So Much to Write

Oh my - there is just so much to write! I don't know why I am surprised to be so busy, but May is the busiest month for me besides the month around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not only am I wrapping up everything at work, going into school almost daily, but I also get to celebrate birthdays for two of the most important people in my life - Ryan and Noah! Ryan turns 30 on Saturday, and Noah turned 2 last Saturday. Of course there is lots of blogging to be done about all of the preparation and celebrations, but you will have to wait and be patient until all is revealed. I cannot wait to celebrate Ryan's 30th birthday! He has no idea what is ahead of him, and I can't wait to see his face as the surprises roll in one-by-one. Noah's birthday was perfect - absolutely perfect. I am excited to share the details and show you some pictures. Until then, be patient! I am hoping to return to a normal schedule of blogging in the near future. Bye for now!


Goose Bumps & Chills

We went to church tonight, and during the worship music, I felt waves of chills over and over again, running up and down my body. I honestly think this is one of the best feelings you can ever have, and so many times, I've wondered why and how we get them. I'm sure there is a "scientific" explanation for it - some physiological response to environmental stimuli.

But you want to know what I like to think it is?

I like to think that it's God physically touching us, letting us know He is right there beside us. When I'm singing my heart out about "How He Loves Us" or how "He's Might to Save," and I feel the waves of chills - pure positive energy - running up and down my spine, I love to imagine it's God physically wrapping Himself around me. Sometimes that feeling brings a huge smile to my face. Other times, it brings tears to my eyes.

Either way, it's a feeling that is unique to when I sing worship music, and sometimes I just want to bask it in all day long! It recharges my soul, prepares me for the week, and helps me to release the hurt, the worry, and the pain in my heart.

God fulfills me.

He satisfies my soul.

I can't think of anything else that this world provides that kind of peace. So many people feel fine. They like their lives and are generally happy - but, they still have a sense that something is missing. There is a sense that something greater exists or that there has to be a purpose to this life - something bigger than themselves. Richard Roll put it best when he said:

"Since the human soul is capable of receiving God alone, nothing less than God can fill it; which explains why lovers of earthly things are never satisfied."

Thanks to Emmanuel Church of Greenwood, my relationship with God continues to grow everyday. I don't know where I would be had I not been invited to attend the Easter service 3 years ago. I just left church and already can't wait for next Sunday to hear what Pastor Danny will say next and to feel chills and goosebumps during the beautiful, worship music. Each weekend, I know there is no place I'd rather be.


Farm Fresh Delivery

After a nice dinner out with Ryan and Noah, we came home to a big, green bin filled with delicious and beautiful produce!! I haven't even had one single bite yet, and I am already in love with Farm Fresh Delivery. As I gave it a little more thought, we already spend about $40 a month on fresh produce. Now we will get organic produce delivered to our home every other week for only $70. It is going to totally be worth it!

The strawberries are HUGE!!! We have so many green beans, and there is much more romaine lettuce and cilantro than I thougth there would be. I see some pico de gallo and guacamole in my future!!


What Are We Eating?

Have you ever asked yourself, "What are we eating?" After a long, dark, and cold winter with several pizzas, casseroles, soups, and meat-and-potato combos, I am in serious need of sunshine, outdoors, fresh fruit, delicious veggies, and other REAL foods. I've been asking myself a lot lately, "What are we eating?"

For example, macaroni and cheese - my all time favorite dish. What exactly is in that powered packet they call cheese? The liquid cheese packets from Velveeta Shells and Cheese?

I don't know if it was the fresh air, the colors that were reborn with Spring, my belly my desire to start running again, or my family's health; regardless, I knew I was ready for a change.

Do you ever have those moments where you get a little idea in your head, and then all of the sudden, the world opens up around you with so much information and encouragement that you have no choice but to run straight toward your goal. I love feeling motivated to change my life for the better! This is where my passion becomes a catalyst for change in my life!

This is the story of how I got from Point A to Point B.

First, it was just a question – what am I eating? Then, I began watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Kids eat pizza for breakfast? That totally happens where I work. Fries count as a vegetable? They sure do at my school. Each time I watch this show, I feel stronger about the food revolution and am hopeful that Jamie’s work will make for real change in American schools before Noah starts kindergarten.

Next, I left for a girl’s weekend to visit my friend, Michella, in Massachusetts. I don’t know how the conversation began about food, but the next thing I knew, I was sitting on her couch, eating an English muffin with organic peanut butter, and watching Food Inc. This is one of those films you know you should watch, but you try to ignore that still, small voice in your head. You don’t really want to know what is happening in our food industry. You want to live in the matrix. You want to continue eating your Tyson chicken (it’s a great brand, right?), McDonald’s Cheeseburgers, and on-sale produce from the grocery store.

I know. I've been there. You know what they say, ignorance is bliss. :) I am stepping out of the matrix a little more each day.

After seeing this film, I felt motivation to make a change in our lives. I’m such a goal-oriented person, so when that wave of motivation blows over me, I get a lot of joy out of setting my sights on the target and running straight toward it. Three friends on Facebook (What would we do without FB?) then suggested some reading material: Food Rules, Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, all written by Michael Pollan. I can’t wait to read these books!

I once again turned to Facebook, asking friends what are the most important vegetables and fruits to buy organic and which ones are less important. Ten comments later, I had great information for starting this part of my journey. Here is just one of those links.

When I was pregnant with Noah, I had this total desire to do things as naturally as possible. No one has a full explanation for the rising rates of autism, and for that among other reasons, I wanted to make choices for Noah that I felt would help give him the best chance at a healthy life. That decision led to me preparing for and having a completely natural birth, exclusively breastfeeding for a full year, and making Noah’s baby food with fresh produce. When I was talking to a friend about my desire to make Noah’s food, she told me about Farm Fresh Delivery, an organization that will deliver fresh, organic, and often local produce to your front door on a weekly/biweekly basis. You can also add other products such as bread, milk, eggs, meat, honey, and popcorn from local artisans. At $35 every other week, I couldn’t justify spending the money at the time.

Recently, thanks to my friend, Mandy, I saw that Farm Fresh Delivery being featured on Groupon. This website offers a daily deal, and once a certain number of people buy the deal, the deal is on! I was able to buy a groupon to Farm Fresh Delivery, giving me their $35 basket for only $15. What a great way to try their products, and what perfect timing given my new journey with food. I just placed my order with FFD, and here is a list of the organic produce I'm receiving next Friday: asparagus, avocados, bananas, strawberries, cucumbers, green beans, cilantro, kiwi, romaine lettuce, mango, and tomatoes. Another great feature of this organization is that you can make substitutions for anything you don’t like or need. For example, I don’t like broccoli, so we substituted green beans for that item. Awesome, huh?

Another coincidence happened recently, keeping my motivation going strong. Our local Farmer’s Market just began again, and over the weekend, I bought some yogurt, grape tomatoes, and garlic, all from a couple who own a farm in Franklin, IN. I also read on Facebook about some girls making homemade yogurt, so I’m going to give it a try!

The next coincidence was the Earth Day Festival last Saturday in Indianapolis. Ryan, Noah, and I drove downtown and enjoyed the free reusable shopping bags, great information, and fun activities. I really feel like all of these things – Food, Inc., new reading material, Farm Fresh Delivery, farmer’s markets, and Earth Day – gave me the feeling that this is exactly what I need to do for my family right now. As a good friend said, we can spend our money on the foods we eat now, or we can spend our money on medical bills later.

Because of Dave Ramsey’s envelope system and The Grocery Game, I have been able to lower our grocery budget from $400 per month to $250 per month. Oftentimes, I don’t even spend the full $250, including diapers. Seriously. Learning how to buy groceries in this fashion has been invaluable! I plan to continue shopping this way for our cleaning and paper products, toiletries, and many pantry items. With the $150 of extra money per month I was able to create, I now don’t feel overwhelmed with buying organic produce, cage free eggs, organic milk (which I’ve always bought for Noah but am now buying for Ryan and me, too), free range chickens, and grass fed beef, and as much organic produce as possible.

Isn’t it strange we have to qualify what kinds of eggs, milk, and meat we are eating? In the matrix, I just assumed that animals didn’t get unnecessary antibiotics or hormones. Chickens, cows, and pigs were raised humanely – the way I saw them being raised in the hometown where I grew up. Food, Inc. brought reality to life for me. Because food is market-driven, I am hopeful that our food will be produced more naturally as time goes on. Until then, it's FFD, farmer's markets, and bulk purchasing of meat for us! I am really thankful that Ryan is on board and feels strongly about this issue, too. If he was giving me a hard time or was telling me that I was crazy, it would be more difficult to make this change for our family.

Will I ever eat McDonalds again? Yes! Will I buy non-organic produce? Some of it. Will I eat at friends' homes who do not cook with organic ingrediants? Of course! Will I still order stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut? Definitely! Remember, this blog is called My Passionate Balance. So while I may be passionate about feeding my family healthy meals the majority of the time, I still want to enjoy all of those other things, too. And so we will!

I'll leave you today with a list of websites that are helping me on this journey:

Food, Inc.
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
Michael Pollan
List of Organic Must-Haves
Farm Fresh Delivery
List of Local Farmers who sell organic produce/meats

And here are some pictures from the Earth Day Festival:

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