Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Coffee Versus Water: A Taste Buds Journey

Coffee Love

This week on the podcast we talked about tips to drink more water. I will be the first to admit that I don’t drink enough water, especially in the summertime. In fact, last week, I got really sick because I hadn’t been drinking enough water. More than a few times in my life I have been to the hospital due to dehydration. Now that my stomach is smaller, it makes it even harder to consume water. What I do consume a lot of, is coffee.

I’ve been called out a few times in the last year (by people who don’t drink coffee) that I drink too much coffee. I agree with them, it’s true. I even wrote in my blog about Powersheets® that coffee, especially coffee influencing on my Instagram reviews blog @ravenreviews_tx, is one of my motivations. One might even go as far as to say that I am obsessed with coffee. That wasn’t always the case. Unlike children today – case in point, my students come to class with Venti Starbucks™ Lattes – if I wanted coffee, I had to go to my grandma’s house or go to the local coffee shop with my grandpa on Saturday mornings. 

My parents didn’t even own a coffee maker (my mom was a tea drinker), so, I didn’t drink as much coffee as kids do today. My grandma only kept powdered creamer to put in her Folgers® and I thought it tasted disgusting. Starbucks™ was something you only saw in the movies – for example, Cher and her friends in the movie Clueless, drinking the fancy coffee brand. I didn’t even see a Starbucks™ in person until I went to Las Vegas for my high school senior trip and one of my friends pointed it out. Sure, the coffee chain had stores in Texas, but nowhere near where I lived.

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was in college. Christen and I spent our first two years at South Plains College in a small town in West Texas called Levelland, which was not far from the somewhat big town of Lubbock. Levelland was about the size of the town I grew up in (so, not very big) but, unlike the town I grew up in, it had not just a coffee shop but a Cafe that served fancy coffee concoctions unlike any I ever tried. It was called Rhinobear and they served Day Break Coffee. Christen and I went all the time to get the frappe, and I was hooked. I was still just a casual coffee drinker. I was a poor college kid that worked in the financial aid office for $5.25 an hour. Fancy coffee was just a treat, and I certainly didn’t drink coffee every day. If I wanted caffeine, I usually drank Diet Coke, but only occasionally (I gave up soda with sugar in it when I was a junior in high school).

As I grew older and became a teacher, I started drinking more coffee mainly because free coffee existed in the teacher’s lounge. At the same time, I began treatments for my chronic migraines (a topic I will explore in a future blog) and the preventative medication that was given to me made all carbonated drinks taste terrible, so I turned more toward coffee and tea for a caffeine fix. When I moved back to Vernon a few years later, my grandma received a Keurig® for her birthday, and I began experimenting with different flavors and styles of coffee through their k-cup subscription program. Thus, my taste became more refined. I realized the taste difference between brands, flavors, and roasts and I started drinking coffee for the flavor aspect, but I usually only had a cup a day unless it was a tough day at work. Still, if I was ever in a town with a Starbucks™ or other fancy coffee shop, I would stop and try a new type of drink. 

After surgery, everything changed. I wrote in my last blog about my struggles before and after bariatric surgery. That was only a part of it. My taste buds completely changed after surgery. For example, I only occasionally ate eggs before surgery, and now eggs are a regular part of my diet. I could eat dairy without getting sick before surgery, and now I can't drink a glass of milk or eat yogurt without getting sick. In the weeks prior to surgery, I had to stop all caffeine and I couldn’t drink it again until three months after my surgery – I was fine with it. However, the first cup of coffee post-surgery was an experience that I will never forget. I went to Starbucks™ and ordered a grande cold brew for the first time. I drank it as I still drink it – with one pump of sugar-free vanilla and a splash of heavy cream – and it was heavenly. Aside from my first coffee in four months, I had never tasted a cold brew before. I thought it was amazing, and it tasted strong. Before surgery, I didn’t crave dark or strong coffee, and now I can’t drink it any other way. In fact, I don’t want to drink anything else but coffee. I crave coffee all the time.

Therein lies my problem. Before surgery, I was never one to chug water, and now that I can’t chug water, it’s hard to get enough water in my body. Now I’m always dehydrated because the first thing I reach for in the morning is coffee and not water. I’ve studied nutrition and taken nutrition classes, so I know the right thing to do is immediately start drinking water when you get up in the morning. My life would be so much better if I wasn’t chronically dehydrated, but I’d rather drink coffee, and if I’m being honest, I’d rather drink coffee over eating food. That’s why I have to mix protein in my coffee now to get enough protein post-surgery. It really is a daily struggle.

How have I tried to combat this craving? Well, psychologically, I’ve figured out that it’s not the caffeine that I crave. I am perfectly fine with drinking decaf coffee. It’s the flavor that I crave. Unfortunately, they don’t make coffee flavor water enhancements that I could use to trick myself into thinking I’m drinking coffee when in reality, I’m drinking water. The closest thing that I’ve found is a vanilla-flavored additive–which helps but it is not a perfect solution. As a goal for my summer, I’ve decided to cut back on my coffee consumption and make an effort to track the water I drink daily as well as keep water readily available to grab when I need it. Maybe this will help me get my 64 ounces of water in daily.

I want to hear from our readers. What are some tips and tricks you use to drink more water? If you have a hard time drinking water, what are some tips to stay hydrated? Let’s continue the conversation on our Facebook Page and Facebook Group MMC Chat.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Heard it on the Podcast - June 29, 2022

Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here are the links for this week:

S2E27: Tips to Drink More Water

    Monday, June 27, 2022

    Why You Should Stay Hydrated!

    Many of us struggle to drink enough water. It has been something I strive for and even sometimes struggle with. I find that, just like the tide, I ebb and flow when it comes to drinking water. I will get on a kick and drink until I float away, and then something might trigger the pause, and I will slow down on my water consumption.

    With the new moon coming on Tuesday, right now is the best time to set those new intentions. If you have been struggling, like most people, to get in enough fluids, set the intention to drink more water for your health. Determine exactly what your intention is, and set that intention with the new moon on Tuesday, June 28th. Your positive and creative energies are at their highest during the new moon. 

    Great ways to set intentions:

    I mentioned last week that I have been busy this summer. We recently came back from a great family canoe trip. My parents have been canoeing down the Brazos River for several years now. Just last year, Travis, Reyna and I joined them for our first expedition. Although we had no idea what we were getting into, we were eager to go. I want to tell you about a terrifying experience that we had while on our canoe trip in 2021.

    Now when I say that we were going on a canoe trip, I mean just that. We parked our cars and were shuttled off to a remote location where we were left with our gear, 3 canoes, and our own willpower to get 20 miles down the river safely. My dad is not the planner in the family, that would be my mom, so when we asked him what to bring, he said “I got everything, just bring your beer and camping gear.” So that's what we did. I’m not a beer drinker, so Travis brought a tiny cooler with some beer for himself. The goal was to go 10 - 12 miles down river, stopping somewhere about half the way for lunch and then making the last leg for that day to a good place to camp on the side of the river bank. We would reserve the last 8 - 10 miles for the following day. We had all of our gear in our canoes: tents, chairs, clothing, food, toilet paper…everything. 

    The day was hot! The temperature was probably close to, if not, in the 100’s. Travis and I did not have the best clothing choices on. We thought, since it was going to be hot, that tank tops and shorts would be best to keep us cool. Despite our best efforts to keep sunscreen applied, we were both dried-out lobsters by lunch time. We got a little wet in the river to cool off. Reyna was having a blast digging up river rocks and swimming, but Travis was starting to look very worn out, and I was getting pretty worn out myself. The whole trip, we were paddling against the wind so it was very exhausting. 

    The camping spots are not designated. The land edging up to the river is privately owned, so the only places to camp are on the sandbars. We paddled downstream and checked out several spots, looking for the flattest places to camp. I turned to look at Travis only to find that he was not paddling any longer, and looked very ill. He was clearly getting heat exhaustion. We had been pushing waters on him, but all the waters were in a cooler in another canoe, not easily accessible. It was clear that he was dehydrated. By the time we found a campsite, he was nauseous and was not able to keep the water down. It was horrible, he was of no help getting the tent set up and we couldn’t get him to drink. 

    Once I got our tent set up, he climbed inside and practically passed out. He emerged just long enough to try and eat supper, but that upset his stomach. After about an hour of sitting with the family, he went back to bed with instructions to drink more water. We had no choice but to let him rest so that we could carry on the next day. That night, he was restless in his sleep. He kept trying to get out of the tent and wander off in the dark without shoes or a flashlight. I feared that he was delirious! Thankfully at some point in the night I was able to get him to finally go to sleep, and we finished off our canoe trip the next day.

    This year, we made some changes to how we packed. I insisted that we have a cooler in each canoe, with drinks. We extended the trip by one more day, so that we could travel a shorter distance, and rest longer in between. Travis and I wore long sleeve shirts to protect our skin from getting burned, and we brought 4 large packs of water along with other refreshments. Before our trip, Travis made extra efforts to ensure that he was pre-hydrated; several weeks prior to the trip, he bumped up his daily water intake.

    I thought it would be wise to set up a way to ensure that we all drank, and often. The first year that we went canoeing, Travis and I being novices, found our canoes mimicking bumper car behavior more than anything. Going into it this year I just knew that it would be the same as before, so I told everyone that we would drink anytime someone got their canoe turned the wrong direction. We drank a lot! Thankfully this year, the only thing that was dehydrated on our trip were my lips because they got a little windburned, but a couple of days with Vaseline on them, and they are smooth again!

    The moral of my story: arriving at an outdoor activity on the brink of dehydration can be fatal. My husband was very lucky that his dehydration did not cause further damage. He is now the butt of the joke anytime we talk about the canoe trip of 2021, and he was scrutinized (very lovingly) if he had any drink left in his bottle, (and probably always will be). 

    What measures do you take to ensure you are getting enough fluids? Have you or a loved one ever been severely dehydrated? I would love to hear what you have to say, be sure to stop by MMC Chat on Facebook to continue the conversation and be sure to check out the podcast on Wednesday where we each share our hydration tips. 

    Photo by Cindy Murray

    Saturday, June 25, 2022

    Why Bariatric Surgery is Not the Right Choice for Everyone

    It’s not an easy fix. There…I said it. I can’t count the number of times someone has talked about bariatric surgery and referred to it as the easy way to lose weight. I’ve heard it from skinny people, overweight people, people who lost weight “the hard way”, and even people who’ve had the surgery. And I know a lot of people who have struggled to lose weight through diet and exercise, only to fail over and over again, so they see bariatric surgery as their last resort to losing weight, only to see it fail, too.

    Did I mention it’s not an easy fix? Because it’s not. There are many different options for bariatric surgery these days, but even from the original days of the gastric bypass down to the now fashionable gastric sleeve, the choice to have this elective surgery is a hard one. Most surgeons and weight loss clinics require patients to go through intense screening before surgery. Nutrition counseling, psychological evaluations, and diagnostic sleep studies are just a few of the pre-op requirements. One friend had to produce records proving she had been attending regular Jazzercise classes for a certain length of time before her surgery. Patients must also start the process of altering their diets to shrink their stomachs and to prep for the kinds of foods they will be limited to once they’ve had the surgery.

    One of the reasons I chose not to have bariatric surgery is that I just don’t think I can give up so many foods I love. For instance, bariatric patients can’t have carbonated beverages, like sodas, beer, or champagne. I’ve known people with older surgeries (like gastric bypass) who could not have bread or peanut butter. I can’t imagine never having another peanut butter sandwich for the rest of my life, much less giving up my beloved Coca-Cola…it was all I could do to make myself switch to Coke Zero when I found out I was diabetic. In addition to the foods bariatric patients must give up, there are many things they can’t eat anymore, like spicy food, greasy food, and often beef…all things I love.

    Bariatric patients have to eat very tiny meals, but even when they eat all the right things in the right amounts, sometimes they still get sick. Some patients are sick more often than they are not. The surgery and the ensuing dietary changes often cause gastric distress, dumping syndrome, gallbladder attacks, pancreatitis, intolerance of foods they used to love, and even changes in the patient’s blood sugar levels. To make it worse, some well-intentioned patients go right back to their old eating habits, eating all the greasy fried food, carbs, and bubbly soft drinks that made them overweight in the first place simply because they haven’t addressed the real issues of their eating disorder.

    In order for a bariatric patient to realize success after their surgery, they absolutely must change the way they think about and react to food. Have you ever heard the saying, “What got you here won’t get you there?” It’s absolutely true. You cannot fix a problem with food by continuing to eat the same things you ate before. A successful bariatric patient (or any weight loss practitioner, really) must come to terms with the mental muddle that caused them to gain weight in the first place, and they must change those patterns permanently. And that is no easy feat. If it was, we would all be a healthy weight.

    I’ll admit that I am no expert on weight loss (see that last sentence in the previous paragraph), but I’ve seen enough people get on and off the bariatric merry-go-round to catch on to what many of them do right (and wrong), so I’d like to pass on my best tips for weight loss, and please don’t judge me by the fact that I have a hard time keeping to them myself.

    • Small portions rule. A bariatric patient often has a stomach about the size of your fist, so if you are eating more than that, you are probably stretching out, and thus undoing all the hard work your surgeon did to help you lose weight. Stop it. Go back to the small portions you started with and don’t go back to your old eating habits.

    • Nix the greasy fried food, high carbs, and empty calories. It’s really hard on your digestive system, and this is the junk that made you gain weight in the first place. Stick to nice, healthy proteins and veggies. If you can’t remember what healthy meals look like, go back to your nutrition counselor and get a list or examples.

    • Say no to soft drinks, beer, and anything bubbly. This stuff may taste good, but it often has empty calories, and the carbonation can actually expand your stomach that you just paid that doctor to reduce. If you absolutely have to have the taste of a Coke, let it go flat and be sure to choose a zero-calorie version.

    • Stop eating out. Yes, you read that right. Stop. Eating. Out. Restaurant food is over-portioned, high-calorie, high fat, high carb and just wrong, wrong, wrong for anyone trying to lose weight. Yes, I see that mile-high pile of chicken and waffles. Just no.

    • Get some accountability. Find a friend who is trying to lose weight, too, and then hold each other’s feet to the fire. Seriously. When you have an accountability partner who has the same goals as you, it will facilitate making the right choices. You can celebrate your wins (even the little ones) and you can talk each other down from the ledge.  Just be sure not to choose an accountability partner who will enable your bad choices. Let them know you expect them to tell you “no” and to remind you why you want to make the right choice.

    • Keep a food journal. Document everything you eat and drink. But don’t stop there. While you’re at it, stop a moment and think about why you ate what you ate. Was it a craving? If so, what prompted it? Was it an impulse? What was the trigger? Was it because you had too many choices, or even too few? Really account for what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, and why you eat. You might be surprised to find some patterns in there, and a pattern is an opportunity to change.

    • Remember why you chose to have that surgery and to lose weight in the first place.  It was a hard choice and the path here has not been easy. Remember what you dreamed of when you started this journey – a healthy mind in a healthy body. So, every time you need to make a choice about food, ask yourself, “Is this in alignment with the life I want to live? Does this get me closer to or farther away from my goal?”

    I hope that those of you who have elected to have bariatric surgery will find some help in these tips, and if you are considering bariatric surgery, that you will talk with your doctor about the many facets of weight loss surgery. It’s not just a decision to make a permanent physical alteration to your body…it is a life-long decision to live, eat, and think differently about food. It won’t be easy, but it does work…if you do the work.

    Have you had bariatric surgery, or have you contemplated it? If you’ve had it, has it worked for you, or did you have early success and then struggled to continue? I’d like to hear about it. You can comment here, or join us over on the MMC Chat group.


    Thursday, June 23, 2022

    Christen’s Go-to Bariatric Snacks!

    Hi, everyone! I hope your summer is going great! I just got back from a fun summer camp out, and before that I was at a scrapbook convention all weekend. I can safely say that my summer has rolled out and is in full swing! When it comes to busy activities and planning family fun-time, one of the biggest debates we have is what we are going to eat. It is easy to plan something healthy for meals, as we have a good running list of family recipes that we refer to when we make our plans, but the snacks are where we find ourselves in a pickle. If we don’t make plans for healthy snacks, we find ourselves either hungry and cranky, or making poor decisions when it comes time to eat.

    I keep a handy list of quick and easy snacks  on my phone  that I can reference when needed. I tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to food, and find myself eating the same thing over and over again until I get burnout. Since I have had bariatric surgery, I have a little bit more restrictions when it comes to what I should eat. I could eat just about anything now since it has been several years since my surgery, but I really prefer to keep as close to the meal recommendations as I possibly can. Here’s what’s on my list:

    Hand-packed snacks:
    Boiled eggs
    Baby carrots
    String cheese
    Meat and cheese roll-ups (ham and Swiss is my favorite)
    Sugar-free popsicles
    Tuna pouches
    Pickles and olives
    Salami or pepperoni with cream cheese 
    Sargento Balanced Breaks
    Oikos Triple Zero yogurt

    Protein bars:
    Premier Protein - chocolate peanut butter 
    Quest - s’mores
    Atkins - protein wafer crisp lemon vanilla

    Protein shakes:
    Muscle Milk 100 Calorie
    Premier Protein 
    MRE Lite - in powder form mixed with milk 

    I know that a lot of these snacks might seem a little bland, but they are great if you are looking for high protein and low sugar snacks. Most of these items you can keep on hand at any given time. Additionally the shelf life of most of them is longer than many other snacks. The best part is they take little to no fuss. You can grab and go or pack a little snack bag or even pre-make a few lunch meat wraps. Usually when I buy a new package of salami and cream cheese, I will go ahead and put the whole package together so that I can grab a few right from the fridge. It is super helpful to have these ready to go now that I work from home. Having these yummy filling snacks available whenever I want them keeps me from running through the pantry and grabbing chips or a handful of cookies, which is very dangerous now that I work from home. 

    Do you have any delicious quick and easy snacks or bariatric snacks that are your favorite? I would love to hear what you keep on standby. Be sure to stop by and continue the conversation on MMC Chat on Facebook.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2022

    Heard it on the Podcast - June 22, 2022


    Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here are the links for this week:

    S2E26: Bariatric on a Budget

    Monday, June 20, 2022

    Bariatric Struggles

    This week on the podcast we are talking about eating bariatric-friendly on a budget. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I had bariatric surgery a little over three years ago and it hasn’t been easy because while I was going through surgery, I was also struggling mentally and financially.
    That doesn’t seem like great timing to have a complicated surgery, I know, but the surgery was years in the making. In 2014, I noticed that something wasn’t right with my belly button, it was sticking out. I didn’t normally have a belly button that stuck out. After a trip to the doctor, I learned I had an umbilical hernia that had burst through my abdominal muscles. Because of my weight at the time (around 360 lbs.), the doctor told me the surgery was unsafe, and he suggested that I have weight loss surgery to lose weight quickly. As a teacher, weight loss surgery is covered (to a point) by my insurance if it is a medical emergency. So, I began the long process with my insurance. 
    While waiting for my insurance, my hernia decided it could not wait, and it burst on me in the middle of class one day. One minute I was teaching and the next I was on the floor – it happened that quickly. I was rushed to the local hospital and had emergency surgery. So, I put off the process of weight loss surgery; aside from being overweight, I was healthy. Over the next few years, I maintained my weight until the summer of 2017 when two major things happened. First, I broke my foot and ended up in a wheelchair, and second, my father died.

    After my dad’s death, my depression set in and the two years that followed were some of the hardest of my life. I retreated from everyone I loved and began deliberately working long hours so that I wouldn’t be home. I started secretly binge eating again to cope with my pain in silence. I was confined to my wheelchair for months because my foot was not healing properly due to a vitamin D deficiency. Due to my binge eating and lack of activity, I started gaining weight. At the same time, my husband was struggling to find and keep work, which added to my stress.

    Then, in the fall of 2018, tragedy struck again with my mom’s death.  Both of my parents died of weight-related illnesses with the underlying cause of those illnesses being diabetes. I sat there numbly as family member after family member told me that I needed to take care of myself. Then one day my clothes didn’t fit anymore, my hip would pop out when I tried to put on pants, walking short distances made me way too tired and hurt my still-tender foot, and I realized that they were right.  Before my mom died, she had been advocating that I start seeing a doctor to restart the process of bariatric surgery. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and pre-diabetes right before her death. My weight clocked in at over 400 lbs. I needed to change. So, I began the process, again.
    When preparing for bariatric surgery, patients typically go through a psychological evaluation. My psychologist at the time questioned whether I was ready for surgery given all that I had been through. In all honesty, I probably wasn’t. My life, at the time, seemed in shambles. Both of my parents had died, my husband was struggling to find/keep work, finances were low, and I was also having problems of my own at my job. But I was determined. Maybe I needed something I could control in my life. Maybe I thought losing weight would solve all my problems. Whatever the reason, I soldiered on.
    Many people think you save money on food after bariatric surgery, which is not the case. My doctor put me on a strict pre-op diet three weeks before surgery. Not only did I have to drink a certain amount of water per day, but I also had to drink a certain amount of protein per day. There are many different types of weight-loss protein on the market. You can either buy protein powder or already-made shakes. Either way, they are not cheap. For me, it was also hard to find a protein that I liked the taste of. Before surgery, I settled on a fair-priced protein powder called Syntrax Matrix and a liquid protein called Premier. I also stocked up on plenty of clear liquids for my post-op diet. When my surgery date came in April of 2019, I was ready to make that major change in my life. Or was I?
    Evolution of my face post-surgery
    As I mentioned before, I’m a binge eater. Food is my comfort. When things go wrong, I turn to food to cope. I was not prepared for the psychological ramifications of not being able to eat when I wanted to. For a while after surgery, I couldn’t even drink water. How would I ever get enough water and protein in my body? It’s a struggle. A daily struggle to this day. I remember back on those early days after surgery curled up in a ball, sobbing, “I just want to EAT.” I was so HUNGRY and then I wasn’t, bariatric surgery is weird like that.
    When I finally could eat, I didn’t want to anymore. The surgery worked too well. However, as a binge eater, I had a hard time knowing when to stop and when I was too full, and I still struggle with that. I was right; my whole life changed. I lost 190 lbs., five clothing sizes, and the ability to eat most food for the longest time. Three years later, I still struggle with certain foods. Now, I must closely check what I eat and how much of it I eat.
    412 lbs. versus 222 lbs.
    In another previous blog, I wrote about grocery shopping on a budget. Today, I remain budget-friendly. I try to maintain a low-carb, high-protein diet as well as not eat over a certain number of calories. Buying in bulk and portioning out my meals in advance as well as limiting eating out keep me budget-friendly. 
    All in all, I’m glad I had the surgery. My eating habits may have changed but I don’t have near as many health problems as I did before, I can walk long distances without having to sit and rest, and it’s a lot easier for me to find and buy clothes. Psychologically, I’m in a better place, and the need to binge eat gets less and less. Surgery is not for everyone, and not everyone has had the successes I’ve had with it. I’m thankful that I’m able to wake up every day and live my life how I want it.
    Size 14/16 versus Size 30/32

    I want to hear from our readers. Have you contemplated weight-loss surgery or have had weight-loss surgery? What were your successes and failures before and after surgery? Let’s continue the conversation here or on our Facebook group: MMC Chat.

    Sunday, June 19, 2022

    Celebrating the Wheel of the Year Your Own Way

    Hi everyone, it is Christen here! This week on the podcast we discussed what being Pagan actually means to us and our own experiences related to Paganism. I will start off by mentioning that I believe the word Pagan or Paganism should be capitalized and if you want to know why, please go here. Now that I got that off my chest,  I thought it would be fun to talk about a couple of favorite sabbats, and talk about creating new ones for you and your family.

    Like so many other people in America, I enjoy Christmas and Halloween. I am sure that I have mentioned before that the time from mid-October to January is my favorite time of the year. I have also mentioned my favorite holiday traditions in a previous blog post. Christmas has reigned champion for the past few years, but for the longest time, Halloween was my most favorite time. I loved the haunted houses, scary movies, fall carnivals, trick-or-treating in costume, and decorating my home - all traditions that have been passed on from my family or integrated by me.

    In recent years, the Day of the Dead has become more prevalent in American culture, especially here in Texas. I have been fortunate to experience the celebrations, and I have taken some of the traditions within this holiday and married it with my own Samhain traditions which are similar in some ways.

    If you are interested in learning about the eight Wiccan holidays, I highly recommend the book The Sabbats: A Witch's Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy. This book breaks down each of the sabbats by explaining from who and where the traditions came, why these specific times of the year were celebrated, and how you can celebrate them at home. The part that I like the most, is that the traditions are focused on celebrating the wheel of the year or the turning of the seasons. I truly enjoy embracing the seasons and the activities that are enjoyed during that time.

    Sometimes celebrations take planning though, or they will just zoom right past you and you will have your hands full and can’t celebrate. And that is why Mom and I are always planning out fun family activities. Once we have done something twice, we consider it a tradition, and, if you do it a specific way every time, then it’s a ritual. I have had serious thoughts about making my own traditions that correlate with the wheel of the year. That's why I am positive I will be picking up Llewellyn's 2023 Magical Almanac this year when it comes out (I mentioned it back when we were discussing astrology). I still believe strongly that we should honor the earth and celebrate the harvest and those who till the earth, and also honor those who have left this earth, and I feel that we should instill those values with our youth, but in these modern times, I feel that the celebrations need to be customized to our current environment. I mean, I do not see a maypole anywhere on Beltane, the celebration of spring and growth on May 1st, so we just have to improvise.

    Here is some food for thought: National Taco Day is a celebration of our adoration of tacos; we are not worshiping them by any means, but in a sense we are thankful for the blessing of this delicious cuisine. In doing so, we are creating a holiday tradition, with a ritual. We are in essence creating and celebrating a Pagan holiday, simply because it is not a religious orthodox celebration. In that case, bring on the Pagan holidays, I will have as many of them as I can possibly fill my calendar up with! 

    Do you have any family traditions that could be considered Pagan? Have you ever participated in any of the Wiccan holidays? I would love to hear from you! Be sure to comment below or join in on the conversation over in our MMC Chat group on Facebook!

    Thursday, June 16, 2022

    A Spiritual Journey

    Religion is a touchy topic for most. I was in a physical fight once when I was a kid over the concept of life on other planets. In case you were wondering, I believe in life on other planets, and I defended my belief with a punch to the chest. The other person’s argument: if life existed on other planets, it would be mentioned in the Bible. As I said, a touchy topic.

    I can only speak to my experience with religion because it directly influenced how I turned out and how I live my life now. That is to say, I don’t consider myself religious. Over the years, I have been called many things such as a “dirty Atheist” and a “devil worshiper,” but really I am none of those things. My beliefs are simply different than the average small-town person. That is where it all started…in a small town.

    I was born a Southern Baptist. At least, that’s all I remember growing up. My parents weren’t very religious but my dad’s mom, Granny, took me to church every Sunday at a small, country, Baptist church. In that church, I only knew love, acceptance, and understanding. When I was in fourth grade, Granny moved to town, and we started attending the Baptist church near her house. The difference between the country church and the church in town was huge. For example, it wasn’t uncommon in the country for the farmers to wear overalls or dusty jeans to church, but in town, it was frowned upon if you dressed less than your “Sunday best.” I remember the church ladies treated Granny differently because she didn’t wear expensive dresses and was not perfectly made up. I noticed this type of prejudice at a young age as well as other subtle things within the church that were disagreeable to me.

    At that young age, I began to question things about the beliefs that no one else around me seemed to question, like life on other planets, as well as the behavior and intolerance for anything different. At the same time, the young people were pressured to seal their beliefs through baptism. Enough was enough. I wanted to believe what I wanted to believe, and not what I was pressured to believe. I wanted to ask the big questions. I wanted to be spiritual in my beliefs and not confined by them.

    What does it mean to be spiritual? According to Dr. Maya Spencer, “spirituality involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than myself, something more to being human than sensory experience, and that the greater whole of which we are part is cosmic or divine in nature.”

    In other words, I believe there is more to the world than meets the eye, and I am still evolving and exploring my beliefs 28 years later. I was once told that because I was pressured into being baptized, I will always be a Christian and I can’t “take it back,” but the freedom of choice was taken from me in that regard. What I can choose is how I live my life in the here and the now while valuing myself and being open-minded to anything and everything that comes my way. That is the true lesson that I learned growing up in the church: what I did not want to be.

    Would I be different if I grew up in a different Christian religion? Maybe. Probably not.

    You are probably asking yourself, “what is her religion, again?” I don’t have one. My spirituality is a patchwork of many different beliefs, but I recently took a “What Religion am I?” quiz* (just for fun) and my result was: Mahayana Buddhism.

    I want to hear from our readers. Are you spiritual? What does being spiritual mean to you? Let’s continue the conversation on our Facebook Group: MMC Chat.

    *You can take the “What Religion am I?” quiz here.

    Monday, June 13, 2022

    What is Pagan

    Meditation is considered by many to be pagan.

    If you’ve been reading the blog or listening to the podcast, you’ve probably seen or heard us mention things that fall into the category of “metaphysical”. Without a doubt, Amber, Christen, and I are fascinated by such things as astrology, numerology, tarot cards, spirit guides, holistic medicine, and many other aspects of what many would call “pagan beliefs”. I also consider myself a “Christian” because I believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God, and have been baptized as a pledge of that belief. For a long time, I was torn between my Christian beliefs and these so-called “pagan” practices. I had been taught that anything pagan was evil. But what exactly
    is “pagan”?

    We talk more about the origin of the term “pagan”, which comes from the Latin word “paganus”, in the podcast, but the short explanation is that it was used to describe the simple country folk of the Roman Empire who had not yet embraced Christianity, and more strictly so, the people who still believed in the religions of ancient Rome and Greece. The term was later broadened to include a wide variety of religious beliefs and traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, and, most especially, the ancient spirituality of the British Isles and Europe. In more recent years, it has been broadened further to include Native American traditions as well. As someone once told me, “Most people [incorrectly] use the term to include anything that isn’t in the Bible, and thus, isn’t Christian.”

    Easter eggs, Halloween, Christmas trees, and even birthday cakes came from pagan practices.

    The truth is, many people have no idea what paganism actually is, nor the differences between paganism, mysticism, spirituality, religion, and Wicca. I thought it would be a good idea to share some terminology with you. Two that seem to confuse people the most are spirituality and religion. I love the explanation given by Pamela Aloia in “Spirituality: The Path to Reconciling Religion and Energy Work.”1 She says, basically:

    • Religion is the man-made portion of law, conduct, beliefs, and more surrounding the relationship with God [or other deities] that creates the boundaries within that sect of worship and ritual.

    • Spirituality is the personal relationship we have with God that inspires worship and rituals outside of manmade laws and beliefs.

    • Basically, spirituality comes from within and religion comes from without.

    I like to think of spirituality as being in touch with my soul. It’s what helps me learn to appreciate the beauty that is all around me in the plants, animals, weather, and yes, even people of this earth. My spirituality is what allows me to appreciate all that I have and helps me learn to accept people as they are, life as it is, and the future as something I can help shape. My religion is what has taught me about the divine creator of this world and the magnificent gift of his own son in order for me to learn a better way and to pave my way for a life beyond this life I currently lead.

    Like religion and spirituality, three other words that often get mixed up are paganism, mysticism, and Wicca. Here are the definitions. I’ve cited sources where possible.

    • A Pagan is an unconverted member of a people or nation who does not practice Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, especially a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome), or one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods – an irreligious or hedonistic person. Paganism is the beliefs or practices of someone who is pagan.2

    • Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience.3

    • Wicca is a religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power (such as magic) and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature and that emphasizes ritual observance of seasonal and life cycles.4

    • Heathen refers to people or nations that do not practice Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, their religions, or their customs; an uncivilized or irreligious person.5

    As you can see, these concepts are closely related, but really not exactly the same thing at all. One can be a Christian and still observe pagan or even mystical traditions. Many of the so-called “pagan” practices I have enjoyed are not religious at all and have no bearing on my religious beliefs, while many of the religious practices widely observed in America (like Christmas trees, Easter eggs, and Halloween) stem from pagan and even Wiccan religious rituals, yet they are enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike. I don’t have a problem with that at all.

    What do you think? Do you practice any pagan-based holiday traditions? Has that interfered with your religious beliefs? Let us know. Join us in the Facebook group MMC Chat.

    1. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/spirituality-the-path-to-reconciling-religion-and-energy-work/

    2. Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “pagan,” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pagan.

    3. Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “mysticism,” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mysticism.

    4. Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “Wicca,” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Wicca.

    5. Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “heathen,” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heathen.


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