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Living the Vegan La Vida Dulce

This post is by Marly McMillen of NamelyMarly.

One day I took some vegan chocolate chip cookies to the office to share with my co-workers. When people saw the cookies they were thrilled and ready to dive in. Hands were eagerly stretched toward the cookies, mouths salivating, looks of eager anticipation on everyone’s faces. The mood instantly changed when I announced the cookies were vegan. In fact, the word “buzz kill” comes to mind. Those enthusiastic hands were quickly withdrawn. My co-workers now looked at the tray of cookies with doubt; like they might be radioactive or poisonous. It’s as if they thought I had laced those cookies with tree bark.

vegan cookies

Image is author's own

“Oh well,” I thought, “More delicious cookies for me.”

As a vegan, it’s true that I don’t eat meat, eggs, or dairy. And do you know what? I find being a vegan so liberating!
That’s right. According to a lot of people, my diet is highly restrictive. In fact, when I tell people about my diet they look at me with a befuddled stare and ask, “You don’t eat any meat, or cheese, or ice cream?” And that question is usually followed up with, “What do you eat?”

How could such a “restrictive” diet be freeing? Here are the reasons I think the vegan lifestyle is the best.

Veganism is a freedom diet

When I walk down the grocery store aisle, I’m free from the burden of worrying about so many of choices before me. As Michael Pollan points out, most of the good stuff is in the exterior of the grocery store, not the middle aisles. I’m not a big fan of shopping so this means I get to spend my time in the grocery store happily perusing the outer aisles buying fruits and veggies, whole grains, and the like.

Veganism is a best body diet

I love being vegan because I know it’s what’s best for my body. Yes, vegans do need to supplement their diet with a B-12 vitamin. Some people will use this as a reason to discredit the vegan diet. They suggest that if the diet is so “natural” why do people who follow it need a supplement?

John Robbins explains this very eloquently in his book The Food Revolution, “Animal products have vitamin B-12 because animals ingest plants and/or drink water that are carrying the microorganisms that produce the vitamin. Vitamin B-12 is constantly being produced throughout the environment by bacteria … Our food today is so sanitized that even if there were some B-12 in the dirt in which our veggies grew, we wouldn’t get it.”

Veganism is a green diet

I know the choices for my diet are also helping the environment. Jane Goodall points out in her book, Harvest for Hope, “almost half of the world’s harvest is fed to animals to fatten them for human food.”

She explains the devastation this has caused to the environment including the destruction of the Brazilian rain forest. She also points out the irresponsible use of water and summarizes her thoughts by saying, “I believe that the single most important thing we can do, if we care about the future of the planet, is either to become vegetarians or to eat as little meat as possible.”

Veganism is a zen diet

A vegan diet is a more spiritual approach to living. Kathy Freston in her book Quantum Wellness encourages her readers to understand what goes into the production of their food. She explains how today’s factory farm techniques eschew the values of stewardship of the land and accountability to the greater community.

Her book suggests that we can achieve improved health by learning to eat with moral integrity. Ms. Freston explains, “It is prudent that we think about every aspect of how food arrives on our plate – how it’s grown, how the workers who handle it are treated, how it is packaged, and how it is prepared.”

On my blog, I showcase some of the delicious vegan foods we eat, including everything from vegan mac and cheese to vegan sesame tofu. I recently ran a series of posts veganizing some popular and mostly meat-based sandwiches. This series is a great example of how a vegan diet can include mouthwatering, finger-licking good food.

The trick to any sustainable diet is about finding balance between healthy, tasty, and really tasty. We enjoy a wide variety of food, including raw fruits and veggies, but also incorporating treats like those chocolate chip cookies that my co-workers snubbed. To prove that vegan cookies include perfectly normal, safe, and enjoyable ingredients, I’m sharing with you the very recipe I used when taking treats into the office.

As the title of this post implies, being a vegan can be such a sweet life! I’ve found my own personal sweet spot of balance in my diet; a truly enjoyable way of eating that also makes me feel really good … and I like feeling really good. Care to join me?

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup dairy-free margarine (2 sticks), softened
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup regular sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 egg substitute (I used 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water*, or you can use ½ cup of applesauce, or egg replacer which is sold in most health food stores)
2 ¼ cups flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 oz. chocolate chips

  1. Bakers, start your engines. That means, get your oven ready by heating it up to 375° F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat margarine and sugars with mixer until fluffy. If you don’t want to use a mixer, that’s fine. You can use a little bit of elbow grease (and burn a few cookie calories) by giving it a good stir with a whisk. Add vanilla and egg replacer of your choice and stir well.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  5. Mix combined ingredients on low speed until well combined.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Drop by heaping teaspoon full onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Have you tried the vegan diet? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Marly McMillen has a passion for life, family, vegan food, and names. She writes about all of these and more on her site at NamelyMarly. Marly’s podcast, NamelyMarly, can be found on iTunes, where she interviews people about their names. The people she interviews include famous authors, models, and even the people she meets at the park. Marly is also passionate about healthy food and shares vegan recipes as well.

Like Best Next Time

This post is by Marly McMillen of NamelyMarly.

I have a few theories in life and one of them is this, “If you want to be good at something, be prepared to fail.” Kind of a negative life mantra, eh? To be good at something, you have to be prepared to do it badly.

Image is author's own

Sure, there are exceptions to every rule, and the virtuosos in this world may not seem to fit my little theory. That’s because they can play Mozart concertos on the piano at age five. But then again, their savant-like talent is usually concentrated on one thing, like that piano. They may not have any idea at all about how to paint or play tennis.

And that’s where my theory comes into play again. If you’re a virtuoso at the piano, the only way to get good at photography is to be a failure at it … sometimes quite miserably.

Of course, there’s also the other end of the spectrum with those who adopt failure as a way of life. They’re like the proverbial fly against the window, doing a miserable job trying to get through the same dead-end corner. But both ends of the spectrum aside, if you want to get better at guitar, or painting, or public speaking, all of these skills require that you do them badly … at least to begin with.

And that’s the thing that holds a lot of us back. Fear of failure, or a desire to do things perfectly, can make you and the people around you miserable.

Like best next time

Like Best Next Time is a phrase a colleague and I used when working on a recent project together. As is typical for a lot of us, we were working for a boss with unrealistic expectations; he wanted a project rolled out on an impossible timeline. And he wanted it to come in far below what we had projected in terms of costs.

We wallowed in misery by sharing our favorite boss-bashing Dilbert cartoons, which surprisingly helped a lot. But time was ticking and we knew we had to get busy and produce real results.

I’m sure you know the saying about project expectations: You can have only two of these three—fast, cheap or perfect. We decided to give the boss the two he asked for, fast and cheap, but perfect would be a work in progress.

And that’s what we did. And you know what? It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and productive projects any of us had ever worked on. Without the harness of perfectionism tethering us to a defined stake in the ground, we were all able to relax, throw out creative (if not sometimes zany) ideas, and work together with ease. We eventually turned out a product that was beyond all our expectations. It still didn’t meet our self-defined expectations of perfection, but it was definitely a high-quality project with potential to become even better.

How can you know if perfectionism is holding you back?

Perfectionism can take a miserable and sometimes tragic toll on individuals and the people around them. Consider French Chef Bernard Loiseau who committed suicide after his restaurant received a slightly lower rating than it had in the past. In their book, When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough Martin Anthony and Richard Swinson describe a perfectionist as someone who has, “strict standards or expectations for oneself or others that either cannot be met or can only be met at a great cost.”

On one hand, having a drive to constantly improve can actually be a good thing. Problems arise, however, when you raise the bar to impossible levels and place your entire self worth on the outcomes of reaching those impossible goals.

That’s why perfectionism frequently results in depression, anger problems, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

How do you know if you suffer from perfectionism? There are some tale-tell traits. Do you recognize any of the following in yourself?

  • You’re not satisfied with anything less than complete perfection (which usually means you prefer to do things yourself rather than entrusting it to others).
  • You feel constantly worried about details.
  • You think of mistakes as evidence of your unworthiness.
  • You’re overly defensive when criticized.
  • You have standards that are impossible or nearly impossible to reach.
  • You have an all or nothing attitude—things are either good or bad, which can lead to procrastinating. Why start something if it can’t be perfect?

How can you learn to release the notion of perfectionism?

Perfectionism is not only self-detrimental, it also impacts those around you. Acknowledging perfectionistic traits is a great first step and even better when followed by creating a list of how these traits are holding you back. You can also find ways to embrace your complete self, flaws and all. That means learning to love a little bit of failure here and there…as part of a process toward improvement. Don’t avoid practicing guitar because you don’t sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan. He probably didn’t start out sounding so great either.

Lots of books provide steps on how you can be happier, but I’ve found none to be as effective as this one. Learn to live with a “like best next time” mentality. Do your best and learn how to do it better next time.

Are you a perfectionist? Does that hold you back? Share your experiences in the comments.

Marly McMillen has a passion for life, family, vegan food, and names. She writes about all of these and more on her site at NamelyMarly. Marly’s podcast, NamelyMarly, can be found on iTunes, where she interviews people about their names. The people she interviews include famous authors, models, and even the people she meets at the park. Marly is also passionate about healthy food and shares vegan recipes as well.

Should You Burn Your Bridges?

This post is by Marly McMillen of NamelyMarly.

I’m in an online group forum that reminds me of a mismatched pink sock. It’s one of those forums that delivers hundreds of mindless emails to my account. Usually I delete them with hardly a glance, all the while wondering why I just don’t unsubscribe. It’s like that darn pink sock. I should just get rid of it.

But one day, someone made a comment on that forum that caught my attention. It was something to this effect, “No matter what happens, you should never burn a bridge.”

A simple comment, but it played the pinball circuit in my brain the rest of the afternoon. And through the remainder of the week. We should never burn bridges. What an interesting thing to say so absolutely.

Aren’t there times when burning a bridge could be a good thing? As Don Henley once said, “Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.”

Image by Shawn Beelman

What does it mean exactly to burn a bridge? The Urban Dictionary defines burning a bridge as “cutting off all ties in a relationship; to burn a bridge means to be completely done with something.”

I don’t know why but the burning bridge theme made me think of Sherron Watkins, the famous whistleblower at Enron. What would have happened to her or countless others had she not spoken up about the infamous indiscretions of her employer?

Before you answer that question, be aware of this little tidbit, whistleblowers are without a doubt burning bridges. In fact, statistics show that most people who choose to blow the whistle at their place of employment face a trifecta of bad outcomes: they’re either demoted, fired, or they resign (from the internal pressure) within a year.

Translation? That bridge is burned.

But whistleblowers also serve a greater good. According to the US’s National Whistleblower’s Center, whistleblowers are the “single most important corporate resource for detecting and preventing fraud.” They’re basically heroes. And most of them don’t end up on the cover of Time magazine like Ms. Watkins. No, most whistleblowers are unsung heroes who suffer persecution.

Redirection, not retribution

I can think of 99 reasons of out a 100 why most of the time we should find ways to cross a bridge rather than burn it. In fact, most relationships—be they work or personal—have something in them that’s worth salvaging. If not for today, then they have the potential for some greater good at a future point in time.

The trick is knowing when it’s time to salvage or move on. Here are a few examples of both.

The annoying boss

Your boss may cause steam to spout from your ears (think: Bugs Bunny) but that’s not necessarily a reason to burn a bridge. It is, however, a sign that it might be time to dust off that suit and start looking for another job. You may be grateful to be able to use that boss as a reference after you’ve moved on.

The boundless friend

If you have a friend who doesn’t understand boundaries, it’s time to redirect. Be very clear with your friend what your boundaries are—don’t call after 10pm, or no more late-night parties. Whatever the expectation is, as long as you’re being reasonable, then your friend should be respectful of those boundaries. If after several reminders they still don’t get it, it might be time to move on.

The constant critic

You have an internal critic that lives in your head. Maybe it’s the voice of your second-grade teacher telling you how incompetent you are or your older brother who reminds you at every turn that you’re stupid. This is one time where you should burn that bridge with abandon. Like Madonna says, “strike a match, there’s nothing to it.” Tell your inner critic goodbye and replace his or her voice with some positive mantras of peace and love!

The politically incorrect friend

In today’s increasingly acerbic climate, you might have a friend or family member of the opposite political persuasion who constantly tries to engage you in a word war. Remind him or her that you care about them, and you don’t want the conversation to deteriorate into a shouting match. Do your best to salvage by avoiding any land mines thrown your way, but be prepared. If you reach the point where there are more missiles than missives, you may have to negotiate a peace treaty. Agree on the subjects you will and will not talk about in the future.

The bad habit

You should definitely consider burning the bridge on a bad habit that’s been hanging around for years. Smoking? Overeating? Gambling? You know what it is that has a grip on your life. The idea of burning a bridge is really about moving on to new territory and there’s evidence to suggest that replacing an old vice with a new passion is a great way to finally break free.

So you see, there are times when you can cross over and build a better and stronger bridge in the process. But there are also other times, when a new direction without the possibility of return is the only way to go.

Just think. All of this from one comment out of a thousand from an online forum. That forum is just like my mismatched pink sock. I don’t know why I keep it, but there’s a one in a thousand chance that I’ll be glad it’s there some day.

Marly McMillen has a passion for life, family, vegan food, and names. She writes about all of these and more on her site at NamelyMarly. Marly’s podcast, NamelyMarly, can be found on iTunes, where she interviews people about their names. The people she interviews include famous authors, models, and even the people she meets at the park. Marly is also passionate about healthy food and shares vegan recipes as well.

Harness Transformational Courage to Change Your Life

This post is by Marly McMillen of NamelyMarly.

We are, all of us, descendants of immigrants. In fact, American scientist Carl Sagan once said, “For 99.9 percent of the time since our species came to be, we were hunters and foragers, wanderers on the savannahs and the steppes.” As humans, we have a voyager spirit. It drives us to journey to new lands.

But many of us today find ourselves stationed in our plot of terra firma. Maybe we make a move or two, but very few of us have made the life-or-death sort of transformational journeys of our ancestors. These were people who journeyed far, fleeing harsh conditions to endure a grueling passage that many did not survive to an unknown and possibly unforgiving new land.

Laurie Fabiano, the O Magazine-recommended novelist, wrote a fictional story based on people from her family who emigrated from Italy to the United States. In her novel, Elizabeth Street, Fabiano described the horrors from which people were fleeing. In my interview with Laurie, she told me, “It’s not like the people in my family were looking for adventure. They didn’t want to leave Italy, but they were starving to death. The poverty there was horrific in those days. It wasn’t like they said, ‘Wow! Let’s have an adventure and journey to America!’ And the journey itself was also horrific.”

If today we find ourselves too rooted in either land or life, how can we channel the spirits of our immigrant ancestors to journey to the life of our dreams?

It’s worth noting that we don’t have to physically uproot our families to revive transformation courage in our lives.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the book, Eat, Pray, Love as a sort of memoir of her multi-month journey to Europe as she was recovering from a divorce and rediscovering her own identity. During times of self-reflection and renewal, people choose to reinvent themselves in different ways. Some, like Elizabeth Gilbert, go on journeys. But that’s not always a practical option for everyone. Elizabeth says herself that it’s possible to transform yourself right at home. The trick is committing the time and energy toward that endeavor.

You may be considering a major life change like a new career or you may be looking for space and permission to finally write that novel. Or maybe you’d like to stretch yourself by running for the school board. Living a successful life is all about that: stretching yourself, learning, growing, and then learning some more.

How can you use transformational courage to help you along the way? Here are some tips for creating your own transformational journey.

Acquire satellites

After you punch an address into your GPS, “Acquiring satellites” is usually the first message you’ll see. That’s because the only way to get to where you’re going is to understand where you are.

Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Create for yourself a Transformational Journal (any spiral notebook will do) and begin the first page with an assessment of where you are in your life. Write down areas where you’re happy, where you’re ambivalent, and other areas where you’d like to see some changes.

Become a wonderer

Have you ever pondered a “what if” question? What if you would have taken that advanced track in college? What if you would have jumped at that impromptu trip to Europe? Now it’s time to take that wondering spirit and apply it to your future.

Get our your Transformational Journal and on the next page, write this down:

“I wonder what would happen if I ___________.”

Then begin filling in the blanks. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way at Work, suggests creating this Wonderer as an inner voice in your life. She says that you can “get to know and trust your Wonderer as an important guide to creative breakthrough.”

Set some coordinates

In the show, A Very Brady Sequel, Mike Brady says to his family, “Remember kids, a very wise man once said, ‘Wherever you go, there you are.’” Yes, it’s true, this is a quote from the Brady Bunch, but the point is still valid. Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be in your life?

Maybe you’ve thought about starting your own business. Or taking an art class. Now is the time to get some of these goals on a page. On page two of your Transformational Journal, write down some dreams you have for yourself, whether it’s improving an existing skill or learning something entirely new.

Define the standards

Are you looking for the freeway route or do you want to take the scenic side roads? There are certainly pros and cons to both; you just have to know what the priority is for your life. And remember, there are no right or wrong answers here: you can combine both speedy and sedate segments of your journey.

Maybe you want to sign up for a brief, two-day photography workshop, but take your time developing a blog to showcase your work. This is an entry for page three of your Transformational Journal. Write down the “how” of making your life course happen. Brainstorm ideas such as networking with people in the industry of your choice, to taking courses, to exploring websites that can help you learn more.

Pick a milestone

Setting some achievable landmarks along the journey can help you feel a sense of accomplishment along the way. Milestones can occur at any point in a journey, but their purpose is the same: to inspire the weary wanderer to stay the course. Think about the immigrants who braved brutal conditions crossing the Atlantic to come to the United States. The Statue of Liberty was a significant milestone for many of them.

Take another look at your Transformational Journal and on the next page write down some milestones that can help you know you’re on the right path. If you’re aiming to become healthier, then list ways that you’ll know you’re getting there, such as getting back into those jeans from last year.

Get on the road!

The longest journey begins with just one step. You’ve heard this many times before, but it remains true today. Don’t judge yourself in a negative light for taking even the tiniest of steps. It’s those tiny steps combined together that will get you to your destination.

We are all immigrants on the journey of life. Carl Sagan was right. We have been wanderers from the beginning. It’s in our DNA. The trick is cultivating those immigrant skills to lead us to the life of our dreams. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.”

Marly McMillen has a passion for life, family, vegan food, and names. She writes about all of these and more on her site at NamelyMarly. Marly’s podcast, NamelyMarly, can be found on iTunes, where she interviews people about their names. The people she interviews include famous authors, models, and even the people she meets at the park. Marly is also passionate about healthy food and shares vegan recipes as well.