Unprocessed Experiment

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I’ve been reading Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food by Megan Kimble. When she began eliminating processed foods, she was a broke graduate student living in Tucson, Arizona. Her starting premise was that food was unprocessed if she could make it in her home kitchen. She refined that premise as she learned more about the process in which our food is made and transported. It is ultimately a lot more complex. Yet it was important to her to use her few food dollars to maximum effect by buying local instead of blindly giving her money to The Man.

So much about this book appeals to me! I’m still reading it, but I am going to begin my own process of eating unprocessed foods.

I face a few limitations. I live in a small town in Oklahoma–a state that is defiantly and proudly turning a blind eye to sustainability. My options for buying food are very limited. We do have a farmer’s market, but it is out of season right now. I am further limited by a $40 a week food budget, which I am really trying to stick to, though I occasionally go a bit over. I’ll do the best I can at an employee-owned grocery store in town because I figure that less of it is going to a big corporation.

Also, my circumstances are somewhat different than Kimble’s in that I live with my fiance. I try very hard to not impose my chosen dietary restrictions on someone else. Yes, I will seek out recipes that fit the unprocessed structure, but I am not going to be able to completely eliminate fast food or eating out. I can, however, make some better decisions about what I order when I am eating out.

Why am I doing this? Health is the main reason. Over the past while, I’ve felt so sluggish and blah in my own body. This month I’ve been doing yoga more often than not, but I want to take it up a notch by working on my eating habits. Also, health-wise, I’d like to lose some weight because I’m getting married in May.

Secondarily, though, I want to do it for the same reasons that Kimble did. The way our food culture is currently set up accounts for a surprising chunk of pollution. I’m one person, so it’s a small step. But as the book points out “big stuff starts at the day-to-day.” I don’t currently have a ton of money, but I can spend my money differently. I think many people my age and younger are more attuned to economic and environmental state of things. I think more of us are willing to shop local to support our local economies and make better decisions for the environment. (Maybe not so much where I live, but elsewhere in the country, people my age are aware of these issues and willing to do their part) Small changes. But my buying power is all I can control. Maybe through writing about my experiences, I can reach someone else who will read Kimble’s book and make changes to their life, which will have a ripple effect as they reach someone else, who reaches someone else, and so on.

I’m hopeful.

Like I said, I’m still reading the book, so I’m still learning. I’m going to consult other books as well so I can become better informed. But I can still start making changes. My plan is to post a weekly update on Friday or Saturday (or, hell, maybe Sunday!) where I discuss how unprocessed eating is going–maybe share recipes–and also just generally check in on what I’ve been reading and doing and listening to.

Starting Over

I’ve been silent on here for quite a while. I didn’t have a good handle on how I wanted to use this space when I originally bought the domain, I blanked on what to say, I let myself lack focus. I’ve lacked focus in many areas of my life. I’ve spent the past few weeks evaluating and reevaluating my professional goals and coming up with a plan of action. Now it’s time to execute.

I must credit Om and the City for this post, which helped me formulate a game plan. It’s really difficult to accomplish things when you have large swaths of open time, unless you use that time intentionally. I made myself a series of insane to-do lists, but hardly ever got anything done. Om and the City talks about task-batching as a way of getting more accomplished.

I’m looking for other ways to streamline and refine so that I can productively write two days a week and productively lawyer two days a week, with Friday being a get shit done (GSD) day or a day to write if I don’t have any lingering tasks. If you have any tips or tools for productivity, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

I’ll be back with better posts in the very near future.

Scene from Thanksgiving 2018

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, but I’ve already written a summary of Thanksgiving 2018. My family celebrations are so predictable that it’s pretty easy to do. I’m not going to share the entire piece here, but I am sharing a portion. I hope you enjoy it…

 

Plates were loaded full to over-flowing.

White wine was poured.

Other refills were procured.

Everyone took a seat in the dining room.

This is the part I fear every year—that someone will suggest we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. I think it’s a bunch of crap. Everyone gives the answer you’re supposed to give. Thankful for family, friends, our freedoms, all of the advantages we have, etc. But nobody really says it with any feeling. They just say those things because they feel like they’re obligated to say them. I try to think of something witty and unexpected. But more than anything, I start praying that we don’t go around the table. We’ve blessedly skipped it the last few years.

A throat clears. “How about we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for?”

Shit. Seriously? It had been such a painless afternoon so far.

I tune out most of it, knowing it is the same boring, disingenuous crap it always is on every Thanksgiving episode of every sitcom ever made.

I stand up to get a refill before it’s my turn, to avoid having to come up with something witty or real. I take longer than it normally takes to pour a glass of wine.

I slink back to my spot at the table.

My mom turns her attention to me. “Well, Lori, we missed what you have to be thankful for.”

I pause for a moment, pretending to reflect. It dawns on me.

“I’m thankful we go around the table like this only once a year.” I hear stifled giggles from Steve’s girls and Kelly. I know I’ve achieved maximum effect. Pleased with myself, hoping I’ve killed the practice for the next few years, I turn back to my plate.

Normal conversation resumes. Praise of the various dishes that people are trying and general agreement. The food is all right. If we were to do a second round of what we’re thankful for, I’d say I was thankful for the salad and brussels sprouts I made because they were damn good.

A brief lull in the conversation inspires my dad to ask if front of everyone how my law practice is going. It’s going nowhere. He knows that. I know that. Everyone knows that. Secretly, I’m more than all right with that because I truly hate being a lawyer. More accurately, I hate the idea of being a lawyer because I’ve never actually done anything lawyerly in my practice.

“I’ve had some calls.” This is true. It’s just that none of them have actually panned out into becoming clients.

Steve saves the day with a non sequitur about college football. Bless him for rescuing me like that.

I begin plotting my next step. Not my next step in life. My next step in this family dinner. I have nothing to say to anyone, but I’m so bored. I start thinking of how I could stir the pot. I remember a conversation from several nights earlier when Sydney was talking about some provocative environmental science project her professor assigned before the break. Steve and I talk her out of it, telling her we know exactly what would happen. I decide to steal what was supposed to be her line:

“So…climate change…”

Like the Cheshire Cat, I sit back and watch the effects of my play.

 

I’ll have to check back after tomorrow and let you know whether this scene actually occurred. It really easily could. We shall see…

Happy Thanksgiving for my American friends who participate in the holiday. My favorite part–indeed the only part aside from the alcohol that I look forward to–is the Macy’s Parade. Very excited to watch that tomorrow morning.

Gratitude in November, Day 6

Today I am thankful for my voice, my vote.

I am sure if you are of voting age, you’ve already decided whether or not you are going to vote today, so I’m not going to try to convince anyone here. But I am going to tell you why voting is important to me.

I live in Oklahoma. Pretty much the reddest state there is. Unabashedly so. When I turned 18, I registered Republican. But in my first election in 2008, I voted Democrat. I have since switched my registration to align with my beliefs.

Throughout college and grad school, I met people from backgrounds and value systems drastically different from my own, I read widely, I experienced things. My worldview broadened. I learned the importance of questioning everything instead of just taking someone’s word for it. This pushed me to the left.

I feel like I got the absolute most out of my college experience, I feel like I embraced the point of college–to look at the facts before me, use my brain, and make my own evaluation of the situation. I think it would have been a waste of money and time if I came out the same person I was before going.

In the past two years I’ve become more solidly left, though I’m not just blindly, unquestioningly left. I feel like that old Buffalo Springfield song. “There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear.” Although it’s totally becoming more and more clear.

Oklahoma is basically a one-party state. All branches of the government cater to the Republican party. I know that here my vote is a protest vote. But protest has a strong and important place in American history. Without protest, without that opposition party agitating for change, I think of how many fewer rights people would have. Recent efforts to curb the rights of various groups–taking away the ability to vote, taking away the right to get married, taking away the right to choose what happens in your own body–shows why dissent is so important. If it didn’t matter, if it didn’t give the individual power, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to take away these rights.

I am voting today because it’s my voice. It’s my chance to express in a visible way my complete and utter dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. I am so grateful for that right because throughout history that voice has been denied to so many people so that they can be taken advantage of.

Gratitude in November, Days 1-5

In Novembers past I’ve posted what I’m grateful for each day in November. I haven’t done this in a few years. Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of crappy about stuff that’s going on in my life and the world in general, so I’m hoping that this will help combat that. This will run from the serious to the frivolous and everything in between. I’m starting this a little late, so I’m going to do a longer post right now to catch up.

Feel free to comment below with what you’re thankful for.

Day 1—I’m going to start off on a serious note. I’m thankful for the people in my life. I think I’ve cultivated a pretty good inner circle. I’ve got great parents who take an interest in my life and support me in what I want to do. I’ve got a wonderful grandmother who has always loved me unconditionally. I’m so lucky to have Steve in my life. He has always been so supportive and encouraging, even in the darkest throes of law school, bar prep, and figuring out what I want to do with my life. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Steve’s girls are also a pretty big part of our daily lives, even though one is at college and the other is with us every other week. I’m lucky that they’re who they are. Dating someone with kids, especially teenage girls, could have been a complete disaster. Another person in the inner circle who deserves special mention is my best gal, Kelly. We send each other memes constantly and I need that level of communication in my life—the meme says it all; there is no bullshit. I have other family and friends that are great and supportive, and I am so thankful for them as well. I am so thankful for these people for who they are and for the fodder they give me for my creative writing.

Day 2—Today I am thankful for Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, and Caitlin Moran. These were the first essayists that I read that opened up the genre for me. In college I took a couple of creative writing classes and thought that the extent of it was fiction and poetry. My department offered a creative non-fiction class and I wondered what the hell that was, but didn’t enroll. How I wish I had! Still, maybe there is something to be said for discovering the genre later. I had a terrible experience with my short fiction workshop, so I’m sure creative non-fiction would have been just as disastrous. Each of these women has produced/is producing/will produce in the future a deep and varied body of work that never ceases to astound me. I am so lucky to get to read their work. I know it has shaped me.

Day 3—I am thankful for Moleskine products. Silly, yes, but seriously! They designed my planner, my personal journal, my writing journal, the little notebook I carry in my purse at all times in case I need to take a quick note. I love the simplicity of their product. I love the feel of the paper. It’s a quality product that comes in a variety of sizes to fit my purposes. These notebooks and a pen are the primary tools for my job as a writer; I couldn’t do what I do without them.

Day 4—I am thankful for the color black. I’ve always been drawn to it. When I was younger, I’d get scolded for choosing too many black clothes when my grandma would take me shopping. It’s a rare day that my outfit doesn’t include some black article. It’s a frequent day when my outfit is entirely black. For me, it’s become a uniform: one less thing to think or worry about. It also just kind of fits my personality? I’m not a bright and cheery person and I’m not very optimistic. I’ve been known to say the dumbest, most unthinking shit ever, but on the whole I’m typically pretty quiet and contemplative, preferring to not draw attention to myself. I’m thankful for the color black for fitting all of my clothing needs.

Day 5—I’m thankful for craftsmanship, for people who create by hand. I think some of this may stem from the amount of handmade furniture I received from my papa over the years. Sure, there are imperfections in hand-crafted products, but that’s how you know it was done by hand, not machine. I appreciate the effort, knowledge, and skill. It takes effort to produce well-crafted prose. It takes effort to make homemade pasta, but it tastes so much better than the dried store-bought stuff. A Bloody Mary made from scratch tastes so much better than one from a mix. I appreciate the time put into doing things right and doing it well, as opposed to slapping something together and calling it good.

 

What are you grateful for today?

Update

A lot has been going on behind the scenes in my life. Good things, I think. Things that are going to allow me the chance to focus more on writing…if I choose to focus on writing.

I add that last part—“if I choose to focus on writing”—because I’ve read several authors’ musings about their writing careers. I’ve seen writers speak out both for and against the creative writing MFA. One common theme though is what the MFA gives you and one of the main things is that it gives you the time to write. It’s up to you whether you actually write or not.

I’m in a unique and privileged situation that gives me the time to write. I have to decide to utilize it.

Consider this my declaration—I’M GOING TO USE THE TIME GIVEN TO ME TO WRITE!

What am I going to write?

This month I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I began with one story idea, which I completely abandoned by the end of day two. I rebelled a little and picked up a beginning that I had for a completely different story and have gone from there. I have no idea whether this will be any good or not, but I’m hoping it will get me in the habit of producing daily and begin exercising my creative muscle. Truth be told, I’m drawn more toward the personal essay, so that’s where I’d like to turn next. However, I think NaNo is just too good of an opportunity to get into a daily habit of writing with a word goal.

But also, I want to blog more often. I’m going to make an effort to do that in the month of November as well. I think this will help keep my creative non-fiction muscle from deteriorating. I know it’s already the fifth (ooh! Guy Fawkes Day!) but in Novembers past, at other places, I’ve posted about something I’m thankful for each day of the month. It’s doesn’t always have to be something serious. It can actually be quite frivolous. The point is to examine what you have and to be thankful for it. So often I know I take things for granted and I really shouldn’t do that. I’m been kind of grumbly about things in my personal life and have generally been feeling kind of crappy. I hope that looking at what I’m thankful for will help break the cycle and create a better attitude. I’m going to post other things too, but I’m also going to do a daily post about something I’m thankful for.

I’m procrastinating a bit because I have to pick up my grandma in a little while, so I don’t see the point in getting going on my NaNo writing just yet. I’ll get there. Don’t worry.

Capsule Wardrobe

I have been striving for more simplicity in my life. Cut out all of the excess. Focus in on the basics. Though I work from home, I make it a point to put on “real” clothes each day, instead of just wearing yoga pants all the time. I do this because I feel like it tells my brain to take my work seriously and because I’ve discovered that I get depressed if I spend too much time in lounge clothes.

A while back, I found an article in the Washington Post how much easier life is with a capsule wardrobe. I recognize this to be true. I find myself wearing the same items time and again. Only occasionally will I pull out that one shirt or that one skirt, so why not just get rid of it? Even more interesting to me were the statistics about clothing waste in the United States. I would highly recommend reading this article if you are at all interested.

I spent the past few days researching capsule wardrobes. I finally created a master list and edited my closet almost entirely down to it. My closet could still use a bit of work. I have a few more tops and dresses than are on the list. But I got rid of the ones that I just don’t wear except once in a blue moon. I was able to donate two trash bags full of clothes, shoes, and hangers this afternoon and this was after I donated a couple of trash bags full of clothes over the summer. One of my under bed storage containers is maybe half full of summer stuff. (The other one has clothes that don’t fit, that I’m just not ready to give up on)

There are some items on this list that I need to buy. But I’m not going to just rush out and buy the first one I see. I want to buy a quality piece that will last for a while. Since these are all basics, there is no reason that an item would be out of fashion by the next year. There are even some things on this list that I don’t have that I’m really questioning getting, like a black skirt. I already have a black pencil skirt. Do I need another black skirt?

Tops

  • Black V-Neck Sweater
  • Basic T-Shirts—White, Black, Gray, Navy, Striped
  • Long Sleeved Blouse
  • White Button-Up
  • Blue Button-Up
  • White Sleeveless Blouse
  • Black Blazer
  • Blue Blazer
  • Striped Top
  • Denim Chambray Top
  • Tunic Sweater
  • Cardigans
  • Poncho
  • 2 Dressy Tops
  • 2 Dressy Tank
  • Long Sleeved Tops

Bottoms

  • Gray Trousers
  • Black Trousers
  • Navy Skirt
  • Black Skirt
  • Pencil Skirt
  • A-Line Skirt
  • Dark Wash Jeans
  • Skinny Black Pants
  • Cigarette Pants
  • Jumpsuits–Black, Blue, and Dressy
  • White Shorts
  • Denim Shorts
  • Black Shorts
  • Maxi Skirt

Dresses

  • Black Dress
  • Maxi Dress
  • Lazy Weekend Dress
  • Shirt Dress
  • Wrap Dress

Outerwear

  • Trench Coat
  • Overcoat
  • Rain Jacket
  • Safari Jacket
  • Denim Jacket

The idea is that you keep your accessories on trend. I tend to keep my accessories (scarves, purses, etc.) pretty basic and high quality as well.

Closet Pic

I feel like I can really see what’s in my closet (Steve’s stuff is in the bottom right; I didn’t touch his stuff). I know that all of my pieces go with each other. There is a unified style exhibited, instead of things being all over the map. I know that I can confidently dress for any occasion that life throws at me.

I found a blog and some articles about minimalism, so I’m beginning to process that information and will make some changes around the rest of the house. And maybe even refine my closet a bit more.