I wrote an obituary for my cat

When my faithful feline companion of over 13 years passed away recently, I couldn’t stay silent. I just had to acknowledge his life, his death, and my deep love for my special cat. The first thing I thought of was to write an obituary for him. While words can’t express how much Captain meant to me, and how deep I felt his loss, it was all I could do to share his story with the world.

I wrote two versions. The first was just a Facebook post for family and friends. But it didn’t feel like enough. A shorter version was then shared and posted with my former local newspaper, The Forum of Fargo Moorhead.


The First Version

Captain, a cat with sass and an old-man at heart even as a young lad, passed away on Sunday, December 15, 2019, from kidney failure.

He was probably born somewhere in the Minnesota-North Dakota region in the early 2000s. His first few years of life are a bit of a mystery, but his journey lead him to a Humane Society and a little box in the Fargo PetSmart where his soon-to-be-mom fell in love with the feline who pawed at her from his window and leapt out for their first meeting. And so he went home with two college gals needing the company of a cat in their first apartment.

For the past 13-plus years, Captain brought much joy to his mother’s life—and only a little bit of stress like when he ate one pet fish, and later when his health was beginning to decline.

Captain was the cutest, most regal grump you could meet. He would often literally turn his back to you with displeasure for a multitude of reasons ranging from a late meal feeding to leaving too long on vacation.

He was intelligent. Without fail, he would stand at the ready moments before his 10 p.m. auto feeder dispersed his evening snack. His bathroom habits were immaculate, and he was a tidy boy.

Many were impressed with his voracious appetite. Treats were devoured with tenacity. Captain had a special affinity for cheese, and would run from any corner of the house at simply the sound of a bag of shreds coming out of the fridge. He was clever and cunning too, sometimes swiping food from people’s hands if they looked away for one moment.

Captain didn’t fancy toys much, but he sure did like catnip. Yeeoow! bananas were sure to be licked, loved, and kicked to death.

He practiced regular cardboard scratching, couch lounging, and sunning. He loved watching people on the toilet and rubbing on their legs for pets. Chin scratches were his favorite.

Captain was an inquisitive soul, and he showed no fear. He explored new environments with curiosity and on occasion escaped out an open door. One day he even ran through the MSUM campus when he was illegally brought into the CMU for production night of the school newspaper, in which he was a star mascot – Captain Advo. More recently, he was a champ on a two-day drive to Denver, where his home has been for the last six months.

Every adventure came with even more naps though. He was never far from the couch or bed and often provided morning snuggles. It was a true treat when he chose your lap on which to lay.

This handsome boy will be sorely missed, and never forgotten.

Captain is survived by his adoptive mother Amanda (and Dick), his sister Little Girl, and loads of others who gave him pets and love throughout the years. He is preceded in death by his canine brother Brick.

Please consider donating to your local humane society or cat rescue group in Captain’s honor so more special pets can find their forever homes.

Rest in peace, sweet Captain.


captains obit


The Forum obit

captain forum obit

On moving on

Hindsight sure is 20/20.

Looking back, I never thought I would be a divorcee. Or childless at 32. Or figuring out how to find myself, love myself and what to do with my life after being in a relationship for over a decade.

Sure, I was bothered by those things for awhile. But I’ve come to accept and embrace them. They’re facts. Bullet points on my biography. Things that makes up my story, but also aren’t my identity.

Because there is so much life left to live. So much more to realize. New experiences to be had. New people to meet. New connections to be made and old connections begging to be renewed. Worlds you didn’t even know of, waiting to be discovered. And sometimes, to open yourself up to those things, you have to close other parts of your life.

To get to the next chapter, you have to turn the page. Sometimes that means making hard decisions and confronting things that scare you. Knowing when to fight and when to walk. I learned the hard way. I learned the lesson late. But better now than never. I’m grateful for the chance to hit refresh. Because it’s not a do-over or a new start. I now come with a little more baggage, some scars and wounds below the surface. I’m still me, just an updated version.

Change is scary. But it also presents opportunity.

I’ve learned to acknowledge pain. Feel it. Then to tell fear and anxiety to bug off. Look beyond it. Believe that things are brighter and better.

There are lots of things I never saw coming. Some were hard lessons to learn, some hurt other people, some challenged expectations. Some came out even better than I could have dreamed.

Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, taking risks, and actually enjoying the escape from my bubble, has been incredible.

Life is a funny thing. It throws you curveballs to keep you on your toes. It roughs you up. It slaps you in the face and kicks you to the ground. Sometimes it’s nasty and ugly and unfair. But other times it’s beautiful, awe-inspiring, full of hope and grace. Despite the downs, there are also ups. The sun does, in fact, shine again, if you let it.

You can let those bad moments keep you down, or you can dust yourself off, get up and move on. Take control. Fight back. It makes you stronger.

I have no idea what the future holds. But I am oh so excited to find out.

30 Things I Know as I’m Approaching 30

Today is my 30th birthday. I say that with both a bit of trepidation and a bit of excitement. Even though I’m a decade older, I still feel young at heart. Within the past year especially, I really feel like I’ve grown tremendously as a person and I’m pretty proud of the adult I’m becoming. Adulting can be hard, but the longer I live, the more I learn.

Here are 30 things I know so far.

  1. Loving yourself, truly deeply, is so much easier said than done, but it sure does help to remember that no one is perfect and you’re pretty great.
  2. Friendships are a tough thing sometimes, but the best ones are worth fighting for, and the toxic ones are worth dumping.
  3. Life is too short to spend your time doing things you hate.
  4. Above all, making your marriage your top priority is so important.
  5. It’s OK to eat dessert first sometimes. In fact, I encourage it.
  6. Your pets’ lives are even shorter than your own. Cherish every moment with your furry friends.
  7. You should do at least one thing every single day that brings you joy.
  8. Serve others when you can. Make a positive impact on the world.
  9. Reading and watching TV is great, but the best escape is a conversation with your loved one.
  10. There are a lot better uses of your time than using it worrying what others think.
  11. Travel is one of the best things you can do for yourself, even if it means taking a brief financial hit.
  12. You really should treat yourself to a giant fruity adult beverage with an umbrella for getting through yet another work week.
  13. “Things” do not matter. Purge the clutter and embrace your inner Marie Kondo.
  14. A funny cat video can make almost anything better.
  15. When you look good, you feel good. Dress how you want to feel. 
  16. Appreciate nature. Even a short walk to take in the crisp fall air, or a summertime picnic, can do wonders for the soul.
  17. Have no shame about doing childlike things sometime regardless of your age. Like having a tea party, building a fort or putting a juice box in your lunch bag.
  18. Watch cartoons after a scary movie to help prevent nightmares. 
  19. Be confident. Stop doubting yourself.
  20. Never be afraid of asking for help.
  21. If your mind ever feels too crowded, take some time to sit back, close your eyes and meditate. Just allow your mind to wander without distractions. Journal if it helps. Get it out. You will feel better.
  22. Not all healthy food tastes bad. Try new things because you might be pleasantly surprised.
  23. If someone inspires you, tell them that. If someone made you smile, tell them that. Thank others for being awesome. It might just make their day.
  24. Regular massages are one of the best indulgences you can buy yourself, and they are worth budgeting for.
  25. Coupons are great, but just because you have one doesn’t mean you have to use it.
  26. Facebook is a time suck. Unfriend/unfollow those who do not add something positive to your feed. Life is too short to be bombarded with hateful political rants from that guy you know from somewhere but you can’t even remember what from. While you’re at it, try turning off all push notifications.
  27. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Just keep a level head.
  28. Take time to appreciate the beautiful things in life. Like fall colors in the trees, summertime flowers, kindness from others, the art of dance, a frothy coffee or Channing Tatum.
  29. The ’90s were the best decade for music, movies and TV.
  30. 30 is going to be my best decade yet. I just know it.

Special thank you to my husband for being awesome and supportive. I’m so glad to have you in my corner and in my life.

The Best FREE Stock Images

As a blogger, you probably know how important it is to use high-quality images in most of your posts. You hopefully also know that you can get in a bad situation if you rip images from Google, even if you link back. The problem is, it can be hard to find websites that provide great images for free with the right kind of rights. Since I started blogging, I started keeping a list of my favorite sites to get images from. Then it hit me: Why am I hoarding this list? Surely someone else could use some handy dandy links too!

So roughly in order or my own preference, here are some sites to check out next time you need a photo.

www.unsplash.com

By far the favorite site for bloggers. Free, high-res photos with rights to copy, modify, distribute and use for commercial purposes with no permission or attribution required. If you like scrolling, you’ll love Unsplash. It didn’t used to be searchable, but looks like it is now. Lots of landscapes and a few neutral settings that are great if you need something general as a backdrop to overlay some text on. I subscribe to their emails to see all new photos added every 10 days, which is handy to save the ones you like most to use later.

www.pexels.com

Very Unsplash-like, but a wider range of images, and easier to search and filter. Totally free and you can do anything with them (with the Creative Commons zero license that almost all the sites on this list also use). Super easy to use.

www.designerspics.com

Lots of nice neutral food or workspace photos, free for personal or commercial use. Searchable or browse photos by category. No download limits or hoops to jump through, and no attribution required.

www.photopin.com

Has a huge database to choose from. Most are Flickr-type photos, not professional or editorial quality, and a lot of duds in there, but you can find some gems. Free to use, even commercially, though credit is required. Once you select your photo though, they generate HTML code for attribution you can just paste in your blog right under the photo, which makes it really easy.

www.gratisography.com

Let me be blunt: These photos are seriously weird, but in the best way possible. Like, wacky and fun. Not searchable, but you can filter by category, and either way there’s a lot of scrolling involved, but also some chortles. I’ve only found a small handful of photos from them I ended up using, but I adore this site just for its quirkiness. Free, high-resolution for personal and commercial use, no copyright restrictions.

www.pixabay.com

Searchable or by category. Wide range of image types, tons to choose from, and they accept user-submitted ones, which can be a good and bad thing. Totally free though and easy to use. No copyrights – you’re free to adapt and use for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source.

deathtothestockphoto.com

A little laborious to use and haven’t yielded many winners to me, but there are a few gems here and there. Mostly artsy photos. I subscribe to the monthly emails to get photo packs delivered where you can download the zip folder. Totally free, no restrictions. Otherwise you can’t download or view photos from their site unless you pay for an account, which is kind of a bummer.

www.picjumbo.com

Site itself a little more cluttered and not as easy to use, though it is searchable, but I often don’t get any results for specific words (like cider. WTF.). If you don’t anything specific though, they have some great photos just by scrolling their page or filtering by category. Can get new photos emailed to you, or pay for a premium account for access to even more. I think there’s a limit on downloads for free.

www.lifeofpix.com

High-resolution photos with no copyright restrictions for commercial use. Unsplash-like, but searchable, though no category filters. Library seems smaller than other sites. A lot of nature and city photos.

search.creativecommons.org

So this is kind of the mother bear, I think, and obviously has the largest library to pull from, but just like a Google search, you may have to scroll through a lot of duds to find the right image. The plus is that you’re more likely to find specific images you’re looking for here, including pop culture photos instead of generic background images. The con is that not all results will be licensed with Creative Commons Zero, so you may still need to link back or follow certain rules to use some of these photos, and I’ve found it super confusing to figure out which I can alter, which need attributions, etc. To play it safe, I generally keep this one as a last resort, and I’ve certainly gotten to that point before.

Where do you get your blog photos? Am I missing a great site?

Weird Things Fargoans Say

Being a native Hoosier, when I first moved to the Fargo area, I was hyper-aware of all the strange things people here said. It was almost like another language sometimes. I had to ask what certain sayings or words meant, and sometimes there was confusion because the way I talked was different than the way my new friends did.

Ten years later, I’ve adjusted and most of the Fargo-area colloquialisms are old hat. In fact, I’ve even (unintentionally) adopted the Nordic “o” sound and slight accent.

This post is one that’s been on my list for many months, because I think regional slang is just so fascinating. That’s why I present you … the weird things that people say in eastern North Dakota/western Minnesota (from the perspective of an Indiana girl).

Karaoke

The one thing that grates on my nerves more than anything up here is how locals pronounce karaoke. All I had ever heard it pronounced before was “carry-oh-key.” Up here? “Kuh-row-key.”

Kitty corner

When something is across the street on the other side from you, in Indiana, it is catty corner. Here, it’s kitty corner. Which you’d think I prefer because cats are awesome, but even Buzzfeed agrees with me that it’s catty.

Taco in a bag

Back home, walking tacos were the shit. You know, taco meat and toppings inside a bag of Fritos. Here, they are tacos in a bag and they are eaten with Doritos. I would be upset about this, but it turns out it’s damn delicious with Doritos, so I give this one a pass.

Aunt

Where I come from, your parents’ sister is your aunt, rhyming with ant. Here, it rhymes with haunt.

Lunch/dinner dinner/supper

This is the most confusing thing of them all. Many folk here (primarily the older ones) refer to the second meal of the day as dinner and the last one as supper. Which makes dinner plans quite confusing sometimes. So in Indiana, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner; here they eat breakfast, dinner and supper.

Hotdish

I’m on a fine line between hating and embracing this term. In Minnesota country, they eat hotdish. Hotdish is any kind of meal consisting of a meat, veggie, starch and cream of whatever soup baked in the oven. So basically, what the rest of the world calls a casserole. I literally had never heard of a hotdish before moving here, but I came to quickly find out they are all the rage here. It’s like, a giant culture thing. Tater tot hot dish is by far the most popular (and delicious).

Ride bike/drive truck

I recall finding this little colloquial gem out when I worked as a summer intern as a copy editor at the Fargo newspaper. I saw the phrase “drive truck,” as in “No I can’t go to the party. I gotta drive truck tomorrow.” and I promptly red-penned that sucker for correction. I then found out that it is such a common phrase here that they let it fly, but only by profession. So if you are a semi driver that gets paid from a company, you can drive truck. But if you’re poppin’ in your pickup to get some milk, you drive your truck or a truck or the truck, or you drive trucks, or you’re a truck driver.

Similar to ride bike. My husband sometimes says things like “I remember when I was a kid riding bike to my neighbor’s house,” and I always say “you mean riding your bike? You’re missing an article, chief.” But no, he contends that’s just how they say it here. I will never succumb to this silly rule of a grammatical mess.

“Oh fer cute”

This really is an endearing little phrase you’ll hear old grannies say in these parts. Show someone your rad new kicks and you’ll get an “Oh fer cute” response. Tell a side-splitting knock-knock joke and you’ll get an “oh fer funny.” Say something stupid and you’ll get an “Oh fer dumb.” It’s a thing.

Uff Da

The most cliche and totally true phrase Minnesotans and North Dakotans say is definitely uff dah (pronounced “oof-dah”). You’d think this is limited to old people but I legit hear young folk say this too. It’s used as a strong exclamation of any emotion, but I like to think of it as a “gosh darn it.”

Dontcha know

Another cute expression similar to Uff Da and the “oh fers.” As in, “Dolores said it’s pretty windy out today, dontcha know?” Also must be said with the long “o” sound.

Duck Duck Gray Duck

You probably know this game as Duck Duck Goose.

Frig

Many folk (mostly older) shorten the word refrigerator to frig. They still pronounce it fridge, but write it as frig.

Pop

The one thing both (most) Hoosiers and Fargoans can agree on though, is that bubbly carbonated beverages are called pop.

 

Why You Should Attend Your High School Reunion

I had no idea that so many people had so much either negativity or nonchalance toward high school reunions until I started planning my own. Maybe my school was just atypical, but I had been looking forward to a reunion ever since I graduated. At my school, we had always been a small but close-knit class. Even though we had your typical social groups, we were pretty friendly toward one another. And in our community, almost all the kids traveled through the same school and had the same classes from kindergarten through senior year, so we all knew each other really well.

A few of my close friends even said that they didn’t want to go, but I twisted their arms into going for me, and dontcha know, they actually told me what a great time they had and that they were glad I talked them into coming. I was a little nervous myself, but I tried to put on my positive pants and any fears I had melted away really quickly.

With that being said, I want to spread the word about how great reunions can be, because once I started telling my new friends and co-workers about my reunion, almost all of them said they didn’t or wouldn’t go to their own.

9 Reasons You Should Consider Attending Your Reunion

  • In my experience, the cliquey people probably won’t even come, and if they do, they’ll likely hang with their same crew, in which case you’re unaffected. At my own reunion, I found that every person that came wanted to be there and was genuinely interested in catching up. Even the ones who barely spoke to 11 years ago! In fact, some of the best conversations I had were with kids I wasn’t even close with back then.
  • One of the reasons many people said a reunion isn’t worth it is because with Facebook, they already know what everyone’s up to. The thing is, Facebook leaves a lot out, and there’s a lot to be said for the social experience of face-to-face, in-person interaction. There’s just something about hearing your old classmates tell you about their lives now that you will never get from stalking them online. In a day and age where so much of our interactions are online, it’s worth it to get out of the house and have real conversations.
  • It’s nostalgic. You have a shared common experience with this particular group of people, and that alone is pretty cool.
  • Your old classmates will remind you of things you had long forgotten about, and a trip down memory lane is most always a good thing.
  • It won’t be nearly as awkward as you think it will be. I worked it up in my mind (thanks, social anxiety!), but in reality, talking to everyone was really easy and natural. You just pick up where you left off 10 years ago. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, but it was such a pleasant surprise.
  • Now you and your classmates can drink together. Legally.
  • Old high school drama doesn’t matter anymore. As adults, you have so much more in common now. Place aside any old grudges and make the best of it. Even those you didn’t talk to at the time will still be fun to talk to now.
  • You only have a few reunions in your life and you might as well go and see how fun it is. I can almost guarantee that you’ll have more fun than you think you will.
  • If nothing else, think of it as a night out with your old friends. It’s an excuse to get prettied up and out of the house. If it sucks, you can always bail, but you just may go and be pleasantly surprised!

Side note: If you do go, please say thank you to the planning committee. Take it from me, putting those things together is hard and they would really appreciate knowing that their time, effort and money to pull it off was noticed.

If you have a reunion coming up, I really encourage you to take the leap and attend if your schedule allows.

Did you go to your reunion, or do you plan to?

Lessons I’ve Learned in Therapy

Today I’m admitting something that’s kind of hard because of a stigma attached to it: I tried therapy. And actually, so far, it’s working wonders. I’ve learned that many people suffer from anxiety, which I had no clue was so common, and reading others’ brave posts made me want to share my own experience.

These are some of the most helpful takeaways I’ve gotten from therapy, so far.

  • I cannot change the past and I cannot control the future.
  • I should not dwell on the unknown.
  • I cannot control other people’s actions or feelings and I shouldn’t give them the power to control mine.
  • Someone else’s opinion does not have to become my truth.
  • Other people’s actions are not a reflection of me.
  • I control my own decisions. I should never feel bad for what other people might think of me or what I do.
  • My feelings are never bad, and I shouldn’t feel shame, as long as I don’t act negatively on the bad feelings or thoughts.
  • Assertiveness is a set of skills, not a type of person. Like most skills, it can be learned and chosen when to be used. Just like something in your tool set — it’s there when you need it and put away when you don’t.
  • In times of panic, trick your mind out of its natural flight-or-fight response and force yourself to think rationally by breaking down all scenarios and making them manageable.
  • (Unhealthy) Worrying is a waste of time.
  • Life is too short to do things that do not bring you joy.
  • It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to prioritize what you need.

At the recommendation of my therapist, when I start overanalyzing and worrying, I ask myself simple questions. The easiest one is, “So?” The other is “Why does that matter so much to me?” These questions help me break down scenarios, see the big picture and get past the mental block and to the root of my insecurities. So what if this person doesn’t like me? Is it the end of the world? In which areas can I take control?

At one point I realized I was over-committed and under-delivering on almost all my obligations. But admitting that you can’t do it all is the first powerful step to regaining control. You just have to choose to do it. You shuffle things around, you re-prioritize, and like Tim Gunn would advise, you “make it work.”

Have you ever tried therapy? What tips do you have?

Natural Grocers Comes to Fargo

Today is a special day in Fargo because our very first natural grocery store has opened its doors! (To be fair, we do have three small-scale markets with natural items, but this is our first big operation.) Today marks the grand opening of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage in Fargo — the first in our state, housed in the former Office Depot building on 45th and 13th.

I know, most of my readers are probably all like, “What’s the BFD? Just go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s!” You see, friends, Fargo has neither. I have heard that Whole Foods has per capita requirements in all locations where they open stores, and Fargo is a bit shy of those (which is kind of a crock because we have tons of rural towns nearby that travel in for shopping).

The closest we have to natural and organic shopping are bulk items at Costco, the small but still growing natural selection at Target, those three small natural markets, plus the Internet and farmer’s markets (but those are only open for about three months out of the year anyway).

The point is, there really was nowhere we could go to find everything on our list. I would often have to split my shopping list up between all of the aforementioned locations, and that’s a drag. This store is really kind of a big deal, and it makes me so happy to see that Natural Grocers believes in our market and is offering a one-stop shop for all my crunchy needs.

I was lucky enough to have been invited to a sneak peek event and soft opening this past weekend, and I was part of a small group treated to a talk, complete with complimentary treats, by the store’s corporate and local staff and first dibs on shopping at the new store.

We were fed totally delicious chicken curry lettuce wraps (get the recipe HERE), yogurt berry parfaits and green tea lemonade. Mmm.

I learned about the stores’ history, values and offerings, and I can honestly say I am really impressed. Far more than I actually expected to be.

natural grocers inside

Here are a few things I just love about this store:

  • Each store has a nutritional health coach that customers can meet with for totally FREE to learn more about natural living and eating.
  • Every single item sold in the store is free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. This means I don’t have to worry about label reading and can trust that everything is safe.
  • ALL produce sold is organic. What had never occurred to me before is that at other stores where both organic and “regular” produce is sold, there is a high likelihood of them coming into contact and cross-contamination, which means the organic produce is not really organic anymore. Here, I can be confident that it really is.
  • All of the meat sold is naturally raised, with no hormones, antibiotics or byproducts in the animals’ feed. Just another way I can tell they really care about high quality in everything they sell.
  • They offer frequent and FREE cooking demos and classes, and for every four you attend, you get a free $10 gift card to the store.
  • They also support many sustainable initiatives, such as being totally bagless, and following green building practices when they can (in our case, this meant moving into an existing building instead of tearing it down and building from scratch).
  • They are passionate, informed, and most importantly to me, friendly folks dedicated to natural living. I felt totally loved and welcomed in the store.
  • They have a really vast selection of products, from regular food and grocery, including fresh produce, meats and dairy, shelf-stable cupboard items, to vitamins and supplements, pet products and beauty and personal care items.

The store also claims that they are the low price leader in the industry, and I hear that often, so I always compare prices before believing that. As I was roaming the aisles during this event, I snapped photos of random items that I knew other places sold so I could see if their statement holds up.

Here’s what I found. A few price comparisons on randomly selected items:

  • Organix cat food: $1.59 for 6 oz at Natural Grocers; $1.59 for 3 oz at PetSmart (NG wins big!)
  • Evol burritos: $1.99 at both Target and Natural Grocers
  • Giovanni 2chic shampoo: $7.43 at Natural Grocers; $6.42 at Swanson
  • Blue Diamond Cheddar Cheese Nut Thins: $2.99 at Natural Grocers; $3.06 at Swanson
  • Organic ground beef: $7.99/lb at Natural Grocers; $20 for a 3-pack at Costco (Costco wins on this one)
  • Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat tea: $4.39 at Natural Grocers; $3.79 at Swanson
  • Health Valley cereal bars: $4.89 at Natural Grocers; $4.89 at Target; $4.79 at Swanson
  • Pacific Natural Foods Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth: $4.19 at Natural Grocers; $4.44 at Swanson
  • Go Raw Simple Flax Snax: $4.15 at Natural Grocers; $4.69 at Swanson
  • Orgain Nutritional Shake: $11.55 at Natural Grocers; $13.29 at Swanson
  • NOW Foods Liquid Multi Gels 180 ct: $36.09 at Natural Grocers; $29.69 at Swanson
  • Nature’s Way Echinacea Goldenseal, 180 ct: $20.65 at Natural Grocers; $14.54 at Swanson
  • Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes: $6.59 at Natural Grocers; $3.59 at Swanson; $2.99 at Target
  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Liquid: $3.49 at Natural Grocers; $3.59 at Swanson; $2.99 at Target
  • Wellness cat food cans 5.5 oz: $2.15 at Natural Grocers; $2.09 at PetSmart
  • Organic red raspberries: $2.99
  • Green kale bunch: $1.50

Based on my “research,” Natural Grocers definitely wins the price battle on some items, but not all, and most were awfully close. I wouldn’t call them the leader, but I will say that their prices are good, and that’s good enough.

Here’s what I got in my first store haul. I went small to begin with, but I definitely look forward to going back and loading up on more. They’ve got me as a new customer for sure.

Those caramel squares were spectacular, and that bunch of kale made yummy kale chips when I got home

This post is not sponsored, but I did receive a gift card for attending the store’s sneak peek opening event. I was not obligated to write anything, but wanted to anyway because it was too sweet not to.

Let’s Talk About Feminism

I’m coming out of the closet and admitting to being one of those f-words. Yes, I am a feminist. Hear me out.

Feminism kinda gets a bad rap sometimes, and I totally get why. There’s a fear of the label. There’s fear of sounding too “extreme.” It’s often thought of this radical movement full of man-haters and bra burners. But I gotta tell you, gals, feminism’s actually pretty great if you take it for exactly what it is. What it’s really all about is equality. Equality for all … meaning men AND women.

My Start in Feminism + Roxane Gay

I’ve been a feminist ever since college, I think, but never really knew that one word described it. I was overthinking what feminism was, like I assume many other people do. But since I joined my book club circa 2008, I started realizing how much sense feminism made. The other girls in my book club and I agree on what books to reach each cycle, and without trying to, many of our book choices centered around social and cultural stories. One of the most recent books we read was “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. And though I knew a lot of her points, the way she worded them in this book was like a lightbulb for me. A chorus of angels sang, the heavens opened, the trumpets sounded and it all came together. The longer I sat and digested her words, the more they stayed with me. Even though it’s been over a month since we finished the book, I keep thinking of it in everyday scenarios.

We also got the honor of seeing Roxane speak in person. She came to the University of North Dakota in April to be on a writer’s panel and to do a reading, and so our book club packed up in our cars and headed to Grand Forks to see Ms. Gay. She was amazing. So relatable, like any of your girlfriends. Admittedly shy and awkward in person but well spoken in the written word… as are most writers.

I wanted to share some of the wisdom I took away from both her talk and her book, and write a little more about my own thoughts on that f-word.

The Best of Bad Feminist

What I love most about Bad Feminist is how real Roxane is in it. She admits that even she sometimes contradicts traditional feminist ideas. For instance, she admits to loving dirty rap that blatantly objectifies women because those beats are so catchy. (I so identify with her in this point.) It goes back to not being perfect. We’re humans. Not one of us on this planet are perfect, and we need to cut each other some slack. Period.

I really love how she defines feminism as a whole. That it is flawed because the people representing the movement are flawed. Here are some of my favorite excerpts. 

and

This unrelated statement on toxic friendships also stuck out to me, and I had to type it because it was broken up on different pages: “If you are the kind of woman who says, ‘I’m mostly friends with guys,’ and act like you’re proud of that, like that makes you closer to being a man or something and less of a woman, as if being a woman is a bad thing… It’s OK if most of your friends are guys, but if you champion this as a commentary on the nature of female friendships, well, soul search a little.” And “If you feel like it’s hard to be friends with women, consider that maybe women aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s you.” “I used to be this kind of woman. I’m sorry to judge.”

When Roxane mentioned in the book that an organization called Fix the Family actually has a list about why families should not send their daughters to college, I was so curious what these reasons were, I had to look it up (the list is here). I originally planned to address some reactions to their points in this post, but it would quickly spiral out of control, so do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself. There are some gems in it. (As in, head-scratching, ludicrous statements.)

In her book, Roxane also offers commentary (that is hilariously relatable) on pop culture, from Blurred Lines, to 50 Shades of Grey, to Girls, Hunger Games and Tyler Perry. Seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough.

I’m Not a Feminist, But …

One of the things Roxane discussed in her talk at UND was the statement so often heard from both men and women. “I’m not a feminist, but…” As if they’re tossing aside the label of feminism and can’t be associated with “that” movement. But whatever follows that statement, is often a feminist statement. It might be something like, “…I wish women got paid the same amount as men.” Because of the feminist stigma, people feel a need to downplay their feminist, aka, equality, ideals.

One other interesting point Roxane brought up was how she responds to blatant anti-feminist statements from younger men versus older ones. The gist was that older men are often so set in their school of thought that we can’t do much to change their minds, but young men are still impressionable and there’s still hope. They simply need a little direction. This is why it’s so important for families to raise their sons and teach them how to treat a woman. Letting boys loose in the world with no direction can often mean their education comes from the media, peers and porn. None of those need to be anywhere near the foundation of a proper education. This is something I’ll be keeping in mind should I have children.

Other Random Rambles About Feminism From Yours Truly

Women have it hard sometimes (not that men don’t have problems, but they’re very different problems). We’re tossed aside or marginalized in mainstream media, though this slowly seems to be changing. Women like Tina Fey, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are proving that women can be funny, talented and the shining star of a movie without a man sharing her spotlight. And yet, just as it seems things are changing, we take steps backward. Did ya’ll hear about those leaked emails between Sony and Marvel about why women shouldn’t be the stars of superhero movies?

One thing I’ve been super aware of recently (originally pointed out to me by Katie), is that women are so often sexualized by men…yet shamed for it at the same time. If a woman is confident in her looks or sexuality, she’s stuck-up or slutty. It’s hard to win.

And in the corporate world, as Sheryl Sandberg discusses in Lean In, we still haven’t gotten past accepting assertive men as leaders, but the same from a woman is often considered bitchiness.

Oh, and how many times are our emotions blamed on PMS?

I won’t get much into the rape culture discussion because it’s a slippery slope and a blog post in itself (plus I’ve already rambled too much), but it’s sad to see that too often when stories break about women being raped, people (men and women both) don’t believe them, thinking the story is fabricated for attention or some sort of revenge (and sometimes that may be the case, but why must we jump to that conclusion?) or they ask what she was wearing (as if showing some cleavage or leg warrants being assaulted) or how she was acting (are we not allowed to flirt without it being an invitation?).

I recently stumbled upon a TedxTalk video that I loved – this speaker has some really stellar points.

But what is really disheartening are the comments on the video. It’s clear that many people are still completely missing the message, and that hate is still rampant. One of the tamer comments says “Sorry, I am totally against feminism. I don’t believe for even a second that in order to promote women rights you need to take away male rights….” Once again, this frankly sucks that people actually believe that is the concept of feminism. That is so far from what feminism stands for. The tolerant feminism anyway, because remember, we can’t hold the few radical, outspoken ones to dictate the movement as a whole. Read the rest of the comments and you’ll see just how much work we have left to do. I had to stop reading at a point because I became so disheartened, and then enraged, at what was being said I couldn’t do it anymore.

Tearing Each Other Down Instead of Lifting Up

Sadly, a lot criticism of women comes from not men, but women ourselves! I think this is because of a few reasons.

1: We’re often so critical of ourselves that we end up playing the comparison game, which is a very dangerous game to play. Our insecurities come out in the form of anxiety, the inability to accept compliments, putting up walls, jealousy and cattiness.

Even though we’re held to impossible standards, have so many pressures and expectations, so many women tear each other down rather than band together and lift each other up. We are definitely not past the Mean Girls epidemic, even as adults. Though I can’t speak to this personally, the mommy wars kind of terrify me. Women judge and hate on those that breastfeed and those that don’t. Those that use cloth diapers and those that use disposable. Who cares? Can’t we each decide for ourselves what is best for our families and butt out of others’ business?

2: Part of the reason for this is good. It’s because we live in a society that allows for freedom of speech. We are allowed to have thoughts and feelings, and to express them publicly. Secondarily, in the age of the Internet and social media (and blogs!), it has become so easy and accessible to blast our feelings out there that we’ve lost our filters. It’s easy to be outspoken behind the screen of a computer.

This, to me, is also not feminist in any way. By attacking other women, how are we helping stand up for women? Love and acceptance should be the answer here, not hate and judgement.

(Reading this back, I do wonder: Does this make me a part of the problem because I judge those that judge? As if I’m perfect, which obviously I am not. See how tricky this is?!)

Even though strides have been made in career-life balance expectations for women, we still cannot win, on either end it seems. Decide to be a stay-at-home mom and you’re subject to criticism for not wanting to be a breadwinner and having no “calling.” Decide to go back to work after having a baby and you’re criticized for not wanting to be with the kids. And let’s not even talk about the maternity leave problems in this country. Even though women have no choice but to be the sex that carries, births and feeds children, we’re left at a disadvantage re-entering the workforce afterward. It’s something that’s weighing on me as I’m approaching that stage of life myself, and I have no clue what I’ll do if and when the time comes.

The Bright Side

I will say this though: Despite all of these points, and the glaring inequality in the U.S., I am incredibly thankful to live in a country that still treats us as humans. The playing field may not be totally equal, but we do have basic rights. We can vote. We can leave the house without the company of another man. We (legally) can wear whatever we like in public and show our hair. We are allowed to speak, work and have opinions. We aren’t in fear of war or genocide in our streets. Though the U.S. has a long ways to go, there are countries out there in far worse shape than us, and my heart goes out to those women that are fighting a much bigger fight.

By the way, I’ve come across a few solid blogs that discuss feminism in our lifestyle niche, so shout outs to The Lady Errant, Feminist Feline, Belle Brita and She is Fierce. Also, in a recent post on Alyssa Goes Bang, I really felt like Alyssa captured this whole discussion into one simple sentence: “I believe men and women are of equal merit to society.” Amen, girlfriend.

What do you think about feminism? Have you read Bad Feminist? Seriously, I want to know, so let’s talk. Just please be respectful when expressing your opinion. Any hateful comments will be removed.

I’m one of those skinny b*tches

(Apologies if the title of this post offends you. I did it not to be offensive or mean, but to make a bigger point. I am one of those “skinny b*tches” you hear referred to in the media. My story is one you may not have heard.)

A few weeks ago at work, we were given free company T-shirts to wear to work events. Such is my luck, all the smalls were out and I was stuck with a men’s medium. When I tried it on, it looked like one of those giant night shirts, big and boxy, loose and almost to my knees. The first time I had to wear it, I tried to tuck it in creatively to hide the bulk, but I still felt self-conscious and jealous of all my co-workers who looked awesome in their appropriately fitted tees.

One of my neighbors does mending, so I took the shirt to her to see if she could bring it in so it fit better. As I explained that it was too big, she gave me a concerned look and said, “You’re too skinny anyway. What do you weigh?” I told her 125, and her reply was something to the extent of, “Soaking wet though, right? You’re far too small.” I was embarrassed and uncomfortable, and it made me feel even more self conscious and aware of my awkward body.

I kind of mumbled, “Yeah, but I’m not sure what to do. I eat plenty,” and scurried off. What she didn’t know was that I ate four pieces of cake that day. And if I told her that, she probably wouldn’t have believed me anyway.

These are the kind of exchanges that happen to me often. And I cringe every time my weight gets brought up. Any woman can attest that someone else pointing out your bodily flaws does not feel good.

I have been working on this post for months now, and I’ve been terrified to publish it for fear of sounding insensitive. But my goal with this post is twofold. 1) To share my side of the story. 2) To share my hopes that we can stop any kind of movement embracing a certain body type and instead focus on being our own versions of healthy without worrying about anyone else. I want to get to a place where we can all be accepting of each other, big or small, busty or flat, bootylicious or stick straight, or even somewhere in the middle.

My arms were kinda cut, and I was athletic, but my waist would never be anything but tiny.

My story

I had the same 108-pound lanky body all the way from age 12 to 26. I grew a booty sometime in there, but that was literally the only place that seemed to grow. My high school classmates would call me “too skinny,” “anorexic,” “stick,” “gross” and other hurtful phrases. At lunchtime, I would get asked if I was going to throw up later. I would be asked what it’s like to be anorexic. I was told to eat something. I was the Calista Flockhart of small-town northern Indiana.

My mom made me an appointment to talk about my weight and find out if I was normal or too underweight and if I had any health risks. The doctor said I was teetering right on the edge of normal and underweight, but wasn’t too terribly concerned. He advised me to eat more protein and try nutritional shakes to gain weight. I did, and nothing happened. Out of desperation, I went out of my way to eat fatty foods like fried chicken, mounds of greasy bacon and so many Doritos and Twinkies. I gorged myself hoping it would make me gain so the teasing would stop and I’d look like the other girls in my class. Still nothing. Not a single pound. I felt helpless.

Literally, I couldn’t gain weight if I tried.

Yet even in high school, when I was at my skinniest, I also held the record for most number of push-ups when the Army came to recruit. I was very active, in tennis, cheerleading, dance and more. That didn’t help either.

As a fellow blogger Shane said in her own post about being the skinny girl, “As difficult as it is for the majority of people to lose weight and keep it off, it’s the same struggle for me to put it on.” Ditto, girlfriend.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t win. And I so badly wanted to be liked without being defined as that stick girl. To vulnerable, shy teenage Amanda, those comments were just as hurtful as being called fat or ugly. I became too worried about how others viewed me and not how I viewed myself. I was sad that people thought I was grossly thin. It wreaked havoc on my self-esteem. I was never good enough, except to my closest family and friends (a.k.a. the people who knew how much I ate).

It got easier when I started college and moved out of state. I was still small, still ate a complete crap diet and completely stopped any physical activity. I was grossly out of shape and unhealthy, but still, 108. Fewer people seemed to care, but the words from high school still haunted me.

Around age 26, my metabolism screeched to a halt and I suddenly started gaining weight. Years earlier, I had stopped weighing myself though because that 108 number never changed. But eventually the pants I had been wearing since high school started getting tighter, then suddenly couldn’t even make it past my hips.

Though I was alarmed at first, I was glad to be filling out and finally at a healthy weight. To maintain this weight and not keep gaining (because finally, I know what it’s like to not be able to eat anything anymore), I switched to a healthier diet. Of course, I also wanted to develop better eating habits I could pass on to my children and provide more well-rounded meals for me and my husband in the meantime.

Now, at age 29, and just shy of being 5’5, I weigh about 125. When I got to this weight AND was eating much better, I actually started to feel really good about myself. For the first time in a long time, or maybe ever, I felt normal. Until that neighbor’s comment, which took me right back to those hurtful words in high school.

Even now, when I am at the ideal weight for my height, even now when I make good food choices but still struggle with my junk food addiction, it’s not good enough for some people. I may not be perfect, but I try, and for the most part, I’m healthy. But I shouldn’t have to justify that to anyone.

Even innocent comments hurt

Now, for every negative skinny comment, there is also a well-meaning one that is just as hurtful. It’s the “OMG you’re so small! I wish I were as skinny as you.” Or the “You’re such a skinny Minnie!” Or the “It must be nice to eat whatever you want and not gain weight!” And even though I know the people who say those things think they’re being nice, that’s not how I take it. To me, it’s embarrassing because you are pointing out my body and comparing it to yourself or someone else. I start overanalyzing and wondering if by “so skinny” you secretly mean “too skinny” or “unhealthy” or “icky.” It makes me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious, and I never know how to reply.

I often end up putting myself down to justify why being skinny is not all sunshine and rainbows. But that does no good either. Really, any comment, regardless of intent, about my body that isn’t an actual compliment makes me feel not good enough. So please: Tell me that I look pretty or that my scarf is cute instead.

As much as you might think that I can wear anything, that’s far from the truth. Even though I’m small, I’m not proportionate. My waist is teeny, torso is long, legs are short, bust is small and hips are shapely. When shopping for swimsuit separates, I get an XS top and a medium bottom, and even then, medium bottoms still don’t hide the cellulite (yes, skinny people still have cellulite). And buying jeans? Nothing fits just right.

I was in the best shape of my life when I played tennis, but even with muscle, I still couldn’t break 110.

The grass is always greener

I feel particularly left out of today’s culture because we’re surrounded by inspirational weight loss success stories. Don’t get me wrong, those are great! I know that many people struggle with obesity and food addiction, and I applaud their efforts to live a healthier lifestyle. And in a world that relies on fast food, overly processed snacks and convenience, it’s no wonder so people many face struggles with food.

While it’s not hard to find stories of people who have lost mounds of weight, it feels like the world (and sometimes the individual) just wants to see them skinny, and they strive for an ideal body as defined by the media and society’s standards. I often wonder how many of them are doing it for the right reasons. I wonder if they have the wrong perception of what it’s like to be skinny. Thing is: Losing weight does not mean you will be happy. Even once you achieve whatever size you’re striving for, there will always be something you can pick yourself apart about. No matter the size you wear, people will always find something else to criticize you for.

The story that is left out of most of the media these days is the story of someone who struggles with weight from the other end. We’re so focused on celebrating weight loss, but it’s not always a good thing. What about the people that actually need to gain weight? The people who do have eating disorders, or maybe the people like me who are naturally small but still have issues with food? I know they’re out there, but I haven’t seen many of them.

Real medical issues

A friend of mine growing up was born with cancer PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumor) and is missing a lung because of it. She received even more comments about her weight than I did due to the way her body looks from that. And even though she’s probably the “skinniest” lady I know, she’s a beautiful, caring, kind person. But like me, she heard many hurtful things about her size when she could do nothing about it.

Too-small women can also deal with other setbacks in life simply because of their size. Ballerinas often don’t get their periods because they work so hard and have to maintain a small body. But even regular, everyday women, have reason to worry about their futures.

After I wrote my first post about being the skinny girl, Kelly from another blog and I ended up emailing back and forth, sharing our own similar stories. She actually enlightened me to an entirely new and very real concern that she faces for being too skinny, and that’s having children. Her doctor “diagnosed” her with a rapid-fast metabolism, and she has tried everything to gain weight. Her lung even collapsed because of her size. No other reason. And now, she’s not sure if she will be able to conceive children or provide the proper nutrients for a baby, let alone carry the weight of one inside her. All for no reason other than being naturally skinny.

One thing she said to me that is better than any other way I can word it is this: “Telling a skinny person that they need to be quiet when she talks about trying to gain weight (for health reasons, such as myself) is just as rude as somebody saying, ‘Hey whale! Eat more salad!’”

For 10+ years, both Kelly and I have felt like no one else understands when all we hear is that we are too small.

Skinny shaming

The past few years, there has been a new movement of women embracing their curves. Which is great, in theory. Curvy women are beautiful, and I know that big girls got bullied just like I did. But skinny women are beautiful too, and everyone in between. Yet so many of these “movements” still focus in on one particular body type as being right.

“Zero is not a size.” “Real women have curves.” “Big is beautiful.” Does that mean that if you aren’t a size zero, you’re not a real person? Or that if you have no curves you’re not a real woman? Or that if you’re small, you’re not beautiful? I know that these campaigns mean well, but to someone who once was a size 0, it feels like they’re saying that being naturally thin is wrong and ugly. Or at least that’s how I always took it.

Big girls being ridiculed for their weight is nothing new, but their voices are rising and fat-shaming is slowly becoming less acceptable. But now, the term “skinny shaming” is coming to light, and some even call it reverse discrimination. I’m not sure what to call it, but as a skinny person, I’m glad we’re starting to have a voice. We’re a very misunderstood group, probably because we’re a small group (no pun intended).

The “other side”

I know that there are more severe health risks for overweight individuals than for underweight ones, and because so many more people struggle with obesity, we simply hear more of their stories. But when I first started drafting this post, I didn’t completely understand the other side because I had never lived it.

I felt marginalized as a skinny person because I was called stick and gross as a teen, and people thought I had an eating disorder when I didn’t. And because people still call me out on being “too skinny,” I felt attacked. The first time I ran across a post titled, The Myth of Skinny Shaming, I was infuriated and felt completely misunderstood.

Certainly being small (and in this case, I mean naturally thin, not seriously underweight) isn’t a privilege?! But then this article changed my mind. Particularly, this line: “I’ve never been asked to pay more for a seat on an airplane – because the seats were designed with my body type in mind.”

And then I got a new perspective. While some individuals will probably always comment on my body for one reason or another, it is true that mainstream society still values small over large. Small within reason, anyway. So maybe we don’t have it so bad, us skinny but healthy people. And what am I doing worrying about what other people think of me anyway? I’m an adult now and have far better things to do.

Why I’m NOT ‘All About That Bass’

That being said, there is no doubt in my mind that pop culture and the media play a HUGE role in the way naturally skinny girls are viewed. Heck, the way everyone is viewed. We are all stereotyped, aren’t we? And that leaves groups of people very misunderstood.

This summer, the breakout hit was Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” It was catchy, seemed light-hearted and fun. But I hated it the moment I first heard it. I couldn’t help but notice the slew of double standards and contradictory lyrics. And then when everyone was singing the song praises for being body-positive, I wanted to scream.

While the song has a few lyrics that I do genuinely think are positive, I will never get over these lines: “boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” “all the right junk in all the right places,” “I’m bringing booty back,” “Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that. No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat.”

These lines play into the same issues I have with “Real women have curves.” Those lyrics seem to insinuate that women need to make men happy, and therefore you must have a curvy booty or else you’re not desirable. And the “no I’m just playing” line is so passive-aggressive.

For the record, not once did I ever think that I was fat. I’ve always been ultra aware of my size. Let’s not make assumptions, Meghan.

Thankfully, miss Megs did get some backlash for this song. As my bestie and reporter friend wrote in her own review in our newspaper, “I’m all for mamas teaching their daughters that their weight shouldn’t determine their self-worth, but not with the hook that boys prefer a certain body type.” Amen sistah.

In looking up more analyses of the song, I found many, but none held the same weight that this post did on Jenny Trout. And as one of the commenter stated, “Anything that uses the phrase ‘skinny bitches’ isn’t body positive in my opinion.”

Now, I should state for the record that as much as I hate All About That Bass, I should probably also hate Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. But I don’t. Because Nicki does not even pretend that her song promotes body positivity in any way. It’s all about the big booty, that’s all, no apologies. But Meghan’s song is traipsing along as a total marketing lie, and that’s the issue I have with it.

We are all beautiful, regardless of our size

I’m not trying to sound like a lunatic on her soapbox, or an expert on body image, by any means. I may not know what it’s like to be overweight, but I know all too well what it’s like to be underweight and criticized for that. So let’s push aside all of the physical and talk about, and worry about, deeper issues. We all have meaning and every woman on this planet is beautiful regardless of how she looks from the outside. “Too fat” or “too skinny.” Celebrate you just as you are.

Finally, I know that I am more than a number on the scale or a label. No matter what my body looks like, I am defined by far more than that. I am a daughter, wife, sister-in-law, niece, aunt, co-worker, volunteer, writer, animal lover, friend, and human being. I am me, and that is good enough.