Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


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“I’m the Scratchy Stuff On the Side of the Matchbox.”

Norwegian Wood.

It’s a Beatles song about an enigma of a girl.

“A riddle wrapped in an enigma.” – Norwegian Wood

It’s also a novel written by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

For a week, while I read this book, I was swept away into the world of Toru, a young nineteen-year-old boy, who is dealing with loss and heartache and sex and love and finding himself among people who…have problems.

But who doesn’t have problems?

This book didn’t exactly have the craziest plot twists. It didn’t keep me on the literal edge of my seat. What it did do is stir emotion inside of me that I didn’t know I had. It was a steady story, much like life – when taken a certain way- and Murakami created a novel in which the reader feels similarly to the protagonist. There were times when I felt as if my mind were his, his was mine. I wanted to see the girl from school again. I wanted to know why people had left me behind. I wanted to know why I was worth loving…. and why the passing hours of the day only grow harder to bear sometimes.

“Every once in a while she’ll get worked up and cry like that. But that’s OK. She’s letting her feelings out. The scary thing is not being able to do that. Then your feelings build up and harden and die inside. That’s when you’re in big trouble.” – Reiko

The setting is this: Toru, now a grown man, has a flashback to a girl, Naoko, he promised not to forget. The entire book is a flashback, though that’s easy to forget. In a way, isn’t all of life one big flashback? Living in the present takes guts and stamina. No one can keep it up 100% of the time.

As a young man Toru is in love with Naoko. She isn’t completely mentally stable. What the problem is exactly, isn’t known. Just like in life. And though she wonders why he cares about her… why he won’t give up… his answer is this: “So what’s wrong if there happens to be one guy in the world who enjoys trying to understand you?” 

I thought that was one of the sweetest things I’d ever read. I know I want to be understood. I’m sure you want to be understood, too. It only takes one person getting you to make life more complete. Some of us have found that one person. Some of us are still waiting. And sometimes that person comes out of nowhere, taking us completely by surprise, causing us to ask one simple question: “Where did you come from?”

Where did this book come from???? (I ask, because I love it so much and can’t believe I hadn’t already read it.)

One fictional character I’d love to get to know even better is Reiko. She’s older. She’s full of deep wrinkles. She’s been at a mental facility for years and years. She is an excellent musician. She’s wise. She’s even sexy, when it comes right down to it. She’s an incessant smoker. She is wise, so wise.Reading this book, I was most struck by the idea of “being the scratchy stuff on the side of the matchbox.”  

This is how Reiko describes herself. She knows she is an excellent teacher. She knows she can inspire people to be better versions of themselves. She might not be the flame, but she is what can allow the flame to catch.

So then I thought: “Is it better to be the scratchy stuff, or the match?”

I once wrote a blog about being your own catalyst. I’d been told that I was the scratchy stuff (in a way… of course, that exact phrase wasn’t used.) I had issues with being a catalyst for someone else rather than my own. I wanted to inspire myself. I wanted to have that kind of power. Not until reading Norwegian Wood and meeting the character Reiko did it occur to me that there needs to be both kinds of people in this world. It also hadn’t occurred to me that we can be these types of people at different times, depending on who we run into. That’s the beauty of love and friendship and relationships. We’re all constantly pushing each other to be better. Sometimes we need a shove. Sometimes we have the wherewithall and stability in our own lives to finally, finally, give someone else a nudge for a change.

After all that high and mighty talk about being my own catalyst, it took a simple question from someone else to get me to change certain aspects of my life. A question (or two) as simple as, “Do you want to leave? What do you want to get away from?” made me realize that all the signs were there — that a change was coming and I’d better be prepared. I’m thankful for this new catalyst.

But back to Toru, the young boy. He’s a sweetheart. A real genuine gentleman.

“A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do, but what he should do.” -Nagasawa, Toru’s friend

He’s even kind enough to keep around a girl who pretty much only talks about strange sexual situations, ones she imagines herself in and ones she simply considers to be interesting, and keeps drama high with ignoring and giving the silent treatment time and again (even when he deserves it), which is exactly what Midori does. While the girl he loves (Naoko) is in a place for mental instability, this girl who is unstable in other ways enters his life. Toru never mistreats anyone. He tries to stay true to his word. For a 19 year old kid, he certainly does a good job.

He’s the kind of character we don’t mind following around. The kind of guy who might lose it at any moment, yet keeps himself calm in even the worst of circumstances. Looking at him, you wouldn’t necessarily know he’s a complete wreck. Then, once again, he’s isn’t a complete wreck… he’s helping someone else get better. I loved Toru because he represented a great life lesson — that you never know what’s going through someone else’s mind. The most cool, calm and collected person could be raging inside with fear and doubt and dread. They could be a blank slate, through and through. The point is, we just never know.

You should take time to read Norwegian Wood. Be prepared for the darkness to seep in at some points. Be prepared to underline those sentences and let them soak into your soul and change you. You know how there are those quotes about “the perfect sentence?” Well, this book is full of ’em. Just take a look.

Because….

“Life is like a box of cookies.”

Bet you want to know what that means, right?

Love, Lou

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My Dream is My Plan “A” (Thanks Mom and Dad)

This post is dedicated to my parents. Not only are they the most iconic, beautiful people who had the best photos taken of them … they are also genuine and supportive and they have taught me more in life than I could have dreamed possible.

dreams, living your dreams, not giving up, parents

my dad- senior year of college

parents, dreams, living

my mom- around the age of 25 and my sister Jessica

Have you ever heard anyone talk about what they’d really love to do… like become an artist, a journalist, a glassblower… whatever it is! More often then not, they have a “regular” job they aren’t too happy with and they consider this dream of theirs to be plan B.

“If things go well… if all the planets line up…if I get lucky, etc.”

Here I am today saying that if you don’t consider your DREAM TO BE YOUR PLAN A, then you aren’t dreaming in the right way. It’s entirely true. It’s as cliche as the day is long, but you guys, we only live once. One time. Uno. One go around – and it’s up to us to make the most of it.

My parents have always taught me this. They’ve also taught me that money can buy you ZERO happiness. Zero. Having enough love to support you throughout your day is what we all need. They’ve taught me that, too.

And if that isn’t enough, do the old “When I’m 80” test.

When I’m 80, I do not want to look back at my 9-5 (unless that’s my dream- which I know for some people, it is) and wonder why I was willing to sit under a florescent light (think Joe vs the Volcano…) and go through papers and not move throughout the day. When I’m 80 it won’t matter if I spent up to a year in my 20’s very poor, hungry and not sure of what was to come next. It WILL matter if I wasted it and became unhealthy and unhappy and unfulfilled in the process. 

Think about that. It doesn’t even take the “when I’m 80” test sometimes. Sometimes all I have to do is think, One year from now, will this matter? 

When Greg and I stay up late and drink coffee and chat under Christmas tree lights -because we have a Christmas tree up all year round- this is usually what we’re talking about. I imagine my parents did the exact same thing when they had all these surprise daughters, a pastor’s paycheck, and rice and beans. They were the poorest of the poor… but they say they’d have it no other way. They started out living in a rented basement. They had my older sister way sooner than planned. My dad still became a pastor. They made things work. They were skin and bone, quite frankly. But they had love.

my mom, pregnant (both age 24)

my mom, pregnant (both age 24)

This is something that brings tears to my eyes. I get very emotional, realizing that my parents are REAL people. Have you had the same epiphany? In these photos, my parents are MY AGE or younger. They were once in their early 20’s and they had dreams, worries, and they were scared of making  mistakes and raising a family.

Sometimes I look at these pictures and it just hits me how similar I am to them. Right now, this very day, I am so much like my parents. It’s hard to believe they were once my age. They once had a life without Melinda. They cried when they found out they were having twins (partly because of happiness, partly because they had no idea how that would work.)

they still enjoyed a little wine, like we ALL have to do

they still enjoyed a little wine, like we ALL have to do

Because my own parents have such a rich story, one that I love to hear and one that I don’t mind living in my own way (being poor and young and in love), I have a certain way I want to live my life.

I’m BLESSED enough to have parents who support what I want to do. Never once, not ONCE, have they told me that I should consider such and such job, because it would pay well. Instead, they hear me say I want to be a writer and they say, “Okay. You better spend plenty of time and effort on it, then. We believe in you. As long as you are doing what you love and what God have given you as a spiritual gift.” They are really big on that- spiritual gifts. I truly believe that mine is writing. My sister and husband are in a band; their spiritual gifts are obviously music.

I told Greg long ago I’d never ask him to get a job that meant wearing a tie. That means a whole number of things, but most importantly, Greg hates wearing ties. That’s one way we keep ourselves happy. He supports my writing enough to tell me, “Don’t get a 9-5… if you’re working full time, make sure it’s something you love. Focus on your writing. Spend time on it every day. It will be worth it.”

Today I read Amanda’s blog over at The Lady Okie and it really got me thinking. I am in a similar situation as she is… I’m about to be unemployed. It’s scary.

But that’s what happens when you drop everything for a farming internship that pays next to zero, and then they don’t have winter work. That’s kind of how the farming world works. I wanted to be outside and learn… and now, well, that part of my life is about to be over. For the first time ever I don’t have the next job lined up. I’m choosing to believe that this is one of those Blessings In Disguise my mom is ALWAYS talking about. More time to write, right? More time to read… right? If I really spent 8+ hours a day on my DREAM, then being unemployed would probably pay off in the end.

In the meantime, I don’t mind having no extra money. I don’t mind following in the footsteps of my parents and drinking cheap wine with Greg over a meal we planted out in our garden. We’re taking time to spend less. We’re enjoying more that way. It’s surprising, isn’t it? The less you have, the more you enjoy things.

Talk about a blessing in disguise.

before there was the twins....

before there was the twins….

Plus, having no money builds character. Kind of like going through an ugly duckling phase in middle school. Yup, built all my character. ;)

I refuse to stop writing just to get a job that’ll solve all of our money problems. I am willing to sacrifice now so that when I’m 80 or older, I’ll  look back and smile and say, “Wow, I really went for it, didn’t I?” I want to take that risk because without risks, what is life, anyway? A flat line means dead. Let’s spice it up a little and have our highs and lows, because that means we’re alive. (think hospital monitors…)

And if you are blessed to have parents like mine, that’s awesome. Let’s get together and talk about how awesome they are. If you have always had issues with your parents pushing you toward something you aren’t passionate about, then let me be the person to tell you that life is too short and precious to waste on something that doesn’t give you a reason to wake up in the morning with a smile.

You Only Live Once doesn’t mean taking crazy stupid risks and living in the moment. That’s selfish. It means taking care, believing in yourself and others, and trusting that it will all be okay. It means working hard to achieve a goal. It means being true.

Thanks Mom and Dad, for teaching me this. I love you guys so much.

iconic

iconic

today :)

today :)

Love,

the appreciative Lou


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LIVE Like Your Life Depends On It (How I Want To LIVE)

If you missed my Eat Like Your Life Depends On It posts, you can catch up here:

ELYLDOT (Which It Does)

ELYLDOT (How I Used To Eat)

ELYLDOT (How I Began To Eat)

ELYLDOT (How I Got Overwhelmed)

life, organic eating, healthy, happy

Kate Burn Photography

I’m writing about all of this because food, health, local and organic growing has become a passion of mine in the last few years. I care about what people eat, how it’s grown, how the animals we eat are raised and the impact that big agriculture has on our environment and health.

But I never, ever, want to sound preachy or know-it-ally. That’s my worst nightmare.

Which is why, I think, I have avoided writing the next post. Yes, avoided. Can you believe it? Each day I thought to myself, eh, I can write this tomorrow.  Write WHAT tomorrow, though?

Maybe I’ll share what a typical week of eating looks like? Maybe I’ll write more about the books I read that led me to eating this way. Maybe I’ll mention again how I don’t have a TV and how much better I believe my life is for it.

Maybe I’ll write nothing?

Nothing wasn’t an option. Partly because I got an e-mail from my future novel. Partly because I’m home sick today and all I have is time, tissue, and hot beverages to distract me. I knew this day would come eventually, and then I got inspired by a friend (which always happens at the most poignant of times.) My friend Jenny over at JenEric Generation posted a blog about change and not being afraid to make your blog, or life, a little bit different than it used to be. I refuse to fall into the puddle of despair!

So maybe I’ll write about all of these things, and have fun while doing it. Here we go.

More than a few people asked me to write about what I eat. This was exciting for me because it’s not like I get a crazy amount of comments or concerns or questions revolving around Hey Lou… but the ones I do get mean so much to me that I could burst.

WHAT I EAT

Don’t be disappointed, okay? I have started cooking almost all of my food, but that doesn’t mean I’m some awesome cook. I’m often told I didn’t use enough salt. I’m often told to change it up a little bit. But here are some truths:

1) I am entirely content eating the exact same thing for up to three weeks (or more). If I find something I love, I’ll just get in a groove and make it every day. Some people need more variety. I am not one of those people.

2) I don’t need a crazy amount of salt or sweetener to enjoy something. I know a girl who literally brings a sweet potato, a tiny container of peanut butter, a slice of cabbage, and a hard boiled egg for lunch. She loves to taste each thing on its own. I think that’s lovely and amazing. I don’t do quite that, but I can also use the yolk of an egg to add flavor and texture, rather than make a dressing for a salad…

3) I love to do this. Some people don’t. However, I didn’t used to love it. I learned to love it.

Recently, I’ve been able to get tons of potatoes. I get my produce primarily from my harvest box from Skarsgard, where I’m doing a farming internship, and there have been tons of potatoes for pick up, and you can even double up on that option in most cases. (Bonus to anyone who understands that lingo. Double Up Option, anyone?) ANYWAY. I have tons of potatoes. What do I do with them?

Here’s what I’ve had for breakfast and lunch for about three weeks now:

(this is a recipe that I split up for both meals, so cut in half if you want this for ONE meal)

Ingredients:

4-5 potatoes, diced

1 onion, diced

3-4 chard, kale, or collard leaves (or throw in any green you want!) sliced or chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 zucchini, sliced (or bell peppers, carrots, or anything else I happen to have at the moment)

2 eggs

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

Heat up a pan with the EVOO and first add the “hardest” ingredients. I always add the onion first in any recipe. Then the potatoes. Then the carrots or bell peppers or zucchini, whichever I am adding.

***Here’s a very simple trick: You’re cooking this stuff in oil, right? A great way to “steam” these items and quicken up the softening process is to have your LID ready, pour in a small amount of water, and cover with the lid quickly. It will spurt all over your kitchen and you if you don’t cover. But with the cover on, the elements in your pan will kind of go nuts, and in the process, everything will get steamed in a way that turns out awesome. Just wait a minute until everything settles down. This doesn’t take too much water. 

I let these cook for a while. I like the potatoes to be black on some spots, I love for some onion to be slightly burned. I’ll use a fork to test the potatoes and carrots. Once everything is the way YOU want it, add your tomatoes and greens. These will cook and soften right away. 

Lastly, add your egg. I like to make a hole in the middle of the pan, add more EVOO, and throw the egg in and scramble it in the center, then eventually mix it all together.

Occasionally, I’ll add a pinch of salt or soy sauce or curry. Occasionally.

Seriously, that’s it. Want another one? Okay. I’ll give you another one.

Ingredients:

arugula, a giant handful

lemon juice, half a lemon

peas, frozen or fresh

1 egg

Directions:

Lay down your arugula. heat up the peas, pour over greens. Squeeze on the lemon juice. Cook your egg over easy and add to the salad.

It’s that easy! Folks, I ate this arugula breakfast for, NO JOKE, three months. I felt more energized than ever before. I noticed my thighs feeling a little bit… tighter. You know what I mean. To this day, I cannot eat oatmeal or cereal or a muffin for breakfast. I eat vegetables, and always with some sort of leafy green. And almost always with an egg (or two.)

Instead of just laying down a solid week of eating, I’ll give you a few recipes in each post (or every few posts, whichever happens naturally!) Sound good? Good!

On to other topics. Did anyone notice how I named this blog LIVE Like Your Life Depends On It, rather than Eat? That was due to good ol’ Jenny’s blog, and I decided to change it … just because it felt right. Eating is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to have a great life, but it’s the way we live out our days that matter most.

life, living, healthy, passions

Kate Burn Photography

If you start off your day with vegetables (preferably organic, because who wants to start off their day with chemicals?), a walk, or some sort of movement, how could you have a bad day? That rude customer won’t seem to vile. That guy who cut you off on the highway must be having a bad day, but you sure aren’t. See what I mean? These changes happened for me little by little until one day, I was just an all around positive person. I have my “bad” days but they are rare. For the most part I’d rather laugh at a stupid joke while eating a great home-cooked meal, while pondering my next writing adventure…

WHICH LEADS ME TO THE E-MAIL I RECEIVED FROM MY FUTURE NOVEL.

It might be because the online writing group I’m a part of sends out e-mails of this kind to inspire, but I prefer to think that How We Lost Our Minds actually sent me a message from the future. From: YOUR NOVEL. Message: PLEASE WRITE ME THIS NOVEMBER.

I’m almost done with How We Lost Our Minds, so maybe this is from the next project. I still haven’t decided. It could be from the much better, clearly organized and edited, version of the current one. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. After all, November isn’t that far away.

Even more than I cannot live without organic food and partaking in growing that food, I cannot live without writing. It’s why I have this blog. It’s why I’m trying to get published… and why I’ll never give up.

I want to live in this way because it’s the only way I know to be healthy and content.

You guys, if you don’t have a passion, that is probably what you need to change before you even think about what you’re cooking for your next meal. Without something to stay alert and active and healthy for, then a meal is just a meal. It isn’t charging you up for the life you want, is it? This is me trying to hard not to be preachy, but to be inspirational. I’ve shared with you all how unhappy I was before I changed the way I eat, but I realized that at almost the exact same time I changed my eating lifestyle, I also began to WRITE.

They went hand in hand. They are both such a large part of my life, that I’d be lost without the other.

I can’t explain why loving my characters and what they go through connects so strongly with what I put into my body, but it does.

What do YOU have that is worth staying healthy for? What changes have you made? Who do you want to inspire?

How are you LIVING like your LIFE depends on it?

I’d love to know :)

Love, LOU


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Eat Like Your Life Depends On It (How I Got Overwhelmed)

Eat Like Your Life Depends On It Blog Series… here we go for round Three. 

chickens, cows, livestock, gmos, conditions for animals, current food system

If you’ve read about how I used to eat, how much I weighed and how I felt about it, then you know that I wanted a change.

If you’ve read about how I started to change the way I eat and the “rules” I began to follow, then you know that I wanted that change to be drastic, yet totally realistic. 

Here are my goals for this post:

NOT to sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist… and yeah. That’s pretty much the only goal.

OH! And also, to inspire and possibly lead to some new pondering thoughts for anyone who reads it.

So far I’ve talked about :

the weight I gained, the acne I painfully and embarrassingly made it through, and the bad mood I was perpetually in … all due to what I ate. There are always other factors, sure, but don’t all of those also directly relate to what we eat? Life is always stressful in some ways. I wanted to never let stress cause me to have a bad relationship with food ever again.

the book I read, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

the changes I began to make, following some simple food rules and maintaining a positive and hopeful attitude.

~~~~~

Now is when I want to get real. I want to tell you guys just how overwhelmed I was at the start of it all. It’s all fine and dandy to have a good attitude and a smile. But someone close to me (again, POOR Greg!) was lucky enough to see the freak out moments… the moments where I panicked.

These were not the types of panics you might be imagining.

The adrenaline rushes and the overwhelming feeling that everything was going to hell in the food world caught me unaware. All of a sudden I was reading about the treatment of factory “farm” animals, the engineering and modification of our precious food, and the way it was affecting people and the environment.

Now. I’ve always considered myself to be level headed. In many ways, you could call me conservative, though I usually want to leave politics OFF of Hey Lou and stay on more uplifting topics. (Let me also note here that I think words like “conservative” and “conventional” are drastically different these days than the ideals they are really meant to represent. Isn’t living sort of a hippy lifestyle and growing your own food “conservative?” Anyway.)

On the same note, now I guess I have lots of ways of living that could cause someone to point at me and call me liberal. Or libertarian. Or a damn hippy. Or whatever the heck you want to call it.

I’d call myself completely un-trusting of any of those titles… and I’m just me. 

Though the more I read into food and big agriculture and big animal operations, the more political it got. The more depressing it got.

TRUTH? I couldn’t even finish The Omnivore’s Dilemma the first time I read it. Because it overwhelmed me. I could no longer trust certain aspects of life that I thought I could. I looked at the glossy apple at the regular grocery store differently. I looked at the Manager Special half-off steak differently.

If you want to know the truth about why, just pick up a book about the food system. But I can almost promise you that it won’t be anything you haven’t heard of before. What I want to know is this:

Even though most people are aware of the fact that animals are stuffed and overpopulated and kept in completely unsanitary conditions throughout their lives, for the sake of OUR dinners, WHY is anyone okay with it?

Someone told me recently, a reminder perhaps, that I can’t put human emotions on to an animal. They don’t have the same thought process as us.

Okay, fine.

What I will do, then, is look at the facts.

Animals have instinct, yeah? They do. Probably a better survival instinct than most humans. Even if a chicken cannot think, “Oh my, what’s happened here? I must be in an awful situation and therefore I’m sad,” I believe that the same chicken can do this: Sense that something is wrong. 

The same goes for any animal, especially ones we eat. Nothing healthy happens when humans are stressed out. Toxins are released in our bodies and all kinds of bad things happen. Why should an animal be any different? If an animal has lived a stressful life, completely out of its natural environment (like… in a building…) how can you tell me that this animal isn’t at least a little bit stressed out? (If not SAD about it, too?)

Cows were meant to graze freely on grass. Chickens were meant to peck around at insects and fresh greens and have plenty of space to do it. Pigs are actually very clean animals with a keener sense of smell than dogs. Now picture these animals in feed lots, surrounded by their own waste. Picture them surrounded by loud animals of the same kind, with barely any room to move. Imagine a chicken who has been pumped with hormones and can literally never walk around… the thing I KNOW chickens love to do?

chickens, treatment of animals, current food system,gmo

PROOF! Ray Bradbury… running through the yard.

It breaks my heart, guys. It really does. It doesn’t take something drastic to have a say … to have a vote… for what will go on with livestock in the future. Choosing meat that came from an honest farmer, spending more on that meat while eating less of it (maybe twice a week? maybe once a week? maybe a small portion of your meal, rather than the main event?), and being a good example for others is all it takes. If each person in our generation said NO to large factory farms and made conscious decisions about what went into their mouths, we could start a revolution.

You wouldn’t even have to make a sign and attend a protest. All you have to do is cook an awesome meal each day!! HOOOORAY! That’s good news, no?

It’s not just the treatment of animals that gets me in a tizzy, either. It’s the land used all over the world in order to grow enough corn to feed these animals, who, by the way, shouldn’t even eat corn. It’s the nitrogen and waste infiltrating our water supply (wonder why your tomato has a problem? probably because the water used to grow it had cow you-know-what in it), it’s the excuse of “solving world hunger” that GMOs use, when really, the majority of them go to feed livestock. It’s the fact that if you take a seed that has been engineered in a laboratory, you can’t regrow that plant freely. (More on Genetically Modified [Engineered] Organisms in a post to come…)

All of that can be changed. I’ll never stop believing in that.

cows, gmo, organic eating, food system

a happy family of cows :)

Changing the DNA of our seeds, essentially torturing the animals that grace this Earth for us to shepherd and take care of, well, it overwhelms me. It makes me wonder WHO can sleep at night, if this is something they are actually a part of. It makes me wonder just how much money is involved (LOTS…) and it makes me want to make a stand.

So I did.

This might be a long Blog Series, folks.

LOVE, LOU

 


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Eat Like Your Life Depends On It (How I Began To Eat)

Eat Like Your Life Depends On It Part Two

Welcome back guys! I hope my last post, What I Used To Eat, was enough to get you interested in the changes I made to my diet and lifestyle. What I described as far as diet choices and workout choices (P90X!) may have sounded perfectly normal and healthy to you. You might be the rare type of person who was shocked by how unhealthy it actually sounded.

Either way, I’m glad you’re back. This is going to be a “blog series” journey that will take you through the journey that was the last 5 years of my life. The road has been challenging, but it’s mostly been:

FUN…EXCITING…INSPIRATIONAL…EDUCATIONAL and… LIFE-CHANGING

Five years changed me into someone who:

Doesn’t own a microwave

Buys minimal processed food (usually only for special occasions when I “don’t have time” to cook, which is rare)

Tries to know her grower/farmer

Reads almost as many non-fiction food books as fiction (!!!)

Interns on a farm

Owns chickens

Has a garden that feeds me at least once a day

chickens,garden, eating organic, eating, health

Don’t worry. I don’t want to overwhelm you yet. I also don’t expect everyone to go out and buy baby chicks, start a garden, or throw their microwave in their trash can. The microwave can wait a few more blogs… then I expect it to go. (Just kidding… kind of.)

I guess I’m just sort of fascinated by my own story, because so many people have reminded me that, “The Melinda you used to be would not believe the Melinda you have turned into. It’s crazy.”

I prefer the crazy Melinda, I s’pose.

Back when I was 20 pounds heavier, took three medications for acne and felt angry/frustrated/confused every single day, I decided to make some decisions. And those decisions, folks, were made quickly. One cannot put off change. I hate to say it, but it’s completely true. Stop putting it off. 

“To change one’s life:

Start immediately.

Do it flamboyantly.

No exceptions.”

-William James

I did exactly this when I made a decision to at least try to follow some of Michael Pollan’s food suggestions. Along with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I also read Food Rules, a very short and sweet book that lays out simple rules for eating.

A few rules that really shouted out to me:

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. I might even change this to great-great grandmother for some, depending on which generation you’re from. Think she would have recognized “yogurt” in a tube? Think she would know what to do with a box of mac and cheese (“What’s this package of orange powder?” She would say.)

Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup. Sure, it’s “just another sugar,” but it’s everywhere, and that makes it something to avoid. Really, just avoid food with loads of added sugar. (Another Food Rule is to avoid foods with some form of sugar listed as one of the three first ingredients!)

Avoid foods with more than 5 ingredients. The exception to this rule would be something with a long list of herbs or spices. I would go grab a cardboard package of food from my kitchen to tell you the ingredients list, but I cannot. I currently don’t have anything processed in my home.* (YAY!) The list should be short and sweet. It should contains words that sound like REAL food. A small child should be able to pronounce and recognize these sort of words. It shouldn’t look like a science experiment gone wrong.

Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “nonfat” in their names. These are gimmicks. Hoaxes. What happened when the low-fat ads began popping up in the 1970’s? Oh yeah, people began eating way more sugar to make up for this loss of fat. Just take in your good fats. (Olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, avocado… don’t act like you haven’t heard this before!)

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. I am a very visual person. I stopped drinking pop (soda?) when I was a senior in high school because one day I had this vision of sugary liquid in my brain, causing a headache, and I couldn’t get past it. I often feel dehydrated, even with all the water I drink. If I were to drink a sugary pop, I’d freak out. So….. this rule was very visual for me. Metal, steel, robots, machinery, surgical caps, lab coats, food running down belts and being splurted into jars… those are not good visuals. Think about what you eat, what sort of plant it was made in, and just how foreign and new it is, when compared to the generations before us who ate nothing that came from a plant. They ate plants.

Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk. Or, in my case, just don’t eat cereal for breakfast. But if you do, choose a healthy one. And unless it contains beets, it shouldn’t be affecting the color of your milk. (Red 40 is definitely something your great-great grandmother would not recognize as something to EAT!)

Pay more, eat less. (the next rule: …Eat Less) Did you know that in France, people use up to 16 or 18 percent of their income on food? Here, the average American spends less than 10 percent of their income on food. We are always looking for the cheapest, fastest, and most convenient way to eat. Guess what? It should come as no shock that none of those factors equals healthy. I truly believe that it is affordable to eat in the healthiest ways possible. Not only does some produce for a quick stir fry cost only a few dollars, but there are other factors I’d consider important… and hopefully these will change your point of view. If anyone tells me that the food at the farmer’s market, Coop, or Whole Foods is too expensive to buy, or that organic or “specialty health items” in their regular grocery store are simply tooooo much, here is what I will ask them (I’m asking YOU right now. You can answer in the comments box, if you’d like):

How much do you pay for your TV? Cable? Dish? Ten zillion channels?

How much do you pay for your cell phone? Is it a smart phone?

How much do you want to pay for high blood pressure medicine when you are older? Or for that physical trainer to give you a meal plan once you realize that you are in too deep to get yourself out of this mess?

I have one word for you: PRIORITIES

You guys, I am rarely this straightforward or opinionated. Honestly. I’m just me, I’m positive and laid back, but this is my passion. I care SO MUCH about the health of others, that yes, I would ask this to your face. How much do all of those things cost? Add it up. And don’t forget to add up all of the other potential medical expenses that could occur, too.

If I had these things to pay for, guess what? I would not be able to afford the food I eat. I’m not rich, when it comes to money. (though I am totally one of those overly sentimental people who would tell you just how rich in love I am!)

Greg and I don’t have a television. 

We have the most cave-mannish cell phones that most children of today wouldn’t quite recognize as a phone at all (aka, not smart phones).

And I weaned myself off the acne medication because I didn’t want to use it OR pay for it.

We made sacrifices, which turned out to only be positive, and not really sacrifices at all, in order to eat the way we do. I understand what it took to get that cucumber onto my dinner plate. I will pay the price. Over and over and over again.

Will you?

Cook. It’s the last rule I’ll list here, but one that is possibly more important than all others. The question I would ask you for this round would be:

How much time do you spend cooking each day? And then… how much time do you spend watching TV? I’m not trying to demonize TV, but I don’t understand how people have time to watch it. So many people use “busy” as their excuse for so many things, especially what they eat or how much they work out. I’m saying that those are the least legitimate excuses in the book. IF you are doing something like watching TV. (As in… I am NOT talking about single parents who work three jobs and then come home to three kids. I am talking about an average situation. There are always exceptions.)

You guys, I spend a lot of my time cooking. I cook something for every meal. I wake up earlier than the old Melinda because I usually wash/chop/satuee/bake/cook something every single morning. During that time, I also make whatever I’ll pack for my lunch. Then, when I get home, I do the same thing all over again for dinner. We don’t need a microwave because we cook each meal, and usually in small amounts so there are rarely leftovers. If there are, guess where I heat them up? On the stove or in the oven. There are no “quick meals” here.

The “slow” meals taste too good to leave behind.

And they’re really not slow at all. I don’t wake up an hour earlier… just 15-20 minutes. That’s all I need for the prep time, cook time, and cleanup time. I’d add on maybe five or ten minutes if I were feeding children, too.

When I made these changes… I swear… the weight melted off. Melted. It just disappeared, and then another 5 pounds, because I was no longer a super muscular cheerleader like I had been in high school. In reality, I was close to 25 pounds overweight without even knowing it. I’m not stick thin now, either. I am comfortable and healthy. I feel good about my body because I feel good about what goes into it. I started taking less and less of my acne medication, and during that time, started to make more and more of these food changes. Suddenly, about a year and a half later, I threw the last of my tretinoin acne pills in the trash. I ate another salad. I no longer had to worry about breakouts. (I also cut out gluten. You can read more about my experiences with acne and finally getting clear skin here.) Notice how nothing changed overnight? The weight came off within the year. My skin changed, but there were days when I felt like nothing was happening. Our bodies are jam packed with junk. It DOES take time to get rid of it all and replace it with what it actually wants.

Our bodies want to be as healthy as they can be.

So many people (mostly woman) have talked to me about their body issues lately. They usually say something like, “I can’t control what I eat,” or “I have issues with my body and I feel so depressed because of it,” or “I wish I could eat healthy, but I always give in. It makes me feel bad. I wish I could change it.”

One of the things that helped me MOST in changing my eating lifestyle was having a positive attitude.

I formulated many mantras, all of which I still use to this day.

I CAN DO THIS.

THIS IS EASY!!!

THIS IS FUN!

MY FOOD TASTES GOOD!

Food doesn’t need to be purely fuel. Thinking that way might even backfire. (One of Michael Pollan’s rules is also: Break the rules every once in a while.) It is an experience. We should be salivating when we think about our next meal. We should be excited to cook and eat. Food should be something joyous, not something depressing or scary.

We have to eat to survive. But I’d say that even more than that, we have to be happy in order to survive.

Here’s my challenge for you:

Consider taking baby steps and adding a new “Food Rule” to your shopping list each week. These will accumulate, not change out. ;)

Wake up and force yourself to smile. This smile will eventually become a real one.

Wake up fifteen minutes early and have your meals planned.

Sit at a table for each meal and savor the flavors. These will eventually be flavors YOU decided should be there, and not some company trying to hook you into buying their product again.

Tell me how you’re doing.

This was a long blog, but I just couldn’t stop at one thing.

AND there’s more to come!!! (My detailed week of eating, prices, facts about subsidies and why the “rebel” in me cares so much about organic and local food, and moooooooore)

To say the least, I’m excited.

melinda short hair

So much love, 

Lou

* I lied!!!! I actually have a box of Larabars that were on sale at Whole Foods. I chose the Peanut Butter & Jelly flavor. Ingredients list: dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries, sea salt. No added sugar, check. Under five ingredients, check. Real food items, check!!


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That’s What I Call Progress

writing, flowers, gardening

Not so impressive…. yet

Okay.

Remember this sad thing? I had a vision of a giant flower garden buzzing with bees (I did buy a “Save the Bees” seed mix, after all) and a lovely addition to our backyard. I honestly didn’t know if it would work.

But it did. I woke up every morning to water this patch of dirt, and kept it moist in the evening, too. I sang to the plants. (Not really, but I’ve been seriously tempted to…) Now, we have a lovely flower garden!!!

organic gardening, flowers, save the bees

an actual flower garden!!!!

I’m doing my part to save the bees, one flower at a time. I chose to post today because when I walked outside this morning, our very first sunflower had bloomed. I ran back inside and told Greg he had to come look.

Bonus: there was a bee. Hallelujah.

bees, organic, sunflower, writing

yay yay yay!

Now that’s what I call progress.

And not giving up… even when you start with just a pile of dirt that doesn’t look like much.

Happy Thursday!

Love, Lou


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Always Be True. Period.

Day 25, Saturday: Something someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget (good or bad)

It wasn’t so much something about me, as it was advice, that changed my life and stuck with me forever.

Always, always, be true to your husband. – Grandpa Bob

I had the very special opportunity to spend time with my Great Grandpa Bob in the last few years of his life. He was the most interesting man and let me tell you… I have yet to find someone with eyes that twinkle the way his did, a smile as contagious, and an outlook on life that was more positive.

To put it simply: I have yet to meet anyone as happy as Bob was.

I try to be more like him each and every day.

advice, grandpa, writing

might have been the most attractive human being to ever walk the earth, just sayin. is that weird? to have a crush on my great grandpa?

We sat together and chatted for hours and hours.

He sang, “You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” He was willing to answer any question. He ended most of his profound statements with a strong, “Period!” (“And that was how it was! Period!”) He may have had moonshine some whiskey in his fridge.

We discovered that he and I have the same hands. I used to dislike my thicker fingers (Meredith got the slender, skinny and delicate hands of my mother’s side) but when I noticed that each of my fingers were shaped exactly like Bob’s, suddenly I loved my hands.

writer, new writer, short stories, poetry

There’s that SMILE!!!! Please, God, let me be cool enough to still sit on santa’s lap when I’m 90 years old. LOVE THIS!!!

He told me he loved me. He told me that God would always be with me. He told me to always, always, be true to my husband.

Oh, and about his continuously positive outlook on life… one more little fact… he was blind.

advice, staying true, writing, young adult, short stories

when Meredith and I went to visit!!

Grandpa Bob had no problem talking about his own death, which he referred to as “crossing the threshold into eternity” and nothing else. We talked about heaven. He wanted his body to be donated to science, to help others with the same eye condition. He lived to be over 90 years old and his mind was sharper than a blade. (I hope I also get that gene.) Certain points in our conversation brought us both to tears. I suppose I get that strong emotion from Bob, too. We laughed hysterically and he told me outrageous stories from his youth.

writing, short stories, poetry

giving him a smooch!

He had Retinitis Pigmentosa, an eye condition that worsens with time until eventually, you are legally blind. My grandmother (the beautiful one who I had mentioned here) and uncle also have this.

They, too, are the happiest people I’ve ever met.

How is this possible? How can these three individuals, who were robbed of something as precious as sight, still smile wider than all others? How can they laugh, cry, and show emotion that seems to radiate out from them without them trying? How can they see so much?

I’ll never know and I doubt I’ll ever be as wise or gracious or sparkle the way they do. But I’ll never stop trying.

I’ll never forget my Grandpa Bob, his hands, or his advice.

writing, new writer, short stories

my visit with Greg, the last time I saw Grandpa Bob

Love, Lou

(And I love you forever Grandpa Bob!)


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My Lot In Life

Blog Every Day In May Challenge

Day 16, Thursday: Something difficult about your “lot in life” and how you’re working to overcome it

Um, not to sound boastful, but I’m feeling a little bit too lucky when it comes to my “lot in life.”

This is not a blog set up for a whole lot of complaining. 

I have so much (too much?) to be thankful for. Every once in a while I wonder when everything will come crashing down because, jeez, can life really stay this good? And it’s not because Greg and I are making tons of money and buying fancy things. It’s because I’m really learning to love what I am already blessed with.

Here’s a list that may not sound like much to some, but it sounds like a great life to me:

I have….

A sturdy, comfortable house to keep me warm at night. 

A sweet husband who takes care of me in his own way. 

A laptop, and a piece of paper, so I can write.

A bookshelf filled with stories

job with nice coworkers and flexibility.

Little baby chicks

A beautiful and loving family

A body that is able to work outside and go on walks.

A mind to think about fictional stories all day long. 

writing, fiction, lot in life, blessed

see what I mean? Too lucky

Must I go on? 

There was a time when I thought I wanted a lot more. The high school me, who is long gone, wanted to marry rich and drive a super expensive car (I won’t even tell you what type… it’s too embarrassing) and not have to work a day in my life. 

So many things have happened in the last six years to change the core of who I am and what I yearn for. Now, all I want is another warm morning where I can sit outside and the hopes of seeing a new type of bird in my backyard. (Yes, Greg and I are amateur bird watchers.)

Today I’m choosing to be grateful instead of wanting. I am choosing to be content rather than unsettled. I am choosing to go after my dreams rather than a run of the mill life. 

What’s your lot in life? 

Love, Lou 


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Three Lovely Ladies <3

UPDATE!!! CHICKEN COOP IS ALMOST READY!!! 

diy chicken coop, chickens, building, writing

I think the chickens will fit…. ;)

chicken coop, chickens, diy, writing

Greg, gettin his drill on

chicken coop, diy, chickens, writing, short stories

It was all of a sudden freezing last night! Fun, though…..

I can’t wait for the chickens. They’ll be free range, organic, and completely loved by me. I already have their names picked out (we’re just eating their eggs! not them!) and I’ll post about it when we get them this week…yay

Anyway.

Now, business.

Blog Everyday in May Challenge

Day 5, Sunday: Publicly profess your love and devotion for one of your blogger friends. What makes them great? Why do you love them? If you don’t have blogger friends, talk about a real-life friend or even a family member

Easy! This is an easy blog to do!!

I have three. If I lived in the same place as these fabulous gals, we’d all be in a book club. I’d ask them to join me for coffee (or Earl Grey Tea) at least once a month, and I think we’d all laugh about our funny “I’m married” (or “I’m dating”) stories as well as how much we love to share bits and pieces of our lives with others. (I picture the four of us being friends like the four women in Sex and the City. Is that weird?)

I think you’ll want to be their friends, too!!

First up!!!

Olive Me Post – A Blog By Cindy Johnson

Cindy is a good friend of mine! She is so sweet and encouraging, and even cooler, I actually know her. She was at my wedding, which makes for a special bond that girls will never forget. We’ve laughed together over ridiculous things like barking spiders. We’ve slept in bunk beds together. Memories, oh memories.

But even better than all of that… Cindy is about to be a published author.

Yup! That’s right.

She has accomplished something huge. Cindy is a big inspiration to me and many others. Her faith in God is worth striving for, her kindness is rare, and her ability to write is fantastic. I have literally laughed out loud, gasped in horror and shook my head at her true stories. She’s one of those people who have weird things happen to them all the time. She can’t even go to an airport without something odd taking place.

Cindy has insightful things to say about dating, red flags (hilarious, so hilarious), Halloween, and dreaming big.

Second!!!

JenEric Generation …We Are Far Too Easily Pleased

Jenny Williams (great last name, by the way) was the first blogger to ever reach out to me.

I was SO IMPRESSED with her blog and everything she does on it, I thought only, “Wow, how does that work? How does she do it?”

Jenny is so smart/funny/witty and she always has something important to share with the world. She recently interviewed me and I’ve never felt so honored in my life. We have some common loves:

-C.S. Lewis

-Bald men (okay, we’re not super creepy, we’re both married to bald guys! I just love that!)

Style (though, look at her! she is way more stylish than I’ll ever be.)

-Pretty sketches (I don’t sketch though… only she does ;) )

I owe a lot of any blogging success I might have to her. She’s been willing to answer all of my questions and keep in touch with me as I figure out the internet and blogging in general. So thanks for EVERYTHING, Jenny!

Last But Not Least!!!

The Lady Okie…Planting My Stakes In A Flyover State 

I feel like meeting Amanda, via the blogging world, was completely meant to be. Here’s why:

I said to Greg, “How does a writer find a reputable editor? I’ve googled it and asked around, and I just can’t quite figure it out. Gosh, I really need someone to edit my stuff.”

THEN Amanda, one of the most hilarious and well spoken (well written?) people I’ve ever encountered, and I “met” via blogging. I checked out her page and there it was: my answer. She is a professional freelance editor! Can you believe it? She has already opened my eyes to ways I can improve my writing and she is perfect, just perfect, when it comes to finding errors. I love that.

Some of my favorite blogs of Amanda’s include:

That one time she…..

RAN A MARATHON… no biggie ;)

WENT SKYDIVING… also, no biggie (um, I’ve always wanted to do this.)

WAS SUPER HONEST… and it made me immediately like her. I love honesty in people!!

I could go on and on.

Just go look at Cindy, Jenny and Amanda’s blogs and I promise, your life will improve. :)

Love, Lou


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2+2=4 {Not Just A Math Equation}

Update: WE HAVE BEEN BUILDING OUR CHICKEN COOP ALL DAY!!!!

but you can’t say I’ve missed day 4 of the challenge… it’s not midnight yet! The challenge continues…

Day 4, Saturday: Favorite quote (from a person, from a book, etc) and why you love it

First off- The Runner Ups:

You are what what you eat eats. -Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. -Ray Bradbury

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. -John Steinbeck, East of Eden

I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy. Holden in Catcher In The Rye, J.D. Salinger

All right, then, I’ll go to hell. – Huck Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

(Pat yourself on the back if you can tell WHY those are quotes I think of each day.)

Drum roll please… my favorite quote of all time is this:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. -Winston in 1984, George Orwell

Have you read this book? If not, you should. I think it’s the most imperative read out there.

I’ll tell you why.

We are living in a day and age when media and advertisements rule all. One story in the news will disappear while another shows up out of the blue, telling us something completely different. It’s confusing.

One example:

Drink milk- we all need our calcium. What those ads don’t tell you is that drinking milk is one of the worst ways to get calcium into your body. In fact, calcium is actually stripped away in order to process the milk. Dr. Frank Sabatino, PhD (as quoted in Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran) says, “Bone health is not dependent on the calcium you take in, but on the calcium you keep in. Calcium, in its charged state, can be used to alkalinize the body by buffering or neutralizing acidity. As the body becomes more acidic from a diet high in animal protein, it will pull calcium out of the bones to neutralize the negative effects of acidity and inflammation.” Also: Scandinavia and the USA have the highest rates of hip fracture. And the highest dairy intake. (the good news- we can get our calcium where the cow got hers, through greens. one cup of collard greens has more mg of calcium than a cup of milk)

I won’t even get into the more depressing “facts” floating around. There are too many.

If you read 1984, you will see that Winston is conflicted. His job is to take yesterday’s news, make it disappear, and replace it with today’s news. He sees the error in this because the news stories are always opposites.

“We are at war with Eurasia” one day.

“We were never at war with Eruasia, we are now at war with Eastasia” the next.

Winston knows that they were at war with Eurasia. He remembers it. But that is not the way he is supposed to think.

War is peace.

Freedom is Slavery.

Ignorance is Strength.

That’s what Winston is supposed to believe. But guess what? He doesn’t. He knows that as long as he is aware of the Truth, he will be free. He can pretend to agree with the government. He can go with the flow of the crowd. As long as he can think the Truth.

When Winston is faced with the toughest, challenging moment of his life, here’s what he’s told:

‘How can I help it?’ [Winston] blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’

‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

Do you think it’s enough? To know the truth and hold onto it no matter what? Do you think that if you were in jail for years and years, but you still had your own freedom of thought and knowledge, that you would in some way, actually feel free? I honestly don’t know if I’m that strong. It’s scary to think about. All I know is that I will take Ray Bradbury’s advice and never stop reading. We can’t stop reading, ever.

We need to believe what Winston believed. We can’t let anything take that away from us. (Um, I won’t spoil the ending, but just know, your life will never be the same after reading 1984.)

If I ever get a tattoo, it will say: two and two make four.

Because freedom truly is the ability to say something real, even when the government (or any “higher power”) tries to tell you otherwise.

2+2=4.

It’s true.

What idea or quote do you hold onto as a way of living life?

<3 Lou