Living Forwards

It's interesting how things come to be. One little thought or question can blossom in to a lifestyle, a business, a relationship, a future. A little over a year ago I had such a question: How can I eat enough of the right foods to fuel my active lifestyle and breastmilk production?

It's not an easy question to answer. When I was about 10 I decided to quit eating meat. I was (and still am) terrified of birds. All shapes and sizes. One day, as I was cutting in to my plate of chicken, it dawned on me what I was putting in to my body and I had the most vivid picture of a live chicken flapping it's wings around inside of my belly. I put the fork down and proclaimed that I was now a vegetarian. Being 10 years old and living in a family of carnivores meant I usually ate cereal or pasta for every meal. I was not fueling my body. My eating habits slowly evolved and I added meat back in to my life as I exited high school.

Once I started having children, the topic of food choices reared it's head again. This time it was more than just my body and my personal wants/needs. It was about a tiny human growing inside of me. I didn't really think too much about it until I was breastfeeding my second child, Charlotte, and training for a half marathon. I was exhausted. Strung out. Starving. Thankfully my milk supply never dwindled, but I was incredibly worried about what would happen if it did. I remember talking to Brad and lamenting that fact that I couldn't find some kind of food/fitness tracker that catered specifically to breastfeeding mamas. I needed to know how much energy I was expending between running and yoga and breastfeeding in order to get it back to keep doing those things.

That little question lead me to research, which lead me to blogs, which lead me to the realization that if I really wanted as much information as I could gain about this topic (which is endlessly fascinating for me) I needed to go back to school. Enrolling in a Master's program for Nutrition Education and learning everything I can about how to nourish my body has helped me answer that one little question. It's also helped me realize the number of people who have similar questions without the tools to answer. 

Well I have them. Those answers. And I'm learning more every day. I can't keep all of it to myself. I started grad school with hopes of changing my eating habits and giving myself and my family a better outlook on food and nutrition. Now, I can't imagine not sharing that knowledge I've picked up with others. There's a lot I want to do to help and a lot I know I will do. 

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards
— Kierkegaard

Only now, looking back, can I see that the path was there and I was on it all along. 


Roots

roots

Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Where are you now? Where do you want to be?

Where I live, it's surprising to find people who grew up here. In the past month alone I've met people from Pennsylvania, Germany, New York, Georgia, and Iowa. I think that's what attracts me so much to the people here. We all have something in common: we're not from around here. But something pulled us here. Be it a job or family or just the pull of living by the ocean. We're all connected because we choose to be here rather than stay planted where we started out. 

I think there's a lot of power in that. In the choices we make about where we live. While it may seem out of your control, you always have a choice. The alternatives may be less than ideal, but you make that decision yourself. 

I'm from Ohio. I was born in Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. I went to school in Pittsburgh then southern Indiana. I moved to Florida right after college then back to Ohio for a hot minute then to California. When I first got to California I didn't put down any roots. I thought it was all temporary (and, being the wife of an active duty Marine, it was supposed to be). But when we decided to stay in California, I never made it my home. I never put down roots. I lived in the same place for my entire childhood and never really learned how to move. How to find my place in a new area. Do you know I didn't have a single friend in the 6 months I lived in Florida? Brad and I would go to dinner or something with his friends and their wives but it was always like that. I never saw any of the women one-on-one, without our husbands setting things up. Not a single friend. The closest I came was the cashier at my local Publix who was from Middletown, Ohio. We talked about how much we missed Fall and pumpkin picking and hay rides and that Ohio October chill. 

Our first time in California I refused to put down roots. I had opportunities, but whether it was the depression or the unwillingness to let go of the idea of Ohio being home, I never did. This time it's different. It goes against everything in my being but I'm determined to be planted here. Planted deep. Rooted in this sandy, rocky, dirty Southern California earth so far down that they'll have to use some industrial-sized machinery to dig me up. I don't doubt that we'll move again. I can also see my family here for a long long time. Whatever our future holds, I know that this time, if and when we leave where we are, I'll have some hard goodbyes. Thanks to those roots I've planted so deep within this community.


3 Simple Ways to Begin A Plant-Based Diet

plant-based-tips

I recently watched the documentary Cowspiracy. If you haven't seen or aren't familiar with it, Cowspiracy delves in to the reasons why major environmental groups don't have animal agriculture as their top reason behind global climate change. why groups like Oceana and Greenpeace tout switching faucets, biking to work and recycling but not moving towards a plant-based diet.

Throughout the documentary, there are plenty of numbers thrown around about the effects of animal agriculture on the planet. Billions of gallons of water, staggering amounts of methane gas, animal waste being diverted to oceans (thus killing fish and other ocean life). The list goes on and on. Documentaries of this sort are always incendiary and I like to take them all with a grain of salt but this one has really stuck with me for some reason. Brad and I watched it together and I kept hopping on different sites as thy were brought up to validate some claims that were made. Overall, it was pretty accurate in all of the totally outrageous-sounding claims about the effects of animal agriculture.

plant-based-tips

A few months ago, when we moved back to California, I made the switch to a plant-based diet. I'm not perfect, and I still have a lot to learn about both product ingredients and my own willpower (there are approximately 25 ice cream sandwiches in my freezer leftover from a 4th of July party and I'd be lying if I didn't eat 3 yesterday), but what I learned from Cowspiracy is that if just one person switches to a plant-based diet, over ONE BILLION gallons of water will be saved. In a place like California where, (though technically we're no longer in a drought) water is sacred and scarce it's incredibly empowering to know that my decision to eschew animal products is saving an astonishing amount of that precious resource. 

I don't share this to scare anyone or to shame or to whatever negative thing. I care about this one planet we call home and I share my own story (and struggle) with how to respect this earth so that if you're on a similar journey you know we're in this together. No matter how many cheeseburgers your family eats (and mine eats their fair share!). So if you are curious about making some adjustments to your diet and animal product consumption but aren't willing to go all in I wanted to share a few ways you can make small changes towards a smaller footprint.

plant-based-tips

3 WAYS TO EASE IN TO PLANT-BASED EATING

1. Go plant-based for one meal each day. Go grab a copy of One Part Plant, read the blog and do it. Just one meal each day will not only be amazing for the environment, but you'll learn how to cook delicious, nutritious plant-based meals that will maybe spill over in to other meals throughout your day!

2. Cut beef out of your diet. Switch to turkey burgers, etc. If you wanna go a little further, cut out all cow products (milk, ice cream, yogurt). It's not easy, but cows have a HUGE negative effect on the environment. And your body will thank you for consuming less red meat and high-fat animal products. You can reduce your risk of obesity and heart disease in the process!

3. Be a little more conscious about the things you eat. Think to yourself at the grocery "where did this come from?" before mindlessly tossing a pack of sausage in to your cart. We've been conditioned in society to think of hot dogs and yogurt and cheese and simply food. But when we flip the switch and think of them as pigs and cow breastmilk (gross, right?) it can really help change our eating habits. 


Do you follow a plant-based diet? I'd love to hear your reasons why! Often it's a combination of one or more issues or a disease that's aided by eating less animal products. Whatever it is, please share! I'm a big believer in strength in numbers. Maybe there's someone reading this who's considered it but not ready to take the plunge because of lack of community. 


Sorry, I can't

I've become a creature of habit. I love my home. My car. My walks. My bike path. 

I love my routine. However crazed and inconsistent. I love being at home in my bubble. 

I'm an introvert and I like it. I'm no longer painfully shy like I was as a child. I can hold my own at a networking event or a conference or even just drinks with new friends. But my energy comes from my simple home life. The familiar whirr of the coffee grinder. The incessant questions from 4yr olds. Watering the plants, reading a book. Being at home. In my space. Unencombered by outside stressors, ideals, opinions. 

I may have taken it too far. Since my struggle with PPD, I know I spend much more of my time inside or around my home. Alone. With just my family. I used to feel trapped that way but too scared to change it. Now, I don't feel so trapped, but I do want to change. It's hard to live a certain way for years and not realize what it's doing to you. Being a 'homebody' is quaint. I honestly prefer to spend my evenings playing Scrabble with Brad and a bottle of wine to going out to dinner or drinks or whatever. I do. But I would like to feel comfortable with having both options in my life.

Be comfortable leaving the house without changing my outfit 5 times. Be confident in my choice of restaurant or transportation or hairstyle. Be out and doing and not feel like I'm being watched. 

So when I'm invited out to the beach or for a walk or to lunch with a new (or old) friend, I freeze. I want to develop new friendships. I'm desperate for connection and love and relationships. Truly truly desperate. But I'm not yet at a place where I can uproot my routine, however simple or mundane or uncomplicated it may be, and do something new. Outside of my comfort zone. It takes a lot for me to get out there. It's something I'm working tirelessly on. But in the age of social media, it's far too easy to fall in to the homebody trap and never leave.

'See? All of my friends are right here! Tucked in to these little squares on Instagram!' 

Real connection doesn't come from a square. It comes from being up and doing. So if you're like me and would rather stay at home, know you're not alone. And if you're wondering why I or someone you know can't seem to RSVP yes to any outings, maybe give her a little grace and a little time and a little space. Don't give up on her. She's working on it. And she'll come around. 


Big Bear

The first real Towne family vacation!

We came, we saw, we hiked, we didn't sleep one bit, we drove jeeps up the mountain, we fished, we biked, we had a lot of fun.

I didn't have any expectations as we left for our four day vacation in Big Bear. I knew we would be in cabins (and was pleasantly surprised when I saw bathrooms inside!) and I knew we'd be in a ski resort town in summer. That's pretty much it. As someone who likes plans and planning and doesn't really do well just going with the flow, this was a challenge. It wasn't easy. There were times where we'd all be sitting around and I'd start to feel anxious about our lack of activity. Shouldn't we have something to do right now? What's the plan? Where are we doing? How are we going to keep the kids entertained?

Luckily, the mountain was all the entertainment we needed. Honestly, we spent most of our time in the Jeep driving up mountain trails, getting out to explore a bit, and driving around some more. With kids so small, it really helped break up the more active activities of hiking and biking and also allowed Theodore and Charlotte to get in some naps and Brad had a ton of fun driving on those dirt 'roads'. Roads being a very VERY generous term for what we were driving.

We stayed in the Marine Corps Cabins which were in the perfect location (especially in the winter! right next to a couple of ski resorts!). The clubhouse had tons of movies and games and puzzles to check out as well as tennis courts, basketball, and a pool table inside. There was even a pretty good-sized playground right in the middle of everything for the kids as well as a really tough 1-mile hiking trail up and around the campsite which Brad and I took turns backpacking up with a kid. I wish we had been able to go up together or at least remember to grab the camera for some photos because a few times, climbing up the steep hill, I'd stop and turn around and be greeted with the most beautiful view of mountains and the lake below and the trees above and it was truly breathless.

If you're thinking about taking a wilderness vacation with little ones, I say go for it! Be prepared to be a little bored, not sleep a wink, and get creative with cooking (the little kitchen we had left much to be desired). But it's an adventure we won't soon forget. I'm sure William and Charlotte are old enough to remember our time in Big Bear (on? at?) and while Theodore won't remember any of our trip, I sure will!