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

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
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.


Bagel with Cream Cheese

Burned Bagel with Cream Cheese, burnt


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

Caprese Sandwich


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


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:


Egg and Cheese Croissant Sandwich

Egg Sandwich



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



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.