Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it. - Danny Kaye

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I have a confession to make…

So as some of you may have read already I decided a few weeks back to take on a 30-day vegetarian lifestyle challenge and well, I’m here to make a confession…I didn’t succeed and although I’m not happy that I failed again at completing a task for myself (more on that in a minute) I’m not going to give up just yet. A little over two weeks ago my grandmother (Helen Dixon “Dixie” Sharkey) passed away somewhat unexpectedly and although you wouldn’t think that’d have much to do with how I ate, it actually did. The first week of my vegetarian lifestyle challenge went very smooth and was very easy to live by, but with my grandmother’s passing, I had one evening right before her funeral where I just totally forgot all about my “plan” and ate chicken fingers. Yep…two weeks ago today. I haven’t written about this confession yet because in a way I was really disappointed in myself and somewhat angry that I messed up my plan. But after giving it some thought (or to be quite honest, not too much thought) I realized I needed to let go of a few “rules” for a few days/weeks and just live…without thinking so much. I think I actually needed a few days to grieve and therefore decided to let my emotions just be and do as they wanted and not worry about everything I was putting in my mouth (or not putting in my mouth).
So with that being said, and although from time-to-time I don’t seem to always run across the finish line with things (reading books to the final chapter) or completing tasks (getting my real estate license in a timely manner) I do plan to go back to my 30-day vegetarian lifestyle…in due course. Again, not a good time-frame for myself but I am watching what I eat, I’m choosing more vegetarian options during the week when I’m feeling my best (routine) and I’m going to take each day as it comes.
And I think this was the right time to finally “come clean” about my mess up…as I opened the mail yesterday to find the PETA Go Vegetarian Start Kit booklet that I ordered (for free) online when I began my challenge three weeks ago. It’s pretty impressive the way PETA markets themselves…with the use of celebrities and their statement(s) on why they chose to go vegetarian/vegan, it’s a little bit more encouraging and almost enlightening to read. And there on the cover was one of my favorite actors of our time (generation)…Natalie Portman. David and I finally made it to the theater last night to see “Black Swan” (one of the Academy Award nominations for best picture and best lead actress)…if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s fantastic. Definitely a drama and definitely some twists to it, but really interesting and a deep perspective on the struggles between a person and their inner demons…and I digress…
So maybe after I watch Natalie (possibly) take away an Oscar tonight on TV I’ll be re-inspired to finish reading my Starter Kit booklet and plan to finish the challenge of eating vegetarian for 30 days…and write you again with a completed update…in the near future. Thanks for the support from the beginning and I look forward to completing this quest for myself very soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dear Memama,

I’ve been trying to reflect on what I would write to you or say to you and there seems to be so much and also seems to be so little. I guess that’s because I have said a lot to you over the years and you have said a lot to me in return, yet from here on out you’ll already know what I need to say to you and hopefully I’ll know what you want to tell me. You gave my sisters and me a person to look up to in your caring, nurturing, loving and fun spirit and that will truly be missed. Yesterday we had a service in your honor, to celebrate your life and to tell stories of your humor, playfulness, giving and unselfishness and then we traveled to your hometown to let you rest with your brothers and sisters, your parents, your nieces and your nephews and to say goodbye…or for now anyway.

We cried about your presence and we laughed about your absence…and you could say I have that wrong, but I think that’s how I saw it. I felt the wind blow and thought it was you telling us all was ok. I watched Grindaddy shed a tear for his love of more than 65 years and I cried with him knowing he would miss his partner in everyday life. The day was Valentine’s and it was centered on love in our world. You gave nothing but love to me and now it’s my turn to love others the way you did. As I watched the beautiful sunset on the drive home last night I cried again. I cried because I happily remembered that even though you’re not with us anymore, you’re in a better place…a place we don’t know, a place we question, a place of so much wonder. I hope it’s nice there and I hope you’re happy. I will miss you terribly but I know that you’ll look out for me. I love you so very much and until we meet again, sweet Memama, enjoy Heaven.

Dear Memama

Monday, February 7, 2011

A historical trip with a side of grapes…

This past weekend was a very special one…no, it wasn’t an early Valentine’s celebration or a sporty ski trip (although either of those would’ve been nice, too), but instead it was a perfect weekend with wonderful friends. A girls weekend…a laid-back, low-key, deliciously tasty and historic weekend…well, sort-of. This weekend four of my dear friends and I took a trip to quaint and unique Asheville, North Carolina. Rarely do I get away with my girlfriends unless it’s for a bachelorette soiree or destination wedding, so this was a trip planned well in advance in order to get everyone penciled in.
DSC_0328     DSC_0329
After a delightful trip to the Grove Park Inn Spa and tasting out the local fare at Limones, we were ready to start our day of historical exploration with a tour of the infamous Vanderbilt and Cecil families’ Biltmore Estate. If you haven’t been to see the Biltmore House in Asheville it’s definitely a trip to take while you’re young…and maybe even again and again…worth it to just take in not only the history but also the mass of décor, collections of art, sculptures, tapestries, books and furniture, and the facts of how this exquisite chateau became the country’s largest privately owned residence.

There is something striking about this house but also even more about the family, the history and the stories left behind (including speculation on how much it actually cost Vanderbilt to build the home and what that would amount to today). At a time when our country was struggling to enter the 20th Century and entering The Great Depression, George W. Vanderbilt decided to build a home that would later become a famous tourist attraction and continues to be so to this very day.
Upon completing the self-guided tour of the 250 room mansion (no, you don’t get to see them all of course) my friends and I decided to take a few more photos on what was a very, very windy (beautiful) day and then headed to the Biltmore Estate Winery. Now I have done a few wine tastings in my time, (classy, right?) and I have to say, The Biltmore Winery was the best gig yet! Not only did they have 23 wines to choose from on their wine tasting list, but you didn’t have a limit!! Seriously, you could taste as many of those 23 wines as you wanted…and so I enjoyed…
No, no I wasn’t tipsy when I left (nor did I taste all 23), that would not be kosher, but I did enjoy some wine and so please ignore the comments if you can actually read them below on my wine tasting ‘notes page’…they may not sound so sophisticated. And we definitely planned ahead so we had a safe ride back to town…we made smart decisions.
To pair off our afternoon of “high tea” at the winery, we indulged at the deliciously modest Tupelo Honey Café…A-M-A-ZING... To say I stuffed myself was an understatement…and those homemade biscuits…a hit by all!
So to sum up the weekend I may have to say that I think we’ve actually grown up a bit. We relaxed, had some wine, enjoyed good meals, relaxed by the fire, toured historical locales and had good ‘ole conversation…just a good time with great friends.
Cheers to your trip to Asheville!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Am I a Hypocrite?

On many occasions over the past few years I have found myself in situations where I stop and say “I should be a vegetarian” or “this makes me want to be a vegetarian”. Normally I’m not catching myself saying this whilst eating meat or preparing meat (as I haven’t changed my eating habits to vegetarianism just yet) but I have said this from time-to-time and decided to do a search on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) since the circus just came to town (literally, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey has come to Columbia). I know you’re probably thinking…wow, where’s this going, but I think there are some things I have to sort out in my mind so I can live a life I feel comfortable with.

Ringling Bros Tiger
via Google images - does this really look like something you or your child would want to come face-to-face with?

Ringling Bros Elephants
via Google images - that's right...elephants LOVE to dance and entertain!

via Google images - are clowns really cool anymore?  I think some people would agree they are not...

elephants performing
via Google images - a true photo from a RB and B&B production

When I was a child my parents took my sisters and me to the circus…only once I think, or so I can remember. I believe I enjoyed my trip to see the wild animals dressed in ballet clothes, dance on their hind legs, amuse myself with the acrobats and “carnies” (oops, is that politically incorrect?), but as I’ve gotten older I think I’ve taken a newfound disrespect for this “greatest show on earth” (more on that in a minute…). In high school I remember friends of mine being involved in the local chapter of PETA (Greenville) and when Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey came to town my junior year of high school I went up to the Bi-Lo Center to “support” them as they gave out fliers and held up posters of animal cruelty and ‘badgered’ (if you will) the families and children walking in to attend the show. That was my introduction to animal cruelty and the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve gone back and forth in trying to educate myself on the topic (as well as the meat industry)…sometimes wanting to know more and sometimes trying to shun the ideas from my mind so as to enjoy life without the consequences of over-thinking or over-caring…wow, it can be exhausting.

elephant in chains 1
via blog

elephant in chains 2
via blog

elephant in chains 3
via blog
So here I am almost 30 years into life (or should I say about 12 years after my ‘intro’ to animal cruelty) and I’m contemplating my decisions…yet again. Vegetarianism or Meat Eater? Why is this so hard? Am I a Hypocrite? I don’t like to ‘preach’ ideas and then not live by my own rules nor do I try to be overly-bearing when it comes to religion, politics, the environment or public education...all things that stir up conversation amongst people these days, but I’m finding it hard to find my own ‘middle ground’. I don’t want to educate myself on animal cruelty, get tears in my eyes when reading about slaughterhouses and then turn around to order a steak the next day…that’s when I anger myself for the fact that I say one thing and then do another…not the way I truly want to live my life. There are people who preach on both sides…the ones who think more liberally and then the ones who think animals don’t have feelings or know what’s happening to them…I think I’m slightly a little of both, but more so on the liberal side where I actually do think animals not only have feelings but can sense fear. I don’t want my meals to come from a situation where animals are beaten, killed piece by piece (hate to be so direct, but it’s true) or where the food is bad or has come from an unsanitary location…so I guess this is the turning point in my life when I can face my fear of “change” or choosing the other option…and try out vegetarianism. I have read some on PETA’s website and it’s not only an organization that provides information on the meat industry but it also provides positive and informative information on the health benefits of eating (or choosing) vegetables over meat as well as supporting other organizations that care for animals around the world.

So back to my association with the circus and the meat industry, I’ve just had a very difficult time over the past few years thinking about animals put into unnatural situations…and I’m not talking about pets in a home or animals in a zoo (which provides some sort of natural habitat for them)…I’m talking about wild animals that originated from other countries and even other continents that are taken out of their normal habitat to perform shows for humans in an arena…not to mention right in the presence of small children…really, does this make sense? I’m sure I’ll have a few readers (if I have readers each time I write?) that may disagree with my content in this post, but it’s something I’ve felt more and more strongly about…something I think I’ve come to disagree completely with. I will not be at the Carolina Coliseum this weekend in Columbia supporting the self-proclaimed “greatest show on earth” nor will I be outside the doors shunning families from going in, but it’s something to think about. I hate to already decide this so early but I don’t believe I’ll take my children (one day) to a circus where I put them in (possibly) harm’s way. It’s just not something I’m comfortable with any longer.

So if I don’t support the circus and the ideals it displays, wouldn’t you think I’d made my decision about the meat industry and vegetarianism? I don’t think I’ve officially “switched” to that lifestyle (just being honest) but it’s definitely something I’m willing to try… With that being said, I plan to do a ‘trial run’ of living a vegetarian lifestyle for 30 days and have requested a FREE vegetarian/vegan lifestyle book. Not only will it be a new and insightful experience, but I think it will also be slightly challenging since my husband eats meat and we cook dinners together. But it’s something I think I can put my heart and mind to and see where it takes me. I believe I have more education ahead of me and lots and lots of thinking, but it will give me something worthwhile to do in my life and hopefully save a few hundred animals along the way…if nothing else, that will make me happy.

vegan kit book
So here’s to all you vegetarians out there who are already saving the lives of hundreds of animals every day…you are an inspiration!