get all your food locally, preferably from your own backyard mini-farm! But just in case your diet still doesn’t give you all the nutrients you need, don’t forget to take a daily multivitamin, an omega-3 supplement, vitamin D-3, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and a refrigerated probiotic. If you’re having trouble reaching or maintaining your ideal weight, you may need to do a seven-day detoxifying juice cleanse once a month to jumpstart your healthy journey and keep yourself on track.

Make sure you exercise at least 30 minutes every single day, and be sure to include long-distance running, strength training, yoga, calisthenics, swimming, and HIIT. You need a minimum of thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise, five days a week, and 20 minutes of full-body strength training, three days a week. Don’t forget to warm up for at least ten minutes and cool down for at least ten minutes every time you exercise. And make sure you stretch for at least fifteen minutes every day. Be sure to get outside in nature too, and get at least 20 minutes of sunlight daily. Then rush back inside and slather on that SPF–you don’t want your skin getting leathery!

Ladies, let’s not forget about our appearance. Be sure to wash and style your hair every day. Use a volumizing mousse, glossing oil, heat-protectant gel, anti-frizz serum, and setting spray. Don’t fall into a style rut! Try a new style each day, and don’t forget to keep your color and cut maintained every four weeks, with bang trims in between. Keep your legs, armpits, and bikini area shaved–or, better yet, waxed–and don’t forget to bleach or wax any visible hair from your face, chest, back, arms, hands, and feet! Exfoliate all over to keep dry, dull skin at bay. As for the skin on your face, neck, and décolletage, you must wash morning and night with a top-quality, oil-free, balancing, anti-aging cleanser. Follow that with toner, anti-aging serum, day or night moisturizer, spot treatment for blemishes, lightening treatment for dark spots, undereye cream, eyelid cream, and a spritz of Evian. After that, a simple, ten-minute makeup routine is all you need, and anybody can do it. Just be sure to always start with a moisturizer with SPF 20 or higher. Follow this with fine-line filling cream, color correcting foundation primer, foundation, concealer for blemishes, concealer for under your eyes, all-over powder, contouring powder or bronzer, illuminating highlighter, blush, lip primer, a lip pencil, lipstick or gloss, eye primer, three subtly different, neutral colors of eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, and setting spray. Of course, you’ll need more for an evening look. Ensure that all of your beauty products are free of parabens, formaldehyde, pthalates, petrochemicals, artificial colors, sulfites, artificial fragrances, mineral oil, animal products, sulfates, isobutane, triethanolamine, sorbitol, PVP, and gluten. And don’t forget to keep up with green beauty blogs to learn what else you should be avoiding. Always keep your fingernails clean, trimmed, and buffed to a shine, and be sure to keep your feet callus-free and pedi-pretty every day of the year!

Always dress your best. Be sure you look both sexy and appropriate at all times–having a demanding job or being home with small children all day is no excuse to look frumpy. Wear natural fabrics and high-quality, well-made clothing tailored to fit your body in a mix of classic and trendy styles. Always have on at least one piece that reflects the current season’s colors and trends. Dress to minimize the flaws in your appearance. Be sure to read up on tips for your particular body shape. Of the utmost importance is maximizing the appearance of your bust and minimizing your waist, hips, thighs, calves, stomach, arms, neck, and derrière. If your breasts and/or stomach are sagging from childbearing or age, you will need to invest in the best shape-correcting undergarments money can buy until you can save up for the corrective surgery. Don’t forget to accessorize! Wear at least five coordinated, but not matching, accessories at all times. And the only place you shouldn’t wear heels is at the gym!

Be sure to keep your mind in shape, too. Read for at least 30 minutes every day, including a mix of literary fiction and critically-acclaimed non-fiction. Keep up with current events, stay on top of your email, check and update your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn daily, and be sure to produce at least one vlog for your YouTube channel and one post featuring tasteful and well-edited photographs for your blog. Oh, and don’t forget to call everyone you know on their birthday. Also, it’s extremely important that you practice meditation to increase your mindfulness and help you keep a calm, controlled demeanor. Just ten minutes every morning is enough to improve your well-being, but ideally you should fit in three ten-minute sessions each day.

Don’t neglect your duty to the environment. Work toward having a negative carbon impact. Hand wash your dishes in a basin of soapy water, rather than using a dishwasher. Be sure to make all of your cleaning products at home from simple, natural ingredients. Never use paper for anything, as everything can and should now be done electronically. Don’t use anything disposable, especially disposable diapers and baby wipes. Sort your recycling, and once a week take anything that can’t be recycled by your trash company to a special recycling processor. Ride your bicycle! Don’t drive anywhere unless you have absolutely no other choice. Don’t buy or use anything made from, or packaged in, plastic.

Now let’s talk about your home. Keeping your home is one of a woman’s most important jobs. And it’s simple! By keeping up with the easy tasks every day, you’ll make your weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semiannual, and annual cleaning and maintenance routines much easier. Every day, twice a day, do a quick, ten-minute clutter sweep through your entire home, putting away anything that is out of place. You must also be sure to keep your kitchen sink free of dirty dishes, empty all the trash cans in your home, make all of your beds, do at least one load of laundry including folding and putting it away, sweep or vacuum all of your common areas, do a quick dust of any horizontal surfaces, sort and manage any incoming paperwork,  and wipe down all the surfaces in the kitchen and every bathroom with homemade disinfectant spray and microfiber cloths. Keep your home’s decor tasteful and fresh. And don’t forget to keep a vase of fresh cut flowers on the table! Also, we can’t neglect our furry friends. Ensure that you’re grooming your pets daily, and giving them fresh, homemade food three times a day in a freshly washed dish. Keep them well hydrated by providing a clean bowl of purified water each day. And don’t forget to empty the litter tray and scoop the poop from the backyard each evening.

Now just because we have duties at home doesn’t mean we can neglect our careers. It is just as important to maintain your marketable skills and earning potential as it is to keep your home spotless and orderly. Be sure you are signed up for, and religiously read, any industry newsletters, blogs, and professional publications. Further, you mush attend any conferences, trainings, networking events, webinars, classes, industry-related volunteer opportunities, and any other career-boosting options available to you. Remember, being a woman means you have to be twice as good as your peers in order to be successful. You can’t let your professional side stagnate. Even during your six weeks of maternity leave, you should attend at least one meeting per week (if you’re on bed-rest, ask your boss if you can attend via Skype).

It’s of the utmost importance that you properly manage your family’s finances. Be sure that you personally choose all of the investments for your 401(k) accounts to ensure the maximum rate of return with the minimum amount of risk. You will need to research stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and any other investments available to you. You should be saving 20% of every paycheck towards your retirement and 10% for your children’s education. Remember, college will cost your children approximately two million dollars each, so don’t skimp on saving! Budget the rest of your money down to the penny. Set up a system to ensure all of your bills are paid on time, and track every expense carefully to make sure you’re staying within your budget.  Don’t forget to budget for often-neglected things like gifts, pet health care, unexpected home maintenance, and emergencies. Of course, that’s on top of the emergency fund, equal to six months of your family’s full income, that you should have already saved.

Now your most important job is obviously caring for your children. Your children need you to be the very best mother you can be. Never raise your voice to your children. Always set an example of the type of calm, collected individual you want them to become. You absolutely must spend at least 30 minutes of quality, one-on-one fun time with each of your children every single day, doing whatever they want to do. If you’re not doing this consistently, then that is why your children are misbehaving. Outside of your fun time, your children will need you to be at all of their practices for their sports, clubs, and other activities. You must also be sure to keep track of their school assignments, checking each one for errors and handwriting before your children turn them in. You will need to be a member of the PTA and sign up to be a “room mom” if your child attends a school. Better yet, you can and should homeschool your children. In this day and age, there is really no excuse not to do this for them. Either way, you will want to coach at least one of each of their teams, and offer to sew their costumes and uniforms to ease the burden on the other parents.

While you’re looking after your own family, don’t forget about those less fortunate than you. There are countless volunteer opportunities for you to get involved and give back to your community. Volunteer at least one hour per day, or seven hours per week, to help those in need. Get your children involved for a few hours per week as well, in order to teach them to be grateful for what they have. And be sure to tithe 10% of your income to your church of choice, and/or donate that same amount to charity.

Now don’t forget to take time to yourself. A woman with no hobbies is very dull to be around. If you don’t have any hobbies you already enjoy, you can start by taking up sewing, knitting, soap-making, and scrapbooking. Make sure to create a special space in your home just for you, out of everyone else’s way, where you can do your hobbies. Keep it neatly organized and whimsically decorated. Ideally, you will practice your hobbies enough to become proficient in them, and be able to sell the resulting products in your Etsy store.

Finally, it is incredibly crucial that you get a bare minimum of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every single night.

See? With these simple tips, it’s easy to look, feel, and be at your absolute best!

 

Note: Just in case anyone made it this far without realizing it, this post is satire. We put a ridiculous amount of pressure on ourselves and the women around us to be perfect in all areas of our lives. And it just needs to stop. 

NaNoWriMo and Other Foolishness

Once again, it’s been forever since my last post. I have had some great excuses in the past, but here’s my best one yet: I had a baby. Babies are a lot of work. He doesn’t like to help me blog. Also, something about pregnancy and the first few months of having a baby (okay, the first 18 months in my experience) makes my brain turn to mush. It’s the sleep deprivation, the change in routine, the whole Everything’s-not-about-me thing. It makes it hard to be witty and contribute something meaningful to the world.

Despite the baby thing, I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo again this year. I have written 5o,000 words in 30 days exactly three times before, so it should be old hat by now. But again, baby. Yes, I’m going to use that as my excuse for everything. I’m not wearing any makeup today either. Okay, I haven’t worn makeup for like two weeks. Baby!

In order to make the NaNoWriMo thing happen, I’ve been plotting my face off. I’m not a plotter. Usually I’m lucky if I have an idea of the beginning, middle, and end. But I just know that without plenty of notes and ideas all ready to go, I’m really going to struggle to get anything written during my baby’s brief periods of not actively needing me.

I’m also still working on my life–all that other stuff. My health, keeping my house clean, not spending money we don’t actually have. I’m still working on all of that crap and, you know what? I’m still making progress. Baby steps. Yeah, sometimes they are backwards steps, but as long as you never quit, you can never fail.

Anywho, I’m off to check on Captain Catnap. (That’s the baby. Try to keep up.) I’ll try to post again before another ten months goes by. That’s right, settin’ goals. What’s up now.

Baby Steps

At the end of 2011, I wrote a set of New Year’s resolutions. My life at that point had reached a kind of comfortable stasis–a contented holding pattern that felt very easy to settle into indefinitely. I had finally finished school. I had a good job, a good family, a good life. But I was turning 28, not 22. I wasn’t excited about what I was doing, I wasn’t using my degree in my work, I wasn’t living the life I really wanted, and I didn’t want to wake up at 30 and still be living that same status quo. I wanted to take 2012 and use it to change my life.

Fast forward two years to my 30th birthday. I was still in the same basic pattern. The same job, the same general activities, the same patterns, and the same struggles. To the outside observer, my life still looked pretty much the same.

But, during the time since I wrote those resolutions, I’ve realized something incredibly powerful: Change doesn’t happen overnight, or in a single week or even a single year. Real, powerful, lifelong change takes real time to develop. I have learned to appreciate that slow, incremental progress is still progress. That a small step forward every day is worlds better than a huge leap every once in a long while. I have learned to value baby steps.

Take, as an example, dieting. I have been on a lot of diets over the past 14 years. A lot. I never had any measurable success until 2010, when I met an amazing friend who helped me push past all of the ways I’d been holding myself back. All told, I lost about 40 pounds through dieting and lots of exercise. But even then, I hadn’t fixed my food and activity issues.  When I started working a regular job, I stopped exercising regularly, and the weight crept back on.

I lost the weight again from June 2013 to June 2014 by giving up sugar. But I hadn’t relearned the exercise habit, and I hadn’t conquered the emotional addiction to food that brought me that excess weight again in the first place. So despite losing weight, I still have a long way to go before I’ll have the healthy lifestyle I’ve always wanted.

However, none of these experiences mean that I’ve failed. I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am now if I hadn’t first gone through the learning process of all the other diets I tried, and failed to stick to. Even way back in my late teens, during one of my early attempts at healthy eating, I made the switch to brown rice from white. That was the only change from that time that stuck, but it’s now a deeply ingrained, healthy habit. During the no-sugar year, I finally gave up soda for good and no longer want it. Every failure has in truth produced some small piece of a greater, more permanent success.

As I examine how I have changed over the past few years, I can see that simple fact repeating itself through all of the areas of my life that I’ve worked to improve. I’m still not where I want to be. But all of my failures have taught me things, made me stronger or smarter or helped me to better know myself. Every ounce of effort I’ve put toward my goals has brought me just a little bit closer, and despite all of the setbacks, I’ve made more real progress on improving my life in the past three years than some people make in a lifetime.

Look at your life and be really honest about your failures. What did you learn? What positive thing, no matter how small, stuck with you? I’m willing to bet that you’ll find the same pattern in your life as I did in mine. Whatever you’ve been working toward, you may not be there yet. But all the work you’ve put in has secretly been taking you, by incremental progress, at that slow and steady pace, closer and closer to your goals. A failure is never really a failure, as long as you keep coming back for more.

So embrace your set backs, and learn to love your baby steps. They’re more powerful than you ever knew.

Tiny Futures

Well, a lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same. I’m entering a new phase in my life. It’s scary, all this change, but it’s also exciting. I’m hoping it will mean more time to post here, and to do all the things I’ve promised myself I would do.

To bring you, quickly, up to date: My husband and I are expecting our second child, a son, in April. Our daughter will be almost seven at this point. We expect this age gap to bring both unique benefits and unique challenges, and quite frankly, I’m pretty freaked out. I literally have no idea what to do with a baby. I should probably read a book or something.

In light of my due date being pretty much on Tax Day this year, and due to the fact that I knew I wouldn’t want to go back to work right away after this baby was born, I came to a mutual agreement with my employer to have me replaced before the start of tax season. This evolved to me being replaced, officially, as of November 6th. Thus, I am now unemployed a stay at home mom. And I’m pretty freaked out.

But, this is a good change. I’m going to use the next four to five months to get my house in order, both literally and figuratively. We’ll be making room for a new family member, and I’ll be making room and time for the things that are important to me–the things I’m passionate about, which I’ve pushed to the side far too often for far too long.

My plan is simple: I’m going to continue pursuing balance in my life. I’m going to make creativity a priority, and try to align my daily choices with my goals and values. I’m going to try every day to move my life closer to authenticity. And my hope is that, by posting about my journey here, maybe I can help somebody out there who wants to do the same.

So, here’s to the future.

Welcome Back, Prodigal Blogger.

Well, it’s not much to look at at the moment, but the site is once again alive and breathing. I saved all of my old posts and will be bringing most of them back over time. Plus, you can look forward to these exciting additions to PackRat/WildHare:

  • Images!
  • A new look to the site!
  • Categories and tags that make some kind of sense!
  • Tweets ! Or Pins! Or something!
  • Actual posts! Written by me on a semi-regular basis!
  • Rambling!
  • And much more!

Okay, so rambling isn’t so much a new addition as a favorite feature we’re bringing back due to popular demand. And the fact that I ramble a lot.

So, stay tuned! And in the meantime, I’ll be living, working, parenting, stumbling, creating, adventuring. Just gathering bits and pieces of life for my collection.