Friday, October 25, 2013

Simple Sample Vegan/Clean Eating Meal Plan & Grocery List

After repeated requests, here is my "Simple Sample Menu Plan".  Keep in mind, it's just an idea: I DO NOT plan out my entire week like this every week (I'm so not that organized), but these meals are my weekly "Go-To" meals.  I've included a sample grocery list after the menu plan.

Also, I eat as many fresh fruits and veggies daily as I want.  I ate 4 apples one day last week...
Disclaimer-- I'm not a nutritionist, although in this age of teaching & education, I kind of wish I were!
Day 5 Dinner

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Early Morning
Coffee &
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Mid morning
Oatmeal with walnuts and honey
3 Homemade two ingredient cookies- oatmeal and bananas (I also put in pecans and cranberries)
Oatmeal with walnuts and honey
Odwalla Bar/
Honey and Oats Bar
Oatmeal with walnuts and honey
Fiber One Nutty Clusters and Almonds with Almond Milk
V-8 Juice
Whole Avocado
Hummus & peppers/carrots/ celery
Pita with Hummus,
Lettuce, cucumbers,
etc veggies

V-8 Juice
Whole Avocado
Hummus & peppers/carrots/ celery
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich


V-8 Juice
Whole Avocado
Hummus & peppers/carrots/ celery
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich


¼ cup pecans and
Bottle of Water
Veggie Straws
Orange Juice
70% Dark Chocolate
Orange Juice
Oats and Honey Bar
Bottle of water


Veggie Straws
Orange Juice
“Stir Fry”
Frozen peas
Brown Rice

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

Ciabatta bread

Beets & Green beans

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice
Baked Asparagus

Butternut Squash

(served hot or you can premake and chill: with cranberries, sliced   celery, pecans, oranges (diced) a sprinkle of brown sugar if you’d like and some balsamic or fresh squeezed orange and lime slices for juice)

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

“Taco Night”
Bake your own pita chips
Veggie Ground for the “beef”
Whatever other veggies you like

*If you are using sour cream, try yogurt instead

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice
Baked Balsamic Portabello Mushroom on Ciabatta Bread (with vegenaise)

Farro or
Brown Rice

Sweet Potatoes

Squash &Peas

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

Add as many veggies as you want

*no cheese* although you can buy vegan ‘cheese’ at Hannaford

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

My Vegan/Healthy Eating Grocery List:
Buy Fresh and Local/Organic When Possible… Avoid Can, get frozen instead

Fruits & Veggies (I buy a variety of these every week)
Avocado (3-4)
Portobello Mushrooms (3 caps)
Peppers (night shades are best)
Sweet Potatoes
Onion (I choose red or sweet Vidalia)
Frozen Peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach +
Limes (slice and put in water)

Breads & Grains
Artisan All Natural Alexia Ciabatta Bread (Frozen food section)
Brown/Black Rice,
Quinoa/Red Quinoa
Pita Bread (St. Joseph’s Kosher 60 Cals per pita)
Ronzoni Garden Delight Spaghetti
Fiber One or Great Grains Cereal
Arnold Healthfull 45 Calorie Slice Bread
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Cascadian Farm Organic Crunchy Honey* and Oats
Odwalla Berries Gomega Bars
KIND Plus Bars
Cranberries dried
Veggie Straws
Claussen Pickles
70% or more dark chocolate

Vegenaise for a mayo replacement
Coconut oil
Reduced sodium soy sauce
Balsamic Vinegar
YVES Veggie Hot dogs
YVES Veggie Ground (like ground beef)
Veggie Meatballs (mostly eggplant)
Organic Marinara Sauce

Spring Water
Orange Juice
Almond Milk
V-8 Juice
Coconut water if you like it is also good

*Honey is not a vegan food.  I still eat honey, but technically, since it is produced by an “animal” it’s not a vegan product.  If you’d like to use an alternate, try Agave Nectar.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Worst Wish I Could Wish is Not a Beheading: A True Story for any Divorced Woman Whose Past Love has Started a New Family

When I first left my husband, only a few months after he told me, "I love you but I'm not in love with you anymore," I truly believed we would get back together.  I thought that it was a road block, well more like a boulder blocking an interstate highway, but movable, albeit with a lot of work.  I knew he was having an affair and still, I would have done my part and worked to repair the marriage in order to keep our family intact.

I left on September 1st. The last opportunity I gave him to fix our relationship and forgive him his indiscretions (which he was still denying), was the last weekend in October of the next month.  After that, when he said he was happier without me, in my mind I decided it was over and it was time to begin mourning the death of my marriage.

Over the course of the next few months, the woman with whom he had been intimate and who he claimed still only as a "friend" who was helping him "through this" became more of a permanent fixture in his life.  Eventually, in April, only 8 months after we split, he informed me he was introducing the girls to her.  There was little argument I could give as I was boarding a plane to Mexico.  The last thing I wanted to ruin my vacation was thoughts of my daughters and this woman, who, quite honestly I hated passionately, playing a mothering role to them.  It was at this point that without admitting he was in a relationship with her, he was admitting he was in a relationship with her.

There were many things that went through my mind as I sat on that plane ride.  My heart was full of anger and bitterness.  My chest ached and my heart, again, was hurting intensely.  I called them both names.  I wished terrible things on him.  Then her.  They were mostly awful things that involves some kind of accidental poisoning or beheading. Then, when I couldn't think of anything more to wish that was terrible on either of them, I began to fantasize about  the worst things that could happen to them in 'real' life.  I decided the worst thing I could think up was what I believe propelled my marriage into its demise: the birth of my children.

The awful ugly truth is, I never wanted to become a mother, nor a wife.  I grew up steadfast in that, and I asserted that claim often.  I rarely dated in high school, believing guys were extremely immature and just not at my level.  Despite this, the culture in which women are groomed has pushed us (me) into the belief that a happy woman has a place, and that place is beside (or more often behind) a man, with her children in tow and a washcloth and spatula handy at all times.  When I met my ex-husband I indeed fell head over heels in the way only a 20 year old girl can, naively, without thinking about the consequences, just utter abandon.  I rushed headfirst into a commitment he made to me, having not pushed him into it. I still remember the first time he said, "I love you" at the end of a phone conversation, and I said it back, out of reflex, then hung up immediately.  I did not love him yet, but I did care about him.

My dreams of being a journalist and writing about third world countries while working for the Peace Corp after college were as easily washed away as food stains on a counter top.  I began to believe that maybe all that time thinking I didn't want a husband or family was just my misguided youth.  Maybe I did want the house, the dog, the white picket fence.  Maybe I could carry a baby on a hip and whip up a great dinner (meat, potatoes and vegetable of course), then put the baby down for the night and scrub the dishes, floor and toilets.  Maybe....

As much as I love my daughters, and they give me a joy so pure and a pride so immeasurable,  when they entered the world, I began to expect things from my husband.  I wanted him to carry some of the burden of this responsibility.  And yet, the more I tried to engage him in that, it seemed the more he pushed away.

There was one night that stays forefront in my mind when I was up for Madeline's 2 am (maybe 4 am) feeding.  While she was nursing at my breast, I looked down at her, the child who had emerged from me, who I knew I should adore because she came from love, and all I felt was an overwhelming feeling that I had done something from which I could not escape.  The thought I remember going through my mind was, "What the f*ck did I do?"  Months later, I did fall in love with Madeline, as she grew and smiled and laughed her first real laugh (at our lap dog, Max, when he was jumping high up to my hand to get a treat).

And so my ex husband and I had another child.  I wanted the babies to be close in age.  Having a second was even more work for me.  The rift which had begun with Madeline (before Madeline actually, but that's another story) began to widen.  Soon we would fall into it...

And so, when I was sitting on that plane, after hearing that my daughters, Ella not quite 2, and Madeline having just turned 3 in August, were meeting the woman who destroyed my family, the worst thing I could imagine happening to the two of them was having their own family, and experiencing the sadness, despair, and painful, painstaking work that raising a child is... in our society which is still very set in the gender role of woman as caretaker.  I wished that heartache on them.

A little less than a month ago, as my ex husband picked up the girls, as usual, around 4 o'clock, he let them head out onto the porch first, then he turned to me and said, "D------ and I are getting married.  And let's hope it's a boy."

I never expected to hear those words from him.  She being older than I, with a daughter who is a senior and one in college, I never expected she would want to create a new family.

Inside I was hollow.  I quickly searched to feel something, anything, but there was nothing.  My mind wandered. And then I took over.  The new me.  I stood up and touched his shoulder and genuinely said, "Congratulations, I'm so happy for you."  He laughed and turned, saying, "I will be telling the girls tonight." (He only told the girls about the marriage, not the baby.  They have since married.  If you know my daughters, please do not say anything to them).

I shut the door and sat back down and waited.  In the quiet of the house, I listened to the ticking of the clock on the wall.  10 minutes went by and I felt nothing.  What's going to come?  I kept thinking.  Am I going to be sad?  Bitter?  Angry?  Wish ill on them?

None of those happened.  The only feeling that came was a reaction to how this was going to change the world for my daughters.  How would they react?  How will their "family' change?  A hundred worries crossed my mind.  And then I also began to realize that I had feelings, too, and none of them were envy.  I was happy it was not me.  I did not want to be her, having a family at this age, at this stage in my life. I have worked so hard to get healthy and get back in shape; I was glad it was not me, watching my body change again.  Although I loved being pregnant, any woman who has gone through it knows it is not easy to "bounce back" when it comes to weight.  And our bodies are never the same.  And emotionally...well... it's not easy.

I truly was and am happy for him.  And her.  And my daughters and her daughters.

And also, just a little, very little, sad, that I would not ever be able to give my daughters a sister or a brother... but she will. And they will have a baby brother or sister that will give them so much joy, that they will talk about and laugh about and want me to understand, and I will have to be the best mom I can be and laugh along... And I will give them that... but at this juncture, I can't give them a baby.... and I probably never will.

But what I am giving my daughters is more than that.

I am giving them purpose, every day, that they can become what they want, follow their hearts and dreams. That they do not need a man to be satisfied, but that if a good, considerate man comes into their lives as a friend, and that is a part of their happiness, then they should follow that, too.  I am teaching them that they are only limited by the walls they build, and that falling down is a part of climbing a mountain... And I am teaching them that commitment is not something you say, nor is it a piece of paper you sign, but it's something you do, every day, ugly days and sunshine days, because you said you would.

And best of all, I am teaching them to believe in themselves and be their own best cheerleader... because the only person you need to make your dreams happen is you...

As Ella says, "Dream big, Mom, and make it happen."
And I respond, "Think like a champion, my baby girl."


Sunday, October 13, 2013

From Violence to Vegan

It was a bitterly cold December day when I watched my baby brother die.  My mother was clutching him tightly as he struggled with his last breaths and a face turning blue, her frantic cries and the intensity of the scene is what is vivid in my mind.  I was 8 years old.

That is only one of a series of tumultuous scenes that haunt my childhood, a childhood that is equally full of the joys of building forts, getting lost in the cornfield, and playing late night hide and seek at the Collette farm.

What I assimilated early being the oldest and a witness to the way a life can be drained from a person I so loved was a spirit of protectiveness over my younger brothers and sisters.  My step-father's alcoholism further deepened this quality, as I spent many days being a buoy; keeping my father pacified was important, but I also wanted my siblings to be safe: after all, when your father comes home drunk and angry that your mom is still at work and doesn't have a hot meal on the table, so he smashes his truck with an axe, as the oldest (and 12 years old) you have no choice.

To make a long story short in the spirit of blogging, I became a pacifist, a protector, very early in my life, because I wanted to keep everyone happy and keep everyone safe.  Becoming a Buddhist was a natural extension of this.  Most recently, I became a vegan.

I never set out to become a vegan.  I believe it chose me.  Vegetarianism for me was not a new idea.  Years ago, when in Bio class we dissected a pig, I became a vegetarian for quite some time.  It wasn't the blood and guts.  As the oldest I also doctored my younger siblings cuts and gashes and had seen my share of gushing blood.  It was the idea that I had opened a life, an infant life, perhaps like my brother. My brother had also been opened.  An autopsy had been performed to try to find the cause of his death.  There was a finger pointing in the direction of my mother, perhaps she did it.  But the autopsy found that he had a variety of issues, the biggest being a parasite found in his digestive tract that was stealing the life from him.  A parasite that was later linked to the ecoli that comes into the water source as a result of run off when spreading manure on semi-frozen fields.  (Ecoli eventually infected the wells in the town in which I grew up and became a local issue).

I did not eat meat for some time.  It didn't seem natural to me that I would take a life for my own selfish desires, any kind of life, including "just a cow".  There came a point when the smell of burning,cooking flesh literally made me feel sick.

But eventually, as a result of the culture of that time (after all this was 20 years ago), and the little access there was to vegetarian options, I reverted to my flesh eating ways.

This past year, I began to investigate the meat packing industry further. What I discovered was appalling.  You'd think that having an FDA would make us safe, but that's not so.  And that's not to mention the disgusting conditions in which the animals live.  I won't bore (or disgust) you with the details, as you can google "appalling meat packing industry" and read all about it yourself if you'd like.  What I will say is the food the FDA stamps its approval to is killing us.  Truly killing us.

That, in conjunction with discovering that much of the pesticides and herbicides used on foods emulates hormones and causes unnecessary health issues, pushed me into going organic and meatless.  I may have eaten beef altogether 5-6 times this year, and not at all after mid August.

I began using almond milk much earlier in the year as an alternative to regular milk because it was better for a calorie count, but after reading in the book Skinny Bitch thanks to my sister who is also learning to eat clean, and learning about how humans are not made to digest animal products, I realized that it was time to go from vegetarianism to veganism.

What I thought about vegans, before I decided to become one, quite honestly, is that they were a group of food elitists who separated themselves to impress upon others this kind of snobbery or superiority.

Vegans choose not to eat animal products or by products, such as eggs, milk, or (cringe) honey.  (I might still eat honey... I'm struggling with full conversion).  In becoming vegan, I have had to allow myself to eat more whole grains than I normally would, because foods like eggs and cheese definitely were staples to keep me full, and I literally ate a boiled egg every day.  I have also had to figure out how to get more protein in my diet.  In conjunction with these changes, my doctor ran a whole gamut of tests on me to see what deficiencies I had in August.  This has helped me identify the specific vitamins or herbal supplements I should take.

What's most interesting and challenging has been how hard it is to eat animal free.  Most foods have some product in them that comes from animals.  I have allowed myself some liberties as I transition.  It's important I think when converting to a new way of life to change slowly, so that the change is complete and stays with you.  Allow yourself mistakes in the beginning and give yourself breathing room. Forgive your setbacks and move on with your goals.

This new lifestyle feels very right.  It feels like it was in me all along. I just wasn't open enough to receive it.  I had too many prejudices formed and I had to lose sight of that shore before I could find new ground.

My health is only a piece of who I am.  It's so much more than that, but our health is the foundation for our attitude.  So love your body.  Make it your temple.