Are You Connected to the Ground in Which You Walk Upon?

Today’s theme was floor. One thing I have noticed about myself is that my mind never stops. Living so much in my head jumping from thought to thought to thought can be exhausting.

One of the reasons I am on a break from Instagram, deactivated Facebook again, deleted my Twitter account a year and a half ago, and never bothered to make a Snapchat, is because I know myself, and I know what technology is capable of doing to the human mind. These mediums can be wonderful tools, but for me personally, there are consequences to using them. I have to be super mindful and super balanced with how I approach use. These platforms are purposefully designed to be addictive.

This look within has been good for me so far, but it also has brought up something: a longing for community and deeper connections. One of the main pillars of health of those who live long and healthy lives is having community.

In a way, I think this was the value, or perhaps perceived value, that social media gave/at times still gives me. It’s quick connection – a quick tap into communication at a distance. There are certainly upsides and downsides to that too.

I notice that the lines are easily blurred between feeling valued, connected, and validated by way of communicating with friends online and not really getting much out of those interactions at all. Much of it is superficial. Much of it is short and fast. And with a quick click, I liked your photo, and with a speedy scroll, on to the next message and the next and the next. Consume, consume, consume. And tack on all the never-ending messages of all the products and services we ‘need’ to be happy, to simplify, to be beautiful, to be better. Is this the way? Is this valuable? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?

So what happens if we peel that all away? Well, for me, that means I need to be with myself more, in that mind that never stops. And maybe that’s why I need to slow down and just exist without too many distractions more than ever.

I believe part of the reason why I turn to snacking or comfort eating when I am “bored” or “lonely” is because I am really hungry for connection in that moment, a meaningful conversation. I am also really hungry for grounding myself and living in the moment – not tomorrow, not yesterday, but right now.

Most of the time, I live in the future in my mind. And today’s yoga practice of connecting to the floor was surprisingly helpful.

Find community. Ground yourself. Love and live today.

Catch ya on the flip side,
Mary

Mental Flexibility

Today’s yoga theme was flexibility. This got me thinking about how flexible I am (or not) when unexpected obstacles arise or when I’m in an environment with circumstances outside of my control. How flexible am I to adapt to unique situations or a blip in my own expectations?

For me, this yoga practice is quite emotionally and spiritually self-reflective. I am typically an impulsive person within certain aspects of my life, and I have always known that this is a weakness for me. As I reflect, and work on expanding my mind, taking more pauses, and not rushing through things, I am realizing that achieving more mental flexibility is not only possible for me – it’s necessary. 

Pause. Wait. Breathe. Think it through. You will be okay. Expand.

Catch ya on the flip side,
Mary

I Trust

Most often, letting go is simple but yet it’s quite difficult. Letting go of physical and emotional ties can be scary and bring up fear and doubt. We hold on to the familiar comfort of what we know (or think we know), because it is easier than breaking the routine and changing. But what’s on the other side of that?

Today’s yoga theme was trust. During my meditation, I reflected on how I trust my body, I trust myself, I trust God, and I trust the universe. I trust.

When in doubt, remember, you are never alone. Trust.

Love and light,
Mary

Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

When I began my journey to simplify my life, I had no idea that there was a small movement of people out there who were doing the same. In fact, later on, I discovered one of my now favorite YouTubers (and new friends) – Carrie LeighAnna. I found Carrie to be a genuine, honest, and kind woman; I can understand why so many people love her YouTube videos. What I like most about Carrie is that she is willing to be truthful with herself and with her viewers; in fact, she is open with the public about her goals, her challenges, and her victories. This is what makes Carrie so relatable; she doesn’t preach perfection or create a facade of perfection; she is just herself, and that’s part of what makes her so beautiful. The ideas and tips she shares are both encouraging and doable, yet they are super inspiring. If you are not familiar with her work and her message, you are in for a real treat with this interview.

1. Carrie, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. You live a simple life, and it seems that you work to prioritize your faith, your health, and your family above other areas of your life. This is very inspiring. For those who are not familiar with you and your YouTube channel, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, who you are, your interests, etc.?

I’m a 25-year-old wife, mother, YouTuber and recovering addict. I was born and raised in Kentucky, but moved 1,000 miles away to attend school in Florida where I met my husband of five years. However, just this month we’ve moved back to Kentucky to be closer to family.

I’m an old soul, I tend to go against the grain in just about every way, and I’ve never felt like I’ve really ever “fit in.” But as I’m getting older, I’m really coming to value my uniqueness, rather than feeling insecure about it.

Lastly, I’m obsessed with tiny things. Tiny houses, tiny nurseries, tiny pumpkins, tiny wardrobes, tiny flowers – they all just make my heart so happy!

2. Can you describe and list your simple wardrobe for us including your clothing, pjs, shoes, scarves, coats, etc.? Lots of people have asked me about how many undergarments to keep, so if you are willing to share that information also, if it’s not too personal, that would be great.

Just last month when I lived in Florida, my entire wardrobe consisted of a handful of little black dresses, a pair of flats, a pair of booties, a statement necklace, a set of diamond jewelry and several sweaters. I also had a pair of leggings and a maternity jacket I would wear on cooler days. That was it – less than twenty items – and it was all I ever needed. 

Since moving to Kentucky, however, I’ve had to alter things quite a bit, and I’m still working on it. So far, I’ve got three dresses, some leggings, skinnies, several nice tees, a pair of shorts, flats and I’m on the look out for a pair of sturdy boots for winter. I also have a lightweight coat, a heavy wool jacket and my original maternity jacket from my Florida wardrobe.

But here’s the catch- everything I wear is black. I’m a mommy, so stains are just a part of life – but not on black clothes! Also, Audrey Hepburn… Need I say more?

I have a small handful of workout/ painting clothes that I purchased at second hand stores for less than $10 total. And as far as undergarments go, I have just enough to wear for a week before everything needs to be washed. I purchase really nice panties and bras because it’s such a simple way for me to feel beautiful.

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3. You are a mother. How has motherhood changed you? Do you have any insight for people who are on the fence about parenthood?

Nothing in the world has made me realize how incredibly valuable and fragile life is like motherhood. The moment I locked eyes with that tiny little stranger, the world became so much bigger, so much scarier, and so much more dangerous. But right along with that, it became so much more joyful, playful, beautiful and wonderful all at the same time. When you give birth, you are literally born into a new type of human and you enter an entirely new world. It’s the craziest thing!

Though it was tempting to become “just” a mommy after she was born, I’ve realized in the last year how important it is that I take care of Carrie, and nurture and grow Carrie before I play mommy. The nice thing is, they are mutually compatible. My daughter was born into my world, and the best thing I can do for her is be a mature, growing and happy version of myself first, then welcome her into the world I’ve been living in, rather than make my life revolve exclusively around her.

4. When people say that “children are expensive” or “kids require a lot of stuff” do you agree with that? For anyone who would like to raise a child and still live a very simple lifestyle, what are your tips and suggestions?

I absolutely disagree! Babies need food, clothing, a carseat (at least in America) a quiet place to sleep and lots of love. None of that has to cost a great deal. In fact, for the average mother, all of this can be completely free. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, babies simply do not need a lot.

Even as the child grows, the costs don’t have to be exorbitant. Living within a budget, buying gently-used items, and “doing it yourself” can all keep costs low.

5. For new Moms-to-be who want to only purchase (or ask for) necessities, what do you think the absolute essentials are to have? How many clothes, towels, cloth diapers, travel items, kits, other items are needed? Is there a way you would recommend tactfully asking for only the items listed on a registry (no extras) or cash in lieu of gifts for a celebratory shower?

My essentials were my electric breast pump, car seat, cloth diapers, and baby jammies. Everything else can be nice to have, but isn’t necessary. Our baby did sleep in a crib, but we were given a hand-me-down. And we received so many clothes and gifts at showers that we didn’t need to purchase anything more.

If you are going the cloth diaper route, I’d suggest 12 covers and inserts, minimum. This will hold you over for two days when they’re newborns and a little longer once they’re older.

Baby towels, toys and utensils are entirely unnecessary. By all means, get them if you like them, but don’t think they are a necessity. Use your adult towels on your baby. Let your infant play with a purse, a rock, and a spatula… heck, they like the boxes the toys come in more than they like the toys anyway! And teach your child to use adult utensils from the start. As the old saying goes, “Start as you would go.”

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6. Regarding mementos and sentimental items, how many do you have? This seems to be the most difficult thing for people to pare down. Have you ever regretted an item you got rid of?

From my childhood, I have nothing left. Several years into simplifying my life I set aside special items from my childhood that I wasn’t ready to release. At first, I thought I’d keep them forever. But eventually I let them all go.

There’s no rule here- hold on to what you want, but realize that it’s okay to let things go when you’re ready… just don’t watch Toy Story 3 right before doing it.

As far as motherhood is concerned, the day I found out I was pregnant, I purchased a sweet, whimsical journal and started writing to my unborn baby. Ever since then, I write a letter to her every two or three months. A few ultrasound pictures are also tucked away in the pages. This is the most precious and sentimental baby item I have, and I’ll give it to her once she becomes a mother. I don’t keep a baby journal because I’m just not a journaler. I tried, but it was always a source of guilt when I would forget to fill in all the appropriate pages. Eventually I realized I simply didn’t need that stress in my life, so I invested all my memory-making energy into the letter journal and stuck with that.

I also have a journal of notes and letters I started writing my husband shortly after we began dating. That’s my favorite sentimental item of ours, with the exception of the simple diamond jewelry my husband has given me as gifts over the years.

7. You just moved. What was that experience like for you? What is your new home environment like?

I moved to Kentucky just about a month ago and it was a lot of work, but so worth it! We sold every piece of furniture we owned rather than shipping it across the country, plus we purged all the unnecessary items from our home. At times it was a little scary realizing I didn’t own anything for a home anymore, with the exception of the carload I kept, but I knew in time I’d be filling my home again soon. And since we sold almost everything for more than we purchased it for, we had change to spare!

We are currently living in one bedroom in my parents house as we transition. We could rent if we wanted to, but my parents have generously offered to let us live with them while we save up for a hefty down payment on a house. Our hope is to move into our own place in the next year!

I’ve actually decided that since I’ll never get to live out my dream of living in a legitimate “tiny house,” that I’m going to make our current space as close to small-living as possible. The room is just a couple hundred square feet (I’m guessing), and so far I’ve managed to include a bedroom, family room, dining room, kitchen and nursery into the little space. It’s a stretch, but it’s a fun adventure, and I’m enjoying it more than words can say!

8. Are you a stay-at-home Mom? If so, what have been some of your best money-saving successes? Any tips for anyone who already avoids shopping most of the time but would really like to take their savings to the next level?

I am a stay-at-home mom. Actually, I was a stay-at-home wife before ever having kids, which is fairly uncommon these days. We’ve been able to make this work simply by staying out of debt and spending frugally. We are not perfect at sticking to our budget, but the tension and expectation is always there, so it keeps us from getting into trouble!

We read and followed Financial Guru Dave Ramsey’s principles pretty adamantly before getting married and we continue to study his material today. Honestly, that’s my number one money-saving (and money-making!) tip – read and follow all his stuff!

9. Friends and Family: This is one area of the holistic health circle that makes such an important difference in a person’s wellness. How have you managed friendships and personal relationships over the years? Do you keep things simple when it comes to friends (such as only having a couple of close friends)? Are you close with only a select handful of friends and family? Thoughts on social media?

I’ve struggled with social anxiety since elementary school. I was also raised in a highly-sheltered environment. Because of that, I’ve had a hard time making friends in my life. But the ones I have – MAN – they are the absolute best!

Relationships can be so tough to maintain. I realized the first year I went off to school that the majority of friendships from my past were going to fade away. I realized years later that that was both normal and healthy. Forgetting and letting go of good things only allows room in our lives to welcome newer, better things. I may have lost many of my closest friends from high school, but then I gained even closer friends in college, not to mention a boy I fell in love with and a child we created together!

But with that said, I believe with all my heart that every single human alive needs close friends. I have a handful of them, and I try my best to invest in those relationships as frequently as I can. Like many women, I want to do so much better. I could call more. I could visit more. I could do a lot of things more. But for now, I’m doing my best and maintaining where I can.

As far as social media is concerned, I would just caution everyone to be wary of “staying close” online. It’s simply not the same as truly being close. There’s nothing wrong with keeping up with friends, but if you’re doing that at the cost of neglecting your current relationships and others around you, you’re simply setting yourself up for some really serious isolation. 

And when it comes to family, by all means, be friends with them. Forgive them. Love them as hard as you are able. And if you can live close to them and still remain happy, do it! 

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10. Faith: You have described your faith as an important part of who you are. Do you have any words of kindness or encouragement to share with anyone who has lost their faith – faith not just in a specific religion or spiritual beliefs – but faith in anything or even faith in themselves?

My faith isn’t just a part of who I am – it is who I am. I believe in a  God who created me, knows me by name, loves me deeply, and has a plan for my life. In my lowest moments in life, I can have hope because God loves me. In my highest moments in life, I can be grateful because God has given me sweet gifts!  

As I mentioned before, I am a recovering addict. I attend regular twelve-step meetings and there is so much talk of God you’d think you were at church. But really, in those rooms there aren’t very many “believers” in the American-sense of the word. But the rooms are filled with people who have decided to give God a chance. And let me tell you- if that’s all you have to give, you have a lot to look forward to!

Regardless of your faith, or lack-there-of, you can know that you are loved. God loves you. And if you don’t think that’s real, then know that I love you (and I’m real!). Life is hard, messy, sticky and beautiful. There is nothing that love cannot fix. Don’t just wait for love to come save you, but actually seek it out. Keep yourself out of isolation. Serve someone lower than you. Eat with a homeless man. Dance in the rain on a summer day… Life is full of beauty, you just have to open your eyes to see it.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I am not a fortune cookie, regardless of how my last answer just sounded. I’m actually a realist. Most things in life really don’t matter. People do. But most everything else simply does not.

Thank you, Carrie! You can learn more great tips and suggestions for living simply from Carrie’s YouTube channel. She also shares valuable information for saving money, living frugally, taking care of yourself, and raising a child.

Why I Choose A Plant-Based Lifestyle + FAQ

Why I Choose A Plant-Based Lifestyle + FAQ

I receive many great emails and questions regarding food, health, and my lifestyle choices.  I thought it would be fun to share a little bit more about my journey and answer some frequently asked questions too. I wrote the title of this using “choose” as opposed to “chose” because I make this decision consciously each day.

Before I begin, I want to note that this lifestyle has brought me so much joy and liberation. I wish I could share this gift with everyone, but I am not here to influence or pressure anyone into changing their lifestyle or the way they eat. I am simply sharing my story, what has worked for me, and what has brought me personal health and happiness.

My Past Eating Behaviors, Dieting Patterns, and Food Choices
I have always been passionate about learning about the human body, but up until five years ago, I was more concerned with weight loss and physical appearance, rather than overall health and wellness. That mindset of always wanting to lose weight and reading fitness/women’s health magazines and websites served me no good. I would constantly yo-yo with my plan. I was also a fitness writer, so I exposed myself to a lot of fitness competitors and bodybuilding athletes, who I interviewed for my articles.

For some periods of time, I would try to eat the typical six small meals a day with rationed out protein, carbohydrate, and fat consuming only whole foods and high animal protein. Other times, I would count calories or points, or do some other type of regimented program where there were guidelines to follow or bars and shakes and then a low calorie meal in the evening, or I would eliminate entire groups like carbohydrates. Let’s just say, I tried a lot of things.

However, from a health and sustainability perspective, all the restriction, guilt-shame patterns, and crap I put my body through during those yo-yo periods were terrible for my overall health. And whenever I did lose weight,  shortly after when I could not keep up with that way of eating any longer, I would gain all of the weight back, of course. And round and round we go. This is a typical cycle for many women, especially American women. How many of us have said, “I’m starting my diet/program on Monday!” It is just a shame that many people are still in this cycle, and I understand where they are coming from, because I was once in that mindset too, for many years.

I was never really satisfied. In between those periods of dieting, I would end up eating a mix of “health” foods, whole foods, and standard American diet (SAD) or processed foods; OR, I would binge eat junk foods that I was restricting previously then go back to eating more natural foods and be on a diet again where I would pack all of the meat and vegetables and starch in little tupperware containers in advance. Even now as I write this, thinking back to that time, it was absolutely awful for me. I definitely had a very unbalanced approach to how I treated my mind, body, and spirit.

How I Went From Eating Meat to Becoming a Happy Herbivore
About five years ago, I experienced a whole host of health problems – one of them being chronic digestive issues (I mean, it was bad). Due to my own as well as my family’s medical history, I also wanted to learn about how to prevent cancer and other common diseases. I also had chronic fatigue, skin issues, high cholesterol, and disordered eating tendencies.

Because of my health scares and concerns, I began reading books and peer-reviewed scholarly research articles about health. I began to crave knowledge about how to feel fully alive and fully healthy. I don’t think most people know what that feels like, because I certainly didn’t.

Every book, research study, documentary, and credible resource I had read had a unanimous theme: eat more plants. Could feeling better and curing my health problems really be that simple? I had to learn more, so I did.

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I then read books like Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Healing the Gerson Way by Charlotte Gerson inspired by her father Dr. Max Gerson, and many other books. I also explored books like Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and one of my favorite books of all time, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. And after that, I just kept reading.

Then one day I decided, I wanted to try to eat plant foods and really be patient and give it a fighting chance.

I adopted a predominantly plant-based diet (95% plant foods), while still consuming some amounts of fish and dairy 1-3 times a month. I was going through many different adjustments with my food choices during the process too, and I learned a lot about my body and myself in the process. After a while, I gave up eating fish and other sea life, because I saw no benefit to it.

During my journey, I tried not to beat myself up over mistakes or slip-ups. In the past, having an all-or-nothing approach did not serve me well at all, and it caused a variety of problems. Learning to be patient and compassionate with myself, has helped me stick with this lifestyle long-term. And as of October 2014, it will be five years since I adopted a plant-based lifestyle, and five years since I ate a land animal (it’s been about four years since I stopped eating fish completely).

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And something else interesting happened, even though I started this for selfish reasons ( to get healthy), what has kept me on this path is something I never expected when I initially began. The health benefits are numerous, and I will explain those in a bit; but I also learned about many food injustices, including what happens to animals who are used for meat, dairy, and other products, as well as the mental and physical health issues that plague people who work on factory farms and in slaughterhouses due to the repetitive violence.

It is extremely overwhelming to learn about, and once I was aware of  these issues, there was no unlearning it. I also learned about the alarming environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industry. As someone who loves the idea of taking care of the only home we have – our Earth – this was a very impactful component for me. And finally, from a spiritual standpoint, when I really reflected on my values and beliefs, the way I was living my life previously did not match up with where my moral compass was pointing.

The Health Improvements I Experienced
All of the ailments, health concerns, and issues that I described earlier were resolved. It was incredible. I also had an increase in energy, better self-esteem, and I was kinder to myself and to others. In fact, my demeanor changed for the better. I became a much happier, kinder, and more patient person, overall. Other benefits: I learned what it truly meant to be and feel healthy, I dropped some weight, and I started getting more physical activity into my daily routine. This was the first time in my life that I was treating my body with respect and filling it with optimal nutrition.

I was also so passionate about health, that I went back to school to become certified as a holistic health coach, so that I could help others. And of course, I started blogging and sharing my delicious, plant-based recipes.

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For the Animals
I have always considered myself an animal lover. Yet, I would sit at the table and pet my dog with one hand, while consuming a cow or a pig or a chicken with the other. The fact of the matter is I was mentally detached from what was on my plate. After learning that we don’t need to eat animals to survive or be healthy, giving up meat was easy for me. I could never slaughter an animal myself, so I do not think it makes sense for me to eat them. I educated myself about how animals are treated as property instead of as individuals, as sentient beings.

Most people who still eat meat joke (or not) about bacon and how they could never give up bacon. Bacon is just fat from an animal’s belly. It’s gross. I used to love the taste of bacon too. But I love pigs more, and I found a replacement for the taste, by using coconut bacon. I will definitely post a recipe for how to make homemade coconut bacon very soon. Beyond bacon, every food I have ever loved, I have found a way to make it taste 100% incredible in a vegan version. My food tastes better now than it ever did, and in my opinion, the dishes look a lot more beautiful too.

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In terms of dairy, like all mammals, cows only produce milk to feed their young. Dairy is not healthy and should not even be considered a human food option. We are the only species that drinks the milk of another species, and even worse, we do this into adulthood and for many of us this is life-long consumption. How is that sustainable, by the way? Just like humans, cows don’t produce milk because fairies sprinkled dust on them. They are placed into a tragic system where they are forcefully impregnated by a machine while shoved into a holding rack. After the cows have their babies, the babies are taken away and either used for veal or dairy.

“The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf…On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn—only ten yards away, in plain view of his mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth—minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days—were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain.” -Michael Klaper, M.D.

For more information on these topics:
Cows for Dairy
NutritionFacts.org
Brenda Davis, R.D.
Calcium in Plant-Based Diets

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For the Environment
Plant-based eating helps fight against many major issues that plague our planet, including: water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and global hunger.

““We collectively raise, feed, water, kill, and eat over 65 billion animals each year for food …10 times as many people as we have on the entire earth… We have developed a complex system of producing more and more animals that use more and more of our resources, while leaving a massive amount of waste, pollution, and adverse climate change in their wake. … This system…is… heavily intertwined with our culture, politics, economics, and the suppression of the reality of its effect on our planet.”
-Dr. Richard Oppenlander

For More Information on the Environmental Impact:
Dr. Richard Oppenlander
Vegan Outreach
Cowspiracy Documentary

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We must save our oceans and the magnificent creatures within them. Photo credit: Oceanic Preservation Society

Spirituality
The final component for me that changed my life was that this lifestyle has helped me grow spiritually. I believe that spiritual nourishment (whatever that may be for you) is essential for overall health. It could be spending time outside in nature, yoga, meditation, prayer, etc. For me, living a plant-based lifestyle has encouraged me to learn more about growing my own food and connecting more with the earth. I am also more conscious, as a whole. Changing what I ate and shifting my thoughts has been a catalyst for so many wonderful opportunities in my life.

This lifestyle has helped me realize that our bodies are temples to our souls. We must take care of this precious gift of life that we have.

Eating plant-based and becoming more aware has also introduced me to concepts such as living simply and minimalism. I basically don’t live in excess, and I don’t have a lot of unneeded stuff (like I used to).

For More Information on this:
Ralph Smart, Infinite Waters
Angel Detox by Doreen Virtue and Robert Reeves

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is plant-based?
Great question! Different people have varying responses to this question. For me, a plant-based diet is a diet primarily or completely comprised of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, and whole grains.

2. What do you typically eat in a day?
I am answering this for me personally, but just so you know, there are many, many ways you can eat a plant-based diet. In fact, most people who eat plant-based have more of a variety in their meals.

For me, what I eat depends on the time of year and what I feel like eating at the time. I enjoy seasonal foods, and I love living in a place where there are four distinct seasons. I love gardening with my husband too. I also prepare the majority of my meals at home because it is healthier, I know exactly what is going into my body, and I save a lot of money. Sometimes I eat mostly raw, sometimes I eat more cooked foods. Right now this is what a typical days looks like:

Breakfast: A green smoothie. The one I just enjoyed was a blend of frozen banana, blueberries, spirulina, my homemade almond milk, and a touch of maple syrup. I usually eat fruit for breakfast. One of my favorite smoothies is my orange cilantro smoothie; it’s so simple and so good!

Lunch: I usually have a huge raw, green salad (I mean huge) or a raw zucchini noodle dish. The salads vary depending on what I have at home. One example is: kale, mixed salad greens, carrots, red onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, beets, avocado, topped with flax meal and nutritional yeast, sometimes walnuts, sometimes almonds, or sometimes organic sprouted tofu, etc. I also use lots of fresh and dried herbs, fresh ground pepper, and pink or red sea salt. I make my own salad dressings made from whole foods using my blender.

Dinner: I will make a vegetable stir fry dish, or roasted vegetables with greens, or a crockpot soup like lentil vegetable, or a raw soup like a cucumber dill or carrot ginger with greens or a salad, or vegan pizza, etc. Sometimes I will have a homemade veggie bean burger like sweet potato and black bean with a side of greens and all the fixings. Other nights I will make collard wraps with mashed sweet potato, chickpeas, and avocado, or quinoa veggie bowls. There are so many options, and I enjoy everything!

Snacks and Treats: Fresh fruit like a bowl of grapes, homemade black pepper and sea salt popcorn, homemade smoothies, homemade trail mix, raw cacao treats (real chocolate), or my 3-ingredient cookies.

Drinks: I drink filtered water. I use a Berkey to filter my water. It removes trace elements, chemicals, bacteria, chlorine, and fluoride (if you opt for the fluoride filter attachment). Apart from water, sometimes I will also enjoy organic, caffeine-free tea. I also like to make fresh juices at home, when I feel like cleaning my juicer.

And can I just say, the food is really delicious and so simple to make!

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3. Are you vegan?
I am just Mary. I currently self-identitify as someone who enjoys a vegan and whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. I love the vegan lifestyle, but I am not perfect. At the same time, I realize that no one is. Here is a great video on the subject by one of my personal inspirations, Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Sometimes I use raw honey my friend Farmer Leo’s honeybee friends make, because I know the bees are not hurt or robbed of their honey and then fed high fructose corn syrup (it’s a sad fact that most people don’t know about). I won’t just buy honey from the store, and I don’t use honey often at all. My husband and I have honeybees on our property too and I am very passionate about helping honeybees and planting bee and butterfly friendly gardens and not supporting pesticide use. We have even rescued swarms of bees. Vegans will not use any animal products, so honey falls into that category.

For me, I just try to live my life as compassionately and consciously as possible. My first year started by changing the way I ate, and then I started learning about products that are made from animals in general. Ever since, I always make sure that I purchase non-leather belts, cruelty-free shoes, and basically nothing made out of an animal. In a future post, I will talk about eco-friendly fashion, which is not a cut-and-dry topic.

I volunteer to direct a non-for-profit program called The Monmouth Area Vegetarian Society (MAVS). I have been running the nonprofit for three years, and all of our programs are completely free and open to the public and include an educational talk or film screening, and a vegan potluck. I also attended Vegetarian Summerfest for the past two years. Through both of these opportunities, I have met many incredibly inspiring individuals who I have learned so much from. Here is a sampling of pictures of just some of the awesome people who I have met over the years.

Joe Cross, star and director of the documentary film "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead"
Joe Cross, star and director of the documentary film “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”
Jenny Brown, founder of The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and author of “The Lucky Ones”
Rich Roll, plant-powered wellness advocate, bestselling author, and ultra-endurance athlete
Rich Roll, plant-powered wellness advocate, bestselling author, and ultra-endurance athlete
T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, author of "The China Study" and "Whole", also featured in the documentary film "Forks Over Knives"
T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, author of “The China Study” and “Whole”, also featured in the documentary film “Forks Over Knives”
Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy, a 4th generation cattle rancher who after 45 years and a series of events, became vegan. He is an animal rights and environmental activist now.
Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy, a 4th generation cattle rancher who after 45 years and a series of events, became vegan. He is an animal rights and environmental activist now.


4. Where do you get your protein?
This is probably the most common question that people who eat plant-based are asked. First, I will share this picture and ask you, where does he get his protein from? That’s right, plants.

gorilla

I recommend these two quick reads for further information:
Slaying the Protein Myth by Rich Roll  and The Protein Myth by The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

In a nut shell (no pun intended), plant foods provide us all the protein we need, plus countless other health benefits. For any athletes who are concerned with losing muscle, performance levels, or not being bulk enough, this is simply not an issue. Here are some athletes I recommend looking into. They are all plant powered!

frankandantonieyye
Frank Medrano and Antoniette Pacheco, vegan powerhouse couple and calisthenics athletes

Steph Davis, an American rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer
Steph Davis, an American rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer
78-year-old vegan bodybuilder, Jim Morris
78-year-old vegan bodybuilder, Jim Morris

 5. What resources do you recommend for people who are curious about learning more?
In addition to all of the books and films I have already mentioned, check out my wellness resources page for some ideas. Apart from that, there are many books, studies, films, and podcasts to be discovered. There is so much to explore.

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Thank you for allowing me to share my story.
Mary Signature

It Is Okay to Be Alone with Yourself

It Is Okay to Be Alone with Yourself

We are all connected, yet for some of us, it has been challenging finding those sustainable, meaningful, deeper connections. Maybe I speak for myself, but I have never felt like I ever fully belonged. I have met thousands of great people, but have chosen to be very selective with who I choose to spend my time with. This may come as a surprise, because I get along with just about everyone, and I enjoy talking with people, and I truly love and appreciate my friends and family; what a blessing to have so much love in my life.

However, I feel as though I prefer to be by myself most of the time or just sitting silently with my animals or in nature, where words are absent. And maybe that is because I just really enjoy the solitude and the clarity. Or maybe that is because it just is. I have chosen to be an observer of everything, of all of the beauty and the source. With each passing year, I let more light into my life. Sometimes I sit outside by myself and I just don’t do much of anything except listen, and sometimes I even lay in the grass. It’s amazing what we can be witness to, if we just allow it.

So what’s my point? My point is, it’s okay to be alone with yourself. I have learned more from that than anything else in this life. I have learned that we are all spiritual beings and we all want the same things: purpose, love, and happiness. I know myself, and I understand this purpose. I know that this life is a treasure. I know that we can be distracted by so many things – so many things that do not matter, and so much negativity. We must filter all of this. I know that labels and doctrines can divide us. We are all human. I promise that no matter what you’re going through or if you’re feeling alone, you are not alone.

We are all one. We are all important. Let this be validation that it is perfectly okay to be alone sometimes with yourself and to learn what it is that makes you happy. ONE LOVE!

Mary Signature

How Much Time Do You Really Have?

How Much Time Do You Really Have?

“I don’t have time.” We have all said it, thought it, and heard it. But is it really true?

A wise friend once told me that we make time for what is most important to us. This is a very powerful point that I revisit every now and again. It takes commitment to self-reflection and honesty with oneself to take a step back and think about how we are really spending our time.

We have 168 hours to spend each week. How do you spend your 168 hours? And ultimately, what is most important to you in this life? This article is intended to encourage each individual to really change the way we think about time.

168 Hours: A Quick Activity That Can Change Your Perception
Estimate how you spend your time each week. Please be honest with yourself and try to estimate everything as best as you can. There is no judgment and no competition. This is for your own benefit. You may learn that you need to readjust things or that you want to give something up or that you want to add activities in.

If some of the activities happen simultaneously (i.e. eating while driving), only count the time once. Please note that the categories factored into this activity are regular, weekly time commitments.

Here are the categories of regular commitments to count:

Personal Care
(showering, grooming, dressing, etc.)

Meals
(eating, cooking, baking, getting take out, etc.)

Commuting
(driving to work and school and back home, driving to other regular commitments)

Chores and Errands
(grocery shopping,  laundry, cleaning the house, etc.)

Sleep
(This one is pretty self-explanatory.)

Work/School
(You can split these up into two different categories, if you prefer. For school, make sure to include your hours in classes and your honest productive studying/working hours. Be as accurate as possible. Do not include time you are distracted by the Internet).

Other categories you can use if they apply to you:
Volunteer Work
Exercise/Fitness
Religious or Spiritual Practice
If you are a new parent, you can add in those hours as well

Total:
Time Remaining:
Self Reflection:

You may find that you have more time left over than you originally anticipated, or perhaps you have very little time left. If that’s the case, the self reflection part will help you. In other words, are you happy with the way you are spending your time? Are there any healthy changes you can make?

Mary Signature
time