The Easiest Way To Celebrate Earth Day

By Jillian Lankford

Earth Day is a National Day of Observance that has been celebrated every April 22nd since 1970. The day marks the anniversary of a movement that promoted environmental awareness in America. It has since become a global movement for climate change, regenerative agriculture, reforestation, global species decline and much more.

Other popular seasonal events Americans love to celebrate like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Halloween are historically known as money making holidays. In 2021, Americans spent a record breaking 10 billion dollars on Halloween. In 2022, 24 billion dollars was spent in preparation for Valentine’s Day. And while only 9.2% of the population in America claim to have Irish ancestry, the average American still spent $42.33 on St. Patrick’s Day in 2022. Earth Day has no statistics on the average dollar spent to celebrate the occasion though some argue it may cost trillions of dollars to save our planet, which puts our spending into perspective. There are no costumes you need to wear, or specialty feasts you need to spend hours cooking. Which makes this day one of the easiest, and cost effective, seasonal events to celebrate.

Earth Day is not a day the masses are drawn to celebrate. It does not have a mascot, or any religious symbolism. It has no special peanut butter cup shape or significant candy. (Although I really think Skittles is missing the gold pot at the end of the rainbow on this one.) It does not have a high marketing return on advertising dollars spent. And furniture outlets, department stores, and car dealerships do not advertise special days of savings every year on April 22nd. Yet it still stands as a day worth celebrating for many reasons outside of splurging.

The easiest way to celebrate Earth Day is to pick up trash. It is just that simple.

Earth Day 2021 Dearborn, Michigan

This celebration is 100% inclusive to all genders, races, ethnicities, and marital and economic status. You can live anywhere in the world and find trash to pick up. There’s literally a ton of plastic garbage for every person on Earth – The Washington Post. This is what makes Earth Day one of the best days to celebrate. It doesn’t cost a thing. This is the most inexpensive party you’ll ever throw. Gather your family and friends, go for a walk or to your favorite greenspace, town, or beach and have at it.

Picking up trash may be inconvenient. It might even be messy or gross but isn’t life full of inconvenience? Haven’t we become prepared for the worst since the start of the pandemic? We are practically walking inconveniences to each other and the earth. Human activity ceasing during the first months of the pandemic reduced air pollution, carbon emissions, and even noise pollution. We are literally an inconvenience to the earth. Luckily the pandemic also taught us to carry enough hand sanitizer to clean the Statue of Liberty so if your hands have to get dirty celebrating Earth Day, so be it.

How a Year of Pandemic Has Taught Us to Go Greener (

Egg carton nature treasure containers inspired by Tinkergarten outdoor play classes.

You can even skip the cute Earth Day artwork made from recycled goods and teach the kids something more valuable. Heck, you don’t even have to have children to teach this lesson. You simply have to be human. Consider it a way of paying it forward. Similar to the benefits of wearing a smile. When people see you do it, they will want to do it too. Just like smiling, others may wonder at first, they may question why, they might tell a few jokes at your expense, nevertheless they will want it. A genuine smile is hard to get rid of. Just like a genuine care doesn’t fade away.

Go pick up that trash! Make the permanent change. Influence others around you to clean up our planet.

But why, you ask.

The benefits of teaching children and others you know to care for the earth will benefit us all in the long run. If you haven’t noticed our life expectancy is longer than it used to be. Just like you save for retirement, invest in cleaning up our planet so you can enjoy your retirements when it comes. In fact, this year’s Earth Day theme is INVEST IN OUR PLANET.

“This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, and our livelihoods.

For Earth Day 2022, we need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet.”

Earth Day 2022 | Invest in Our Planet™

Think of it this way, if your favorite shirt gets stained, you work to remove the stain. If your granny falls down and scrapes her knee, you help her up and give her a band-aid. If you want to continue to enjoy the only planet you have to live on, you’ll do your part to keep it thriving.

Be an Earth Day Superhero and pick up some trash!

Earth Day Superheroes.

Celebrate Earth Day with these tips for helping our environment.
Earth Day (

Check out these more challenging ways to celebrate Earth Day: (click for resources)

My Family’s Visit to The African American History Museum Should Be Your Reason To Go

By Jillian Lankford

Welcome to Black History Month. I’ve been contemplating the best way to share my most recent adventure with my littles as we have begun to immerse ourselves in black history. Not just for the month but more regularly throughout their little lives.

My sons are three and four years old. It may seem like a young age to teach about oppression and racism but it is a part of our DNA. They may not look it, but my boys are part black. They have a biracial momma and a white dad. I was raised on America’s One-Drop rule, in that if one-drop of “black blood” is in your genetic make-up, you must categorize yourself as black. Not a big deal, unless you don’t fit in, read: Resolving My Childhood Identity Issues 25 Years Later: Welcome Halfie. I have been criticized for educating my children on where their skin color comes from.

“They are little white boys, they can’t go around telling people they’re black.”

That statement alone negates who I am as their mother. A biracial woman. Both black and white. Long story short, they will know about all of their ancestors. And regardless if America considers them black, or sees their family is black, or they have black friends or enemies; understanding African American history is a part of American history and their very own.

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit has been on my list of places to visit with my sons. My memories of visiting the museum in my adolescence, on school field trips, left meaningful impressions. We were joined by my brother and his ten year old son that day. We first glamoured at the King Tutankhamun exhibit of Egypt’s 18th century dynasty in awe of the shiny gold artifacts and video lecture on mummification. And enjoyed a series on the Red Tails that introduced us to America’s first black military pilots and the history of black men in the armed forces.

The main exhibit called “And Still We Rise” provides an immersive walk through African American history. Maps, photographs, and mannequins of black men and women tell a story of the origin of African Americanism through a detailed chronological journey from it’s birth place of Africa. On my recent family trip, the most profound part of the exhibit was walking through the slave ship.

Like toddlers do, my boys breeze pass the literature and one dimensional presentations and are immediately drawn to 3D interpretations of history. The first to catch the eye of my oldest (for more than his normal 45 second window of interest) was the branding of slaves. He sees a black mannequin in chains, on his knees, being held in place by a white crewman with a threatening face and a steel poker in his hand. An audio speaker echoes the sound of the slave screaming “it burns”.

“What burns momma?”, my son asks. I explain how these black slaves were either stolen or sold from their home and placed on this ship to be brought to America. In order to keep track of the many men and women taken from their land, slave owners and crewmen had to burn them with a hot iron to identify them as property, or even punish them if they misbehaved on the trip.

“Did it hurt?”, he asks.

“Yes”, I said.

“That’s not nice.”

We continue through the exhibit and walk down stairs into the dark lower deck, or basement, of the ship. It’s scary, even for me. In order to get to the next part of the exhibit you have to walk through this dark and scary place. My toddlers ran. They ran past the double deck of shelves lined with black mannequins spooned together laying on their sides. No blankets, no pillows, just bodies of sad, malnourished prisoners chained in place. I walked through the exhibit and met my boys waiting under a bright light at the very end.

“I don’t want to be here”, my three year old said.

“I don’t like this”, my four year old said.

“How do you think the slaves felt?”, I ask.

My nephew responds, “like a sack of potatoes”.

Exactly. Some of my family’s ancestors were treated like nothing more than a sack of potatoes. And while this tour of a slave ship might have been a factor of a few sleep interruptions that night, the lesson was worth it. My goal was not to scare my children or spook history into them but to be impactful and provide an impactful experience so they begin to manifest a real understanding of the history in the world around them. And, most importantly, help them to start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable parts of this world and it’s history.

It is far too often I hear parents teach the simple, thoughtless message that the color of a person’s skin doesn’t matter. This may be your opinion too. Read: “I Don’t See Color”. That’s Nice, Do You See Me? It is a wonderful desire to believe that the pigment of our skin has no adversity. But it just isn’t true, it’s not real, for many of us. And that statement doesn’t go deep enough into the reality. By declaring we all are the same regardless of our skin tone erases the history of hate and discrimination blacks, American Indians, immigrants, and refugees have had to live with. We weren’t born to dislike someone because of their race, it has simply been bread into our environment. If we don’t teach our children the truth – what is real – what impact will they have on the future?

If black history isn’t in your DNA consider educating yourself first on African American History in the United States to better understand my perspective. Below are some suggested links and articles. Let my family’s visit to the African American Museum inspire you to take a journey to a better understanding of why black history matters.

Comments and critiques are always welcome!

Celebrate Black History Month with Brand New Books For Every Age

DEI in Your Child’s School

What I Hear When People Say “I Don’t See Color”

Reasons Black History Is Still Important

Racism Is Real – Systematic Racism

I Resolve to Simply Be Better This New Year

By Jillian Lankford

What’s in a resolution? And why do we make them?

Another year is over and another set of new year resolutions are quickly being contemplated. The only way we can successfully enter the new year is if we admit we will correct bad habits from the previous one. We scurry to form a list before the ball drops to have these indecencies in writing as if they weren’t already at the forefront of our thoughts and behaviors. But why? We know they’re bad habits and choices, we live with them. So why wait until the first day of a new year to do something about them? Why not set a theme for your year going forward?

I can see going into a new season without debt a beneficial way to start on the right foot. My biggest debt of the year has to be the countless times I backed out of social events and special occasions because of my Covid paranoia. With the start of preschool, new germs, new variants, and another year in a “new normal” those debts will, unfortunately, go unpaid. However, they will not follow me into the new year because they will not be apart of my new season. I will also, not resolve to let this paranoia keep me from being present at future gatherings because I can’t honestly say that will be true. So I suppose I could be better at explaining myself to those I could potentially owe an explanation to in the new year. Although, how much of myself, at 35 years of age, needs to be changed or explained? Instead I can resolve to show a better side of me.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things I’d like to change about myself, but is that truly the right way to go into the new year? Highlighting our flaws and debts. Is looking at what needs to be fixed the best perspective? Probably not. At least not for me.

Make healthier choices is at the top of nearly 50% of each list of resolutions. I could narrow making healthier choices down to STOP EATING SO MUCH SUGAR. I, myself, allow the start of the Halloween season through the day after Christmas to be the period of time I over indulge in sugary treats with little to no guilt. Chocolate covered mini candy bars, pumpkin pie, and decorated Christmas sugar cookies to be exact. I know once December 26th hits my appetite for all things sugary will be exhausted and I can detox for five days before the new year starts and I say to myself, ‘I will let go of this bad habit’.

In reality, I do so until the start of the very next Halloween. It is a cycle that new year resolutions have gifted me in my adult years. Suppose I chose to be better at understanding what draws me to this habit instead? Whether it be the need to pack on the inevitable winter pounds before my friends do, or it be how I subconsciously deal with the change of seasons, dissecting this behavior might just be a better way as opposed to changing who I am to get to those healthier choices.

Some would argue setting short term and long term goals is a sure fire way to keep successful resolutions in the new year. I set a goal to deadlift 185 lbs by the end of the year. I made it to 140 lbs. What limited me reaching this goals? Likely dedicating time to practice and being bogged down with too many other fitness goals. It could have also been the lengthy list of resolutions I tried to keep up with. I also said I would read one book a month. Man does a month go by fast!

Would it have been easier to resolve to be better at committing to a goal or to be better at seeing it through. For me, all the above and being better at knowing my limits could lead me to success. It is more rewarding to add to a list than to have an incomplete one sit at your bedside.

Making a list is always a great way to remember to get things done. Don’t stop making your list of resolutions just be honest and more thoughtful about where you are right now and where you want to be, not just in the new year.

Are short term goals more achievable? Or should goals be more progressive?

Rather than resolve to two weeks of punishment and cruelty toward yourself over this list, try setting a theme. Might it be more self compassion? Or honesty? Perhaps loyalty to yourself and others is goal that can be included in all that you strive for. Or maybe appreciation and gratitude. Can you guess what my theme is?

To simply be better.

Sounds easy but we can get off track with something so simple just like we do with that simple list of new year resolutions. Focus on questioning the moments that define your day to live your theme to the fullest.

I want to be a better mom because I know I am a good mom. I want to be better at accepting the mistakes I’ve made because those mistakes, while some may say they don’t define me, I allow them to grow on me so I can be made better from them. I want to be a better listener and a better reader. To listen to the entire conversation and be better at finishing and understanding the next book I read. Better and better as these 35 years grow.

I want to be a better leader, a better writer, a better communicator, a better wife, a better person. I want to be a better version of me. The one that I have been designed to be with the debts and flaws and failures, just better.

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12+ Non-Vegan and Vegan Recipes On the Menu for Our First Plant-Based Christmas Dinner

By Jillian Lankford

My family celebrated our first Thanksgiving as vegans last month. There were some ‘hits’ on the dinner table, and certainly some ‘misses’ we won’t be revisiting any time soon. The trickiest task however, was trying to reassure our non-vegan family members the holidays can taste just as good without a roast beast. Luckily, this Thanksgiving, and the last 7 months, I have gained enough experience through the world of vegan cooking to prep us for a decadent, plant-based Christmas feast our meat eating relatives will be talking about into the new year. Here are a few vegan recipes and non-vegan recipes I have turned plant based that will be making an appearance at our first plant-based Christmas dinner.


  1. Feta, Tomato and Basil Skewers w/ Trader Joe’s Vegan Feta Cheese

If you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s Vegan Feta cheese, stop what you are doing – after you read this article – and buy some. It is the best cheese replacement I’ve found that is an almost exact flavor profile match to the real thing. And because I love it so much I’ll be dicing this delicious briny block into cubes, sticking them in between a grape tomato and a fresh basil leaf. With a little olive oil, this easy app pairs well with the next recipe.

2. Four Ingredient Greek Yogurt Flat Bread

A mix between buttery grilled pita bead and soft naan bread. I can not find the video from Pinterest I learned this recipe from years ago but here are the four simple ingredients:

1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup Greek Yogurt

Replace the Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup vegan yogurt. I found unsweetened plain Forager Cashewmilk works best. Mix dry ingredients then fold in yogurt. Knead on a floured surface. Roll into 10 -12 balls and press into 1 – 1 1/2 in. discs by hand. Fry in vegan butter. I use Miyoko’s Creamery Hint of Salt Cultured Vegan Butter for this step.

This saucy dressing/dip is the perfect center piece to a veggie and cracker platter. I almost never have all the ingredients to recipes I find on a whim so I replaced the fresh parsley and chives with 1 Tbs of dried parsley I had on hand. We have tried several plant-based mayo replacements but always come back to the Kroger Simple Truth Plant Based Mayo because of its consistency. This recipe will not work with a liquidy mayo replacement. It is worth finding the right one and making a few batches to refrigerate for sandwiches and burgers another day.

I came across this recipe and loved the pairing of cranberry sauce and caramelized onion. The tofu marinade and savory dressing make the perfect holiday combination. But instead of making a sandwich I fold the ingredients into mini squares of flaky puff pastry and serve as an appetizer with a side of the savory sauce to dip. A pretty substantial appetizer to hold over the family while they play games or unwrap gifts.

This recipe might sound time consuming – don’t fret! Trader Joe’s has a Vegan Caramelized Onion Dip you can use in place of the savory dressing and onions. Just fold tofu and cranberry sauce into the pastry and serve the onion dip on the side – game changer and time saver!


Photo Credit: Spend with Pennies

Simply use vegan butter.

Super vegan and love the bees? Sub maple syrup or agave for honey.

Main Course

It is tough to entertain non-vegans with an average plant-based bowl of your favorite vegan mixings and call it Christmas dinner. So we told our family to bring a ham just in case they think they want to pass up these tasty meatloaf balls. What do you think will be leftover?

You can’t have a holiday dinner without the gravy and just because your vegan doesn’t mean you have to let it go. This recipe works well on steaks, chicken, roasted veggies, and those delicious mashed potatoes above. Don’t have cremini mushrooms? Use white mushrooms. No fresh herbs? Replace with 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp of dried.


This is one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes I have hung on to for years. Luckily, I have not stopped baking them since becoming a vegan. Replace egg with 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce and use vegan butter instead. I recommend Earth Balance buttery sticks. I personally cut the sugar down to 1 cup plus the small amount for dusting. You do not miss the extra 1/2 cup, I promise. These cookies are what the whole family craves.

10. The Best Pie Crust Ever (from my very own book of recipes)

I have no author for this recipe I found years ago. If you know the origin comment below!

This is my go to for anything pie crust related. To make it vegan all you have to do is use vegan butter and sub 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce for the egg. This recipe makes two pie crusts that are simply to die for. The following recipes will fill our crusts this holiday.

Only has 9 ingredients! If you don’t have brown sugar I found coconut sugar works just as well if not better.

Make this and the pumpkin pie and use just the one can of coconut milk with no leftover waste. Instead of boiling the sweet potatoes, I bake them with the skin on in the oven at 400 degrees for roughly an hour. Careful – when this pie is complete you can’t eat just one slice!

Sticking to a plant-based life style doesn’t have to be difficult around the holidays. With a little bit of browsing and taste testing every holiday can be a tasty vegan holiday too.

From my family to yours MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY Vegan NEW YEAR!

Not a vegan cookie but definitely a vegan cutie.

there is knowledge in the variety

Too Stressed to Give Thanks? Time to Refocus.

By Jillian Lankford

I’ve had a left eye twitch for the last week and a half. Could be a potassium deficiency. Could be stress or anxiety. More likely than not, it’s the latter. What is there not to stress about as the seasons change and the holidays approach for year two of the pandemic.

I miss my own friends but can’t come to find the time to sit down to find the time to schedule a date with them that won’t interfere with our safety and well being.

Before the pandemic the holidays were joyful. I loved planning gatherings and preparing feasts. Spreading kindness with surprise boxes of homemade Christmas cookies. It’s my favorite time of year for those reasons. Even during the holidays of 2020 I was able to make the best of it. I wasn’t stressed, it just is what it is. I made the best for my loved ones and me. This year is different. I am watching loved ones suffer from deteriorating mental health and families lose their faith. I have been defeated by pandemic worry, sibling indifferences, political and social dishonesty, and inflation. No amount of early Christmas decorating is changing the mood.

Can I go another cold season without a winter coat? Will the thrift store have warm boots in my toddler’s size? When is my side hustle going to contribute to the bills? Where are all these unfilled jobs people are talking about? How will we pay for Christmas? Will I ever be able to resist the comfort of sugar? Is that a new gray hair, wrinkle, and dark spot? This yoga class just isn’t long enough to center my thoughts.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been consuming worry as if it were a drive thru special. There are no cars in line so I’m served right away. Stressing myself daily trying to give enough attention to the littles. Balancing work with keeping the house clean. Managing alone time without depriving my husband. Running myself ragged without losing the good mental health I’ve worked so hard to maintain. But I’m tired and sick of trying to keep it all together in year two of the pandemic this holiday season.

I know when the seasons change and daylight savings ends, it is easy to step off track. It is also harder to get back into the routine of things with so much chaos surrounding us.

Three grocery stores in one day just to find essential foods and items. Long lines, angry consumers, sad workers. It’s depressing. Covid cases rising, children getting sick, more people dying. It’s tragic. I can’t go another year watching families suffer. I can’t go another month dipping into our savings to cover rising costs. I can’t enter another winter arguing with my toddlers to layer up before we go outside because it’s the only place I feel at peace away from home.

Then I realize I don’t have to.

Be anxious for nothing, but all things by prayer and supplications with THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known unto God. – Philippians 4:6

He shared this from Philippians saying, I think the principle here in Philippians is so so sound and trustworthy. That we would be less anxious and stressed about the things we don’t have if we were more thankful for the things/blessings that we do have. – Jonathan Locklear

This spoke to me. If you’ve lost your focus, I hope it speaks to you. I surrender all to Him.

Nothing is more valuable than the love you have in your heart right now. Nothing is more sacred than the the trust you have in your God. Nothing is more glorious than the troubles you will go through today. Because today has an end but Jesus is eternity.

The whole time I’ve been worrying I’ve just been neglecting my faith. What keeps me centered. What keeps me whole.

I can be thankful for the long lines at the grocery store because it gave me more time to make my littles laugh. I can be thankful for sibling indifferences because it proves our similar passion for family and has strengthened our personal relationships. I can be thankful for struggling to keep my depression at bay because I have the tools to control it. I can be thankful for having the means to search for the groceries we need and pay for them. If I can’t button my coat, it’s ok, what I have keeps me warm until I can find my way home.

When I took the time to let Philippians 4:6 refocus my way I found I can be thankful I have more than I deserve. The house we are growing out of, the tantrums setting me back, this twitch. This refocus. I am thankful for this stress because without it I would not know thanksgiving.

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Questions I’ve Asked Since Going Vegan & Answers

By Jillian Lankford

Should the title read “going plant-based”? Probably. I haven’t gotten rid of my leather goods just yet and my purpose for switching it up has been health and environment based, see My Week As  Vegan Part: 1.

Over the course of the last 6 months as 99.1% plant-based (the kids can not live without Simple Truth Organic boxed Macaroni and Cheese at least once a week) I found myself questioning changes in my physical and mental health. Questions I’ve googled for relentless hours to confirm my elder-millennial suspicions that plant-based living has changed everything.

Why Do I Have So Much Energy?

I’m sorry to say my relationship with caffeine has ended. We no longer need each other.

One cup of coffee is only necessary in the morning because it pairs well with sunrises, a cozy blanket, and the quiet of an early morning house.

Getting sleep is easier. My improved metabolism allows my body to settle into rest swiftly. My insides aren’t feverously digesting animal products throughout my most important sleep cycles. I wake with a child-like energy that can run nonstop. Plant-based eating is the most natural energy boost I’ve ever experienced.

Am I happier?

Sure feels like it. Seems like I have the mental bandwidth to stay focused and on top of the day to day chaos, then some. Circumstances that would normally drag me down after a while are easier to move through. I feel happy. I feel bright and shiny.

There has been a vibrant mental health improvement that has accompanied this plant based lifestyle. I have more physical and mental energy to, not just live life, but add to it. Sounds simple but it’s definitely complex; going vegan is a real mood enhancer.

Is my workout easier?

The biggest difference I noticed exercising on an animal based diet has been my level of energy. A protein packed pre-workout meal of some type of animal protein, be it whey, chicken, eggs, or beef takes longer for my body to digest. The energy used to “pump me up” took away from the energy I needed to “power through” my workout.

It’s important to note, if I fall down a vegan junk food rabbit hole, my endurance is not the same. Calories are calories. Sugar is sugar. Junk food is junk. You get what you put in.

Where is all my silverware?

Random question I know. I swear I am using more silverware. Possibly from the different layers I have to add to a burrito or bowl to get the right amount of nutrition. My silverware fills up the dish washer before any other kitchen item. Which leads me to my next question. . .

Am I using more water as a vegan?

Our previously produce packed grocery list has doubled, which means more washing. There’s more stewing and saucing. According to PETA, “one person who goes vegan can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water a year.”

It seems like I am running the faucet more and incorporating more water into recipes and dishes. National Geographic says “on average, a vegan, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet.” If we eat the plants we water first instead of watering them to feed a cow that needs water too, we are conserving natures greatest natural resource.

Is my BO more fragrant?


Could carbs really be giving me brain power?

Short answer is yes. The power of carbs compels you.

Prior to becoming a vegan family we ate relatively healthy. More of a paleo based diet with a focus on meats, nuts and legumes. We avoided heavily processed carbs and stuck to one weekly whole grain pasta dish. Now we enjoy pasta several times a week as well as a variety of home-baked breads and biscuits. Carbs give us the fuel and brain power responsible for this enhanced mental state and high energy.

Digestion isn’t a symptom taking over my body, it is a process. This new process is inflammation free. My brain has more power to think and utilize carbs in a more productive way. Some way, some how, I have more energy to think. Crazy I know, since I have two rambunctious toddlers. I thank the carbs.

Does this have protein in it?

When I first transitioned my family into a plant-based diet I immediately started with the swap method. I swapped all meats, milk, eggs, yogurt, and cheese with a imitation replacement. This was an easy way to go ‘cold turkey’. Some replacements were crowd pleasers, other others not so much. Which led me to wonder why use replacements at all?

Cheese was super tricky to let go let alone substitute. If you ask someone outside of the United States to describe our nation’s way of cooking, most would tell you “just add cheese to everything”. (Seriously look at a restaurant menu, 80% of the options include some type of cheese.) Then I realized we didn’t need it. I was adding cheese to meals for added protein. Most vegan cheese replacements have less than 1 gram.

A few weeks in we figured out what replacements weren’t going to work and honed in on whole food centered meals. No – we do not live without cheese in our home, we just choose to make it from whole foods instead.

How much coconut is too much coconut?

Another problem with using vegan replacements is an overconsumption of the good stuff. There is really only so much coconut you need. In our home we use coconut oil in place of vegetable oil and canola oil. We found that our milk and yogurt replacements, which we use multiple times a day in meals and snacks, were mostly coconut based. After feverously researching the pros and cons of overconsuming coconut specifically, we found we were inadvertently eating too much saturated fat without the benefit or getting extra protein. Sticking to whole food based meals and snacks has been a difficult adjustment but not unmanageable with proper prep and planning.

Is that vegan?

This question is complex. It can be asked in different ways with different inflection. It can be asked by people who practice a plant-based lifestyle and by those who frown upon it.

Restaurant menus are so misleading! Why are we using the vegan symbol on menu items that are not 100% vegan? That’s like saying something is nut free but made out of cashews. Our family doesn’t regularly eat out so vacationing this summer as new vegans was challenging. Some restaurants do a great job of providing vegan friendly options. Others advertise those options as vegan or plant-based but include cheese or dairy. So we were frequently asking, is that vegan? Some restaurant workers have no idea what vegan is. Much like members of our family. God bless my mother and her never-ending confusion. It’s not their fault. Even though we question, we are always willing to explain.

And why is junk food mostly vegan? Chips, so many kinds of chips, when not made with milk to make them even tastier, there is chips-galore ready for vegans to eat. Such a delicious shame.

On the other hand I have devoured meals against my will because they taste so good. Who knew flavor wouldn’t be sacrificed without butter and fatty meats? Is that vegan? Sure it and it’s delicious.

Why is going plant-based so hard to believe?

The benefits out weigh the difficulty for sure. Though it can be hard to admit that being a vegan is difficult. If you live in a food desert or in a community with limited healthy nutritional awareness, it can be hard to start, let alone maintain, a plant-based lifestyle.

Let’s face it, there is more money in meat and dairy than there is in plants, right now. You will see more advertising and marketing against the latter than you will condoning the benefits of it. It’s just the American way. America loves money.

Going against the grain has historically never really been met with open arms, look at the civil rights issues in this country. So if you believe it and you feel the change or are interested in trying it out, find resources that work for you, ask questions, and do it. Do it for yourself and forget everyone else. Let the haters hate. The environment and animals will thank you.

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  • The Easiest Way To Celebrate Earth Day

    Think of it this way, if your favorite shirt gets stained, you work to remove the stain. If your granny falls down and scrapes her knee, you help her up and give her a band-aid. If you to continue to enjoy the only planet you have to live on, you’ll do your part to keep…

  • My Family’s Visit to The African American History Museum Should Be Your Reason To Go

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Trite Stereotypes Plaguing Community in Motherhood

By Jillian Lankford

Dedicated to the Pod Squad

trite adjective (of a remark, opinion, or idea) overused and consequently of little import; lacking originality or freshness.

I have been lucky to experience motherhood under the brim of many different hats. Sporting the ‘working mom’ fedora, the ‘stay at home mom’ baseball cap, the ‘depressed mom’ hood, the ‘happy with everything mom’ beanie. Even the ‘do it all wring-leader mom’ cowboy hat. Each hat has a significant stereotype. Most of these stereotypes are outlined by tradition. Others have manifested from society’s insecurities and have been projected on to us in false advertisements. Leading moms to be under generalized and hyper specified. I ask myself, why can’t we just be moms? Why must we wage our looks and income, beliefs and privilege to be part of a motherhood community?

I have worn each of these hats and have found my needs are the same in every one of them. Two extra minutes in the shower, an uninterrupted night of sleep, an afternoon without tantrums, an extra cup of coffee, being able to leave work at work so I can enjoy my littles at home. In each hat my most desired need has always been the same; support. Look for the mom that says to herself “I can not be the only one feeling this way, I know other parents are knee deep in the chaos of parenthood and living in uncertainty, lacking confidence just as I am”. So why is fitting into a community of other moms/parents like, totally, a high school game.

Members of motherhood beware. You will be forced to rank other moms. Sizing up each other to dumb down motherhood for comfort and convenience. Desperately searching for enriching community and acceptance; unless you take a stand.

My often reserved personality has been triggered by the immature ways, I’ve noticed wearing these different hats, moms of every type have had fight to fit in. Fending off judgement and hoary traditions, and watching women from across the world stand up for change has influenced my personality to shift more into an unapologetic, no-nonsense role-model for change.

Here is what I think moms, and dads a like, should consider overlooking to build a better, more resourceful, and helpful community for the sake of our parental mental sanity and our children’s nourishment.

What We Look Like.

Short hair, frizzy hair, chin hair. Manicured, uni-brow, shaved legs. Chubby, tall, tattooed.

What we look like does not define us as mothers.

If you have dealt with discrimination, racism or classism then you might know how it feels to be excluded. For a long time a mom has been portrayed in mass media as a slim white woman in an apron standing behind a white picket fence, in front of a mansion of a house, kissing her husband good-bye, waving so-long to the kids on the school bus. In the last decade we have seen more moms in a variety colors, ages, weights, and circumstances in advertising. But advertising still doesn’t quite capture reality. In reality, most communities of moms look alike and it can be hard to fit in if you don’t share in the variety, or should I say, lack there of.

I’ve always been fascinated by the beautiful moms in church. They glow and glisten with kids attached to their legs and hips. I sit in awe intimidated by their perfect eyeliner, bouncy highlighted curls, and shining smiley faces. While I’m in the same outfit from the week before because the chaos of getting to church on time made me forget where I was in my three-week dress rotation. Nonetheless, behind those bouncy curls and eyelash extensions are remnants of stress and tears. One mom almost lost her life carrying her second child. Another mom has to live with the heart wrenching chance of losing another foster child to the system. If we can see past looks we may be able to see the souls of those who share in our walks of life. Had I not chosen to closet my insecurity and reject assumptious stereotypes, I would not know these beautiful, God fearing woman today. Their passion as mothers would not have rubbed off on me.

Your surroundings can very much decide what you may look like as a mother. It is easy to be blinded by how we are molded by the places we live and how much we inadvertently look like others in our community until we step outside of our comfort zone. Are you part of a group of moms that look alike? Have you considered inviting someone different to the group? Significant similarities we have with other moms are under appreciated and unspoken because we’ve been trained to use looks to decide who can belong in our inner circle.

The chubby mom may not have the self esteem to make eye contact with the toned and muscular mom. The white mom of the girl with straight blonde hair may find it difficult to relate to the black mom of the girl with braids. The Hispanic mom may not know how to start a conversation with the Arabic mom. But we have to start somewhere. These are some examples of the physical characteristics we have allowed to interfere with integrating our communities.

These tendencies are learned and have created a mirage of discomfort we as moms walk through unnecessarily. I am not saying we need to overlook or under consider the experiences others have had in their own skin, read Resolving My Childhood Identity Issues 25 Years Later: Welcome Halfie, but what we look like shouldn’t keep us from embracing those experiences either.

Step outside of your comfort zone and speak to the mom at drop off that doesn’t look like you. I’m sure she would appreciate a congrats that you noticed she finally got through her morning tear free.

What We Wear.

Let’s start with something all moms have thought about another mom at least once –

“How does she leave the house so put together every day?”

Outside of what Instagram feeds us and what magazines suggest to us, mothers do not have to dress a particular way to be moms.

First – the assumption. We are assuming she leaves the house every day. Second – the optimism. She looks good every time she leaves the house. Ask yourself, what does it matter? Some of us use this stereotype to knock ourselves down. Others are simply quite curious. Either way, what we wear as parents shouldn’t minimize our responsibility as mothers and fathers.

Maybe this mom had the best sleep she has experienced since becoming a mom. Maybe she needed a full face of makeup to feel herself for the first time in a long time. Maybe she threw on the only clean clothes she had and left the house in a rush, booty shorts and all. Maybe this dad is barefoot because he lost a toenail to a frozen turkey. It does not matter. It doesn’t change that he or she is a parent dealing with picky eaters and puberty all the same as the mothers and parents choosing to pass judgment.

A friend in The Pod Squad told me a local mom group held a strict dress code for play dates. Mothers should wear dresses or be ‘done up” to attend. Whether this is true or not, what a mom chooses to wear should be put through no such protocol, nor meet any type of criticism of the liking. We are wrangling attitudes, tantrums, sports, school, traffic jams, grocery shopping, birthday parties and holidays just the same as any other mom.

All the same, what children wear, or like in my house, how we let them choose to dress themselves, should have no influence on the decision to bring me into your circle.

back view of women sitting on poolside

“Who does she think she is showing up to the community pool in that swimsuit?”

Ummm . . . ready to sun bathe and swim, of course.

How Old We Are.

Good ol’ age-ism. It is not OK to ask another mom her age when you meet her for the first time at the park. How many kids she has had before 30 or how late she chose to have them doesn’t define her. Save that question for your first scheduled play date.

While knowing someone’s age may make it easier to merge interests it does not exclude any mom from the vigor of motherhood. It in fact exiles the young mothers and the old mothers from learning from each other.

I’ve had to sit and listen to coworkers criticize a subordinate for bearing a child at 45 years old. Most non-parents and parents in the discussion felt business would be better ran without her for two reasons. First, she chose to wait until 45 to have another child, so her decision making skills must be flawed. Second, she will be 45 with a newborn and will likely not have the energy to get the job done by company standards. If this is shocking to you please know these type of conversations happen more often than you think. If it isn’t, consider speaking up against ageism, especially as it relates to mothers.

At a ripe, almost, 35 years old I’ve been assumed to be the teenage babysitter to my boys and was even told I looked 25 by another mom at the park. Flattering, however, when we group moms into age ranges we are demeaning the struggle. That newly married 21 year old mom to be is having the same heartburn as that 40 year old IVF single mom to be. And they may have the same sleepless nights and agenda of milestones to look forward to when baby arrives. So it doesn’t matter how old she is, as moms we experience similar ups and downs and can learn from different ages if we choose to build range in our motherhood community.

Judging Us On How Our Children Behave.

Photo by Jillian Lankford

This is a good one. Because everyone does it. We all stare at the mom with the screaming toddler in the grocery store. A behavior well suited for a 0 – 5 year old who has been forced against their will to sit in an uncomfortable metal cart to pass by endless colors and shapes without being able to touch or smell or, by the last aisle, even ask questions on. As moms, how often do we cheer each other on when we pass through the aisles with more screaming kids than groceries in our carts? I know I do. I bow down and praise that mom then make funny faces at her kids so they give her a tenth of a second of a break from whining to they laugh and point at me.

This is also a good one when it is turned the other way. If a friend questions you on your child’s behavior, without malice or false intentions, how are you responding to it? Being an active part of a community means being able to listen and observe as much as we speak. Speaking from the heart can come off as judgmental but if we show a humble way to receive the judgment we can teach our community that it is ok to ask questions. The more questions we can ask, the more aware we will be to gracefully lead our children into broader spaces.

I have learned some truly amazing parenting skills by simply observing  and appreciating the differences each mom and family I know handles behavior. The good, the bad, the mischievous. How they choose to resolve sibling rivalry, toddlers eating woodchips or picking boogers, or better yet, deal with emotions. I have also learned to ask questions and take suggestions when I feel defeated by my own minions.

Had I judged a father on his simplistic way of correcting his child’s abrasive behavior toward other kids at the park I would have never had this conversation that enlightened me to my core. Children, toddlers especially, have intense, sporadic emotions. Their behavior cannot be assumed or planned. Their thought process and how they feel emotions is unrecognizable to adults. We assume as parents when we teach our kids the right and wrong way to behave they should get it. But their minds and bodies do not absorb these lessons like adults. Knowing this takes patience and different perspective. Sometimes, as this dad said, we have to consider what it is this child is trying to communicate. Children understand much more than we give them credit for because their actions are different from what society accepts as normal behavior. That abrasive behavior was not intended to be hurtful, it was the way this child was able communicate his feelings at that particular time.

A few weeks ago, my three year old insisted on throwing mud balls at me while we were exploring nature treasures and making mud pies. I asked him not to do that. He continued. We went back and forth until my patience ran out. I wanted to punish him so I pulled him away from the fun and sat him down. I asked why he continued to disobey. He said “remember yesterday (last year) we make snow balls and we throw at you. It was a fun day”. The logic behind mud balls is that they are very similar to snow balls. Why can we throw snow balls and not mud balls?

What We Do For Work.

What a timeworn tradition, asking one another what they do for a living? The first thing that always comes to my mind is “keep my family alive”.

“Must be nice to be a stay at home mom.” Said me never. If you’ve read Why I Hate Begin a Stay At Home Mom then you know how I feel about it. I was always quick to assume stay at home moms have the good life. They get to workout whenever they want. Bake, clean, and maintain a healthy amount of laundry. Go to all the fun kid gatherings and volunteer at school. This is such as tiny portion of the every day mundane cycle a stay a home mom has.

A working mom doesn’t have it any better. Grinding for the man or building a business from nothing takes time and commitment and a hell of a lot of patience with kids. And after the 40-50 hour grind, finding the energy and time to cook, clean, do laundry, shop and plan extracurriculars is another job in and of itself.

The grass always looks greener on the other side. Trust me I know, I am the one lurking around the corner thinking “if only I could get to the other side, life would be much easier”. Then I wake up.

What we do for a living does not change diapers. Both working parents and stay at home parents do, so lets respect that.

Being a mom isn’t meant to be easy. Enjoy your struggles for what they are worth and every moment for what it provides. Another learned lesson, bravery badge earned or special memory saved.

Just because we’re not the same doesn’t mean we don’t have similar stories

How We Earn Money.

Moms aren’t immediately blessed with a flow of cash post partum. Quite the opposite, first comes baby then comes the obnoxious hospital bills and always increasing child expenses. And if we aren’t sitting on a plentiful nest egg, trust, or six figure+ household income, money can get tight raising kids. So why do we shame other moms for using unconventional ways to pad their pockets?

I know the invites to join group after group of essential oils, children’s books, homemade clothing and home goods parties get straight up annoying but the hustle is for real. If you don’t have to worry about where you are going to find the money to buy groceries for dinner, then you are good, stay blessed my friend. But not every mom or family has it this way.

I know a few hustlers, I consider myself one and I’m sorry for sending you excessive invites to join my group, or to buy my repurposed clothes and accessories here on POSHMARK. But please, save your judgement for another day.

A good friend of mine can straight up turn trash into cash and was criticized for taking someone else’s unwanted goods to resell. As quickly as that someone threw it away, another mom judged my friend for flipping it. Little did she know it was to pay for groceries to get by for a few days.

What is the difference in taking a McDonald’s burger and selling it for an hourly wage? Or pushing a big company’s insurance policy to earn a commission? It isn’t education, most mom hustlerd I know have four year degrees and student loans. How we choose to earn as mothers should be appreciated and applauded because it ain’t easy being a present mom or dad and try to make ends meat.

Men as the traditional bread winners stress just as hard. They have been brought up to believe providing for their family’s needs is all on them. Just as company’s shame motherhood, traditional stereotypes shame fatherhood just as bad. Ain’t no shame in momma’s game but there also isn’t any in a father’s innocent truth. Some partners are putting their health and wellness on the back burner to fund their family’s success because they’ve been brought up to believe men put the food on the table, women just cook it. I’ve watched fathers live and breath only to b-line to a heart attack. If we can’t change how the world sees this right now then let’s be kind enough to embrace the different ways we each earn as women and men and support the hustle.

What We Feed Our Kids.

Photo by Jillian Lankford

In the same breath, food ain’t cheap. For the sake of all things holy can we pray in unison for grocery prices to stop rising?

Plus, who am I to judge? Dinner time with toddlers is a nightmare whether it’s from the freezer or home cooked. Sugar will be used as bribes to end tantrums for a moment of peace in most households. A kale and avocado smoothie in disguise still goes to waste from time to time in my home. I am just jealous you get to eat brownies and I don’t,

I am guilty of passing judgment here. Time and time again. Judgment in the form of a blank stares, side eyes and back handed comments. Yes, nutrition is nutrition but before we judge a mom for giving her toddler a brownie for lunch we have to exercise awareness. My knowledge of nutrition is different from yours. How I was raised to understand food is different from hers. What this family can afford isn’t the same as the nexts. Be respectful and consider all sides before you decide to exclude another mom from your community over the food she feeds her kid.

How We Teach.

Beliefs, morals, religion, politics, etc can be hard to appreciate when they differ from our own. We don’t have to accept some one else’s opinion but we should model a sense of understanding and invite opposition into our lives to better ourselves and families. Personally, I’d much rather have a group of families built by a breadth of knowledge and experience than a group that shares a sole opinion. How can we provoke thought and ignite change if we share every point of view?

I know my God and He is so good. I spread His word and His love by projecting His image through my kindness, patience and forgiveness. All three of which I desperately try to instill in my kids daily. When approached with a different perspective from another parent my feathers aren’t easily riled. Someone else’s objection to my beliefs, does not negate my values or their own.

I have a beautiful Muslim friend who by definition does not believe in my God. I have been able to learn from her spirituality to grow closure to my own Creator. Her devotion to her beliefs and how they must be represented physically, and her unbreakable commitment to routine prayer is pure inspiration.

Another friend chooses to study various religions in depth rather than align herself and family with any particular one. Her astute support for understanding the similarities in religion has taught me that spirituality is indubitably woven into our lives no matter who we are, where we live, or what we look like. Other families in the pod don’t teach religion at all.

Some of us believe in public education, some of us believe in hands on learning. I have a pod of families that teach their kids in many different ways and I have been able to pick and choose what works best for my family simply by appreciating this difference.

It may take more emotional intelligence than we have to look past the frivolous labels that define us as parents. Being willing to de-categorize our thoughts and opinions can lead to a more accepting and inclusive atmosphere of love and kindness, that we as a community, can blanket our kids in.

Thankfully I’ve learned to look past the stereotypes and have been able to build a network of parents; my support. I’ve mentioned my luck when it comes to the pod squad but it is clearly more of a blessing. We each look different, speak differently, and provide different outlooks on parenting, lifestyle, relationships, education and spirituality. Our main focus is the same, community-ing for the children and finding our own peace of mind along the way.

Building life skills at the park. Sharing book reviews and recipes. Listening, learning, and asking questions. I have opened my heart to receive what other moms and parents can offer. Not for what they look like, their salary, or beliefs, but how they can teach me to be a better person and continue to be better each day, all the time, for my children. I am fulfilled and hatless.

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My Week As A Vegan Part 2: The Physical and Mental

By Jillian Lankford

Typically when we think of vegans we think of slender, fit, nature loving, hippie type individuals. At least that’s what they have always been pictured as in the media. Now that veganism is becoming more popular you have celebrities like Lizzo and Beyoncé changing that description. There are even categories that classify what kind of vegan you are. Dietary vegans, whole-food vegans, junk-food vegans, raw-food vegans, even fruitarians. From my amateur experience this last month, I consider myself and family plant-based, whole food eaters because I just haven’t been sold on getting rid of my leather goods just yet.

What Is Veganism, and What Do Vegans Eat?

If you have read My Week As A Vegan Part 1 : The Why and The How then you may be curious about the physical changes my family and I have experienced that keeps us sticking to the plant-based lifestyle.

Here are our top 10.

1. You look good, have you lost weight?

Nope. But, who doesn’t love hearing that? I know I do. It was all I heard for the first two weeks into plant-based eating. And for real, for real, there is something different about my complexion sans animal products.

Look at my face! My complexion has changed. My skin looks brighter. My face is less puffy. My smile is wider.

Same weight, different diet.

A few years ago we celebrated my grandmother’s 95th birthday. All of her 10 children, their children and her great, and great-great grand babies flew in from around the country to celebrate. Why is this important? Well my aunt and uncle from Colorado, who I hadn’t seen in maybe a decade, hadn’t aged. They in fact looked younger and insanely healthy. They were the first vegans of the family implementing the lifestyle over 20 years ago. I didn’t put it together then but I am putting it together now – plant-based gives you life. The kind of life that shines health from your pores. I remember their glow because I have it now too.

2. No need for a colon cleanse.

Hello fiber. Adjusting to a higher fiber intake has taken my insides a bit of training. Our family nutrition has had ample amounts of fiber weaved in but nothing like the intake on a strictly plant-based diet. After a few days I adjusted to the increased gas and after a week it went away as my body became used to the new balance. My husband on the other hand had a longer stretch of gassy days but has since overcome the hourly flatulent purge. Eating plant based has super charged our insides. Our body legit can clean it self out completely, once, if not twice, a day like a well oiled machine.

“Nothing tastes as good as health feels. “

Brent Lankford

3. No weight change plus a flat stomach.

Prior to this lifestyle my weight would fluctuate daily. Every morning a different number on the scale. Now, every morning I wake up at the same weight as the morning before plus with a flat stomach. It is a new feeling. Even with intermittent fasting I felt heavy and bloated. Not waking up full, just simply fresh and empty, ready for the day is a huge mood enhancer. Brent’s weight has stayed the same as well. Neither of us were trying to gain or lose starting plant-based but I can see the benefits this diet will have in aiding weight loss and putting on muscle. Even if I find myself falling asleep binge watching television with these brownies in my lap.

4. No counting sheep.

Brent and I both agree we sleep better and more sound now. With our bodies at rest during bedtime instead of feverously working to digest the remnants of meat and dairy from dinner 4 hours earlier, we fall right asleep. And we sleep through the night with less wake ups. No indigestion or acid reflux. No heart burn, no rolling over from side to side looking for a comfortable position to accommodate our fullness.

5. We eat more.

Three meals and two snacks is no longer a requirement. We eat intuitively – when we are hungry. Dinner is still a daily family staple, a time we sit and gather. Breakfast and lunch are broken up into segments. First breakfast, second breakfast, first lunch, and afternoon snack. Our toddlers are eating more too. They just don’t stop, they have always had a good appetite the difference is, the energy they get from plant-based eating doesn’t slow them down.

This lifestyle is excellent for the snacking types like myself. Every few hours I can put something new in my mouth that tastes good, fuels my body and has no negative side effects. Mmmm, vegan.

6. Pure energy boost.

It’s go, go, go. Quiet time for our toddlers is no longer a two hour show. They rest mid-day for a little bit then are right back at it doing toddler things. Thankfully I no longer need my afternoon green tea to keep up with them until bedtime. Our bodies are processing the nutrients quicker and giving us fuel that lasts longer.

7. Endurance, Strength and Recovery

“How can you get as strong as an Ox without eating meat?

Have you ever seen an ox eat meat?”

Patrick Baboumian, The Game Changers
Photo Credit: quality_cereal “Like Father, like Son…to full depth” “

Our cardiovascular fitness has improved. For Brent, about 2 1/2 weeks into the diet, his 5K running and assault bike times drastically improved. Better than they have ever been. Almost 3 minutes cut from his run time. He has also found the ability to burn more calories in 4-minute interval sessions on the assault bike. On 10/20 intervals (10 second work-pedal fastest, 20 second rest pedal-slow to moderate) in 4 minute sessions, he normally averaged a burn of 45 calories. Now he averages 59 calories a session.

Collectively we are less sore after exercising because the onset of soreness is delayed. Which has improved our endurance as well. I can run longer without my knees giving in, and since my recovery time is less, I can put in 2 – 3 three mile runs a week on top of HIIT and yoga workouts. See: Moms Who Exercise Together, Stay Sane Together

There’s just more gas in the tank (literally and figuratively). Our limits have not yet been tested which is even more exciting. We have the strength to meet personal goals and set new, advanced expectations. Before the end of the year I hope to bring my deadlift from 110 lbs to 185 lbs to see what these plants can really do.

Sweat shadow.

“When hormones get out of balance—too much or too little are produced or something interferes with signaling pathways—it can lead to issues like diabetes, weight loss or gain, or infertility, among other problems.”

8. Is my mind clearer? Are my hormones more balanced?

Our stress, mood, and blood pressure has improved tremendously. My brain is happy. I am eating carbs again. Our brain’s main source of energy comes from complex carbs. And blueberries, we could eat a truck of blueberries in one week as a family. Blueberries have insane health benefits. Consuming more nutritious food in place of meat and dairy has enhanced our lives and my hormones (the whole family is thankful for the latter). Since switching to this lifestyle I have been more clear minded and focused. Our wellness is impacted by how our hormones perform, so eating plant-based with a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy protein, and healthy fats has been the best way for me to keep them in check.

The 3 Most Powerful Health Benefits of Blueberries

9. Fullness.

Pre plant-based we strived at the end of every meal to feel full. However, feeling full and being full are two very different things. Spoonful after spoonful feeding ourselves until our guts met satisfaction is purely mind over matter. Fullness can be reclassified as content on a plant-based diet. Every calorie is nutritious. You’re getting healthy fats, carbs and proteins straight from mother nature. There is no guessing if what of those you are consuming will keep you full. They keep you content and fueled, this is the new full.

10. Feeling good about what your eating.

You don’t have to guess if the ingredients are good for you when you are strictly eating plants. And when your body performs like a well oiled machine, you don’t have to guess if your insides match your outside glow. Traditions, cultures, and feelings are so attached to food. And it can be really hard to change those habits. Especially when what you eat is based on what is heavily marketed to you in ads, commercials, sales, and everyday life. Have you ever seen a paid advertisement for kale or tofu? Despite what you’ve been told as a kid, it is clear to see the history of information spreading has been easier to dumb it down and pass it on (hence, the food pyramid).

Will these 10 physical changes happen for you? You don’t know until you try. If I can make a personal commitment that inspires another person to also commit, maybe we can create a national movement that will positively influence change in policy and jumpstart the action needed to prioritize health and wellness in this country. You can’t knock it until you try it. How long will this last for us? Not sure’ but we are taking advantage of this and hope to share more of our plant-based lifestyle with you soon.

P.S. Part 3 is coming once I “balance my check book”. Could going vegan really you some cash?

“Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless. Add what is specifically your own.”

Bruce Lee

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My Week As A Vegan Part 1 : The Why and The How

By Jillian Lankford

Usually when you tell your friends and family you are trying something new, something that will benefit your health and the environment, they cheer you on. When my husband and I told friends and family we were going vegan horns sprouted from our foreheads, our teeth turned black and our noses grew long. We turned into hideous monsters. The ugly, smelly, googly-eyed, clown-like ones. At least that’s what I felt like I looked like staring at the faces of our friends and family when we said “mmmm, vegan”.

What was even more hilarious was each person we told responded with the exact same phrase, “I could never give up –‘insert favorite animal product here’—”. So here it is, I apologize to all the vegans I have offended with such an annoying response. Your faces aren’t grotesque, I see you now. I can give up eggs, butter, bacon, and chicken wings! Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

What is Veganism, and What Do Vegans Eat?

Frozen miscellaneous vegetable ends. Boiled with water and seasoning to make vegetable broth.

There are many reasons to go vegan. To help the environment, to save the animals, to lower the risk of heart disease, to reverse type 2 diabetes, to be a stronger, faster athlete. But what does it take for someone to fully commit? Here’s my WHY:

Over the last year I have tried persuading my carnivorous, body building husband to cut out two meaty meals a week. Feeding him and two toddler boys on inflated grocery prices and one income has become a money drainer. Plus, we need to start saving for post-puberty food funds. So we compromised: twice a month we would eat breakfast for dinner, with a side of bacon.  Needless to say, no dent was made in the monthly grocery bill.

Reasons To Go Vegan

Black and Vegan: Why So Many Black Americans are Embracing the Plant-based Life

Then one evening on the search for yet another health and wellness documentary, Netflix suggested What the Health, directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn.  I was dumfounded for an hour and a half. I sat up all night researching the documentary’s claims. And after countless hours verifying the sponsors of the information (because you can’t take anything for face value these days) and getting over the exaggerated parts – I was shook. I boycotted all animal products and spread the “news”. There is something seriously wrong with the way we eat in America and the propaganda big companies and government funding use to blind society from having an honest understanding of health and wellness is sickening. I pled with my husband, to lower (not take away) our animal product consumption because we need to do our part in saving the environment and the future of our children’s health. But I couldn’t sell it. I got tired. My responsibilities and mom-orities got in between my effort and energy. Until one night Netflix did me a solid and suggested Brent watch The Game Changers, a vegan athletes documentary, produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan and a handful of others. And boom, his mind was blown. He was shook too. It couldn’t have happened in better time, we ran out of groceries the next day thus the perfect union started, we were going to try plant-based for real, for real – at least for one week.

Armed with the truth of nutrition, endless online resources, and the support of our fabulous vegan neighbors, we went from meat eaters to plant-based eaters in just a few days. Prior to, we had a good balance of 80/20 healthy eating. Nutritious foods 80 percent of the time and the not so good for you treats 20 percent of the time. All of our meals home cooked from scratch. We order out or eat out maybe once every two months. Snacks are typically home baked goods made with natural sweeteners and almond flour to avoid over consuming refined sugars and white flour. We stay away from fast food, most prepackaged and over processed goods, juice, pop/soda, dessert and candy. My husband, the health conscious athlete, and me, the once obese, now moderately over weight, runner and HIIT addict, have navigated diet and nutrition most of our adult lives. We understand health and wellness, we know what is good for you and why, we know what isn’t worth the calories and we know what will gives us, and our boys, the best energy. Especially now. This helped make the transition to plant-based much easier than some may have it.

Imperfect Foods Vegan Croissant Toast, Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame and Avocado

Well now, how? Out of a subconscious fear of going hungry and coming up short feeding Brent’s protein addiction, I over did it on the plant focused groceries.  Nuts of all kinds, double our normal fruit and veggie haul, cans of beans and bags of whole grains overcrowded the cupboards. Then came the substitutes and alternatives. Something for milk, sour cream, butter, cheese, mayo, ranch, yogurt and all the meats. Our refrigerator and freezer was full of fresh and processed vegan friendly food. 

Using the meat alternatives was an easy way to jump into the plant-based lifestyle and still enjoy our favorite recipes. Replacing grass-fed ground beef with Impossible meat for tacos, sloppy joes and hamburgers took little to no thought. No Evil foods even has a delicious Chorizo alternative for enchilada nights. The boys don’t notice the difference. For Brent and I, flavor and taste was not sacrificed so we had no complaints.

Replacing fresh organic chicken breasts with fake chicken brands was a bit different. Brands like Tofurky and Daring offer frozen and fresh grilled or breaded chicken alternatives but they don’t taste like chicken. These were not so easy to disguise from the kids. I enjoyed them in stir-frys and wraps but Brent took a hard pass after a little bit of stomach trouble from a pho-chicken meal. I realized we didn’t need the replacement.

Beyond Meat Bratwurst and Peppers

Cooking with these alternatives can be tricky. While it looks like meat and tastes like meat, the plant based alternatives require more attention and finesse. They stick to pans when cooking even if it is non-stick or coated in oil and they don’t like cast irons. Deglazing the pan with water or broth fixes the issue and actually helps cook the ground, link, and piece varieties much better. Some weird things have happened, like a layer of runny, orange film (see picture to the left) but no alternative ever tasted bad or wasn’t as filling as an animal meat dish.

the pretty bee Light and Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Butter alternatives have been by far my favorite, who knew plant butter could taste so good? Thank you Miyokos. They even hold up in our weekly pancake and muffin batches. Pancakes and muffins are a staple in our house. They are easy to grab and go at any meal and can be made in wide varieties. Substituting applesauce for eggs has been the easiest way to stick to my own recipes. Incorporating new ingredients such as flax seed, flax meal, chia seeds and hemp seed is going to take some time. But if we are in the mood for something sweet, the internet has tons of truly delicious vegan desserts and sweet snacks.

I have yet to find a yogurt substitute that taste as good a Fage’s Greek Yogurt. Most blends have a runny consistency that I’m just not used to and the boys refuse to eat with their favorite agave and banana toppings. However, Foragers sour cream is the most delicious sour cream I have ever tasted and pairs well with any type of taco or burrito life can offer.

Speaking of burritos, lunches and snacks have become all about the wrap. Layers upon layers of veggie goodness with limited prep. Preparing a variety of options to have ready to go takes more time and fridge space but it’s worth it. The time it takes to make a burrito is less than that to scramble some eggs. Chickpeas marinated in spices and olive oil, cooked quinoa, cooked beans, sliced peppers, quick pickled onions, hummus, nut butters, homemade cheese and dressings. Wrapping is the new way to get down on lunch and, sometimes, breakfast.

Tofu Scramble, Sweet Potato Kale Bean Hash Browns, Vegan Buttermilk Biscuit

I know my way around the kitchen very well, cooking and baking has not changed with respect to going plant-based. We use our blender more often for smoothies and dressings. I have used my slow cooker less and my air fryer just the same. Starting this journey we introduced a lot of extra processed foods into our diet. Once we re-evaluated what our plates should look like at meal time, it became less necessary to fill each section with a substitute or alternative. It has been helpful to change what the meal looks like and consciously understand why we choose to eat what we do. Ultimately it’s for the energy, and what’s not the greatest energy than what is naturally grown from God’s green Earth? We have been a meat and potatoes family for a long time. With meat not at the center of our meals we have a wider variety of options. Bowls, spreads, smoothies, wraps, bakes, layers… who said breakfast, lunch or dinner has to look a certain way?

Well what about the protein? The second question friends and family have enjoyed throwing at us – “how will you get enough protein?” Now let’s stop and think about this, how much protein have you consumed today? Not how many pieces, how many grams of protein? Do you really know, are you keeping track? If you are like my husband who has memorized every nutrition label then maybe. Since aerobic and anaerobic exercise are hobbies in our home I have had to stay on top of our protein consumption. Most days, we don’t miss a beat. Plant-based protein powder, beans, peas, avocados, tofu and potatoes are easy items to incorporate into meals. And if I fall short, my handy dandy side kick Nutritional Yeast packs 3 grams of protein in one tablespoon and enhances any savory dish.

Vegetables High in Protein and How to Eat More of Them

So you may be thinking how did we try all of this in just one week, well we didn’t. We haven’t stopped. We are over 6 weeks in and have not found a reason to go back to eating animal products. In those 6 weeks we’ve been camping, to a restaurant, celebrated birthdays, hosted a barbecue with friends and have even gotten our toddlers to join with one and only exception – boxed macaroni and cheese once a week for lunch.

Bottom line is, this is easier than you think. Why you do it is up to you. How you do it is up to you. Just know, that it can be done. You might have to go to a few more grocery stores, more frequently, but is that really a reason to not put your health and wellness first? In fact the physical benefits of going plant-based seemingly outweigh the health benefits, if I may be so vain. Read more in My Week as a Vegan Part 2: The Physical and Mental.

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“I Don’t See Color”. That’s Nice, Do You See Me?

By Jillian Lankford

It is a kind thing to say. There are typically no ill feelings coming from the speaker of these words. It means you do not define people by the color of their skin. Thank you, but please see me for who I am.

Who I am can be conveyed in many ways. My character, my perseverance, my personality. My flaws, my ambition, my empathy, my work ethic. I’m a mother, a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a believer. Yet my race is the first thing most people see because it is the simplest way to lay identity. I am defined by the color of my skin whether or not you choose to see it.

Defining what race I am has always been an amusing challenge. Read Resolving My Childhood Identity Issues 25 Years Later: Welcome Halfie. My entire life I’ve received confusing looks and double takes. My dark brown curly hair, round face, dark brown eyes, and caramel skin are physical traits of many ethnicities. But my “black nose” and “white mannerisms” help people come to a conclusion quicker. For those who can’t figure out “what I am” and are bold enough to ask “what are you?”, my answer is always ‘black and white’. I am not part of a singular group. Some would argue, as I’ve been debated by my adolescent classmates, just one drop of black blood classifies me as black. And it hasn’t been since the last decade the “other” box has been listed as an option to check on forms and reviews. So threatening the accuracy of statistics has become a strong suit. I am not just white and I am not just black, I am mixed. I am an ‘other’. I am bi-racial. Please see me for that. See it from my perspective.

I am defined by the color of my skin. Not by choice. Because if I had a choice, if the world were more accepting, if America was like Shonda Rimes’ Bridgerton, I wouldn’t see color either. It’s merely by my own existence, nurtured by the paths my mother and my father have taken, the circumstances and criticisms that have paved those paths for my brothers and sisters, and the value of the experiences, good and ugly, we have gained along the way. This is how I welcome the world to view me. To see my perspective.

Prior to becoming a mother I had a fair idea of what it would entail. I am the second oldest of 5, how much harder could it be? When my first child came I felt ready for whatever motherhood was going to hand me and I did not to let my expectations drift too far from reality.

One of my biggest reality checks came from an assault on my own perspective of the stay at home mom. Much of what has influenced this blog has come from all that I have encountered since coming to terms with my current position – unemployed care taker of mini-mes. My past perception of mothers who choose to stay home to raise their children was unkind. I thought they had it so easy, living luxuriously in lounge wear, meeting for play dates, grocery shopping off of peak hours, and enjoying wine and hobbies. Boy was I wrong. Read: Why I Hate Being A Stay at Home Mom. My perspective was influenced by my inherited values but it tainted the way I understood the worth of being a stay at home mom. In turn my morals became indifferent and my beliefs changed. I have now chosen to see it clearly from another perspective.

Being disciplined in perception means that at first exposure to any situation, we’re immediately responsible for and in immediate control of the thoughts we form thereafter. It’s a level of self-accountability beyond anything we’ve been taught, and one that will avail us to experiences richer than any we’ve had.

Our perspectives are shaped by our environment, experiences, and values. Why are these key factors swiftly overlooked when we seek to identify people? Maybe the questions are too hard to ask. Maybe we are just too arrogant to consider anything different than what we know.

A friend shared with me a story difficult for him to repeat. After traveling across the state in a blizzard, tired and irritated, he stopped at a gas station for a quick pick me up. As he walked to the door he was caught off guard by a black man approaching. Before listening to what the man had to say, my, white, friend threw the door open and immediately said “I don’t have anything man.” The black man grabbed the door and said, “I’m just looking for directions”. My friend was mortified, he tells me this with tears in his eyes. He was so embarrassed by his actions he helped that man and his family find their way in the blizzard. He even asked the man for his address and wrote him for three years straight on the anniversary of the day he offended an entire race.

Maybe it is the fear of an awkward moment. Sounding under educated, indifferent, uncertain, un-woke. We undermine these types of experience that influence perspective by not seeking to understand it better. Maybe we have just been inadvertently molded to perceive people of a certain race or creed a different way?

In my career days, every year around Christmas my boss hosted a party for her immediate staff. The gathering consisted of executive staff members, a handful of mixed races in a predominately white group. This specific year she hosted the gathering in her home. At the time she had shared custody of her eldest daughter who was 9 years old. The party carried on per usual. Some of us partook in board games while others talked business and sampled everything on the buffet. A few coworkers and I played Taboo. A game where players get teammates to guess a word by providing other clues but are prohibited from using a list of the most obvious clues. My team consisted of my boss’ daughter and a male, Chaldean, co-worker. My word was ‘robber’. I provided as many clues as I could until time ran out. Neither of them guessed the word correctly. After the buzzer rang I said ‘robber’. My boss’ daughter exclaimed “black people”. Raising her hands up and dropping them quickly against the table, as if I should have known. Caught off guard my co-worker and I locked eyes with faces of shock. We both chuckled in disbelief waiting for each other to say something next. “What do you mean?”, I said. She responded, “black people are robbers.” My coworker said, “where did you learn that?” She said, “the news.”

Apparently, she is in the room when the morning and evening news runs. Whether or not race and racism has been a conversation in my boss’ home or at her daughter’s school, the impression was set at 9 years of age, in the suburbs of Detroit that ‘black people are robbers’. Is it the fault of the media or the parents? Or even us, as the onlookers and purveyors of these stereotypes? Is it fault or intolerance we must combat?

Influences on perception include past experiences, education, values, culture, preconceived notions, and present circumstances. In the end, the perception you construct becomes your reality.

That wasn’t the first time I encountered racism during my years in corporate business. My brown skinned female coworkers and I were regularly considered ‘angry women’ every time we became passionate. The leadership skills I learned from observing my white boss did not transition equally. Complimenting her tone of voice and attitude wearing my skin was not always useful. I have been asked to pull my naturally curly hair back because my white, male boss said it looked messy. Since then I realized the value of toning down my looks in certain groups. I worked for many years as a manager and supervisor to small and large groups of people from all different walks of life. I have found that I am better received with subordinates of color when my hair is curly and I speak with a bit of slang. The only way I have gotten that respect, or even eye contact, in meetings with the white bosses or white property owners is when my hair is pin-straight, I’m dressed in J. CREW prep ware, and my pronunciation is on point. These cosmetic changes became a part of who I am because I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be seen. I know I have something to offer so I’ve molded myself to fit in where I thought it mattered. When you say you don’t see color, you are denying these personal battles existed.

If being a mixed career woman sounds tough try dating in your twenties as an ‘other’. I made it harder on myself being overweight and corky; this was before body inclusion was projected on every magazine. When health and fitness became a priority and I shed the pounds, I quickly realized it didn’t matter how I manipulated statistics or the scale, being an ‘other’ has its challenges in the dating world too. Online match making was ideal in my career driven late 20’s. Again, boxes had to be checked so my identity could be categorized for browsers. Not just categories on ethnicity but income, education and religious views too. It was painstakingly obvious my first few dates were with men interested in spicying up their sex life with an ‘other’. Those were quickly abandoned. Once I reached matches with a common educational background and religious beliefs, second and third dates were well enjoyed until the race question came up. (The question itself IS NOT THE PROBLEM.) When I answered with my usual I was met with, “oh good, I thought you were Mexican”, “you don’t look black”, or “oh wow, that’s interesting, where does your family come from”. I’ve even had a man follow up with the question “why do black women have so many babies?”. WTF. It didn’t matter their level of education, somewhere in their walks of life these perceptions were created and I as an ‘other’ am targeted to receive them without prejudice.

Maybe it is easier to make racist comments to someone of a mixed race? Maybe it’s easier to hide racism as a person of mixed race?

At the work Christmas party the following year, my Chaldean coworker brought up the profound occasion from the previous year. We recited, still in faces of disbelief, the story to peers we shared a table with, two white women and one black woman. I laughed reminiscing, closing with “black people are robbers”. My black co-worker excused herself, a few minutes later she left the party. My ignorance still suffocates me to this day. I used the same astonishing words thinking the affect would be different coming out of my mouth. I chose to put my mix race above those despicable four words. What hypocrisy! If we choose not to read the room, not to see people of color, ignore their complexion by assuming it’s OK to say what we want, who are we to deserve that in return?

If race was seen more like a title of achievement we’ve earned, would there be so much discrimination? You cannot take the label of a M.D. away from a doctor. A Christian is a Christian and deserves to be seen as one. I am a mother, and God forbid anyone tell me that isn’t important because He only knows what would happen next. These titles are the preferred, indisputable way of understanding someone’s identity. They receive far more acknowledgement than race. Why do we diminish race, our own natural born uniqueness? Who we have been designed to be? Why does seeing me for the color of my skin not matter to you? Can you see the beauty of who I’ve become from it?

The labels, the fears, the stereotypes, are all embedded in American culture. They are part of the issue. If you don’t see me for who I am, or who they are, you are ignoring humanity’s struggle as a whole. And it’s not just history’s struggle but today’s struggle and the racism that still exists in this country, unwillingly, disguised or right in front of our faces.

Once I knew I was going to marry my husband, I knew a great deal of social stress was coming my way. Not from our inner circle of dear friends and family members but from the ever so devious public. A common, mostly silent, belief about marriage amongst the older generation is to marry within your race. I’ve been told by a black friend of my mother’s I needed “to get in touch with my roots” when I introduced him to my white fiancé. Other times, these racist remarks have been less dispiriting, or so I wish to believe.

Walking together through downtown Detroit where there are always a sea of colorful faces, my fiancé and I passed a large group of brown skinned men innocently gathering. I captured the attention of one of them long enough for him to stop what he was saying and provoke the others to follow what was in his eyesight. “what is that, oh she must be one of them”. My fiancé didn’t hear him. I did. The man’s eyes met mine as I rolled them to the high heavens. I said to my fiancé “you don’t even see it do you?” He turned, looked toward the group, stopped in his steps and said “what did you say?” They all laughed. I pulled my fiancé along.

I can’t imagine what my mother and father went through. I know it wasn’t easy after making the decision to be with each other. They were plagued. Demoralized. Harassed. My husband and I have it easier but it is still a battle. We have to battle against my mixed race, so please see me for it. See all brown skinned people for the color of their skin.

Life’s circumstances have illuminated my interest in representing both sides of who I am because it starts with the color of my skin and shines light on so much more. It is because my children do not share my skin tone I have been questioned if I am their mother. It is the fact that I am a mixed black woman with family that openly proclaims “defund the police”, even though I am married to a white cop. It is the fact that I must work diligently to ensure my children are not given the white privilege I always wanted nor assume any privilege they have should be taken granted for, or berated because of the color of their skin. A future for any of of us lays in the awareness we take today.

I use this essay as an open declaration to those who are willing to ask questions, be uncomfortable, and feel awkward to defeat indifference.  Be encouraged! Ask the questions. Research. Read. Listen. Open your mind. Use your heart. Let’s teach that awareness and kindness is the greatest threat to ignorance and hate.

Ignorance is on every side, in every race, in every walk of life. Using phrases like I don’t see color devalues us as humans.

Immersing yourself in someone else’s story or experiences while talking one-on-one is another great way to experience a different point of view. When you talk with other people, listen closely. Make sure to listen even if you don’t share their perspective and disagree with what they have to say.

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Learn More on this Topic:

Privilege Explained

What I Hear When Someone Says ” I Don’t See Color” by Kiara Godwin

Being Antiracist

How White People Can Hold Each Other Accountable to Stop Institutional Racism by Elly Belle

How To Talk to Your Family about Racism on Thanksgiving by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle

Racism is Real Systematic Racism Explained