Sarah Beth Art Studio!

If you know me, you know I’ve been learning to paint for several years now. It all started because my former college roommate (and one of my favorite humans ever!) invited me to take an adult art class with her.

IMG_0059
My happy little art space.

Since then, I’ve grown to love painting with acrylics (and I’ve been playing with watercolors lately, too). There’s nothing quite like getting lost in your work. Everything else kind of fades away and you’re forced to be present with what you’re doing. Like most things, it can be frustrating – but what a great feeling when you finish!

I bought my own set of supplies awhile back, but only in the past several months did I actually create a dedicated space in my house to paint. It’s only a little nook in our (shared) home office, but I love it!

A couple years ago, I created an Etsy shop, thinking I might want to try and sell my work some day – but I never really did anything with it. UNTIL NOW.

I’m excited to say that I finally finished setting up shop, and Sarah Beth Art Studio is now open for business! 

I’d be honored if you stop by and check it out: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SarahBethArtStudio

Here are some past pieces I’ve got hanging in my house…and a couple I’ve painted and given away to friends.

 

 

 

Dear Grandma

Dear Grandma,

It’s been almost a month and a half since you passed away. I’ve been wanting to write this for awhile, especially as I prepare to travel to your funeral in a couple of weeks.

In the days following your death, I found myself feeling angry. I was angry that I didn’t get a chance to see you again, to say what I wanted to say to you, ask questions I never thought to ask before – to really say goodbye.

It took me a couple of weeks to finally cry about you – to sit with my memories, hold them tenderly, and let the realization wash over me that I’d never see you again. Even though I’ve never really lived close to you, life still seems a little more empty now.

You and grandpa were larger than life to me as a kid. And as an adult, seeing you was like a window into those carefree days at the lake – playing in the water with grandpa, then devouring the sandwiches you’d make for us on the deck.

I’d give anything to re-live one of those days. But the best I can do now is keep you alive in my memories – the childhood ones and the adult ones. And feel your presence whenever I see the rest of the family – because I know you’d be there too if you were still with us.

I’m so thankful for you, Grandma. For your love, care, laughter and presence. I’m grateful for the most recent times I saw you.

Especially Christmas of 2013 when we convinced you to come spend it with us here in Georgia and our whole family rented a big house in the mountains. And when you stayed a night at my house afterwards and we spent the afternoon at the Marietta Square – just the two of us – wandering in the little shops and talking.

Even the very last time I saw you – after Aunt Liz’s funeral, when you were in the hospital. It was one of your good days. We laughed, we talked and you were…you.

But I’m so sorry, too. I’m sorry I didn’t call you more, visit you more. And I’ll never get that chance again.

In the early morning hours of December 17, 2018, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. You had been moved to hospice the night before, and you were all I could think about. More specifically, your laugh. The one where you’d laugh so hard, you’d snort. And in my sleeplessness, I prayed. I prayed for Aunt Donna, your faithful and loving caregiver. I prayed for you, for peace when you passed. That those of us left would feel God’s love and presence very strongly in your absence.

At some point, I fell back to sleep. Later that morning, I awoke to a text from Dad. You were gone. He told me later that you passed right around the time I was awake, thinking about and praying for you. I was planning to come see you in just a couple of days.

I know I wasn’t physically there, Grandma. And I’m so sorry I didn’t make it in time. But my heart was there with you, and I’ll carry you in mine forever.

Recently, someone told me that when you see a cardinal, it’s someone that’s passed away waving hello to you. I’d never heard that before. But ever since you passed, I have been seeing cardinals everywhere. When I see them, I smile and say, “Hi, Grandma.”

And today, like many days since you left us, I’m picturing you reunited with Grandpa, snort-laughing and dancing around some room in heaven – so happy to be with him again.

Love forever,

Sarah

 

Weight is Anything but Simple

A friend recently posted this article on Facebook – “An open letter from Piers Morgan to Tess Holliday: Stop lying to yourself Tess – you’re morbidly obese and it’s going to kill you“.

The next day, another friend sent me this article – “Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong“.

As someone who has legitimately struggled with weight her entire life (and still does), I got very fired up about this topic. Read both articles, if you’re interested. But Ima tell you what I know from experience on the larger woman’s side of the fence.

<Climbs on Soapbox>

Women who are obese don’t need “help” understanding that they are overweight, or that “diet and exercise” are important. WE KNOW THAT.

The vast majority of us also know what it feels like to try and try and never be able to achieve what everyone thinks we should. We know what it feels like to have EVERY medical ailment we encounter blamed on weight alone, when our “fit” friends get a lot of non-weight-related, helpful suggestions. We know what it feels like to spiral into self hate and shame, and feel like we will never be good enough for anyone – especially ourselves.

Do I applaud laziness or ignoring your overall health? No. But size alone DOES NOT determine activity levels or health.

I’m a few BMI points away from being labeled as “morbidly obese” – though I’m nowhere near Ms. Holliday’s 300lbs. (Don’t get me started on the flaws of BMI). I also exercise 4-5 times per week and love riding my road bike with my husband. I am very conscious of what I eat and have identified the situations in which I am likely to overeat. I understand what types of foods are best for me nutritionally. I have healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I’ve never smoked. I don’t drink much alcohol or soda. I drink tons of water.

This is not to say I’m perfect (far from it!), but the point is – my current BMI and weight are NOT a reflection of a person who is lazy, lacks motivation, doesn’t understand nutrition and exercise or who hasn’t made long-term lifestyle changes in the name of weight loss.

But someone who doesn’t know me wouldn’t guess that any of this is true.

Culture, people like Piers Morgan and (most disheartening of all), doctors, beat me over the head every day with the message that EVERYTHING would be better if I would just lose the weight. They rarely ask or consider what I’m doing or what I’ve tried in the past – they just look at my body and assume I need to be educated about “healthy living”.

Have you ever gone to the doctor for a bad cold and left with a 10-page brochure, stapled to the back of your visit summary, about “how to achieve a healthy weight”, even though weight wasn’t discussed at all during your appointment? I have.

Have you ever started having back pain (without a change in weight), and been told by your doctor that you “just need to lose weight”, with no other suggestions or concern? I have.

I’ve paid thousands of dollars to trainers, counselors and other professionals in hopes of fitting into the sizes I’m told I SHOULD be wearing.

It’s a subtle but incredibly common, insidious message sent to millions of women every day – weight is the problem and you are a failure because you haven’t lost it.

The truth is that a woman’s weight is a very complex issue, one that is individual to each of us and extends beyond simple diet and exercise “rules”. Our bodies need different things on different days. We each metabolize food differently. Most of us navigate through stress, hormonal fluctuations and medications on a regular basis – all of which impact our weight. There are major mental components, too – self-hatred over weight can lead to depression, which can cause weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

Life is short. If I never lose another pound, I’d much rather find a place of self-acceptance than continue to beat myself up in order to acquiesce to the demands of an increasingly cruel and judgmental culture.

P.S. Piers – I’m sure all the overweight women out there really feel like you get it, since your doctor wants you to lose 15lbs, you work out 3-4 times per week and you’ve filled us in on the fact that “losing weight isn’t easy”. Color me inspired! 

Just Keep Writing

This is it: the week I’ve been waiting for. I was expecting to hear the results of the Rehoboth Beach Reads contest tomorrow – and learn whether or not either of my short stories would be published.

I know that writers in general hear “no” far more often than they hear “yes.” But, oh, what hope I had that maybe, just maybe, I’d pull it off.

Instead, yesterday, as I was plugging away working on my novel – in came my very first rejection e-mail. (By the way, nothing kills novel-writing momentum quite like an “I’m sorry, but your writing wasn’t chosen to be published” email!)

The first two times I submitted my writing, hoping that someone liked it enough to publish it, both articles were accepted and published on the minimalist website No Sidebar. I know in some ways, this perhaps makes me an exception to the typical writer.

But those two articles, while I certainly put effort into them, can’t possibly compare to the heart and soul I put into my two short stories. Not to mention, those short stories exemplify the type of writing I ultimately want to do; it’s the type of writing that echos the novel I’m working on.

slow like turtle
Thanks for the reminder, little turtle I found on Pinterest

It’s not easy to push through this, but I still stand by my original sentiment that this was a good and needed experience. It helps to know rejection is common for writers. It helps to have read stories of writers who pushed through and ended up published elsewhere.  And it helps to know that one of my submissions was a finalist – not too bad for my first real shot at this!

But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been struggling hard with my disappointment. Rejection sucks!

Luckily, there’s no shortage of contests and publications for me to submit writing to. And as long as I’m a human being interacting with people in the world, there will be no shortage of ideas, characters and memories to build into a story.dont give up

Am I looking forward to putting myself out there and getting rejected again? Not really. Is there a part of me whispering in my ear all the reasons I should doubt myself? Yep. Is there another part of me that’s more motivated than ever? Weirdly, yes.

So I’m just going to keep writing.

 

 

 

 

What Lies Within Us

One of the best things about simplifying my life has been re-discovering my love for writing.

As many of you know, I have been furiously working away on writing a novel.

But a few weeks ago, and quite by accident, I stumbled upon a short story contest. I’ve been thinking for awhile now that I wanted to write some short stories and submit them somewhere. I think it will be a good experience and great practice – to learn formatting, get used to rejection, and just maybe, get published and know what it feels like to have your writing ripped to shreds by professionals.

All of that was reason enough for me to enter the contest. But there was more. This was “The Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest,” with a theme of “Beach Life” that had

Rehoboth Beach Reads
Picture borrowed from: http://catandmousepress.com/contest/

to have strong ties to the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware area. It just so happens, a good chunk of my Mom’s family is from that area, and I spent a lot of time there as a kid when my grandparents were still alive.

It felt serendipitous.

I was allowed to submit up to 3 stories, fiction or non-fiction, for a chance to be one of 20-25 stories published into a collection of short stories, and one of 3 monetary prize winners.

I got to work writing immediately – I found the contest VERY late, and only had a couple of weeks to write and polish my submissions. I ended up with 2 pieces to submit, one fiction and one non-fiction.

As I was researching some quotes to use in my fictional story, I came across this one from Henry David Thoreau:

What lies before us and what lies behind us are all small matters compared to what lies within us. And when you bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.

As I continued weaving my story together, the importance of the quote grew – to the point that I used it to name the story (and this blog), as well.

I love how it can mean something different for everyone; we each have something unique inside of us. While it can be scary to bring it out into the world for all to see, just think about the possibilities if you do.

I can tell you, these last weeks of writing frantically, editing, re-writing, editing and re-writing some more have been a roller coaster. There were moments I loved what I wrote, and moments I was sure it was all utter crap.

And hitting SUBMIT on my two stories was one of the most terrifying and exciting moments of my life. But man, am I glad I did it.

Now, I have a little experience writing as a deadline looms. I’ve put what is within me -my heart and my very best effort – into this, and now I’ve sent my short stories out to strangers who will decide if they’re worthy of publication.

So now, I wait. August 7th-ish can’t come soon enough. Wish me luck!!

What Shall We Eat? Part 5: Resources & Conclusions

Thanks for sticking around long enough to get to this last post! My goal in this was mostly to share my journey, but also to encourage others to embark on their own. Hopefully some of these resources I used along the way will help you, too.

After opening my mind to the possibility that eating meat does not, in fact, align with my values, and taking the time to do my own research, I ultimately feel confident that there exists a thoughtful, spiritual and humane way to eat meat. Husband and I initially decided to eat less, better quality meat than we used to; for us, this felt like the right place to start. We care about the environment, we care about animals, and we care about nourishing our bodies and taking good care of them.

So this begs the question: how do we do this?

Based on everything I’ve learned, I believe the answer lies in buying the highest quality local food you can find. And at the very least – making choices to eat “less than ideal” foods minimally and with awareness of what you are contributing to when you do.

One of the first places I started was a website mentioned in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Eat Wild. The site is organized by state and lists local farms, what they produce, some information about the farms and how to contact them. I was surprised how many there were, and how accessible they were (many will ship, some will not). This was by no means an exhaustive list, either. Atlantans: you have options. Lots of them.

Alternatively, be on the lookout for local farmer’s markets. Many cities have them every

marietta square farmers market
Borrowed from mariettasquarefarmersmarket.com

weekend (we love the Marietta Square Farmer’s Market!) and the big ones have websites that list their suppliers. This is also a great way to learn about farms in your area, read about their philosophies, and even visit/buy directly from the farm.

Husband and I tried to do this one Saturday – we drove to a farm in Powder Springs, GA – about a 30 minute drive from our house. Unfortunately, it was less a farm and more an abandoned shack that could easily be the set for a horror flick. Oh well; we’ll try again with a bigger, better-known farm some time!

I also stumbled upon a service in Atlanta called Garnish & Gather. It’s very similar to meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh – which both use high qualityhello fresh veggie ingredients (Husband and I are currently using Hello Fresh for 3 Vegetarian meals per week). Each week, Garnish & Gather has a menu of 5 or so meals. All ingredients to make each meal come from local or regional farms. You select which meals you want, how many people you’re feeding, and you can either pay to have all the items delivered, or you can pick them up at one of several Metro Atlanta locations. You can even grocery shop and pick up those items along with your meals! They also have all suppliers listed on their website – again, another resource to find local farmers. We haven’t tried this service yet; I have actually been moving farther and farther away from eating meat.

There is also a meal-delivery service called Purple Carrot that is 100% vegan. While I’m not necessarily advocating meal delivery services for everyone, I have found our vegetarian boxes from Hello Fresh very educational! Meaning, I’ve learned a lot of new techniques and new combinations of satisfying dishes without meat. Part of me wants to try Purple Carrot for the same reason – to try and learn how to make tasty vegan dishes!

Aside from our 3 Hello Fresh vegetarian meals per week, we are currently doing most of our grocery shopping at Harry’s or Whole Foods. What I love about shopping there (aside from the convenience) is the ability to buy local items as well as see information about the treatment of the animals that products come from.

What I’ve discovered is this: the harder it is to get information about where the product comes from or how the animals were treated, the more sure I am that I won’t like the answer. And while you’d think companies that treat animals humanely, don’t use antibiotics or don’t force their cows to eat grain would want consumers to know about it, labels can still be super confusing.

I found a website with some guides and resources to help decipher food labels and discern what in the world they mean. Does this take some effort? Yes. But I WANT to make every effort I can to understand what I am putting in my body.

As I plodded along in my research, I also discovered that as of August 2016, 35% of the chickens used by Chick Fil A are now raised with zero antibiotics. Their goal is to reach 100% by 2019. Encouraging more suppliers to raise chickens in an environment where they don’t need to be pumped full of antibiotics is at least a step in the right direction in my book.

In this age of overly-processed, industrialized food, it’s definitely tough to avoid all of it. And I’m OK with that for now because I’m still learning and changing. I said at the beginning of this series that I was not going to be rigid. Educated and thoughtful? Yes. Buy humane and local, to the best of my ability? Absolutely. Eat less meat, period? Yep – and I can honestly say I don’t miss meat during those meals at all.

In fact, I’ve actually lost my taste entirely for some meats. I’m not sure if this is just a phase or not, but I have close to zero interest in any meat that comes from cows or pigs these days. I still eat chicken from time to time, and I still eat fish regularly. But suddenly, those other meats just aren’t appealing anymore. And it didn’t happen overnight – I did not feel that way after my initial research.

As for other animal products, I still eat cheese and eggs, and I still use butter every now and then. I haven’t “banned” any products necessarily, but truthfully, a lot of it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore and I actually prefer vegan alternatives. The fun thing is, I still have SO many vegan options that I haven’t even tried yet!

Will I end up a vegan someday? I have no idea. But I can tell you that trying vegan versions of things is fun, I don’t miss meat, and I wouldn’t trade the knowledge I’ve gained for anything. I don’t want my food choices to hinder my health/nutrition, enjoyment of or satisfaction from eating, nor do I want to support abusive and cruel treatment of animals. This is still a journey, and I know I have more learning, growing and changing to do!

Ultimately, I want to glorify God by taking good care of the body He’s given me, and do my part to support the planet and animals He’s entrusted to our care.

And to simplify things for you, below is a list of the resources I found helpful*.

*Just remember to do your own research on some of the claims you’ll hear in these documentaries, specifically. I don’t think every resource I listed here is gospel truth – just that they all helped me in my journey and led me to ask MORE questions and do MORE research. Omnivore’s Dilemma and Intuitive Eating were the most helpful to me by a mile.

 

 

What Shall We Eat? Part 4: The Spiritual Aspect

I know that the spiritual aspect of this discussion won’t be “relevant” to everyone. However, my Christian faith informs my life so I must include it. Aside from just doing internet research, I wanted to see what the Bible said about some of this stuff. So, I started thinking about which well-known verses might apply, and looked up some verses specifically about food and animals.

Most Christians know we are told to treat our bodies as temples (1 Corinthians 6:19), and to be good stewards of the Lord’s provisions (1 Peter 4:10). I take this to mean health ought to matter to us and that we are to behave responsibly with the resources the Lord has provided to us. But what instruction is given as far as what we are to eat?

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? In Genesis, we read about what God has created forbible boy Adam and Eve (and everyone else!) for food.

Genesis 1:29 – Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.

Genesis 9:1-4 – Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables. But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.

These are pretty clear to me; God placed humans at the top of the food chain and it is not morally wrong to eat meat.

But that’s not the end of the story.  The below verses from 1 Corinthians are interesting in this context, too, especially since the examples Paul uses are about eating meat. Not necessarily as a commentary on “right” vs. “wrong”, but as a guide for how we are to navigate interactions with other people given our personal convictions about what to eat and what not to eat.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 – You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?

31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

There’s a lot to think about in these verses! First, there’s the concept that just because we are ALLOWED to do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This makes me think of the health claims made against many animal products. Just because I’m allowed to eat steaks marbled with fat that come from cows eating corn on a feedlot doesn’t mean it’s beneficial for me. (If you have the inclination, read Daniel 1:8-16. In this passage, Daniel has been taken captive to Babylon and is being asked to eat a rich diet ordered by the king. He persuades the king to let him eat only vegetables and drink water. The end result is Daniel looking much healthier, stronger and vibrant than the men who consumed the king’s rich wine and meats.)

Perhaps the most important takeaway, though, is this idea of putting others above myself – and the motivation for that is to win others to the Lord by showing them HIS kindness and grace. The fact that Paul seems to place more emphasis on the person with a “sensitive conscience” is interesting, too. To me, this means if I’m eating dinner with a vegan, I’m not going to wave my bacon in her face and prattle on about how yummy it is. Because that’s rude and it offends her conscience. Does that mean I’m wrong for eating bacon and I can’t eat bacon? Of course not! Instead, try a little empathy. Accept that some people in the world just have a more sensitive conscience about the slaughter of animals.

Similar statements are made in Romans.

Romans 14:1-4 – Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

No believer should be condemning another believer’s food choices. This one is a little harder for me, only because factory farming and the industrial food chain did not exist in biblical times! Yet at the heart of it is simply the notion that it’s not wrong to eat meat, nor is it wrong to choose not to eat meat.

What must be considered, in my opinion, is unnecessary cruelty. And the Bible does condemn cruelty towards animals as something only “wicked” people do.

Proverbs 12:10 says, “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.”

What I asked myself is this: Am I wicked if I am not inflicting the cruelty on the animal with my own hands (or machinery…<shudder>), but I’m eating and enjoying the product of that cruelty? I personally felt highly uncomfortable with the idea that I was contributing to the demand for such products.  I don’t think it’s wrong to eat animals, but I think it’s wrong to abuse them in order to get food. It’s also totally unnecessary and in many cases, unhealthy, to eat this way.

I want to acknowledge too that there are people who are more sensitive to this than I am; people that believe it’s cruel to kill animals for food, period. I respect those people, and I understand them. It’s uncomfortable to think about.

But because of my faith, I will not condemn the idea of eating meat entirely. I believe God designed our bodies to be able to consume and digest animal products, and the Bible clearly states that eating meat is OK, if you choose to. (Side note: yes, I am leaving out all the rules about what kinds of animals were considered clean vs. not in Old Testament times. That is an entirely different discussion that I don’t believe has as much relevance to this topic in post-resurrection times. But every time I read the rules about animal sacrifices in the Old Testament, I’m extra thankful for Jesus!)

I will, however, condemn factory farming until I’m blue in the face. We ought to have more respect for the living things around us. This is why I think it’s so important to consider what these creatures were MEANT to consume and digest. Feeding animals an unnatural diet and pumping them full of supplements and antibiotics to keep them alive is utterly disgusting to me (among many, many other common practices that I haven’t posted here). I don’t know what to classify it as, if not cruelty. I keep coming back to Proverbs 12:10.