energy management, mental health, productive systems, productivity, time management

Time vs Energy: Creating a Productivity Mindset

A YouTuber that I love to watch is Rowena Tsai. I found her through Beauty Within when I was in my skin care fanatic phase a few years ago. Her videos are aesthetically pleasing to me and she seems very approachable and relatable. When I came across her channel, I figured it would be mostly about skin care. I quickly found out that her content has more to do with product management and creating healthy habits. One video of hers that I came across was titled “The One Productivity System You Need: Time vs Energy Management”. It really resonated with me when I first watched it, but as I thought of productivity and how to maximize my time I thought I would check out her video again to gain some more insights. Here’s what I learned:

Time or Energy Management?

Rowena quoted Tony Schwartz saying “It’s not how many hours you put in that determines how productive you are. It’s how much energy you’re able to invest during the hours you work” (Tony Schwartz, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working). I really sat with that idea for a moment. I think to how yesterday, I set aside time to write this blog post. But when it came down to it, I truly didn’t have the energy to do so. So though I set that time aside as my “productive” time, was I? Did it matter that I had set aside that time to write this exact post knowing I didn’t have the energy for it? In my mind, I would say no. Granted, I used that time to rest which I do beleive is “productive” and a good use of my time. However that “productive blogging” time I set aside wasn’t used for blogging simply since I didn’t have the energy for it.

Time is constricting. There are only a certain amount of hours in the day. Along with that comes the idea that time is finite and something we cannot control. Look at the flipside of that coin, energy. It’s flexible because we can renew our energy; we control replenishing our energy and sometimes choose what we know will drain our energy.

Energy Audit

Now that we know that energy is something far easier to manage than time, we must figure out when your energy levels fluctuate. Rowena has two tools or prompts to help you figure it out. One is to make a chart tracking your energy levels. On the y-axis you have the energy level and on the x-axis you have the time of day. You can look at the image below to see how I charted my day. By doing this you become aware of when you have the most or least energy.

graphing my energy levels

If that doesn’t float your rootbeer, you could do make up a habit scorecard made by James Clear. You write down every single little thing you do that day from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. At the end of the day, you put a + by what gives you energy, – by what drains your energy, and = by what doesn’t really affect your energy levels either way. When you do this keep in mind that this isn’t the end all be all of your energy levels for the rest of eternity. Your energy levels will fluctuate because you’re human (I assume; any extraterrestials leave a comment below) and humans change by nature! So it’s okay if you have a spike of energy one morning but not the next.

The next step in the process is to figure out what to do when your energy dips but you need energy to complete a task. It’s handy to have a list of tools and strategies that you know will help you get the energy that you need. For me my “energy-replenishers” are:

  • Yoga
  • A short nap
  • Eating a snack
  • Playing a little bit of Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Going for a walk (when weather allows)
  • Making a warm cup of tea
  • Journaling
  • Drawing

When you’re feeling low or that your energy levels are dipping try one of these strategies. Whichever comes naturally in that situation. A combination of them might be okay but no need to force it. Sometimes, it’s okay to just walk away from the project or task if circumstances allow! Your brain may need a break from thinking and having that “productive” switch on.

For 2021, I want to apply this energy management vs time management mentality to how I get work done without burning out. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea. Do you like to manage time or energy? You can comment below or go to the contact page to share your thoughts!

Until next time, Drew.

Community, Local, shop local, shop small, Small Business

Building Community through Small Businesses

this post contains no affiliate links and is not sponsored.

One of the main reasons I wanted to start the Drew Goes Vegan blog was to build a sense of community. I hoped to connect with other vegans, queer folx, and bipoc. One way to help build a sense of community is by shopping from small businesses. This could include not only businesses in your immediate area but also small businesses online! When you shop small you are helping fuel someone’s creative passion as well as making meaningful connections in the process. But if building a community both in your are and online doesn’t convince you to shop small, maybe the following reasons will!

1. Small businesses create more jobs

Small businesses are small but mighty forces! According to The Small Business Administration (as cited by this Our Town America article), since 1990 small businesses have added 8 million jobs to the American economy! Compare that to when large chains have expanded which actually reduced jobs by 4 million! Not only this, but consider how small businesses are helping those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Many of my friends have started small businesses not only because they wanted a creative outlet but also as a means of income when their jobs let them go due to Covid-19.

2. Small businesses give back to the community

Every time you go to a local cafe for a latte or purchase a book from your favorite local bookstore, you are indirectly giving back to your surrounding community. This is because small, local businesses pay a sales tax to the city, town, etc. that they are in! This money is used to help fund schools, roads, parks and pay public service workers in your area. Plus, according to the Civic Economics (as cited by this Five Stars article), “on average, 48% of each purchase at local independent businesses is recirculated locally, compared to less than 14% of purchases at chain stores.”

3. Small businesses are comfy!

On top of being able to build community through interacting and purchasing from small businesses, small businesses are just always cozy and inviting! Isn’t it nice to be able to go into a local shop and have the employees know your name? To be able to order from a small online shop and receive a handwritten note thanking you for the purchase? Small businesses naturally give you that personal, welcoming touch which is always needed.

Where to Find Small Businesses

How to find the Local Ones

A way that I found some small businesses in my area was from just… growing up in Madison, WI! I have lived here for my entire life (minus going away for school both in high school, a story for another time, and college). I remember my dad taking us downtown all the time. Walking around downtown, you couldn’t walk down a street that didn’t have some sort of local store! I loved going on State St and visiting the comic book stores, old record stores, poster stores, and even a hat store called the Sacred Feather (sadly, it no longer exists but it’s replaced by a local cafe that I’m interested in trying out). But, if you’re not living in the same place that you grew up in like I currently am, another way to find small businesses is to simply for a walk, a drive, a bike ride around your neighborhood. Right now it may be challenging to do that not only because of winter weather but also because of the pandemic. You can always do a Google Search or even ask a friend who lives or has lived in the same area as you do!

Here are just a few of my favorite local businesses in Madison, WI:

Madison Greenhouse Store

Crescendo

Just Veggiez

Sai Bai Thong

Dumpling Haus

Monty’s Blue Plate Diner

A Room of One’s Own

These hyperlinks will take you to the businesses Instagram page (except for Sai Bai Thong, that hyperlink goes directly to their website)!

As a caution, I would ask that you be sure to look into the small business before purchasing anything from them. Once on a bike ride, I found a small cafe that looked appealing that I had never heard of. A week or so later, I found out that this business did not align with my morals. As of late August, this business has lost its lease due to the owner’s actions and belief systems.

How to find the Online Ones

I’m sure most of you reading this has heard of Etsy. This seems to be how many people start off with a small online business. I have several friends who have started Etsy shops as a way to make money during the pandemic. Here is a list of them along with links to their Instagram pages!

Ember Fog

Mibee Illustrations

Clay Cove Creations

Designs by OHM

Dutch Knots

The Cosy Craftery

Please note that some of these Etsy shops are based internationally, so if you are in the United States like me, expect there to be higher shippings costs.

Another way is a little unconventional. Back when I had accounts on most social media platforms, I made an Animal Crossing fan Twitter account. The game was released for the Nintendo Switch practically at the start of the first lockdown, I had never played an Animal Crossing game before, and it looked cozy and cute when the world seemed to be on fire. Many people in the Animal Crossing community had small online shops to buy Animal Crossing items. There were many artists on the platform that you could commission to have them draw you and your Animal Crossing villagers, Twitter headers, even phone backgrounds! I would link some that I have used below but I don’t use Twitter anymore. Just as with local businesses, do your research on the creator and their beliefs to make sure they are morally on the up and up.

Ways to Help Small Businesses

  1. Purchase from them! That seems like the most obvious way but it’s one to remind people of regardless. Instead of buying a book from Barnes and Noble or getting a coffee from Starbucks, check out your local bookstore or coffee shop!
  2. If ordering from a restaurant in your area, try to order directly from their site! Third-party delivery apps do offer the convenience of having the food brought to you, something especially useful during this pandemic. However, often times third-party pick-up/delivery systems take up to a third of the profit from the sale.
  3. Talk about them! Go on social media, follow their accounts, share their posts, even post pictures of you with their products! No matter your follower count, that small business will appreciate you talking about them and sharing their business to more people
  4. After purchasing from the small business, leave them a review! It doesn’t have to be paragraphs long! If you like the product, be sure to tell them that. If you don’t, respectfully tell them what you think could help make the product better. The ratings you give the company helps them reach more people and also just makes the person/people behind the business feel good too!

Happy shopping small, my friends! Be sure to reach out to me if there are any small businesses I should know about and/or purchase from. You can go back to my contact page or send me a message on Instagram!

Until next time, Drew 🍓

advice, food, veganism

So… You Wanna Go Vegan??

Newbie to Newbie

So! You’ve decided to become a vegan but you’re tired of looking for expert advice? It can sometimes be intimidating to get advice from someone that has been vegan for years and years. It may make you feel a bit inferior; how am I supposed to live up to THAT expectation when I’ve only just begun this vegan journey? Well, I’m a new vegan with tips for other new vegans like you! At the time of writing this post, I have been vegan for only four months! So here are four tips from a four month vegan!

Drew’s Not-So Expert Advice!

1) Find Other Vegans!
This may be particularly hard during a global pandemic when we are meant to socially distance BUT thank God technology exists! The literal first thing I did when I decided to become vegan was make my @drew.goesvegan Instagram. Through this Instagram and a mutual friend, a met a person that was not only queer, vegan, but also lived in my area! They were able to give me tons of great tips on local vegan places to eat at as well as vegan brands to try when I went shopping! From there, I have met some really amazing people through my vegan Instagram who post amazing recipes, tips, and share the intersectionality of their vegan lifestyle with other parts of their identities (i.e being a queer vegan or being a black vegan).

2) Be Okay with Making Mistakes!
One week after I became vegan, I went through a really difficult life transition. At that time, we were allowed to travel to other cities if it was to visit family. So I went to my mom’s house about 45 minutes away and asked her to make my favorite Soul Food dishes: neckbones, greens with hamhocks, black eyed peas. Soul Food is always a source of comfort for me but many Soul Food dishes aren’t vegan. And for that time being, when I was going through that difficult time, I told myself that I could make this one exception. After that visit, I went back into my vegan lifestyle.
Since then, I have become more disciplined in sticking to my vegan lifestyle. However, there have been times were I have unknowingly had dairy products. For example, I had cauliflower tots that tasted amazing only to find out months later that they have milk and egg in them.
Mistakes will happen. One day you may knowingly eat animal products, one day it’s in a food dish that you wouldn’t have expected animal products to be in. You’re only human! Slip ups will happen and that’s okay! If you dwell too much on that slip up, it might drive you to believe that you should just quit while you’re ahead. But every effort you make to eat less animal products not only benefits your health but helps the environment as well!

3) Reframe Your Mindset!
This is actually my third attempt at the vegan lifestyle. The other two times, I thought about all the things I couldn’t eat anymore. How I would miss out on my favorite foods that are made with animal products. This time when I pursued the vegan diet, I didn’t think of what I couldn’t have but rather focus on how to find vegan substitutes for things I already loved!
There are so many more vegan options out there than you may think. One of my favorite snacks EVER is Cheez-Its. But guess what? There’s a vegan sub for that as well as many other favorite snacks! Soul Food? Found a Black owned vegan pop-up shop that occasionally offers Soul Food Sunday plates. PLUS discovering Soul Food cookbooks made by Black vegan chefs. Looking for a meat substitute? Try the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, Gardein products, or Morning Star products. I’ve heard Aldi also has their own brand of vegan meat substitutes! Need something a cheese substitute? Check out Miyoko or Daiya! If you can’t have soy, be sure to check the label on these meat and dairy substitutes as some of these products contain soy.

4) Keep It Simple!
It’s so easy to go into the vegan diet thinking you need to get all of these new kitchen gadgets, buy the most expensive and organic foods, only shopping at co-ops, going out to eat at vegan restaurants every meal. Those are the things I needed to do in order for this vegan lifestyle change to stick. But I’m a recent college graduate on a teacher’s salary. I quickly learned that I do not have the money to do all of that.
After a quick Google search of “how to be vegan on a budget”, I realized that it’s a lot easier than I thought to find foods that are vegan. Rice and beans is an easy budget friendly meal that’s completely vegan. When buying produce, only buy as much as you need for that particular recipe. That way you only end up spending like 70 cents for one medium white onion. I use a lot of oat milk in recipes, smoothies and the like and I learned how to make my own so if I run out early, I don’t have to go to the store and buy more. Tips like stocking up on staples and meal planning have really helped me stick to my grocery budget AND still be vegan! Do your own research and find out that it’s definitely possible to be vegan without totally breaking the bank.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. As I stated, I’m a new vegan too! Why don’t we help each other out! If you have any other tips that have helped you in your vegan journey, please comment them below, send me a message on Instagram, or use the Contact page to send me a message! I’m not here to impart my wisdom but rather to make this a give and take process. Sharing my experiences and wanting to hear from you.

mental health, phone use, self esteem, self identity, social media, tech

A New Relationship with Social Media

I have deleted all of my personal social media. That may be a weird sentence coming from someone who aspires to have blogging as a means of income. I mean, you use social media to interact with your audience, connect with a larger community, and spread the word about the content you make. But I was challenged through a meditation app to rethink how I use my phone.

A few weeks ago, I watched one of The Wake Up videos that the app Headspace has. In the video, an expert talked about creating a new relationship with your phone. They suggested tips such as turning your phone to gray scale so the apps on your phone don’t look as enticing or going through and putting only the apps you need on your home screen. What really hit home for me was when she asked this: which notifications do you need in real time? One thing my anxiety feeds off of is fear of missing out on anything. My anxiety tries to convince me that if I’m not constantly up to date on everything, I will miss out on something important. I’m not being a good enough friend/family member if I’m not constantly up to date on what’s happening with those I love. My first solution was to just have all of those social media notifications come after noon every day. But I quickly realized that the inundation of notifications caused me even more anxiety. “Look at all I missed out on”. “Look at all the things I have to catch up on”. “Look at all the things you failed to respond to”. This method didn’t get rid of the anxiety but rather postponed it, maybe even intensified it.

Which notifications do you need in real time?

unknown

So I decided for about two weeks I would turn off all notifications for social media. I kept the timer I put on my iPhone where I limited certain apps until noon. I realized that the only apps I needed notifications for were the app I use as an early childhood caregiver to communicate with parents, iMessage, Google Hangouts which I use to communicate with other staff members in the school, and Gmail for in case I get an email from a parent or faculty member. All of these notifications were synced up with my Apple Watch as well so if I had to set my phone down on the counter to play with the kids or do other tasks in the classroom, I could see whether it was something I needed to answer immediately or if it could wait. After noon, I would allow notifications for only other messaging apps such as Discord and WhatsApp so I can talk to friends I met through gaming and such.

Even before my social media break, I tried to establish a better nightly routine with my phone. I set that after 8:30pm, I would no longer get any notifications and that beginning at 8:45pm until I fell asleep around 10pm, I would not look at any screens. Instead, I would listen to a podcast or listen to Lo-Fi beats while reading a book. When I would wake up, I used my phone to do a meditation with the Headspace App. After that 10 minute meditation, I would either not use my phone at all as I got ready for the day or I would use it just to listen to a podcast. I challenged myself not to use my phone to answer any notifications unless it was about work or an important message from a loved one. I even had my phone set so that I would not get notifications until 6:45am which is about the time I would be at school to get the classroom ready for the day.

After these now three weeks of a social media break, I realized just how much I used my phone to compare myself to other people. I would look at how my friends interacted with other friends and how it was different with me. I would look at all these people with seemingly perfect lives and how my life looked nothing like that. Ultimately, every day I would look at social media and say “what am I doing wrong?”. It was warping my sense of self which is something I was already working on repairing. So what’s the point of keeping social media if it was aiding in distorting my sense of self and deterioating my self confidence? I used to keep telling myself that I need social media to keep up with loved ones. But I have texting for that. I can use Google Duo or FaceTime to video call them. I can send them pictures of my life and they can send me pictures of their lives. If there’s an important announcement made on social media, they can just tell me about it.

As of writing this post it has been almost a full week since I either completely deactivated my personal social media accounts or deleted the apps from my phone. The only social media I have is now my @drew.goesvegan Instagram; I didn’t use the Twitter account much so that is gone now too. I’ll be semi-active on the Instagram but still keeping notifications off for the app so that I can choose when to look at the app instead of the app giving me notifications that “demand” to be looked at right away. With customizing the iPhone home screen with shortcuts rather than the app icons, I don’t see the number of notifications that I need to check which also helps me not feel like I have to check the notifications right away. I think with this change, I’ll be able to focus on nurturing my relationship with myself which in turn will nurture my relationships with my loved ones.

Until next time. Drew.

health

If the Cup Fits…

I have been looking for ways to reduce my waste in a lot of areas of my life. Since I was born with a uterus, one of the ways I wanted to reduce my waste was to try and have a zero waste period. Menstrual cups seemed like the way to go for me. I was already a tampon user. I’m on my feet for most of the day because I teach young children (and you don’t get many bathroom breaks as a teacher). The idea of being able to use a menstrual product that could stay in for up to 12 hours sounded fantastic. Plus, you wouldn’t have that horrible awful stench, the one that tells the world, “beware; this person has a uterus and they are menstruating now.”??? Where do I sign up?! I’ve been trying out menstrual cups since about March. I want to talk to you about which ones I’ve used and how they worked for me. This is not exactly a product review but rather just sharing my own thoughts and opinions on the products. I am in no way trying to sell you any of these products. Whether you choose to try them or not is completely your choice!

So now that we got that small “I’m not sponsored and/or affiliated with this companies” disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin!

Saalt

The first cup I tried was the Saalt cup. Saalt sells their cups at Target which is super convenient for me since I go to Target almost every weekend (I live dangerously close to one and I have an addiction. The first step is admitting it, right?). I bought the smallest one not only because it was my first time using one but also because I don’t have a super heavy flow.

I was quite disappointed in this cup. It was very hard to fold and the bell shape of the cup wasn’t right for me. I couldn’t even insert the cup without feeling a lot of pain. I honestly thought it was about me and my body, that my body wasn’t made for menstrual cups. That I was a failure since I had been trying this cup from March to August with zero success. But I talked to my friend who’s a sex therapist and former physician and she mentioned that I probably just needed something a bit slimmer. Which lead me to my next cup of choice.

Diva Cup

In August upon recommendation, I got the Diva Cup in size 0. I chose 0 because I wanted to be sure I could insert it and I didn’t think that my flow would be too heavy for it. On the bright side, it was pretty easy to insert, albeit time consuming, because of it’s V-shaped design . Once inside, I did feel some discomfort; I figured that was normal since I had to get used to the feeling of a cup inside of me. Taking it out was tricky, a bit painful, and oh so messy! Luckily, I only ever hard to change it in the comfort of my own bathroom. The downside, aside from discomfort, was that the cup overflowed pretty quickly so I was changing it every three to four hours like I would a tampon. Which I wouldn’t have minded. But the fact that I was changing it like a tampon and this product hurt more than a tampon to me, I didn’t see the point in using it. I was going to just go up a size and see if that worked better for me. But then I got another recommendation.

Flex Cup

Two different friends of mine recommended me the Flex Cup. Both claimed it changed their menstrual cycle experience significantly! Plus, this size of menstrual cup was bigger than Diva Cup’s size 0. I was most of all intrigued by the idea of the Release Ring which makes removal more like a tampon, which as I said earlier I was already used to. Let me tell you the friends that recommended this product to me could not have been more right! It completely changed my period experience. Inserting it was tricky at first but once it was in, I couldn’t feel it at all! Most of the time I forgot I was even on my period! My cramps were lighter, I didn’t feel anything inside of me, I only had to change it every 12 hours like promised! Removal was pretty simple with the Release Ring. It was a bit uncomfortable but not nearly as painful for me as removing the the Diva Cup. Of course, like removing any menstrual cup, the removal process is messy but when done in the comfort of your own bathroom, it’s pretty easy to clean up. September was the first month I tried it so if I have any updates on my experience with the Flex Cup I’ll let you know!

I have definitely found that the Flex Cup really works for my lifestyle as of writing this post! Whichever product you chose to use, whether it be pads, tampons, period panties, etc, that your menstruation is at least a comfortable experience and that it works for your lifestyle! Until next time, friends!

Black Identity, food, Local, Soul Food, veganism

Being Black and Vegan

I have been vegan for almost three months now! That’s pretty incredible considering my last attempts at being vegan didn’t go so well (this is actually my third attempt). I gradually become vegetarian throughout my final semester in college and after graduating in December of 2018. This made the transition to not eating meat a lot easier. But the two things that were hard to cut out for me were cheese and soul food. For me, just learning about different plant-based cheeses wasn’t too hard. It took a while to find the right cheese that I did like and reminded me of dairy cheese (personal brand favorite is Miyoko). But finding vegan soul food was a whole other issue to tackle.

Black people can define blackness in their own unique way and for me, eating soul food is a very big part of my cultural identity. Every Sunday, my mama would make some sort of soul food dinner: neckbones, greens with ham hocks or turkey neck, cornbread, man n cheese, black eyed peas, dressing with chicken or duck… Every thanksgiving visiting family in Kentucky, houses upon houses were filled with good cooked food. And in that food, you can taste the love of the mama or auntie that made it. You can smell the resilience and creativity that Black people had taking the scraps that White people gave them during slavery and turning it into flavorful food. Soul food to me isn’t just another type of food that appeals to my taste buds; soul food tastes of home and community.

So while meat and dairy have substitutes food and/or drink substitutes, what was the substitute of for cultural identity? For a sense of belonging? A sense of community? Or feeling at home? As a black person, I found that community by searching for black vegans in Google. The first thing that popped up was a cookbook by Bryant Terry called Afro-Vegan. I have yet to try it but boy am I excited to one day buy that book! The next was a cookbook by Sweet Potato Soul by Jenne Clairborne. This once I did purchase when I first became vegan and I made her crabless cake and smothered cabbages recipe…. Oooooo-weeee that was so good! The next recipe I want to try is her mac n cheese recipe!

One of the the biggest black vegan affirming things for me was by ordering from JustVeggiez, a Black owned midwest based pop-up shop. To know that this food was made by black vegans and helps to maintain black culture is so healing! I ordered their Sunday Soul Food plate and… It tasted like how I remember my soul food Sundays at my mama’s house. That gave me so much comfort. I also tried Soul Vegan, another black vegan pop up shop, during Madison Vegan Fest. Their peach cobbler was absolutely delicious!

Beyond finding food curated by Black vegans for Black vegans, I have found many Instagram accounts of people like me, living their Black vegan lives unapologetically! Here are a few of my favorites:
@justveggiez
@iamtabithabrown
@bryantterry
@rachelalma_
@willedmond
@the_blackveganchick

To know that I can be vegan without compromising my culture as a Black person is incredibly freeing. Even if I didn’t find vegan soul food recipes and restaurants, my new vegan lifestyle and eating choices would be a part of my Black experience. Because no matter how or what I eat, as long as I’m Black, it’s a part of my Black experience.

queer identity, spirituality

Christian and Queer?

please note that the following is my personal relationship with faith and queerness. my intention is not to convert but rather to share my own experiences. please keep that in mind and remember to be kind (and to accidentally rhyme)

To be a Christian meant that I could not be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. That was what I was taught by my Lutheran church. Which was connected to my Lutheran schools from preschool all the way through college. I know the passages in the Bible my teachers and pastors would use to point out that homosexuality is a sin. I can find the parts of Luther’s Catechism that condemn the homosexual, the transperson, anyone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual. And because I have a deep and personal relationship with Christ, I believed it. It didn’t feel right that a loving God would say that one person’s way to love someone else or to love their true self was wrong. But who am I to question an all-knowing God?

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that, while at times I may question God, my questions didn’t lie with God but I was questioning the church. Questioning archaic tradition. Recently I read the book “God vs Gay” by Jay Michaelson (he/him). In this book, he talks about how the word “Sodomy” originated with the 11th Century theologian Peter Damian and meant for those called to priesthood. It was specific to priests who were supposed to remain celibate (God vs Gay p. 163). Then the the church did a 180 so to speak at the end of the 12th Century possibly due to the crusades against Islam; there they saw more same-sex eroticism) (God vs Gay p. 163). If you really look into those passages used against queer people in the Bible, most of it can be boiled to poor translation and misunderstandings. If you are curious to read about this further, I recommend two sources. The first being God vs Gay by Jay Michaelson (he/him). Be warned that there is a lot of theological jargon used, but he goes very in-depth into the translations and the historical context surrounding those passages. Another similar but more concise source is “The Bible Doesn’t Say Homosexuality is a Sin” an article by Janet Edmonds (pronouns not found) made in 2016.

Having this knowledge helped me come to terms with my attraction to women. When I was young, I pushed those thoughts down. I asked God to take this “sin” away from me. I suppressed a part of myself that was fearfully and wonderfully made by him. Out of fear that God would stop loving me, forgetting that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39). What a blessing and comfort to know that my sexual orientation does not have to conflict my Christianity.

We’ve discussed how my gay sexual orientation can be and should be attached to my faith. Now, it’s time to tackle a more recent discovery: my being non-binary. As I said in my previous post , my closest friend came out to me as non-binary a few years back, my first ever experience with a term other than male or female. I was assigned female at birth, but that didn’t mean that I necessarily resonated with feminine things. I was a tomboy, playing football withe the boys at recess, wearing baggy basketball shorts, hating pink and makeup. My being a tomboy was seen as something to be praised, look at that “girl” not being like the other girls (an idea that is deeply rooted in misogyny). Just yesterday morning, I listened to a podcast recommended to me by that close friend of mine called Blessed Be the Binary Breakers. In it, Avery Smith (they/them) had this to say about their relationship to their gender:

“And like, one thing that people will tell trans men and nonbinary people who were assigned female at birth, what they’ll tell us is that… we don’t wanna be girls because of internalized misogyny, that we just hate womanhood, we’ve been taught to hate ourselves, so we really are girls but our internalized misogyny is so bad that we… don’t want to be girls any more.
And – while I get where they’re coming from, because it’s true I have absorbed a lot of misogyny just like anyone in this society, that’s not why I’m trans. I’m not a girl who hates being a girl. I’m a nonbinary person who, through realizing that I am nonbinary, has actually come to unpack some of the misogyny I’ve absorbed.
I feel like, in exploring my own gender identity, and my femininity as it exists apart from womanhood, has helped me really come to respect women. For my own gender, I tend to say that I identify strongly WITH women, even though I do not identify AS a woman. So, I think that’s, you know, that sort of something that cisgender people, transgender people, we all need to work through the crap that society tells us about gender, um… and that’s part of my calling.

Blessed Be the Binary Breakers (ep.1 start 18:15)

While gender is a personal experience and not every non-binary person will have the same relationship to gender, this quote really resonated with me. Learning I was nonbinary but could still have a relationship with femininity was so freeing. Misogyny really is rooted in the idea of a gender binary, males behave this way and females behave that way. So breaking away from misogynistic tendencies helps explore the idea that there’s more than one way to express yourself through gender. I don’t have to be a “girl” to enjoy “feminine” things. And I don’t have to be a “boy” to enjoy “masculine” things. Being nonbinary gives me the freedom to blur those lines and live as my authentic self!

So how do I break the binary so to speak between being trans and being a Christian? First and foremost is to remember as I said that nothing, not even my trans-ness can separate me from God’s love (Romans 8:39). Next, I need to find a queer affirming place where I can live as a queer Christian. For Avery (they/them), that meant breaking away from the Catholic Church. They talk about this in their first podcast episode around 24:11. They mention how it was hard to leave Catholic traditions because those traditions were precious to them. And I have the same feeling when it comes to my Lutheranism. I love how doctrinally sound the Lutheran church is, that its central message is of salvation by grace not by works. But if you dig deep into the other doctrine they preach about women, homosexuality, and trans-ness, it doesn’t serve me or my relationship with Christ.

Though I cannot choose my sexual orientation or my gender identity, I can choose how I see my relationship with Christ. I choose to not see it through the lenses of those archaic and hateful traditions but as I believe it should be seen, through love and acceptance.

Until next time. Drew.

mental health

Accepting My Emotions

I believe that mental health should be less stigmatized. I’m comfortable talking to others about if I had a cold or if I fractured a bone. Why should mental health be treated any differently? I’m going to let go of that stigma. This blog is meant to be about telling my journey in not only veganism but how I’m navigating taking care of myself by embracing my queer identity and through my spiritual practices. If I became vegan for mostly health reasons, then I am going to share with you how I am taking care of myself mentally. I am not a professional; I cannot diagnose you or tell you how to navigate your journey with mental health, nor would it be right to endorse a certain view point as the only correct way. These are just my personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. Do with them what you wish but remember to always be respectful.

I feel as though a large portion of my life was focused on repressing my emotions. If an emotion is not “positive”, if it is not happiness, joy, peace, it is not meant to be felt. I am doing something wrong, evil. How dare you feel any discomfort? With this mindset and a generalized anxiety disorder that leads to depressive episodes, one can imagine how difficult it was to balance and understand my emotions. On the one hand, I have these anxious thoughts and feelings that I cannot necessarily control. On the other hand, I believe that anxious thoughts and feelings are wrong. With that belief in mind, my anxiety only grew. I messed up. I slipped. I fell back into the trap of having emotions and feelings. How could I let myself do this? How could I allow for myself to make this mistake again?

But emotions are never a mistake. They happen and they are natural. Some come with a trigger or reason and others just appear seemingly out of nowhere. I read somewhere a long time ago that feelings are just signals telling you what you might need. For example, if you’re feeling really worked up about a particular situation, maybe that emotion is communicating to you that you need space to be alone. If you’re feeling lonely, maybe your emotional brain is telling you that would like some company. This view of emotions challenges my former belief that there are “negative” emotions. All emotions are fine and natural and serve a purpose. Emotions can catergorized in a neutral space. For me, when they are in that space, neither good or bad, the emotion is less intimidating.

In keeping with the former belief that emotions are bad and intimidating, I would often seek to run away from them. Distract myself until the point that I would forget about them and let them arise at unforseen times. See that emotion, lock it up, and throw away the key. Except emotions can’t be contained like that. Somehow, some way, they find a way to come up again. My old pattern of behavior would say to repeat the whole process again. It was draining and ultimately unproductive. I wasn’t getting rid of the “bad feeling” just setting it aside for another time.

What helped me reframe the idea of running away from my problems was praciticing Mindfulness. Headspace is the app I use to do that. One of the principles that really stuck with me is that running away from those emotions takes so much effort. It’s tiring. Why not try and just let the emotion pass without necessarily inviting the emotion. The app described it like this. Imagine you are sitting out on your front lawn. You live next to a road that has frequently has cars on it. The cars driving by are your thoughts. Sometimes there are lots of cars, somedays no cars, somedays not so many cars. Did you invite the cars to your street? No. But here they are. You can try to control the traffic, the thoughts, but it may not work. You can get caught up in the thoughts, running out into the traffic so to speak which would only end in harm. My personal favorite option is to just watch the cars drive by, allowing the thoughts to come and go without having to get entangled in them.

I’ll end this by sharing other grounding and mindfulness excercises that I enjoy doing regularly:

  • Yoga. There are many free yoga videos out there to follow along with. My personal favorite is the channel Yoga with Adriene. I like to do it in the mornings to start of my day with a clear mind
  • Mantras. I have come up with two mantras that help me when I feel a big emotion.
    • “There’s a big wave of emotion crashing over me. But I have a life jacket; I’ll be okay”
    • “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14). Keep in mind with this second one that this is based off of my own personal spiritual journey and not a a way to endorse a particular religion. As stated in the first paragraph, you may respectfully do with this what you wish.
  • Worry Stone. Mine is a necklace that I bought off of an Esty shop. It’s an Opal, one of my favorite Steven Universe fusions.
  • Small Zen Garden. Another purchase from an Etsy Shop.
  • Journaling when I remember to.
  • Coloring/drawing while listening to either piano music of lo-fi.

As with any journey, this isn’t the end but just the beginning. I will continue to learn and grow and better myself through these practices. I would love to hear what sorts of practices you do to clear your mind. Feel free to leave a comment or send a message on the contact page. As always, I appreciate you on this journey with me. Until next time.

travel, veganism

Traveling While Vegan

A long time friend, of almost a decade, was getting married this weekend. Naturally, our high school friend group had to come along to see in person. We were all healthy, most of us were wearing masks when indoors, and we spent a lot of time outside. Now I could write a whole blog post about how I tried to navigate going to a wedding during a pandemic, but what was even more interesting to me at least was figuring out what to eat while on the road.

I tried to tell the bride ahead of time of my dietary needs but at the time of RSVP-ing, I was a vegetarian and not a vegan. And when planning where to eat with friends, I told them I was vegetarian, which was true at the time. I didn’t consider telling them I was vegan; I figured I would just figure it out on my own.

The restaurant we went to was a local Mexican one. Luckily, there was a vegetarian menu! I ordered the flautas that were filled with potatoes instead of meat. The menu did mention there would be a queso sauce, so I asked them to not include it in the meal. I thought that was vegan enough but I didn’t catch that the description said that they put cojita cheese on top. That was a pleasant surprise when the waiter came out with the meal! I tried to avoid it but cojita cheese is crumbly and kind of just goes everywhere. All in all it was a delicious meal but wasn’t exactly vegan.

At the wedding, they served the dinner in a buffet style! The meal consisted of fried chicken, ham, green beans, cheesy potatoes, salad, fruit; pretty standard Midwest wedding food. Now, I mentioned that I had told the bride before hand that I would like a vegetarian option. It was a beyond burger and it was very VERY good! It tasted just like beef to me it was incredible. Although, it was hard to avoid the cheesy potatoes. Cheese is my vegan kryptonite sadly; a byproduct of being born in a Dairy State.

I think the one thing I did not really account for was trying to pick out quick vegan snacks at a gas station or some sort of convenience store. This has been a learning experience for sure! I really want to commit to the vegan lifestyle so I polled on my instagram for some tips about how to travel while vegan! Here are the responses I got from a friend, Liz (@itsjuustliz on Instagram and Twitter):

  • Ask for a specific recipe from your host or ask to cook a vegan meal
  • Share a list of restaurants you can eat at with your travel mates ahead of time
  • Plan ahead! Bring quick snacks
  • Get a hold of menus ahead of time or offer to make your own food if staying with folks
  • Hit up a grocery store once you’re in town and pick up meals and snacks for the day

These are all wonderful tips that I will keep in mind for future trips! If any fellow vegans have additional travel tips, I would love to hear about them! Leave a comment of some helpful tips for this young vegan!

veganism

Transition to Veganism

*The following describes my own personal transition to veganism and is in no way a prescription of how you should transition to veganism nor is this my attempt to convinve you to veganism.

I this question a lot: So you’re a vegan now… Why? It’s a valid question. Regionally, it could be seen as unusual for me to give up on meat and cheese. Those are two very big staples in the midwest where I was born and raised. As far as my culture goes, I grew up in a black household that thrived on collard greens made with hamhocks, neckbones, friend chicken, mac n cheese, smothered cabbages made with bacon. All of those soul food staples are a source of comfort for me. So, for those who know me personally, this would be a huge shock. And it’s a huge shock to my system too. But I know it’s a dietary change that I want to pursue to better my health and wellness.

This isn’t my first attempt at veganism. I knew that eating lots of meat and consuming tons of dairty products were too heavy for my body. I always felt really sluggish and worn down after having a lot of meat. Dairy products broke out my skin and didn’t settle in my stomach well. My dad also suggested that maybe all of my dairy consumption could be affecting my sinuses.

I’ve noticed that since changing to a vegan lifestyle, I eat out less often. There simply aren’t a lot of quick, affordable fast food like restaurants in my area. Which is a good thing! I’m not one that likes to cook so I have been avoiding it at much as possible. But with that, I tend to eat out and those foods are processed, heavy on my stomach, and very heavy on my wallet. So now, I cook from home! I’m no master chef but I have some amazing cookbooks (at the time of writing this I’ve only just gotten the cookbooks so a review will come once I’ve had more time to actually use the recipes) that I recently purchased that have motivated me to cook more. So far it forces me to think more about what I put into my body, what nutrients I’m getting, and I how I can make this transition as fun and smooth as possible.

Now as I make this transition, I’ve noticed that it’s been easier to give up meat than it has been dairy. Switching to eating mostly beans and other legumes as a source of some protein wasn’t hard for me because I already enjoy eating those things. Cutting off milk was easy because I found oatmilk to be yummy and delicious! But finding a dairy-free cheese or yogurt has been tricky. Especially finding a dairy substitue that doesn’t have soy because I’ve noticed that soy messes with my stomach. For this reason, I’ll be eliminating my dairy intake gradually. When I tried to go “cold turkey” with dairy in past attempts at veganism, it never ended up sticking and I want this dietary change to last a while!

And I acknowledge that there will be times where I “relapse” so to speak. For example, this past weekend was quite an emotional one and I fell back on the comfort of traditional soul food which involves a lot of meat.

So I recognize that this transition will not be easy and I will not follow it perfectly all the time. But I’m challenging myself to make this change. To hold myself accountable through this blog and gain support from you. With a vegan support system and accountability, I’ll be able to make this switch and hopefully see a positive change in my health.