Finding the Courage to Ask For What You Need

I often find myself feeling overwhelmed.  Almost always, after a quick examination, it is because I have over committed to others, with things that I don’t want to do.  I understand that normal, healthy adults are able to say ‘No’ to invitations, favors, events, and commitments. It seems that I did not pay extra for that upgrade.  I am always agreeing to things, and finding myself regretful and resentful as those calendar items approach.  Do you ever find yourself stretched too thin?  Let me share a few examples with you, then I will discuss my new found favorite response…”NO”.

I am not a very social person.  Even lunch with my sisters sends me into a panic.  “Who will be there?”  “Will I end up having to pay for everyone?”  “What if there is nothing that I can eat?”  “What if she brings up that topic that makes me uncomfortable like she always does?”  My sisters are the opposite of me.  Very easy conversationalists, no worry at all.  Lunch is a wonderful way to chat and spend time together to reconnect.  I, on the other hand, am full of anxiety the entire time.  We have been meeting for lunches on each other’s birthday’s for about 4 years now.  Every time my birthday rolls around, I make an excuse that I am busy, and its fine with me if we skip.  I’ve never wanted to admit to them that it’s really uncomfortable for me, so an excuse was just easier.  This year, however, it was suggested that maybe we should just start planning family get togethers on all of the holidays and rotate houses and hostesses.  So, my excuse plan backfired in a huge way.  Not only did one sister tell me that I should reconsider because I am missed, and whatever other guilt trip was available at the time, the other sister recommended MORE anxiety filled get togethers!

FULL DISCLOSURE: That’s not really me.  But I can totally relate to this young lady.  Still.  As an adult.
I know what you’re thinking…Yes, this is my family, and I should feel comfortable, right?  Well, not all families are like the ones in the movies.  I’m not interested in airing out the dirty laundry.  Regardless, each family member’s memories and experiences are all different, so there’s no point in even trying.  I do my best to get along and be a peace maker, but at my age, I’m a bit tired of that.  In fact, as they say, you can’t choose your family.  I disagree.  I am choosing my family, and I am choosing it carefully.  I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice myself for the whims of others anymore, just because we are related.  I’m over it.

This whole situation with the get togethers and the lunches could have been averted, had I just been honest from the beginning.  “Thank you for thinking of me.  Social situations like lunches cause me anxiety, so I would like for this to not be a tradition on my birthday any longer.”  I eventually got there.  In the mean time, panic ensued.

I was also in a situation recently where we agreed to help a long lost relative out as a favor who wanted to relocate to Arizona.  We offered a place to stay until she was able to get on her feet at no charge.  We also asked a few people we know to consider her for a job.  Once she arrived, she did nothing but disrespect our wishes and acted completely unacceptable.  When the jobs didn’t come through for her, she blamed us, and said it was the only reason that she relocated to Arizona.  Things got to a point where we asked her to please find somewhere else to stay within 30 days.  She did..and stole about $200  worth of things from us.  So how could we have avoided this situation?  Simply by saying “No” in the first place.  As much as we all want to be helpful to others, we truly had no business opening up our home to someone we didn’t even know.


I think that many of us are conditioned to turn the other cheek, or to act in a way that you would like for people to act with you.  When we do that, we often find ourselves being taken advantage of by others who’s own moral code likely doesn’t line up with ours.  I have come to the conclusion recently that people who are out to take advantage of me, or guilt me into doing things for them are not worried about my feelings, or what is good for me.  So, in turn, I will no longer be afraid to say no, or at least ask for my needs to be met in these exchanges.  


I know that we are not easy hosts at our house.  We are very particular.  Dishes should be cleaned immediately.  You don’t need to use multiple cups in one day.  If you use the dryer, empty the lint trap.  Be kind, and at least ACT like you enjoy spending time with us.  For us, these situations have forced us into deciding what we are and are not ok with.  We are ok with two day max house guests.  We are not ok with anything beyond that.  We need to be kind to our guests and let them know that staying beyond that will cause resentment and anxiety, so two days is all that we are able to accommodate.

It is up to you to decide what your boundaries are, and then find the kindness to enforce those boundaries.  There is almost nothing worse than feeling like you are being held hostage in a situation.  It is just better to be open and honest upfront.  Doing so will undoubtedly save hard feelings and relationships.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.  In most cases, people will respect your honesty and appreciate it.  It happens to the best of us.  Don’t worry…

You’re probably not crazy!!!

Q & A

I am very lucky to have many people who feel comfortable enough to ask me questions that they may be too embarrassed to ask otherwise.  Today, I will devote my post to addressing the most common of these questions in hopes that you will have your questions answered as well.  Of course, you can always ask questions in the comments section of this blog and I will happily share my experiences with you!
Q:  My relative has just announced that they are going Vegan, or have food sensitivities/allergies.  How the heck am I supposed to deal with family get together’s now??

A:  I understand that your initial response may be “OH GREAT!”  Going ‘gluten-free’ seems to be the current fad these days.  There is a lot of mis-information circulating out there about gluten, and not everyone who excludes gluten needs to.  It’s always just better to assume that there is a reason for what they are doing, and it’s their business only.  Let’s use me as an example.  I have the following food sensitivities:  Pineapple, Black Pepper, Rye, Yeast, Kidney Beans, and Cow’s Milk.  On top of this, I follow a vegan diet, so I am your worst nightmare!!  My family forever wants me to have meals with them, and ask me how they can accomodate me.  The simple answer?  Don’t.  I think that people who have issues like mine understand that trying to cater to me would be a recipe for disaster.  Or, my family will say, “Come over!  I will make sure that there is a salad for you!”  At which time, I remind them that I hate salad.  SO, a few things:

  1. Vegans don’t necessarily like salad.
  2. Sides may not contain meat, but may contain items that are unfriendly to your relation’s diet goals.
  3. Don’t take it personally.

I would advise to first ask that person to help you understand their diet or food issues.  I would then try to come up with strategies together to make sure that they are able to attend, and also feel like a ‘normal’ guest.  Many times, I will eat in advance, or I will offer to bring a dish that I can eat, but can also share with others.  Interestingly enough, when I do bring a dish to share, it usually ends up being a hit.  I tend to not tell anyone it’s vegan until they eat it and love it.  Not only is it fun for me, but it also gives people who may not ever be exposed to anything positive regarding veganism to come away with a good impression.


Q:  I watched the documentary “What the Health” (Or “Forks over Knives”, or “Fat, Bloated, and Nearly Dead”, or “Super Size Me”, etc…, and now I want to eat better.  Should I quit meat cold turkey (pun totally intended)?

A:  I have done both methods:  I have gone cold turkey vegan, and I have done the frog-boiling method.  The first time I tried it was cold turkey.  I did it for all the wrong reasons.  I was desperate to lose weight, and a junk-a-tarian that I know said I should get off meat and I would lose weight.  So I tried.  I ate frozen veggie burgers, vegan cheese, chips, French fries, and I failed miserably.  I didn’t really know what a vegan actually was.  I have the most basic possible definition, which was no animal flesh or products.  Did you know that gummy vitamins are not vegan?  Or that French fries are often fried in animal fats?  Or that Mexican restaurants usually make refried beans with lard and rice with chicken broth?  Not only did I not know what the hell I was doing, I wasn’t considering that it takes time for your body to adjust.  

Once I finally did lose weight and cleaned up my diet, I started to naturally eat less meat.  It just started to not digest well with me.  I would get horrendous stomach aches and (sorry…) really constipated.  One day, I just stopped.  I thought about my meat consumption and what it was doing to my digestive tract.  I didn’t like the way it tasted unless it was drenched in sauces and seasonings.  So I just stopped.  And I haven’t eaten it since.

A few years after that, I was still having stomach aches, and decided to get tested for food sensitivities.  At that time, I would eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast, cottage cheese with pepper and pineapple (I know…don’t judge…it’s good), and lots of beans every day, including my favorite, kidney beans.  So, if you remember my food sensitivity list, I was basically ONLY eating things that bothered me.  I didn’t become vegan out of compassion for animals, or anything other than I just wanted the stomach aches to stop, which they did.  Since becoming vegan, I have definitely become passionate about animals and how we as a culture treat them.  

Long story short, for me, it worked better to make small changes over long periods to maintain those changes.  Just like boiling a frog, start with Luke warm water, and slowly turn up the heat.  Side note, it’s sick that I’m advising on how to go vegan by compairing it to boiling a frog.  Oy.  


Q:  I want to go vegan, but I can never give up baked goods.  What’s the deal?

A:  Oh man, I know what you mean.  Did you know that you can make absolutely delicious cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies totally vegan?  It’s true!  In fact, I gained about 10 pounds once I figure that out!!  A great baking cookbook that was given to me by one of my best friends in the universe is The Joy of Vegan Baking by Coleen Patrick-Goudreau.  You can find most of the ingredients at your local grocery store, or, I have found a lot at Amazon.  Would you believe that I used a drop biscuit recipe from this cook book and crafted a vegan gravy recipe, and now we have biscuits and gravy for dinner on the regular?  I NEVER thought I would have that again!!


 
Q:  But where do you get your protein from/But are you getting enough protein ?

A:  This is by far the most asked question.  Over the years, I have answered this question differently.  Sometimes, I ask the asker if they are getting enough protein.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  I know that I need 1/2 a gram of protein per pound of body weight, so it varies as my weight varies.  Did you know that vegetables have protein?  It’s TRUE!  My advice here would be to not ask this question to a vegetarian or a vegan.  They know where to get protein from, and if it is enough or not.  Protein comes in grains, beans, veggies, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, and seitan (pronounced ‘satan’, as in “I ate Satan for lunch…hahah).  I am not sure why Omnivores are so concerned with protein intake, other than they believe that they will ‘stump the chump’ with this question.  I promise, you won’t. In fact, I think that we could all do ourselves a favor and stop listening to the meat and dairy lobbyists and educate ourselves on foods.  

Q:  Is it better to cut carbs, or go low fat, or do Mediterranean diet, or Paleo, or what?

A:  I have the definitive answer to this question!  The best diet is the one that you can stick to for the rest of your life.  You can’t cut carbs for the rest of your life.  I know I’m going to catch hell from some of you for saying that.  Carbs are converted to energy. If you cut them, you will burn stored fat, that is true, and totally sustainable in the short term.  However, our bodies adapt very quickly to all of our brilliant plans.  You will find what worked for you for a few weeks will no longer work.  The body is in a constant state of seeking equilibrium.  It will slap back with lower energy levels, headaches, nausea, and other issues.  Same with low fat.  Did you know that your body uses fat to transport hormones?  Fats are good for you!  The key to both fats and carbs are in the quality of the macro.  Cookies are carbs.  And so are vegetables.  Which do you think are better for you?  Butter is full of fats.  And so are avocados.  Which do you think supply the greater nutrient punch?  Your body will thrive on                            complex carbs and ‘good’ fats.  Keep that in mind.  Completely restricting a nutrient is never really a great strategy for long term success.  


Q: Why do vegans and vegetarians have such a superiority complex?  What makes you better than me?

A:  We don’t, and we’re not.  It’s in your head.


Next week, I will do an exercise Q & A.  Let me know if you have any questions about today’s blog, or have a question you’d like answered about exercise, and I will for my best to answer it.  Have a great week, everyone, and remember…

You’re probably not crazy!!

An open letter to my country

This weekend, a rally was planned in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of a general of the Confederacy when the United States was in civil war.  The Confederacy lost.  The Union prevailed.  The Confederacy did not want to recognize slaves as people, and argued that they would be financially ruined if they were unable to obtain the free labor provided by slavery.  The Confederacy lost.  They argued that these possessions, ripped from their homeland violently, packed into the bottom of boats, shackled, beaten, malnourished…these were savages.  The Confederacy lost.  

The history of my country is shameful.  It is ugly.  It is disgraceful.  My ancestors arrived here, murdered the native inhabitants, allowed the survivors to stay on reservations (at least until vast natural resources were discovered, then nope), shipped in slaves, and basically raped and pillaged like pirates.  They didn’t ask for anything.  They took it.  “Manifest Destiny” they coined it.  The country was built upon slavery and murder, all while praising God for blessing them so richly.

I know there may be some who read this that claim I am suffering from ‘White Shame’.  To them I say that I am indeed ashamed of the cruelty that so easily passed from the hands of generations before me.  I am not afraid to call it out of the shadows and talk about it.  I am not afraid to be honest and open and totally appalled at it.  I am not afraid to recognize that there is absolutely nothing that makes this justifiable or acceptable.  But just as Germany teaches its children of the country’s original sin, and owns its history, SO MUST THE UNITED STATES!!!

Look at these faces.  Some are smug.  Some are angry.  Some are smiling, like they are at a high school bonfire.  They are carrying their torches and chanting “Blood and Soil!”  They are chanting “White is Might!”  They are chanting “TRUMP!  TRUMP!  TRUMP!”

James Alex Fields Jr told his mother he was going to a rally in Charlottesville.  She assumed it was a Trump rally.  She stated, “She didn’t like to get involved in his politics”.  He took his sporty silver car, found a street with a clear view of counter protesters, holding signs that said “Love Trumps Hate” and “Racists go home”.  Then, he sped towards that crowd, ramming another car from behind, murdering a peaceful counter protester and injuring more that 20 others.  Look at him.  Look at all of them.  These are our neighbors.  These are our cousins.  Our sons and our daughters.  Our brothers and our sisters.  These are our coworkers.

When you sat through World History in high school, and you learned about the rise of Hitler, Stalin, and Moussolini.  When you heard the story of the Jews and Blacks and Homosexuals in Germany, how they were murdered or put into concentration camps to die, or to be science experiments.  When you learned about the Japanese Internment Camps in the UNITED STATES.  Did you tell yourself that you would have stood up for your friends, for your neighbors, for your coworkers?  Did you wonder how you would react?  Did you think that you would never let fear grip you so tightly that you would silently watch these atrocities happen?

The time has come, my friends.  How are you reacting?  I live in sunny Arizona, far from what any would perceive as a conflict area.  Yet, the seedy and disgusting racist views come out in the people I least expect.  They aren’t outwardly awful.  They’re not wearing uniforms.  But once in a while, you will hear it.  “Those dirty Mexicans.”  “DEPORT THEM ALL!”  “What are you?  Are you African, or what are you?”  The FORMER Sheriff of my county, you may have heard of him, became famous for his racial profiling orders. For harassing people, just for their skin color, demanding papers, ripping families apart.  Though our county kept him in office for 20 years, we FINALLY were able to get him out.  The fact that he held office for so long tells me that there is a lot of underlying racism in my community.  Some may argue that he was a good sheriff, but let’s be honest.  The only reason that YOU know his is because of his outlandish tactics that were covered in the national news.  America’s Toughest Sheriff?  Nah.

If you are not calling people out on the spot for racism and hatred, you are part of the problem.  You have got to find the courage in yourself to not shrink back in the face of this hate speech, but call it out.  Bring it to the light.  Confront these people and tell them that patriotism is in direct conflict with white supremacy or racism.  I often wonder how some people reconcile this idea that, because they were born in a place that was farther away from the equator make them superior to any other human being, simply because they have less color in their skin.  It is time to stand up.  Find your voice and use it.  Denounce this ridiculous notion that the color of your skin determines your worth.  

  Be brave.  Find your courage.  Do what is right without fear.  These students stood inside of a crowd of angry white supremacists.  When your conscience is nagging you, listen.  Because you’re probably not crazy.

Why not choose kindness?

My dear readers, I hope that you are feeling the same way that I do.  Do you remember when you were a kid how all the neighbors in the hood would talk to each other?  Remember when you would know everyone’s name?  My mom used to send me over to the neighbor to borrow an egg, or a cup of sugar when she was short.  What happened?  I remember being 8 years old when something seemed different.  We heard some rustling out in our garage, and went to go check it out.  A neighbor had just decided to help himself to tools without asking first.  This was more than 30 years ago, but still comes up in conversation sometimes.  Should this have been such a betrayal?  Had he just knocked on the door and asked permission, this trespass would have never been remembered.  But he didn’t.

Is this why we, as a culture, have learned to isolate ourselves from our neighbors?  Was there a point in everyone’s life when a neighbor crossed the invisible line and caused us to assume the worst instead of giving the benefit of the doubt?  Or was it always this way, and as a child, I just failed to notice that it wasn’t one giant family?  Shortly after the neighbor in the garage incident, we moved to a new town.  I didn’t notice at the time, but my parents didn’t go out of their way to meet any neighbors, unless they belonged to their church.  I still went out and met them.  I babysat for a lot of them.  It wasn’t until I got older that I started to isolate myself from them.  The kids grew up, they didn’t need a sitter anymore, and I was old enough to get a real job.  Still, my parents didn’t talk to their neighbors.  I mean, they did occasionally, as we do, to avoid the awkward moment of being outside at the same time time.  It’s that fleeting moment when you have to decide, “Do I pretend I don’t see them?  Do I run inside?  Do I just say hello?  What If they want something?”


So, what has this isolationism brought us?  It’s very easy to see.  Just look at the world’s political climate.  This is not just strictly the United States either.  I’m looking at you, ‘Brexit’!  The phrase ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ is not strictly for good works.  When we act locally as isolationists, we translate that globally.  How else can we explain the idea that any person on this earth doesn’t belong in certain areas?  We are all on this planet together.  I didn’t choose to be here.  I was born here.  I didn’t have any say in it.  Just like people in Germany didn’t choose to be there, or Iran, or Namibia.  We all just got to where we are by chance.  I am not lobbying for breaking laws and disrespecting boundaries.  But what I am asking for is a little compassion.  Possibly, a little empathy.  


Maybe you are feeling helpless right now.  Maybe you are watching the news and you are outraged, but don’t know how you can do anything to stop what is happening.  I know for myself, I have a lot of fear.  I see shows like ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’, or ‘Diverent’, and I am terrified of what all of this could devolve into.  Maybe you think that honesty, integrity and inclusion are dead. My process in dealing with this new and illogical reality has been slow.  I go through rage, and then I struggle with defeat.  I have decided that real change can only come through kindness.  Yes, we have to fight. Yes, we have to march.  Now more than ever it is imperative that we stand up for others.  That we make our beliefs clear.  That we understand denying ANYONE basic liberties and freedom is NOT AN OPINION!  It is morally incorrect.  If we are ever going to get through this very troubling time, we are all going to have to learn to find a common ground with each other first.  Yelling, screaming, pointing fingers has never changed a single mind in history.  


What we can do is say hello to strangers.  Meet your neighbors.   Lend out eggs again.  Offer a smile once in a while.  Talk to your kids.  Ask their opinions.  Discuss current issues and understand their thoughts.  I still kindness in those around you.  I was walking to pick up my mail the other day, and two lady missionaries were riding by on bicycles.  One of them dropped her bag on the street.  I stopped and helped he to pick up her things.  She said to me, very gratefully, “You are a kind soul!”  All I could think to myself was, “Isn’t this tragic?”  The missionaries happened to be part of the church I was raised in, but am no longer a part of.  I didn’t leave on good terms.  Quite frankly, I’m not a fan of what I witnessed in my personal experience there.  I could have kept walking and ignored them, but if I did, how would that have changed the world? How have we become a society of people who do not help ladies who drop their bags?  Does it matter how we got here?  I think that what matters is that we have a clear population within our throes that live and breathe hate.  The moment we stop fighting is the moment we die culturally.  Why not try to assume the best instead of the worst?  What will it hurt to offer a helping hand to a stranger?  You might feel better if you did.  Not only that, but it may help you to finally accept that you’re probably NOT crazy!

Take care of each other.