Archive for Home and Family

An Open Letter to My Fellow Americans

U.S. Capitol BuildingThere is no doubt that we are in a mess.

Our gov­ern­ment is shut­ting down. Those in Con­gress and the Sen­ate can­not work out an agree­ment. Peo­ple are refus­ing to speak to each other. Parks are get­ting closed (Some friends of mine were plan­ning a trip to Yosemite next week—it has sadly been can­celled; some other friends were going camp­ing this week­end at a park run by the Corps of Engi­neers, but the park is now closed and they can­not go). The National Zoo is closed. The Smith­son­ian is closed. Fed­eral employ­ees are being put on furlough—forced to stay home with­out pay—by no choice of their own. We are in a mess.

And the debate about this shut­down rages on. In the Capi­tol build­ing. In the White House. In the media. On Facebook.

Most of you read­ing this blog know me personally—you are my friend (or acquain­tance) and you know me. And so you know that I am the daugh­ter of a mem­ber of Con­gress. This is my dad’s ninth year in Con­gress, his fifth term serv­ing his dis­trict, his state, and his country.

For days, weeks, months, and years, I have read your posts about gun con­trol, abor­tion, tax­a­tion, edu­ca­tion, and other issues we care about. I have even made some of my own. Most recently, of course, your posts have cen­tered on the gov­ern­ment shut­down and the Afford­able Care Act. Although I am not an insider—I am not in the gov­ern­ment or in pol­i­tics; and I have not read the 20,000 page ACA doc­u­ment (hope­fully it is triple-spaced and includes lots of fig­ures and images!!)—I do want to respond to a new trend in our pub­lic dis­course that both­ers me: the way we tend to gen­er­al­ize and char­ac­ter­ize our gov­ern­ment representatives—who they are, what they do, how they think, how smart they are, or even how patri­otic they are.

I have read Face­book post after blog post after Twit­ter post that char­ac­ter­ize these men and women in Con­gress and the Sen­ate as “power-hungry blokes,” “idiots,” “greedy,” “immoral,” “ego­tis­ti­cal schmucks,” “great­est hoaxes ever,” and other sim­i­lar sen­sa­tion­al­ist, star­tling, vit­ri­olic, and over­all rude com­ments about these pub­lic servants.

As an Amer­i­can, as a cit­i­zen, and as the daugh­ter of one of these peo­ple con­stantly attacked in the news and social media, I have to object.

Why are we spew­ing so much vit­riol? Why do we har­bor so much bit­ter­ness? Why are we so angry? And why do we use social media to call names, point fin­gers, and spread hostility?

Now I am not say­ing I have never done such a thing. I’m sure my words on Face­book have hurt some­one or, per­haps unwit­tingly, made some­one feel attacked. I apol­o­gize for that. It was not my inten­tion. Yet, even still, I know that words can hurt.

So, over the years, I have become even more inten­tional about not defam­ing peo­ple in this manner—whether on a per­sonal level or about a politi­cian I don’t know. For one, I do it out of respect for my dad. He is a pub­lic fig­ure and I do not want my views, my fail­ures, or my mess-ups to impact his career in any way. But I also do it because I don’t want to hurt peo­ple. Attack­ing people—even pub­lic figures—is rude. It’s defam­a­tory. It’s called “flam­ing.” And words hurt. We all know this. We were taught this before we started kindergarten.

Yet we seem to have lost sight of this impor­tant truth.

What’s so ironic about all of our pub­lic and online dis­cus­sions of these men and women is that the peo­ple who rep­re­sent us do not talk about each other like this; they do not view each other in such hate­ful ways. Sure, they have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, dif­fer­ent views, and dif­fer­ent ideas of what gov­ern­ment should do—and they fight hard and pas­sion­ately and vehe­mently for their viewpoints—but, for the most part, they get along per­son­ally. They attend par­ties and din­ners together; they attend prayer break­fasts together; they office next door to each other; they co-sponsor bills; they vaca­tion together; they col­lab­o­rate at fundrais­ing events; they even stand together on the steps of the Capitol—unified—for the world to see.

I was able to wit­ness some of this cama­raderie this sum­mer when my fam­ily spent a week in Wash­ing­ton DC. My hus­band Shane, a pul­pit min­is­ter, was selected as the guest chap­lain for one of these days and he got to go down on the House floor to lead the open­ing prayer. My daugh­ter, Eliz­a­beth, was able to sit on the floor watch­ing him while he led the prayer and then watch­ing her grand­fa­ther as he followed-up with a short speech. She also got to go down there another time with my dad when a vote was going on. While she was there, peo­ple from both par­ties went up to her and spoke to her kindly—about what it was like to be there and what it was like to have “Teddy” for a grand­fa­ther. Peo­ple from both par­ties also inter­acted with my husband—joking with him, engag­ing him in con­ver­sa­tion, assist­ing him with what he needed, and just being nice. There is a level of respect these peo­ple have for each other. They real­ize what many of us don’t—passionate debate and dia­logue is pos­si­ble when we cri­tique the pol­icy rather than the per­son. Though they have dif­fer­ent opin­ions, they can still engage in pas­sion­ate debate with each other. Even though they disagree—and do so adamantly in their speeches (just look at my dad!)—there is a level of respect for each other. At their best, they are debat­ing Amer­i­can ideals; they are debat­ing what they think is best for Amer­i­cans; what is best for our world. They are not out there to get rich off Amer­i­cans or to hurt peo­ple; they are serv­ing our coun­try in the best way they know how.

Yes, these peo­ple hold par­ti­san views—they must run as part of polit­i­cal par­ties, no less. But they work together and col­lab­o­rate with each other on mul­ti­ple efforts, ini­tia­tives, bills, and com­mit­tees. Over the years, I have wit­nessed my dad—a Republican—work with Democ­rats to co-sponsor impor­tant bills. Things like this rarely get reported. And my dad does impor­tant non-partisan work—human work—work on human traf­fick­ing, sex­ual crimes against women and chil­dren, vic­tims’ rights, domes­tic vio­lence, and the envi­ron­ment. Other rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors do the same. But this stuff doesn’t get reported. It’s not flashy, sen­sa­tional, or con­tro­ver­sial enough, I guess. To use the word of my five-year-old son, it’s “boring.”

If you are a stu­dent of pol­i­tics or if you are knowl­edge­able about spe­cific issues, such as human traf­fick­ing, higher edu­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion, or the envi­ron­ment, you know that peo­ple from all par­ties work together to resolve these issues. They co-sponsor leg­is­la­tion on a reg­u­lar basis. They col­lab­o­rate in com­mit­tees. They dia­logue and debate behind closed doors. Yet, the news media tends to only pay atten­tion to and report on—dare I say—the par­ti­san stances these men and women make, mostly ones that are con­tro­ver­sial or that evoke intense emo­tion in viewers/readers. They put peo­ple on their shows to dis­cuss hot-button issues. Why not, right? Their aim is for their story to be viewed, read, and shared. For many Amer­i­cans, what “makes the news” is what we are informed about. And we are not get­ting the whole story.

These people—at least in my admit­tedly lim­ited experience—are nice, good-hearted peo­ple who care about Amer­ica and us, her peo­ple. I only know one mem­ber of Con­gress per­son­ally, but I know him really well. He serves as a good exam­ple to my point. Though he is pas­sion­ate about cer­tain sub­jects and holds views on all the issues he must vote on, he is serv­ing this coun­try in the best way he knows how. He is not greedy, power-hungry, or mean. He truly wants to serve this coun­try and make a dif­fer­ence. I would guess that most peo­ple serv­ing in gov­ern­ment want this same thing. Just because these peo­ple hold dif­fer­ent views than you does not make them bad peo­ple. We are always call­ing for bipartisanship—for some give and take from the peo­ple hold­ing office. And yet we our­selves cre­ate straw men and straw women of them. We don’t see the good these peo­ple are doing in other realms.

And fail to real­ize (or remem­ber) that these peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing us are indi­vid­u­als, too. Like you, they have fam­i­lies. They have sons and daugh­ters. They have grand­chil­dren. They have par­ents. They have friends. And they have feel­ings. Name-calling has hurt since kinder­garten and it hurts as adults—no mat­ter who you are or what  posi­tion you hold.

Talk about pol­icy. Share your per­sonal sto­ries about how cer­tain laws or poli­cies are impact­ing you. But don’t enter into the flame wars that are hurt­ing our soci­ety, our men­tal health, our rela­tion­ships with each other, and indi­vid­u­als we do not know. If you have ever been flamed on Face­book, you know how much it hurts. It’s embar­rass­ing. It’s humil­i­at­ing. It’s fright­en­ing. But flam­ing says more about the peo­ple doing it than it does about the peo­ple it’s about.

Our pub­lic and pri­vate dis­course would ben­e­fit from less cru­elty, less divi­sive­ness, and more under­stand­ing, com­pas­sion, and humil­ity. More light, less darkness.

We are too angry on the Inter­net. It’s time to be nice, people.

MLKing Darkness Quote


A Poem for Canada

View from Tunnel Mountain Hike in Banff, Canada

Canada, O Canada

where moun­tains reach to the clouds
where rivers, green, rush and tum­ble
where trees are var­ied, diverse, and brave
where lakes are serene, peace­ful, calm

Canada, O Canada

where peo­ple are kind and polite
where locals come from all over the world
where vis­i­tors feel wel­come
where peo­ple learn to respect the land
where natives are still respected

Canada, O Canada

where ani­mals are “slaugh­tered kindly”
where food is thought­fully pre­pared
where meals con­sists of elk, bison, veni­son, and duck
where veg­e­tar­ian meals are rare
where restau­rants have gar­dens on site
where food is expensive

Canada, O Canada

where parks are guarded
and val­ued
and cher­ished
where ani­mals are pro­tected
and roam free
where elk and bears wan­der unin­hib­ited
where chip­munks draw near
where nature is savored
respected
treasured

Canada, O Canada

where life is lived out­doors
where you hike, bike, raft, boat, fish, kayak, ski, and canoe
where you walk in the rain
where you linger
where you smile
where you pon­der
mean­ing
and life

Canada, O Canada

where silence can be heard
where sounds can be felt
where God can be found
and remem­bered
and thanked

Canada, O Canada,
how I love thee

Thank you
for allow­ing me
to expe­ri­ence you


I’m Still Here!

My blog­ging has not been too reg­u­lar the past few weeks, but I hope to change that soon. Between my trip to Michi­gan, get­ting ter­ri­bly sick, and being home with the kids all day, I haven’t had much time to blog. Also, this week is VBS at our church (you should come if you live close!), and we are get­ting ready for our trip. I just haven’t been at my com­puter longer than a few sec­onds. But I do have many things to write; I’ve just been writ­ing them in my head.

Here are a few things I’ve been work­ing on:

  • how I made mari­nara sauce from all the fresh toma­toes in our garden.
  • my obser­va­tions about par­ents who get too angry over t-ball.
  • what it’s like to be a preacher’s wife.
  • my thoughts on being a stay-at-home-mom in the summer.
  • sev­eral reviews of books I’ve read lately.

Don’t give up on me! More to come later.


A 10-Year Anniversary Photographic Journey

Our Wedding Day_6.15.2002

Today marks the tenth anniver­sary of the day I said, “I will,” to my hus­band Shane Pey­ton Alexan­der. Since that moment, we have lived in five dif­fer­ent cities and eight dif­fer­ent homes. We have earned three advanced degrees, worked with four churches, and made many new friends. We have had three chil­dren and got­ten a dog. We have lost two grand­par­ents. Our par­ents have started new careers, or retired from old ones. We have been able to travel by our­selves almost every year, thanks to the grand­par­ents. We have had dif­fi­cult times. We have had won­der­ful times. We still love to talk about base­ball, take walks together, and laugh. We do not get to see near as many movies as we did or be by our­selves as much as we’d like, but we are happy. We are still stub­born, but we have learned to give in to each other. We are a good team (read Shane’s recent post about our mar­riage here). We are thank­ful for each other.

For today’s post, I decided to take a walk back through these 10 years by post­ing some pic­tures of us together (As the years have gone on, it was dif­fi­cult to find pic­tures of just the two of us!). I’ve included the year and the city we were liv­ing in at the time.

Wed­ding Day: June 15, 2002.
We were liv­ing in Abi­lene, Texas, when we got mar­ried, where I was fin­ish­ing up a Master’s degree in Eng­lish at ACU. Shane had just grad­u­ated with his Mas­ter of Divin­ity a few weeks prior. We got mar­ried in the Hous­ton church where I grew up. Five weeks after our wed­ding day, we were liv­ing in Louisville, Ken­tucky, and I was begin­ning my Ph.D.

Leaving the church

This was my first time to ride in a limo, which is sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing I used to want to own one when I was a young girl.

Year One (2002–2003). Louisville, KY.

Shane and Kara Poe Alexander in the snow 2012

Snow in Louisville…in November!

Shane and Kara Poe Alexander at UofL 2003

On UofL’s campus.We loved Louisville and the peo­ple we met while we were there.

Year Two (2004). Louisville, KY.

Shane and Kara Poe Alexander, 2004

This pic­ture was taken at my sis­ter Kellee’s rehearsal din­ner. We always loved excuses to come back to Texas!

Year Three (2005). Gatesville, TX.

Shane and Kara Poe Alexander, 2005

Here I am, six months preg­nant with our first child. We are on a “baby­moon” trip to San Diego with some friends from col­lege. I had fin­ished my com­pre­hen­sive exams and was writ­ing my dis­ser­ta­tion at the time.

Year Four (2006). Gatesville, TX.

Dr. Kara Poe Alexander and Family_2006

I grad­u­ated with my Ph.D in May 2006 and started work­ing at Bay­lor in August 2006. I couldn’t find a pic­ture of just me and Shane of that day, so here’s almost one-year-old Eliz­a­beth with us.

Shane and Kara Poe Alexander, 2006Before I started work­ing at Bay­lor, Shane and I took a trip to see my dad in Wash­ing­ton D.C. He gave us a tour of the U.S. Capi­tol, and here we are at the very top of the rotunda, after tak­ing hun­dreds and hun­dreds of steps to get to the top. We did not feel very safe stand­ing here, and the peo­ple looked like lit­tle bugs down below. I wrote this blog post about our trip. Whew. I’m feel­ing anx­ious just remem­ber­ing the height!

Year Five (2007). Gatesville, TX.

This pic­ture was taken dur­ing our 10-day trip to Italy, our gift to our­selves for me grad­u­at­ing with my Ph.D. in 2006 and him being so sup­port­ive, flex­i­ble, and encour­ag­ing dur­ing this time.

Year Six (2008). Waco, TX.

2008_Shane and Kara Poe Alexander

This pic­ture was taken on our actual anniver­sary. Pey­ton, our sec­ond baby, was born three months prior. We went out to din­ner at a nice restau­rant in town.

Year Seven (2009). Waco, TX.

Port Aransas 2009

We like going to the beach dur­ing the sum­mer, espe­cially with the kids. I grew up going to South Padre Island every year because my grand­mother only lived 30 min­utes away. This pic­ture was taken dur­ing our trip to Port Aransas with Shane’s family.

Year Eight (2010). Mexia, TX.

At Fenway Park

Here we are in Boston at Fen­way Park. The Texas Rangers were play­ing the Red Sox the night we were there. We’ve been to four other parks together where we’ve seen the Astros (my favorite team) play (Mil­wau­kee, Cincin­nati, Arling­ton, and Hous­ton). Hope­fully, we’ll get to go to many more base­ball parks together!

Year Nine (2011). Mexia, TX.

2011_Shane and Kara Poe Alexander

Here I am eight months preg­nant with Levi and at the beach with the fam­ily. This pic­ture was taken at Galveston.

Year Ten (2012). Mexia, TX.

Kara Poe Alexander and Shane Alexander_2012

Here is the most recent pic­ture taken of us together back in March.

Here’s to many more won­der­ful years together.


Why I Chose a Bible as My Literacy Artifact

Last week I wrote about the process I went through to choose a lit­er­acy arti­fact. I was to share this object with my col­leagues at the pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment work­shop I was attend­ing at Michi­gan State. It wasHoly Bible Pink Cover to rep­re­sent some story of my lit­er­acy and edu­ca­tional jour­ney. In that post I explained the var­i­ous objects I con­sid­ered and then ulti­mately revealed the arti­fact I chose: a Bible.

In today’s post, I explain why I chose the Bible as the arti­fact that best rep­re­sents my story about lit­er­acy and edu­ca­tion. Some peo­ple may not think that the Bible would have much of a role on edu­ca­tion, learn­ing, or lit­er­acy. It’s a book, and we know books can teach, but the Bible is not con­nected to school­ing (at least not pub­lic school­ing) and it doesn’t explic­itly teach about learn­ing to read or write. How­ever, the Bible did impact my devel­op­ment as a learner, as a student.

What fol­lows is not a straight­for­ward, lin­ear nar­ra­tive about the Bible’s impact on me as a learner. I pro­vide a mere glimpse into its impact on me, a few sto­ries that con­tribute to some part of the story. The story is not a com­plete (or com­pletely accu­rate) his­tory. I do not want to share every story and expe­ri­ence; some things I still like to keep to myself. And I hon­estly can’t pin­point all of the ways the Bible has impacted my edu­ca­tion (or my life). Plus, this is my per­spec­tive; my par­ents might have a dif­fer­ent story to tell.

The Bible is the first book I remem­ber. I car­ried one to church with me. My par­ents read it to us as kids. My sib­lings and I put on drama skits for my par­ents and oth­ers who would watch in which we acted out sto­ries from the Bible. We used the Bible to plan and study and learn the sto­ries. We used the Bible as part of our weekly fam­ily devo­tion­als. When I learned to read, I began read­ing the book by myself. I con­tin­ued to read it grow­ing up. It was the cen­ter of our church ser­vices, at least metaphor­i­cally. Preach­ing, teach­ing, singing, and fel­low­ship­ping were cen­tered on this object and its mean­ing. The Bible was the lens through which I looked at life. It is a part of my lit­er­acy story like no other object is.

When I was around eight years old, my dad decided that it was time for me and my older sis­ter Kim to start read­ing the Bible every day. He bought both of us a new Bible, one of those “Read through the Bible in a Year” ones. We were excited to get new Bibles. I remem­ber the first one he got us: it was red and each day included a pas­sage from the Old Tes­ta­ment, New Tes­ta­ment, and Psalms. This Bible would allow us to read through the Bible in a year. Each day, we read the pas­sages and then signed our name when we were fin­ished. We couldn’t play out­side or watch TV until we had com­pleted our daily Bible read­ing. On some nights, my par­ents would quiz me over what I read for that day. Other times my dad would ask me ques­tions about the story to see what I knew or what I had learned. These con­ver­sa­tions often devel­oped into longer dis­cus­sions about what the pas­sage meant or how I could apply it to my life. The Bible became rel­e­vant to me.

For at least ten years of my life, I read through the Bible in one year (I did skim some days and did not always read even when I said I did; I was a kid.). I knew the Bible. I could tell you story after story after story and where that story was found and what it might even mean. I could name ran­dom peo­ple in the Bible. I knew the gen­er­a­tions of the Hebrew peo­ple. I knew para­bles and mir­a­cles and the men and women God used to tell the story. I could quote long pas­sages from the Bible. I knew a lot of mem­ory verses. I was proud of what I knew about the Bible. I gained con­fi­dence in myself because of my knowl­edge of the Bible.

The Bible became a part of me, my iden­tity. (Of course, I didn’t know what every­thing meant and didn’t know how to con­duct exe­ge­sis over a pas­sage. But I don’t think that was the point—to fig­ure it all out. I still haven’t fig­ured it all out!)

This prac­tice of daily Bible read­ing also coin­cided with another prac­tice my dad insti­tuted for me and my sis­ter Kim (and even­tu­ally my brother, too). My father decided that we needed to take notes dur­ing church. As a kid (and maybe as an adult, too), the ser­mon is the longest part of church. You had to sit there, qui­etly (this was of utmost impor­tance), “lis­ten­ing” (to words, names, and ideas you didn’t under­stand), and doing noth­ing (there was no Children’s Church or iPads or iPhones). It was the longest, most dread­ful time of the entire church ser­vice. I tried my best not to be loud, not to fid­get, and not to get taken out to get a spank­ing (this did hap­pen more times than I want to admit). I always became excited when I could tell a preacher was wrap­ping up the ser­mon. Whew. I made it!

My dad didn’t want it to be like this for us, so he came up with a plan. He had an idea for some­thing we could do dur­ing this time, some­thing use­ful and prac­ti­cal. He bought us spi­ral note­books, which we were sup­posed to bring with us to church each time, and required us to take notes over the preacher’s sermons.

This began in the third grade for me. I had to sit there each Sun­day morn­ing and Sun­day night with my pen and paper in hand and take notes over what the preacher was say­ing. I could not sit with my friends in the youth sec­tion; instead, I had to sit with my par­ents and lis­ten and take notes. What’s even cra­zier is that as soon as we got home from church, my dad checked over the notes (yes, checked them) and either approved them or not. He gave us con­struc­tive tips to improve our note­tak­ing skills and helped us to bet­ter under­stand what the preacher was say­ing that we didn’t quite get. I am going to write another post in which I give more details on this prac­tice of ser­mon note­tak­ing, but suf­fice it to say that I believe one of the rea­sons I was such a good stu­dent in high school and col­lege (and grad­u­ate school, too) was my abil­ity to take notes.

Although the Bible has been an impor­tant object in my life, my rela­tion­ship to it has changed. The object itself remains the same, but my rela­tion­ship to it has changed. I look at it dif­fer­ently. I read and under­stand pas­sages dif­fer­ently. I no longer “read it like a child”; instead, I read it under­stand­ing that I am read­ing it through a cer­tain lens, com­ing to the text with my own assump­tions, biases, and per­spec­tives. Instead of learn­ing the “right answer” (or how to find it), I have learned, instead, the impor­tance of ask­ing ques­tions. Of pon­der­ing the text, respond­ing to it, ques­tion­ing it, just like I do with other texts I read. When I strug­gled with doubt or faith, I went back to the Bible and inter­preted it dif­fer­ently. When I went through grad­u­ate school, I began to notice much more about social jus­tice, women’s rights, and com­pas­sion. I begin to see how my own per­spec­tive and beliefs impacts what I find in the Bible.

The Bible has impacted my edu­ca­tional jour­neys in pro­found ways, and it con­tin­ues to do so today. These are just a few sto­ries how. What I didn’t know back then is that one day I would marry a preacher and become a preacher’s wife. I won­der if my preacher hus­band is going to make our preacher’s kids take notes over his ser­mon. If he does, I will be the one to check them.

This is my story. Do with it what you will.

The clos­ing line of this post comes from the beau­ti­fully elo­quent (and uncon­ven­tional) CCCC talk given by Malea Pow­ell from MSU. This line was stated at least 10 dif­fer­ent times by the var­i­ous par­tic­i­pants who spoke, and it had a pro­found impact on me in terms of think­ing about story, both telling my own story and lis­ten­ing to the sto­ries of oth­ers. Isn’t that state­ment bril­liantly provoca­tive?


Reflections on Eating Vegetarian: A Week in Review

I recently embarked on a crazy jour­ney. My goal was to eat veg­e­tar­ian for one whole week. I was out of town at a pro­fes­sional Sum­mer Sem­i­nar in Rhetoric and Com­po­si­tion at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity and was able to eat five days worth of meals at a five-star cafe­te­ria (see this arti­cle for more), and the other two days in air­ports. The food in the cafe­te­ria was espe­cially good. Not what I had in The World Famous Bean at ACU back in the day (over 15 years ago–wow!). The stu­dents donned chef coats and cooked the food right in front of you. Amazing!

Many of you fol­lowed along dur­ing the jour­ney, but if you did not (or if you just want to re-visit some of the pages), you might be inter­ested to see with your eyes the vari­ety of food I ate and the many dif­fer­ent options of eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian. It isn’t all steamed cau­li­flower and roasted pep­pers (although those are good!). The pic­tures are also really pretty! I have included links to each day’s food, includ­ing ver­bal descrip­tions and visual pho­tos of what I ate at break­fast, lunch, and dinner.

Back­ground of Exper­i­ment, Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven

Phyllo and Zucchini Strudel with Summer Squash Saute

Though short, this jour­ney opened my eyes to a vari­ety of issues about food, eat­ing, meal­time, fel­low­ship, and myself. I share some of these with you in today’s post. Since it’s Tues­day, let’s just make it part of the Tues­day 12 Series.

1. Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian reduces the num­ber of food options avail­able, which sim­pli­fies the process of order­ing food.

When I go to a restau­rant, I scour the menu look­ing for some­thing to eat. I am not one who orders the same thing each time. I actu­ally order a dif­fer­ent meal each time. Even when I cook at home, I rarely make the same thing twice. I like to cook and eat a vari­ety of foods. Some­times, it takes me at least 15 min­utes to decide on some­thing to eat.

But eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian meant that I was typ­i­cally given two main meal choices along with soup, salad, and veg­gies. I didn’t even look what else was being served. I saw the veg­e­tar­ian options and decided what I wanted. It was so sim­ple. And since I’m try­ing to sim­ply my life and my mantra is becom­ing “less is more,” I think sim­pli­fi­ca­tion is a good thing.

2.    Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian does not equal healthy eating.

This may not come as a sur­prise to veg­e­tar­i­ans, but I guess it did to me. I assumed that a veg­e­tar­ian diet meant a healthy diet of fruits and veg­eta­bles and legumes. And it does. But it also includes the oh-so-yummy dairy food group of but­ter, cheese, and milk, oils (even healthy ones still are high in fat), and desserts. I do think, though, that eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian means that you can enjoy these foods more often since you aren’t eat­ing high-fat meats and maybe fewer calo­ries. Although I can’t point to any “real” data to back these points up, I can say that I didn’t gain any weight this week–even though I had more dessert than I have had in a very long time.

3.    Meat sub­sti­tutes taste good (at least most of the ones I ate).

The vegan hot dog wasn’t my favorite, but the ground meat sub­sti­tutes and the tofu were both tasty and served their respec­tive pur­poses in the dish.

4.    When you don’t eat meat, peo­ple assume you are a vegetarian.

The peo­ple at the Sem­i­nar assumed I was a veg­e­tar­ian. I never ate any meat, so, of course, I was a veg­e­tar­ian (really, this makes log­i­cal sense). But what’s inter­est­ing is that I never told any­one I was a veg­e­tar­ian. They just inferred, after look­ing at my plate, that I was a veg­e­tar­ian. My suit­e­m­ate, Karen, knew about my “exper­i­ment,” but I didn’t tell any­one else until much later in the week, and only if they asked. I found it really inter­est­ing that after the first or sec­ond day, many of these col­leagues even pointed out veg­e­tar­ian dishes that they thought tasted (or looked) good. They often directed me to a cer­tain sta­tion to make sure I tried one of the veg­e­tar­ian dishes being served there. I found this quite endearing.

I also noticed that the cafe­te­ria staff made assump­tions about me when I ordered the veg­e­tar­ian option from their sta­tion. These assump­tions weren’t bad; I just noticed it, that’s all. Veg­e­tar­i­ans are typ­i­cally a cer­tain type of per­son (more health-conscious, more environmentally-friendly, more lib­eral, etc.). I could tell this in the ques­tions they asked me and in their friendly smiles and eye con­tact. This gen­er­a­tion of col­lege stu­dents (the peo­ple work­ing the food sta­tions) seems very aware of the impact, the dif­fer­ence, one person’s per­sonal choices can have on the larger soci­ety. To me, they seem more socially aware than my gen­er­a­tion, which, I think, is a good shift.

5.    Indi­vid­u­als and restau­rants can be very accom­mo­dat­ing to veg­e­tar­i­ans, veg­ans, gluten-freers, or oth­ers with dietary food requests and restrictions.

Many restau­rants these days are con­scious of the wide vari­ety of eaters com­ing in their doors. Many now have a wide vari­ety of options for all kinds of peo­ple, and the food is quite com­pa­ra­ble. Even when we went over to one person’s house for din­ner (who is not a veg­e­tar­ian or vegan and has no known food aller­gies), she thought in advance and made vegan hot dogs, gluten-free dishes, dairy-free dips, and many other dishes that peo­ple with spe­cialty requests could eat. I find this to be extremely thoughtful.

6.    Eat­ing a veg­e­tar­ian diet can cause mas­sive prob­lems on your intestines.

Not eat­ing meat can con­sti­pate you. It hap­pened to me on Day 2 and lasted until Day 6 (Fri­day). One col­league at the con­fer­ence told me to eat more fruits, so that’s what I did. I don’t know if the relief on Fri­day was the result of eat­ing more fruits or if my body adjusted to a plant-based diet. Either way, I was thankful.

In the same vein, I did notice that bowel move­ments are not the same (If this topic grosses you out, embar­rasses you, or makes you uncom­fort­able, pro­ceed to #7. If you read on, remem­ber that YOU WERE WARNED!).  Instead of the long, S-shaped pieces of poop Dr. Oz once told Oprah were ideal, my poops were shaped like small round pel­lets. This hap­pened the entire week, every time.

One inter­est­ing benefit/side effect of not eat­ing meat is that your poop smells dif­fer­ent; it doesn’t stink quite so bad. I hadn’t really con­sid­ered this point–that not eat­ing meat would impact the smell of my poop–which is odd con­sid­er­ing I have a 9-month baby who doesn’t eat meat yet and whose dia­per does not smell near as bad as it will in a few months when we intro­duce meat into his diet. I’m won­der­ing if this rings true for any veg­e­tar­i­ans out there??

7.    Eat­ing less meat is a really good idea.

Eat­ing less meat can be good for your health, as much research on eat­ing a plant-based diet sug­gests, even if you pri­mar­ily eat low-fat meats. It can also be good for the envi­ron­ment. I’ve heard it can be more cost-effective and cheaper (Have you noticed how expen­sive meat is?). It can make you think more reflec­tively about food and eat­ing and meal­time. It can get you to change nor­mal rou­tines and be more thank­ful for what you do eat. I could go on and on here, but I firmly believe that eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian, even if it’s only once in a while–is a good idea.

8.    Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian encour­aged me to slow down, talk more, lis­ten more, and really pay atten­tion to each and every bite, to savor the fla­vor and pon­der the taste.

I was shocked to see how my eat­ing habits changed when eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian food. Granted, I was not eat­ing these meals with small chil­dren, where the words slow, savor, and pon­der don’t often show up. How­ever, I do think it was more than the fact that I was eat­ing with adults. The food I was eat­ing was on my mind the entire time. I stud­ied it. I pon­dered the food com­bi­na­tions in a dish. I ana­lyzed how I thought the dish was cooked. I ques­tioned what spice was used. I tasted the food, I mean, really tasted the food. I didn’t just eat with my eyes, but I also ate with my mouth…in a deep way that I often miss when eat­ing before. This habit could have been because I was doing an exper­i­ment about food. I’ll grant that. But even at other times, I think about food all the time–what I’ll cook, what I need from the gro­cery store, which food is the health­i­est, etc. This time, how­ever, I thought about food while I was eat­ing it. This is a new thing for me–to be con­scious of every sin­gle bite that goes in my mouth. It was a neat dis­cov­ery, and I thank this veg­e­tar­ian exper­i­ment for it.

9.    I had more energy through­out the day.

Usu­ally after lunch, I expe­ri­ence what I like to call–“the after­noon crash.” Right after lunch, I sud­denly become so sleepy that I can do noth­ing but think about get­ting in bed and going to sleep. This feel­ing of exhaus­tion is over­whelm­ing. If I am home, I may go take a nap. If not, I just try to make it through the next cou­ple of hours. Either way, this sen­sa­tion comes almost every day (depend­ing on what I ate at lunch).

Inter­est­ingly, I did not expe­ri­ence “the after­noon crash” one time dur­ing the entire week, even though we went imme­di­ately back into the Sem­i­nar for another half day of work. I didn’t get sleepy. I didn’t get tired. I was able to concentrate.

What’s more is that after the Sem­i­nar ended for the day, between 5:15 and 5:30, I exer­cised. I either went to the gym or jogged around cam­pus (all but one of these days when we went over to a colleague’s house for din­ner one evening). One might think I would have wanted to lie in bed and read or just rest (this was actu­ally my plan), but I had more than enough energy to work out for well over 45 min­utes each day I was there. THIS IS HUGE. And it felt great. My energy level was amaz­ing, and this alone is mak­ing me con­sider being a veg­e­tar­ian, at least for break­fast and lunch.

10.   I slept bet­ter at night.

I am a per­son who gets up at least twice a night to go to the bath­room. Dur­ing my time eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian, I did not get up ONE SINGLE TIME to use the bath­room. I drank just as much and drank it just as late. But I never had to go dur­ing the mid­dle of the night. I don’t know if it’s con­nected or not, but it was an obser­va­tion so I put this here. I have decided that I prob­a­bly still needed to go (I had to go badly when I woke up in the morn­ing), but I was sleep­ing bet­ter and was not awak­ened by the need to go. I’m inter­ested to hear from oth­ers: Does this ring true to your experiences?

11.   I felt full and was always sat­is­fied after fin­ish­ing a meal.

Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian can be quite fill­ing. You’re not just eat­ing “rab­bit food.” Rather, the meals were sat­is­fy­ing and delight­ful. And because I ate slower, I was full faster, often­times, before I had even fin­ished my plate. It’s inter­est­ing how all this works together. I even noticed that I was focus­ing on what I could eat, rather than what I couldn’t eat. I didn’t even glance at the meat dishes served. I didn’t even miss them–in looks and desire or in taste.

12.   Eat­ing veg­e­tar­i­an­ism brought me closer to God, the cre­ator of all things.

I have been taught my whole life that, “in the begin­ning,” humans and ani­mals were veg­e­tar­i­ans (Gen­e­sis 1:29–30). Even though meat was avail­able, only a plant-based diet was ordained by God. It wasn’t until the flood that God told peo­ple they could eat meat (Gen­e­sis 9:1–3).

This week reminded me that God is the cre­ator of all food, meat, grains, fruit, veg­eta­bles, and other won­der­ful del­i­ca­cies. And I thank God for all the food sup­plied to me. As an Amer­i­can, I rec­og­nized how blessed (some would say cursed) I am (we are) to even have the choice to do some­thing like this. Oth­ers in the world–too many people–are starv­ing, lit­er­ally, and here I am able to eat with so much to choose from. I have learned that food is a gift. Eat­ing food is a a git. And being thank­ful for it should be part of our daily lives…whatever you con­sider yourself.

***

Over­all, this was an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence. I learned a lot and I’m left with even more ques­tions than with which I began this jour­ney. I hope my expe­ri­ences have shown you that it isn’t too hard to eat veg­e­tar­ian once in a while. Even if you would never eat veg­e­tar­ian for an entire week, I do encour­age you to chal­lenge your­self for one meal, prob­a­bly din­ner. I think it’s worth it. Maybe it will make you appre­ci­ate where you food comes from. Maybe you already appre­ci­ate that. Per­haps you want to see how it impacts your bud­get, or what a com­plete veg­e­tar­ian meal tastes like. Or maybe you just want to pull an April Fool’s Joke on your loved one. Going veg­e­tar­ian just might be for you.

If you’re inter­ested in this topic or in try­ing it out for your­self (even one day a week), check out these sources for more information:

***

One final note, this exper­i­ment did not involve me cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian food, which would be a dif­fer­ent thing entirely. I am so used to cook­ing food with meat, and I have become quite good at it, and cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian “main” meals seems like it would be a chal­lenge. Although I cook veg­eta­bles with almost every meal, they are the “side,” the appendage to the meal, the part that my hus­band could do with­out. It seems to me that cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian would take this chal­lenge to the next level. Maybe that’s what’s next.

Here are some ques­tions I’m con­sid­er­ing now:

  • What would “going veg­e­tar­ian” look like if I actu­ally had to cook all the food? How would the food taste? How would I feel prepar­ing it? What would the food taste like? Would I like it? Is it more dif­fi­cult to pre­pare veg­e­tar­ian foods?
  • How does eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian impact a food budget?
  • How does eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian impact my chil­dren? Would they go for it? Would they express “not feel­ing full” or “still being hun­gry”? How does one move a fam­ily toward a veg­e­tar­ian diet?
  • What would my church fam­ily say if I brought a veg­e­tar­ian dish to the weekly potluck, espe­cially some­thing more “exotic,” like edamame, lentils, and quinoa (yes, these are exotic around here)? Would any­one but me even try it?

***

Thanks for jour­ney­ing with me. As always, I love hear­ing from you (even if you disagree—just be con­struc­tive, not rude, demean­ing, or mean).

What is your response to this exper­i­ment? Would you ever try to eat veg­e­tar­ian? Why or why not? What are you favorite veg­e­tar­ian recipes? What is some­thing you have learned about eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian? What have you noticed? What resources (doc­u­men­taries, movies, books, cook­books, etc.) do you rec­om­mend that I (or my read­ers) take a look at? What assump­tions do you have about veg­e­tar­i­ans?


Vegetarian Experiment, Day 7

I returned home from my week away with more than I had bar­gained for…a sore throat, cough, runny nose, and fever. This meant one more day of “daddy duty” for a man who had spent all week with the kids and was ready for a break and who has very busy (and tir­ing) Sun­days as a min­is­ter. Though I was home, I was no help. I lit­er­ally slept from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm on Sunday…and then on and off for the rest of the day. I went to the doc­tor today and found out I have a sinus infec­tion. I got a steroid shot and a zpak. I hope I can get over this soon. One of my friends com­mented that my sick­ness was a result of not eat­ing meat for a week, which I thought was quite funny.

Below are the meals I ate on Sat­ur­day, 2 in the air­port and 1 at home. The one at home was made my a thought­ful hus­band. Almost all of it was veg­e­tar­ian, except for the bacon, which was wrapped around a stuffed fig (deli­cious!). I know. Tech­ni­cally, I didn’t go for the full 7 days; it was 6 and 2/3 days. But, it wasn’t that much meat, and I didn’t really have a choice since my sweet hus­band had made me such a sweet meal. (The kids even ate it too!).

I will reflect on this exper­i­ment later in the week when I am feel­ing better.

Break­fast

Bagel with Cream Cheese

Burned Bagel with Cream Cheese, burnt

Lunch

Cap­rese Baguette Sand­wich (Moz­zarella, Tomato, Basil, and Bal­samic Glaze on a Baguette)

Caprese Sandwich

Din­ner

Here’s the fab­u­lous din­ner that was wait­ing for me when I got home. I have a very sweet husband.

Cucum­ber, Tomato, and Onion Salad with Bal­samic Vine­gar Dress­ing (the cucum­bers and toma­toes came from our garden!)

Rolled Zuc­chini with Goat Cheese Filling

Bacon (the meat!)-Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Zucchini Wrapped, Bacon-Wrapped Figs, and a Salad

Din­ner

And here is my new friend, Karen from Rhode Island, who put up with me at every. sin­gle. meal. while I took all these pic­tures of my food and took so long to get started eat­ing! We were suit­e­m­ates attend­ing the same con­fer­ence and we shared a really gross bath­room (wel­come to dorm life!). I’m so glad to have got­ten to know her! It made the week much more pleas­ant Here’s to you, Karen!

My friend Karen


Vegetarian Experiment, Day 6

Today was the last day eat­ing in one of the cafeteria’s here on MSU’s cam­pus. I will def­i­nitely miss this place. The stu­dent work­ers were polite, kind, and help­ful. They even cooked the food right there while we waited. And we could see them make it. This is a dif­fer­ent kind of cafe­te­ria than I had in college…and even that I have at Bay­lor, even though the ones at Bay­lor are good, too.

Here is what I ate today:

Break­fast

Egg and Cheese Crois­sant Sandwich

Egg Sandwich

 

Lunch

Hum­mus and Tab­bouleh and a Side Salad

 

Veg­etable Lasagna with Cau­li­flower Gratin

I didn’t like the veg­etable lasagna. It had some sort of sweet sauce that I didn’t like, so I didn’t end up eat­ing very much of it.

Vegetable Lasagna2

In fact, because I didn’t eat much of the lasagna, I went back for sec­onds of the cau­li­flower gratin. It was cooked with golden raisins, capers, cheese, and bread crumbs and topped with finely diced pars­ley. It was very, very good. I never would have put these ingre­di­ents together into one dish.

Roasted Cauliflower

Tur­tle Brownie (yum!)

Turtle Brownie

 

Din­ner

Cap­rese Salad with Warmed Pita Bread

Caprese Salad

I’ve had cap­rese salad before, but only on top of a tomato (decon­structed, I think). This one with let­tuce was really good. And the warmed pita bread had a nice crunch to it. I will def­i­nitely make a salad like this at home. There’s noth­ing like basil, bal­samic vine­gar, moz­zarella, and tomatoes.

Veg­e­tar­ian Sloppy Joe with Steamed Green Beans

The sloppy joe was made with tofu and veg­eta­bles. It was pretty good. It was the clos­est thing to meat I had all week. It felt like I was eat­ing meat because of the tex­ture, but I cog­ni­tively knew it wasn’t meat. It was a weird expe­ri­ence. But it was good.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Tur­tle Brownie (Take 2)

Turtle Brownie

I end my week at MSU by eat­ing dessert twice today, the same thing I had for lunch. Moist, choco­latey, crunchy, and gooey. What’s not to like?

One more day of eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian and my exper­i­ment will be over. It’s given me a lot to think about.