Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sifting Through Life: What's Your Story?

This was from a trip that Cory and I took to Bend by ourselves. This picture doesn't tell any story unless I give the details to my family.  They would never know that this was taken outside of Bend or that we hiked Misery Trail or that the weather was a perfect 75 degrees. We all take a lot of pictures but I would like us to tell the stories behind the pictures taken so those memories are not lost forever. I know for me, I take so many pictures because of technology, that many of them go undocumented, printed off, or scrapbooked. They are kind of stored in cyber space and forgotten.

I do a lot of writing for school (psychology major) and here on my blog. I tell a lot of stories. I love to write and share with others what I have learned, am learning, and my experiences. In fact, you know a lot about me if you read my blog. Some of my thoughts are small, while others get wordy and lengthy. My poetry is short, not always sweet, but a story never the less. Talking to other people we learn, or I hope we do, about their lives. Our lives are multifaceted with an array of memories, emotions, trauma, experiences, and so on. You name it and someone out there has done it or lived it.

That's kind of exciting to think about.

A story often has a beginning, middle, and an end. Most of us are not at the end portion quite yet, other than, we can speculate and dream. The end usually has a bucket list attached to it too. Embedded deep within the beginning and middle parts we have chapters and pages of story telling to share.

Our stories attach us to our communities of friends and family. They are one way we are able to bond and create trust, authenticity, and empathy. When we see those we hang out with may have similar stories, it immediately gives us something in common. If our stories are different, then this gives us a chance to share and learn from one another.

Kids love to hear a good story or be read a story. Why is this? I believe it's a vital part of their developmental states. They learn about emotions, life experiences, cultural differences, moral codes, and so much more all from a story or a book.

I wish that I had spent more time listening to the stories from the older generations in my own family. There were not many stories with grand climaxes or mysterious characters, but I have heard enough, to wish I knew more.

Today we take pictures. So many pictures. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I agree with this to a point. It is if you know the context, a portion of the circumstances, or even a few of the characters. What happens when you don't know much about the picture and the words that should exist are never found? I think about old family photos that sit in boxes and go untouched for years.  Those stories die with those individuals and if no one takes the time to listen and ask, then those stories are lost.

I believe we each have a story to tell. Do we wait to be asked before we tell it? Do we share it anyway with our kids? Should we keep a journal? I think this is up to the individual person to decide who they share their story with, but I do think to tell the story is important.

The good news about being the story teller of your personal journey is that you get to pick and choose which parts of the highlight reel are aired and how much of it is shared. Not to mention the little bit about facts and embellishments.  If you tell your story, more than likely, the facts will be straight and clear.

We can each think of a person that we can look back on and wish we had asked more questions or simply listened more when they spoke. I think to a time when my great grandmother visited from Texas. She was very old and cranky. I was young too (dang it) but I was old enough that I could have listened more. I always wondered if she was really as ornery as everyone depicted her to be. If so, was it because of her family, where she lived, her personality, her circumstances, her unhappiness, or simply that was a character trait she was born with. I won't ever know because I didn't ask the questions to learn more about her story.

Not all stories are happy or have happy endings. It is understandable why some would not be okay sharing or revealing too much of themselves about an unfortunate time in their personal lives. I think of my own situation and I agree with my comment. There are definitely scenes that I would not reveal to just anyone, but I have shared a lot with a few. Those times that I have revealed a hardship, personal challenge, mixed feelings, or mistakes, have been moments of bonding and a coming together in the form of a deeper relationship. These personal stories are yours to express when you are ready to do so, if ever at all.

My point in writing this piece is not to push anyone into telling stories to trigger negativity in your life, but, to challenge you to listen to the stories around you. Think of your story and then look for the story in others.  Hear what they have to say. This Sifting Through Life is more to encourage us as humans to reach out, ask for the stories, and listen to the tales.

One thing I am learning in school is that people like to talk, they like to hear their own voices, and they like to share parts of themselves. For some, it's not as easy, it may take more time and that is okay. Place your sincere interest in the person you are listening to and you will discover volumes of tales.  Not all of them will be worthy of awards or movie scripts and I don't think this is the point. The point is to create a connection, open up your senses to new ideas and thoughts, to find common ground, to explore differences, and to share.

Our stories allow us to share a part of ourselves that pictures don't tell, that our posterity down the road will forget or they don't know. The holidays are here. This is a great time to share and listen to stories told by friends and family. With this new awareness of connection through storytelling, notice how you might be listening better or even telling your story with more zeal and zest.

Go find a story. Listen. Then, when they ask, tell them your story.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Words #poetry

There are times when asking for help is the last thing we want to do. Sometimes the thought of reaching outside yourself and asking for help is too scary. I get this. I denied myself help for a long time because I was afraid of the unknown, what people would think, or how I would change.

I wanted to change but that is scary. It's an uphill battle which takes time, patience, a lot of energy, and some deep soul searching. I am not a psychologist yet, but someday I will be. I want to help people understand that our minds are sometimes our biggest foes. We have been programmed to believe our thoughts and ideas and feel as though we are being held hostage, like a prisoner. 

One way that I have been able to free myself is through words. Words written down here in Simply Gourmet or in my journals, through poetry (like I share on Thursdays) and words spoken to my friends and family. 

When I wrote this poem, I was feeling as though, my mind was holding me hostage, again. I knew that I was holding back words, out of fear of hurting or wounding others. At the time, I was unable to express my thoughts. This poem came from that experience. It also forced me to read the words out loud.  My expression in the poem was a way for me to ask for help. Help from outside sources that could nudge me along to the path of freedom. 

Help comes in many forms. From willing friends, family, and partners to professionals. Asking for help is brave and courageous.  Freeing our minds can be as simple as pouring your guts out over dinner to your cat. 




Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Defining Moments

Kids are vessels of knowledge and can definitely, lead you to some of your most defining moments in this life.

I wrote an entry yesterday that included the word: defining. I can't really stop thinking about the word.  It's a word that resonates within me a feeling of rejuvenation, a need to make my existence whole and complete. In a way, I opened my mind and my eyes to a new understanding of what I should be focusing my energy toward. Instead of looking for these moments, I need to recognize that they already exist each and every day of my life. I need to show gratitude to these simple nudges and confirmations.

I have met and talked with friends and family who feel overwhelmed, feel as though they are working nonstop without purpose, or who are simply trying to figure out what their purpose is here on Earth. They are faithful humans, who are of the belief, that there must be more to this life. Some feel lost in this experience because they want more, they want a sign, they might even be leaning on others too much, instead of listening and searching within themselves for strength and guidance. I feel that we are all searching for something. Searching for the one thing that will take us to the next level of this life, yearning for a state of higher expectations with the hopes of maybe discovering love, finding happiness or seeing joy.  Do these big moments make up our defining moments or are defining moments made up of smaller events, everyday insights, and a simple feeling of abundance?

Defining moments in our life happen. They are there. What is missing is our awareness. Not everything that is manifested toward us will be as large as the final fireworks display during a 4th of July weekend. Sometimes it is simply a sparkler that your kid is holding. We tend to want to look up when maybe we should be looking down or even forward. If we open ourselves up to the opportunity of love, of being spiritual, or quieting our minds, of giving thanks...we won't miss our defining moments. I believe the key to recognizing our defining moments is awareness and gratitude.

I remember a day, 8 summers ago, when I returned from a week-long event. I went to this event with the expectation that we were going to be enriched and fed daily with enlightening stories and spirited events. My week found me all over the place with my emotions and some of my expectations were shattered. I had experiences that ranged from laughter to sadness. One particular situation changed my whole belief system. It was the defining moment that pushed me to the edge of my sanity and reality as I knew it. I witnessed a young girl be the recipient of harsh words, unfair stereotyping, and bullying by an adult leader. I felt broken and helpless. I was enraged at the amount of unsympathetic rendering the other leaders expressed to a young woman who felt compelled to be a part of a much bigger picture, despite not dressing "the code".  I remember returning and feeling that if this is what I am supposed to believe our universe is about, then it is not right for me. I listened, I heard and I acted. Since then, I have looked back and recognized this was a defining moment for me. One of many experiences that have shaped the person I am today.

These defining moments, whether they are small or big, are opening my heart to new understandings; they are enlightening my spirit and soul. I am learning to generate an energy from within me that yearns for the happiness I know this existence on Earth can offer to those of us who are open to the idea that this universe is here to help guide and channel us in a direction that opens up our world to endless possibilities. A path to our purpose. When we have these experiences, they can be hard to explain to others, or to ourselves. One word I use to describe this is happiness. Others may use these words instead: joy, love, acceptance, gratitude, charity, kindness or a phrase that we are blessed beyond words. It all feels like serendipity to me. But I know it's not by chance, but with purpose.

There is a childlike approach to awareness and mindfulness. Children live in the moment because they don't have the experiences, maturity, or history to allow any thoughts or ideas to creep into their worlds.  As I travel, I see children from all walks of life.  I see their laughter, their eagerness to enjoy life, the simple ways they can take the hand of another child and just be. In that moment, in that 20 minutes, they have to be friends, best friends even....that is their world. They stay present, they engage their behavior with those around them. Most children know what love and happiness are because they are not jaded to the scrapes and cuts of life. I say most because we know that there are children who, unfortunately, know all about the hardships of life. My idea is that children are born into this world with purity and openness from the beginning and their environments shape their behaviors and outlooks on life. When I talk about childlike, I am referring to this purest form of innocence which children often display.

To be childlike, in my opinion, is a gift. I encourage you to watch children play, to listen to them, to acknowledge their knowledge, to be present with them. I strongly believe that many of my defining moments have come from these little people in my life. They teach us and give us opportunities if we have the awareness, mindfulness, and openness to listen and to accept what they are offering. This week I encourage you to pay attention to the little things in your life. Those little things, like children, that are trying to teach you, guide you, and help you find your defining moments.

More than ever, I believe this is a time in our history, where our views are changing and our desires are being manifested to higher levels of spirituality. I think the universe is very connected to those of us seeking a higher standard and she is eager with a willingness to teach and guide us. This requires us to do our part through showing kindness, gratitude, love, and empathy to all walks of life, especially children. Do you ever wonder why we have these little people/teens in our homes for around 18 years? I do. I think about this all the time. I am blessed to have four great kids, plus all of their friends, in my life. As I mentioned before, I learn so much from them. As parents we think our jobs are to teach and guide them, but what if it is more of a team effort? This is food for thought.

Enjoy every moment, enjoy your families, be grateful.............love to all my friends and family. Without you I would have missed out on some very important defining moments in my life. I am still growing into my mindfulness and awareness. This journey has been so special. I truly feel alive and living with purpose.

ENJOY!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Take It, It's Yours #poetry


Gifts given for the wrong reason have the potential to unravel our trust. Gift giving is an interesting exchange of events. I personally love giving and receiving gifts. In the past though, I have had the experience of receiving gifts that felt like bargaining tools.  Given without sincerity or with a lack of care and concern. Thrust upon you with the idea that it will be favored and it will be enjoyed. This poem comes from a place in my childhood of receiving gifts from individuals who, in my opinion, were harmful to my existence, for the emotional harm they incurred. A place that, for one day we were expected to be family or friends and forget all of the bad experiences of a fractured relationship.  We wore smiles, exchanged gifts, laughed, and then started the next day with the same lack of caring, loving, or genuine relationships that were expressed the day before.

This sucks! To be quite honest. Especially when kids are involved. Children don't have the emotional capabilities of playing head games during the holiday season. They take most things at face value and when we toy with gifts and false pretenses, it leaves a hole and causes trust issues. Don't be that relative that is only nice at holiday parties and during celebrations. 

The holiday season is quickly approaching. Focus on improving relationships with those nearest and dearest to you. Focus on positive relationships. Correct any behavior that might be misleading to those around you. Bring the holiday spirit into your home with genuine care and sustainability that will last longer than one day because the calendar says it's a holiday. 

To Follow:  simplygourmetpoetry on instagram, click link.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Be the One

Mt. Hood in the distance as we drove up to Detroit Lake in Oregon. A gorgeous fall weekend spent in the mountains.

Be the ONE person that you want to see in everybody else. If you want to receive love, then give love.  If you want to experience laughter, then share a smile. When you want to be heard, listen to a friend.  When you want to receive kindness, then find those in need. Life is a fountain of opportunities to be the ONE.

When I look around and see the cycle of this life and how we are each put on this earth with specific abilities, talents and insights, I wonder why we take it for granted that tomorrow will be the day, or next month I will call, or my goal starts on Monday. Why wait to share, to give, to change.

I know that for me and my short time here, I have had some amazing people come into my life and "be the one" at a time when all I wanted to do was cry, to give up or to just be ....gone.  I don't think we always know why certain things happen, but I do believe that if we listen to our inner self we will find that it is more in tune with what we need to be doing than what we want to be doing.

Believing that you are of worth and that you can make a difference is sometimes like a play. You must act the part before the part becomes you; before you feel the role and make it your own. This sounds a bit like lying, especially to me, who likes to be as honest as I can, but I believe in the very act of being happy will make you happy. The act of giving will make you charitable. The act of believing can make you the ONE.

My family, especially my hubby and kids, have seen me at my worst and they have seen me at my best. Together we have created a bond that is eternal, accepting, loving and beautiful. In many instances they have been the ONE for me and I hope that I have been the ONE for them at times in their lives when they needed me to be.

Giving of ourselves, sharing our talents and expressing inspiration to others, are only a few ways of being the ONE for our families, our neighbors and our friends.  If we look inside and decide to be our best at all times then we cannot and will not look back on this life and feel the need for a "do-over".   If you are lucky in this life, people will give you a second chance, but there is no guarantee of this. So, be the ONE today and in turn you can give back and be the ONE for somebody else. We all need friends, we all need acceptance, we all need silence in order to be heard.

I can remember many times when out of the blue I got a call, or a visit "just because". Those are times I treasure because it confirms to me that I was being heard, even though my fears and tears were expressed in silence. Listen to those small whisperings through out the day, then act on those feelings.  I think you will be surprised of the internal life line that you have with others. In this small act, you can be the ONE.

Being the best you, is not about giving and receiving, it's about being. It's about being the best that you know how to be; with no expectation of a return. The joy comes in finding the peace in each of us when we listen and act.

In a small phrase, a title of a movie and a simple truth...PAY IT FORWARD.  Give of yourself, see yourself in others and become the ONE.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Masterpiece #poetry

      Poetry is a way to express emotion. To add context to our inner dialogue. I love to write poetry and have enjoyed sharing my pieces here on Simply Gourmet. When I first started, I felt the need to hide my words behind an alias name, hence the willow jade links. I have since reconsidered and have changed my poetry Instagram page to be Simply Gourmet Poetry. I don't need to hide or feel ashamed of the words I write. I don't need to protect the past that haunts me, but share my journey through my words. I am healing at an incredible rate on the inside (my mind and soul) through this process. Some of my words are hard for me to read but after I write them and read them, it magically opens up a space to add new memories. In a sense, erasing the past, and implanting the best of the best, my life today.

     When we learn to release the hurt and anger, accepting that it exists, this is when the healing begins. This is when our journey to a brightness of joy and happiness evolves. The feelings that are expressed in my poems come from this place and may seem dark and filled with pain. This is because some of them are. I believe that it is okay to feel these feelings. They are natural and normal. It is when we suppress them or try to bury and hid them they get messy and make our lives messy.

    Life is fragile and too short to spend it in a constant state of unhappiness. I write a lot about simplifying and happiness. This is because I am on a journey to live life to my fullest, to be my best, and to extend love and harmony to those around me.
    
     I would love to hear your interpretations of the poems and if they resonated with you too. If you wish to follow along with my Instagram account here is the link.  Simply Gourmet Poetry.

ENJOY!

Masterpiece 

written by Sherron Watson


                                      Flawed and cracked,

                                    like a broken vase.
                                    
                                   Nothing stays in,
it all pours out.

Fragile and weak.
Spotting a fake.

Nothing authentic
or worth the price.

A piece of work,
imperfect art.

Passed by, overlooked,
nobody wants you.

Come home with me,
I collect broken hearts

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Simplicity



We are simple beings in a simple world with human characteristics that over complicate our lives not because we want to, but because we think it is what is expected of us.

Stop and look at your life.  Are you happy?  Are you tired?  Do you have a lot of anxiety?  Can you change it?

How can you make yourself happy and satisfied?  

Simplify.

Take out the noise and scale back.  This could include many things: job, family, obligations, church, friends, kids, crafts, addictions, etc...

You are probably thinking, this is easier said than done. I would have to agree--this is easier said than done. If you don't at least acknowledge that things need to settle down then you won't be mindful of the need and start working on a solution.

Life happens. Its true. We are faced with many challenges and pulled in all directions and this need for simplicity is the balance that keeps us centered.

You can be a very busy person or individual and still feel balanced in your life. It takes practice, acknowledgement, and patience.

Personally I am a simple person. I like simple foods made with whole ingredients that are easy to make. My house is not a showcase of the latest styles in any magazine. I keep it comfortable and laid back. I dress in simple tones. I enjoy simple things: walks, camping, writing, photography and a few crafts.

My personality doesn't function well when I am overloaded with tasks or commitments. I get easily overwhelmed when I walk into a big box store. I make list to keep my life in a more orderly manner and I have a wall calendar that I can SEE what is going on.  I am so dated--lol--I can't seem to transition to my phone calendar.  

Simplicity.

One thing that I have gained by slowing down and simplifying my life is time. I now have time for the things I want to do and with people I want to spend it with. It is not unusual for me to comment that some days feel like they last an eternity. I am not complaining I am expressing my gratitude that I reorganize my priorities a bit more and made some simple changes, to what I can only describe as, a chaotic time in my life.

How do we simplify our lives?

These are some suggestions that I use to help me cut out the excess and allow me to regain my time, sanity, and harmony while maintaining a busy schedule, family, and school. Balance is what I was searching for and this requires me to make some choices. This is how I start when I feel that I need to step back and simplify.

Recognize a change is needed. To begin with, we must see that our lives first need to be simplified. If we believe that change is not necessary or needed then the likely hood of us following through with a plan might not happen.

Prioritize your needs and wants. You might be surprised that you need very little to be happy. You also might realize that the needs on your lists are an attempt to fulfill something else in your life and simplifying things may push those needs away.

Decide what you are willing to give up. If you are at a point that you feel that your life needs to be simplified then you have to give a few things up. Part of simplifying is releasing those things that are bogging you down.  Only you an decide what those things are and maybe they are things at all. They could be activities, commitments, hobbies, people, opinions, etc...

Don't rush it, take baby steps if needed. Change is often hard. Some simplifying can be done overnight, or in a few days. Other things require time and patience, money and scheduling, and perspective.

Define joy and happiness for yourself. Figuring out what really makes you happy and how you experience joy can help a lot in simplifying your life. Use your list of wants and needs to help you see where you experience the greatest amount of joy. The work towards those things on your list.

Be flexible. Simplifying your life takes time, takes dedication, takes work, and can be met with some resistance if this involves a job, a family, a church, or an organization. Simplifying our lives often times will include other people too and their opinions. Finding that balance requires everyone to be flexible.

Take the first step forward. When you recognize a change is needed, then you decide where you need to make some changes, you commit to the change, then you need to act on simplifying your life. You must move forward now with your plan.

Be authentic.  Our lives have a way of consuming us. They suck us in like the intake on an airplane engine and spit us out on the other side. This leaves us over worked, over stimulated, over indulged, and over it all. We may feel fake, not our selves, fragmented, and worn down. This creates a stressful environment to be authentic. True to ourselves. Simplifying our lives gives us the way to a more authentic being.

My reasons for wanting to simplify my life are probably not your reasons, and that does not matter. The idea is that we are busy and it's okay to allow ourselves a chance to step back, reevaluate, and simplify the world around us based on what we see is necessary.

When I start to feel that my life is unbalanced or out of harmony, I usually revisit my thoughts of simplifying and my desire of returning to a simplistic lifestyle reminds me to check the list above.




Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Mom, I'm Weird!


Last week was rough as a parent.  I crumbled when Isabella said this to me, "Mom, I'm weird". My heart dropped to the bottom of my stomach and I physically ached for her. I remember. Oh, how I remember feeling this way too at her age. Her comment immediately took me back to my early days in grade school, then the dreaded middle school, and finally high school. I would like to say that it ended there, but you know it didn't. Once you feel weird those feelings don't shake off like raindrops on a slicker. No, they stick and seep into your soul. One drop after another until one day you wring yourself out and wake the fuck up.

As a student studying psychology, I should have all the answers. But, I don't. I should know where to get the answers from. But, I don't. If life were that easy then none of us would have issues and all our problems would simply drift away. This is life. This is real. Her concerns and feelings are genuine to her age. I can't deny them or tell her to dismiss the nagging tentacles of her self-esteem telling her that someone thinks she is different. Nor do I want to. Yes, that is what I said. I don't want her to change to try and fit in. I don't want her to try and succumb to peer pressure so that she can be a part of this "in crowd" that thinks its cool to tell young girls they are weird. I don't and I won't lie to her about her uniqueness. She is too smart for that bullshit and I am not that parent.

Instead, I love her. Wrap my arms around her during this tender discussion and sooth her baring soul. I tell her it's okay to be weird, odd, and unique. I whisper that she is valued. I kiss her forehead and empathize with her pain. I accept this moment and listen. We curl up on her bed and the tears pour out. She is shaking, stumbling to find her words, admits she is depressed and looks to me for comfort and answers. What is happening?

It's complicated. She is almost eleven. I explain about hormones. I explain about our egos. I explain about releasing her hurts so they don't build up and implode or explode. We talk about journaling and talking, and honest emotions.  We discuss words that are descriptive of how she feels, so in the event, I ask her if she is fine, she has the vocabulary to say no and then explain. I give her permission to tell the voice in her head to "shut up". We talk, I listen, she talks, I listen, we hug, and then we talk some more. She tells me the girls think she is weird. She feels that they are whispering about her. She is a bit paranoid that the world is against her. Again, this is a bit normal at this age. They tend to hyper-focus on themselves, thinking they are the only one, everyone is looking at them, and no one likes them. I get it. I know they will outgrow this stage but that does not negate the feeling that what she is feeling is real to her. I listen some more and we talk a lot more.

The most important thing we talk about is acceptance and what that means. I ask her if she wants to be a part of "that" crowd. She says no but the idea of someone not liking her hurts. I get that. The issue is that not everyone is going to like you, approve of your actions, want to be your friend, go to your parties, or be with you and this is all okay. I feel that she needed permission to be herself, to be authentic, to be okay with herself outside of the crowd across the dance floor. She needed me to tell her it was okay to set boundaries, to find peace within her own heart, to stand up for herself.  What I really wanted to say was, "life sucks, people suck, find a hole and stay there forever." We know this is not good advice but we also know that sometimes this is how we honestly feel.

Towards the end of our conversation, after four hours, she feels better. Her tears are drying up and she is smiling. Just talking about these thoughts and ideas are offering her a huge amount of relief because she is releasing the pain and emotion. Allowing the universe to take this negative energy and wash it away. Her desire to quit dance was loud. I listened but I recommend that she wait a week and see if her heart will feel different. She agrees because I know she loves to dance; just not the politics of 5th, 6th, and 7th graders girls. (Sorry, there are no boys in this class...just girls).

The next day she was all smiles but a little reluctant to go to dance practice, but she did it anyway. When she arrived home I ask her how it went. She says, "great, and I made a new friend." My advice to her before she left was to look for a person who needed a friend because she knew first hand what it felt like to be left out. I encouraged her to focus on a small community of real people that she could be herself with.

In the end, I was tired and emotionally spent that night. It was a great talk and one that I know I will have again with Isabella and with Finnley. The thing is, I am wiser. I am able to tell her it will all work out and that if she sticks to being honest with herself and fighting to be authentic she will attract a good group of people into her life. We talked about this too concept too, the one of realizing that when you make it to the other side of a trial, recognize it. I wanted her to stop and feel, in that moment, how happy she was. She made it through the muddy trenches and over to the grassy hillside. This recognition allows her to see hardships as temporary and something she can overcome. Life is challenging and sometimes very hard, but it's usually not forever and many things are overcome with time, a little self-care, love, and perspective.

One final reflection about this whole experience for me is that I need to check in more often with her. I now know that she holds a lot in. Being a Mom I know we have to listen to all of those sweet nudges telling us to follow up with our kids. Even when it sounds or feels funny. One month ago, I had a strong impression that we needed to more Isabella up from the basement to our main floor. I felt that she was too far removed from our family. I felt that she needed to be surrounded by us more and not so isolated in her basement bedroom. I wish that I had listened to this voice and followed my own advice sooner. I'm not sure if all of this could have been prevented. We moved her room up last weekend and again, she is so excited. It was the right thing for us right now. As parents, we have special connections to our kids, learn to listen to that small voice.

Parents, we are mentors to our kids. They learn from us. They watch us like little hawks. They mimic our behaviors, our words, our thoughts, and sometimes our viewpoints. Teach your kids to be kind and inclusive. Kids learn to be exclusive because of the environment they are in. A simple reminder to include others, to say kind things, to not gossip, to be a friend, to reach out, to simply be a decent person goes a long way in the teaching and raising of a child. They are sponges when it comes to concepts and ideas. I am encouraging all parents, myself included, to be a good listener, to be a guidance counselor, to allow your kids to express honest emotions and feelings, to not bully your own kids, to teach them values and beliefs.

Buy a book, listen to a podcast, read blogs, educate yourself on what it means to be a good parent. Retrain your thoughts and behaviors if they are damaging. Often we take on our parenting skills from our own parents. For a few this is a good thing but for many, it is not. Just because your parents did something one way does not mean you have to do it that way either. Research and educate, teach and learn, be your kids best advisor.

I read a lot of studies, research papers, and stories of kids with shitty parents and childhoods. It sucks! My heart breaks. So much of what kids go through they carry into their adult lives. Address key issues now, either with yourself or with your child. It is never too late to make a good change.

I will continue to write about parenting because I believe a part of our current mental health crisis in the US  can be contributed to childhood experiences (Ajp.psychiatryonline.org, 2017). The pain that has been hidden and buried deep within our adult souls is real and has lasting effects on our future selves and families.

References:

Ajp.psychiatryonline.org. (2017). Relationship Between Multiple Forms of Childhood Maltreatment and Adult Mental Health in Community Respondents: Results From the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study | American Journal of Psychiatry. [online] Available at: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.160.8.1453 [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How to Plan, Prepare, and Budget for a Plant-Based/Vegan Food Storage #yearsupply



Many years ago we held tight to the counsel of having a year supply of food on hand. This amount of food storage sounds overwhelming, and at first, it is, but there were resources to purchasing food storage options. There were complete year supplies of food that you could purchase, 3-month increments, or individual portions of food. We had a storage room in our home and I would rotate the food each time I added anything new to our year supply of food. It was a project that I enjoyed because I knew in the event of an emergency or loss of job, that we would at least have food.

Fast track 8 years after we left Utah and guess what, I am still and always have held on to the idea of keeping some food storage on hand. I believe in the concept of being prepared, even if that includes, a 3 month supply and not a year supply.

Part of this continuation of our food supply journey is heavily dependent upon the threat of natural disasters. While living back east we went through three hurricanes, an earthquake, a derecho, and unusual snowfall patterns. These natural disasters led to us losing power on multiple occasions, having roads not clear due to snowfall and fallen trees, and sometimes a panic in the area that would leave shelves barren in our grocery stores. Living back in Oregon the threat is the same. We live along the coast. We live on a transform plate. We have the Juan de Fuca along our seas shore. So what does that all mean?  Earthquakes and tsunamis. Simply put, if the right earthquake hits we could be facing some severe disaster in our area. In fact, we don't even know if our house will be safe. We are along the water and if the flooding is severe enough we might have a home full of water. With this threat in mind, most of our food storage is in water safe containers, cans or airtight boxes.

I want to take this time to share with you a few of our ideas and thoughts on how we, as a plant-based family, prepare our food storage. There have been times in the past, due to my food sensitivities, that I have stressed about our food storage. Primarily, the items we had in our food storage were items for extreme disasters, not necessarily food items we would eat on a daily basis. This changed when I realized we were wasting our money on food that I knew my family would not eat, or food that I could not eat and stay healthy. I quickly donated the items we would not use to other families and focused on buying things I knew my kids would eat, not necessarily love, but like enough to suck it up and eat.

Let me first start by giving you some food for thought. Gained from our own experience over the past thirty years. I don't claim to know everything about food storage, but this is what has worked for us with good results. I am always open to suggestions and ideas for what works best for you. Today I am going to focus more on food storage and not emergency preparedness. This will get thrown into the conversation a little bit in this piece, but I want to write a separate piece that talks about how we are prepared for an emergency.

BUY FOODS YOU EAT NOW. Don't waste money on gimmick foods, kits, or sets of foods in the hopes that you may never have to use them. This ensures the food is rotated, stays fresh, and you know how to use the foods you are storing.

USE THE FOOD IN YOUR FOOD STORAGE. Having food sit and sit for years cannot be healthy for anyone. Yes, they will sustain you but remember, that our food is also what keeps us healthy and strong. In the event of a situation you have to use your food storage, you want the best food choices available to you at times. Using the food in your food storage also increases the likelihood that your family will eat the food when the time comes. Trying to introduce new food, especially canned/processed/food storage food to your families during a crisis, kind of sucks. Trust me I know the hard way.

MAKE A LIST OF ITEMS NEEDED. A list will help you stay organized. A list allows you to break up your purchases. A list will help you shop sales. I like to use a list because I am busy and I need reminders of when I need to restock an item that is low. I will provide you below with some of the items on my list. I sometimes will use coupons, shop at discount stores, watch sales, buy in bulk, and use our garden to stock our pantry.

MAKE A MENU USING THE ITEMS IN YOUR STORAGE.  This happened to me. I bought food for our pantry and then realized I was missing key ingredients to make full meals. This was stressful. Now I make menus that are balanced meals using the items in my food pantry or storage.

BUY BASICS Your going to not like me, for this section, because I will never encourage you to fill your pantry with prepared/process food. I just can't.  Some things yes, I get it; but, not all of it. I say this because I have watched friends do this. They buy chips, cookies, meals in boxes, mac and cheese, etc....because its cheap. Cheap does not equate to healthy and sustaining, in my world, these are two important aspects of our lives living a plant-based lifestyle. I buy things that I can blend to make recipes. I buy foods that are usually single items foods like beans, tomatoes, carrots, rice, flour, chocolate chips, etc... These are the foods that I can use in a variety of recipes. With this said, I will buy a few prepared items in the event I don't have the means to cook food for a few days. Like canned vegetarian chili or soups. These can be eaten cold, not preferable, but doable.

DON'T JUST FOCUS ON FOOD Look around your house and decide, in the event of a job loss or natural disaster, what other things besides food could you have on hand for 3 months to a year. I can suggest a few. Toilet paper, personal hygiene, medicines, pet foods, garden seeds, heat source, cooking source, etc... The list is long.  Remember to add these things to your list too.

COMMIT TO BUYING ITEMS EACH TIME YOU SHOP I give myself a small budget to spend on food storage items each time I go shopping. This allows me to economically build up our supply of emergency items. A trick I use it this. I have a food budget. If something on my list is on sale, I buy a years supply of it. Sounds crazy but it works for me. Another trick I use is if I do buy a few things on sale, this will leave me with a little extra money in my food budget. I will spend this extra money on items for our food/emergency items.

LEARN TO FORAGE AND GROW YOUR OWN FOOD I am including this because there are many people who live in areas that are rich with wild food. There is food available in parks, forested areas, woodlands, around water, even in dry areas like desserts, there can be food found in the form of certain cacti. Not everyone can forage but for those that enjoy the challenge of searching for their food, this is an option to learn now. Not when you need it because of a natural disaster but now, while you have time to collect the resources to study the items in your area. I have mushroom books, wild plants/herbs books, native to my area books, books on how to prepare soups, tinctures, teas, ointments, and salves.  You will be surprised what you might find in your own backyard.

Having a garden is always an option if you have space, time, and means. We put our first garden in this year as a test plot for our families abilities to maintain and use the food from the garden. It has been a joy. We will be expanding our garden next year by four times what is was this past year. We want to be self-sustaining and this is our goal we are working towards as a plant-based family.

The suggestions above work for our family. I have been doing our food stocking this way for a long time. I know there are a few questions that come along with this project and I will try to answer them below. Again, these won't be all the questions. If you think of something else, ask in the comment section and I will do my best to answer each question.

Where do I store all of my food storage? This is a great question and one that we have had to get creative on several occasions. Many friends I know, use the space under their beds. Closets, garages, basements, and pieces of furniture are all places you can store food storage. Keep in mind a few things though: pest, temperature, moisture, accessibility, etc... I will tell you that we keep all of our food inside and upstairs. Oregon is wet and damp. Anything we put outside deteriorates. Upstairs because we hope that if our home is flooded the upstairs will be a safe place for most of our food.

What are shelf life, best by date, and use by dates? These are dates that manufacturers attach to each item they manufacture. These dates are a bit flexible. I say this because, from personal experience, I have used things past their labeled date. I use the "smell it" and "taste it" rule of thumb. If it smells bad then it probably is and if it tastes bad, don't use it. Oils are the tricky one. They have a best by date stamp. Some people say oil does not go bad, but it can. Use your nose and taste buds. Shelf life can also be used to describe how long something is good for once it is cooked. Most cooked foods have a shelf life depending on what they are. For example cooked meat's shelf life is different than say homemade butter or biscuits.

What are the best forms of packaging for food to use: plastic, glass, metal, boxes, etc...? I have my favorites and some of them are practical and some of them are not. I have to be a bit more flexible when it comes to the food items I buy and how they are packaged. As an example, I prefer frozen fruit and vegetables over canned goods. In the event of a natural disaster, I may lose power (this has happened to us before) and we lose food. This is not practical and a waste of money to me. So I compromise and buy fruits and vegetables in can form too. I buy beans that are in cans and beans that are in bags. Again I use them both in our everyday cooking but this allows me the peace of mind and comfort, that if water enters my house, we will have some protein in a can. I like glass. Earthquakes and glass jars don't always mix. I buy some things in glass and some things in plastic. You really need to think outside your comfort zone when it comes to planning for your food storage and a natural disaster is always a possibility. We buy things in paper packaging like crackers, flour, sugar, etc... These items I try to store up high. In the past, I have protected them in plastic tubs.

How much money do I need to get started? This is a question I hear a lot when it comes to food storage and preparing to invest in your preparedness. I can't give you a solid answer because we all have different homes, a different number of people in our homes, different budgets, and different appetites. I can share with you what our family does for budgeting. I budget $50.00 a paycheck for food storage. This is for a family of 6 living at home. I have a son and his girlfriend living an hour away. Our food storage may have to feed them too. We have a large home so I have more space. I use all the space given to me to store food. I also keep in mind, my neighbors and friends. We have taken extra precautions on our property for water. This was expensive but we now have a 1500 gallon water tank for use as drinking water and other necessary water needs. Each year we get bonuses. I always take a little from this extra money and buy things in bulk from Amazon. I buy almost all organic and bulk is the cheapest option I have found. This amount is sometimes $200 or it could be $500.

Money is hard to give specifics because we all have different incomes and needs. I would suggest that you make your list and then divide it. Try to make 12 sections and give yourself 12 months to get your food storage up to par. Unless you are feeling in your gut that this process needs to be a priority, and if that is your feeling---run with it, then taking baby steps as you work toward your goal. This goal may not be 12 months. Maybe you only want 3 months on hand.

What should I store? This is also based on your family and their food choices, dietary restrictions, income level, and storage availability. I will try to tell you what I store for our family who eats a plant-based diet. This list is not complete because this is my own families preferences. You will have to decide your families list based on where you live, your culture (foods do vary), your budget, and your cooking options.  I have access to a fireplace, a fire pit outside, stored wood, propane gas grills, charcoal BBQ, and a variety of electrical appliances. I have lots of options, which others may not. This is important in storing food. If you can't cook it or make anything with it, then it won't work for your family.

Listed below are a few sites I found that also talk about storing foods in your pantry along with some menu and recipe suggestions.

Discovering the Words of Wisdom
Whole Food Menus-Top 10 list
Veg Kitchen- How to Create a Plant-Based Pantry
4 Ways to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables--talks about salting
Home Preserving Bible--this does include options for meat too
Better Homes and Garden--list of shelf lives and how to store items
Vegan Society- 20 uses for Aquafaba
Real Simple-How to store oil, vinegar, and condiments
One Green Plant-Plant Protein Sources

My list is as follows:

Dry Goods- any food item that does not need to be frozen or refrigerated to be stored. Most of these items, once they are open, do not need to be refrigerated.

Keep in mind shelf life and dates. Somethings don't last a full year. This is why a rotation system works best. This is a list of items we keep on hand in bulk as part of our food storage needs.

-flours
-cornmeal
-sugars
-baking soda
-baking powder
-dry spices
-salt (salt can be used to preserve too, keep this in mind for quantity)
-beans (canned or dry)
-rice
-rolled oats and like cereal grains
-chocolate powder
-cacao nibs
-coffee
-tea
-corn tortillas (soft and crispy and tostada)
-flat rice disk used to make spring rolls
-nori sheets for sushi
-pasta
-crackers (Ritz, gluten-free sesame seeds, nutcrackers)
-cookies
-chips
-nuts, seeds, peanuts (we don't have any nut allergies)
-coconut flakes
-dehydrated fruit (watch closely because they can go bad)
-TVP (if you do soy)
-nutritional yeast

Canned/Liquid Goods--Anything in a can/bottle/box that can be stored at room temperature before it is open. This list is not complete but what we have stored in our food storage. I try to buy all my canned goods organic.

- tomatoes
- tomato paste
- tomato sauce
-mushrooms
-coconut milk (full fat)
-jackfruit (in water, not sweet)
-beans (lots of beans for aquafaba uses-this replaces eggs in most recipes)
-fruit
-artichoke hearts and bottoms
-olives
-ketchup
-mustard
-maple syrup
-coconut oil, refined by the gallon
-olive oil in dark containers
-vinegar (apple cider and white)
-sesame oil
-rice milk (organic and in a box)
-vegetable stock in boxes
-concentrated vegetable paste
-peanut butter
-jam
-soy sauce (if you do soy)
-Braggs Amino Acid (alternative to soy)
-pickles
-salsa

Frozen Food

We have two freezers that are packed with food. We use these a lot. I know that in the event of power loss we could lose the food but most of what is in there are items we have foraged or gotten at great prices. Not that that should matter, but when we have lost a freezer full of food in the past, you tell yourself things to make it feel better. I hope we don't lose power ever again.

-frozen fruit (all kinds)
-frozen vegetable stock (homemade)
-frozen skins and wrappers (gyoza'z/ puff pastry)
-all opened nuts (20#'s of raw cashews)
-shredded squash for muffins, stews, and soups

Other items

-toilet paper
-pet food
-personal hygiene products
-first aid items
-propane tanks
-firewood
-matches/lighter
-candles
-batteries
-paper towels/napkins
-laundry detergent
-dish soap
-paper plates and paper products (in the event we lose electricity)
-diapers/pullups/Depends
-water
-generator
-essential oils (for cooking, healing, soothing, etc...)

I know this was a lot to read. It was a lot to write.  I still have more to add but this is a basic/general understanding of food storage, foods to store, and how to get started. I will revisit periodically and update this page. Please ask me any questions in the comment section below. I would love to hear what other plant-based or vegan families are storing or using.

I wrote this piece to simply inform people that you don't need animal products in your food storage to make delicious food or to sustain your family in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis. You don't need eggs because you have aquafaba. You don't need dairy milk because you can use coconut milk or rice milk, just to name a few options. You don't need dehydrated sour cream (GAG) because you can make cashew cream (if you have electricity or a generator). You don't need canned meat for protein (see link above).

I am trying to be smart about where I live and the possibility of a disaster looming at my front door. I want to feel as prepared and safe as possible. This starts with little actions and baby steps. I hope this is helpful for you to begin thinking about how to store plant-based foods in your food storage.







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