Milk this Thanksgiving for all it’s worth.

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Almond milk in disguise.

When I did my Thanksgiving shopping earlier this week, I brought my grocery list as usual, but this time I also had paper coupons, and electronic coupons saved on my Hannaford app. I bought almost twice as many groceries as usual, and it took me twice as long, but hey, I saved $20.

The next morning, I poured a little almond milk in my morning coffee, as usual. The almond milk was “Silk,” a new brand that I hadn’t tried before, but I had a coupon for a free carton, and who can turn down free? I saved myself a whole $3.29.

I took a few sips from my mug. It was delicious. Silk was much sweeter and thicker than my usual Hannaford brand. I took another sip. Mmmm. I’d definitely buy it again, coupon or not. 

Just before lunch, I started getting pain and discomfort in my gut. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a very delicate digestive system. In fact, about 90% of the foods on this earth bother it, and that’s on a good day. My gut is always a mess,  even when I eat the things I think are “safe,” so I didn’t suspect anything unusual. And since almond milk is a “safe” food, I continued to drink it throughout the day, around two cups worth.

Suffice it to say that it was a L-O-O-O-N-G day.

It wasn’t the kind of day you want a few days before Thanksgiving.

The next morning, again I poured my almond milk into my coffee. It was just as good as the previous day.

I picked up the carton to confirm that it had no added sugar. Nope, it was unsweetened. It said so right on the label. See it there in the picture? Don’t think I don’t like sugar, as I LOVE it, but sugar doesn’t like me back.

I’m a big label reader as a result of my food sensitivities, so I turned the carton around to take another look at the ingredient list. I was curious what type of thickener was used. No guar gum listed; that was good. 

As I continued to read, this caught my eye: “Allergen statement: Contains soy.”  Huh? Soy? In almond milk? That’s a problem, as soy is a known trigger for my symptoms.

I turned the carton around to look at the front. Out loud, to no one in particular, I announced, “This isn’t almond milk. It’s soy milk!”

It wasn’t laughable then, but it is now.

My husband and I came to the easy-to-draw conclusion that the soy milk was the culprit for my ten-times-worse-than-usual symptoms. Then I came to the hard-to-defend conclusion that I may as well finish my coffee, as there was such a tiny amount of soy in it. 

Are you as incredulous as me that I would even consider taking another microscopic sip? That I would risk my enjoyment of Thanksgiving? My priorities were clearly messed up more than a gravy stain on a lace tablecloth.

Dumping out my coffee felt like a waste—of coffee, time, money, food, resources. I hate waste. I was brought up never to waste food. Poor people are starving, after all.

But my wise husband stopped me before I made a regrettable mistake.

 “Karen—throw it out,” Michael insisted. “We have more coffee.”

He was so right. I dumped the coffee and emptied the almost full carton into the sink.

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Actual almond milk, undisguised.

The soy didn’t kill me. I’m alive and well enough to type and laugh about it. I had an unopened carton of almond milk in the fridge (don’t worry—I triple checked the label) to salvage my fresh cup of morning joe

It was more delicious than I remembered.

And here are the lessons of Thanksgiving  I learned:  

1. Listen to the wise people in your life. If it’s a spouse or partner, thank them effusively.

2.  However you celebrate this day of thanks, and even if you don’t celebrate, focus on what really matters and don’t sweat the small stuff. I was willing to let $3.29 ruin another 24 or 36 or 48 hours for me. It wasn’t worth it.

3.  Dump any toxicity from your life, (especially romaine lettuce!) and replace it with things or people that make you feel good.

4. When you don’t follow steps 2) or 3), laugh about the mistake and be thankful that you’re human.  

5.  What doesn’t kill you teaches you a lesson. If it’s not obvious, dig deep—it’s there. 

6.  If you’re reading this, you’re alive. Be thankful. If you laugh today, be doubly thankful.

7.  If your hands have ever picked up something other than what your eyes saw, read labels very carefully today. Be mindful. You’ll thank me later. 

8.  Enjoy this day. Milk it for all its worth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Have your hands ever picked up something other than what your eyes saw? Will you share your story here?

Letting go of a dream.

My former blog.
My former blog. Don’t you love the name?

Two years ago, I started a blog called The Well Nested Life; this month, I’ll close that site down. I’ve moved all my blogs over to this current site, so I’ve retained my words, but I have to say goodbye to the dream.

Closing my blog feels like I’m losing an old friend.

With some brainstorming help from family members, I had arrived at the term well nested. It describes my life. Homebody. Introvert. Feeling most at home, at home. My plan was to blog about humorous and poignant and touching stories of my simple life. My hope was to gather followers—my flock—who would then someday buy my memoir, in progress.

That part of the dream—let’s call it Phase I— is intact. I’ve established my online presence as a writer, attracted loyal followers, and I’m closing in on the final chapter of my memoir.

In Phase II, my follower base would grow to scores of thousands. An editor at a “Big Five” publishing house would discover my writing and be impressed with my platform. She would pay me big bucks for the honor of publishing my book.

I’d be a best selling author!

(Please don’t think I’m delusional. Most writers share this dream.)

However, it’s Phase III where I got carried away (as I have been known to do). In this phase, I’d use my big bucks from my memoir to help others become well nested.

First, my husband and I would remodel our basement into an apartment to house immigrant families short term until they secured more permanent housing. 

Then, we’d buy and renovate houses in our community, and sell them at cost to families in need. Or maybe we’d partner with Habitat for Humanity, one of my favorite charities. 

Finally, I’d create a cooperative of gardeners to provide gardening and simple landscaping help to homeowners moving into and out of our community. This would help homeowners to become well nested, as well as maximize the curb appeal of their homes, increase their home values, and increase the tax base for the community.

Sigh. It was a lovely and honorable dream.

But here’s the reality: as a writer, if I really want to build my flock, if I really want to be found by an agent or editor, I need a website under my name. “The Well Nested Life” was a mouthful of a blog, and hard to remember. So now I write, and you read, at www.karendebonis.com.

I don’t have the time, energy, or money to maintain two websites, and not nearly enough of those resources to accomplish Phase III. Something had to give; The Well Nested Life blog had to go. I have no regrets; it connected me to new friends, taught me that I’m not a complete computer simpleton, and gave me joy that (mostly) outweighed the headaches. My heart is heavy, but full.

I’m glad you’re here to help me say goodbye, and to celebrate as I write the next chapter of this journey. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m letting go of the website, but keeping the domain. Www.thewellnestedlife.com is mine for as long as I want it. You never know when I’ll get big bucks for my memoir.

You never know when another dream will hatch.

I’m open to the possibility. You in?

Gardener, writer, writer, gardener, not always in the same order.

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My back-of-the-house shade garden.

I was a gardener long before I became a writer, and it’s still one of my passions. It’s why you haven’t heard much from me lately–when the nice weather beckons me to the garden, I go. Last year, I wrote about the deer that wreaked havoc on all my hard work (in the garden, not on the page); you can read that below. Since I was losing the hungry critter battle, I started creating deer-resistant gardens. The photo is one example. (In her active potter days, my mom made that pot in the foreground–isn’t it cool?)

Don’t think that I haven’t been writing, too, though, as I have. I finished another draft of my memoir manuscript to show my editor, and she’s happy with the improvements, although more (and more and more) revisions are needed. I submitted another personal essay to a literary journal, and have a version of it ready to go to a large newspaper magazine. It’s a stretch, but if accepted, will be a feather the size of Big Bird in my cap.

Soon, it will too hot for me to enjoy much gardening, so I’ll retreat to the air conditioning and focus on writing. I’ll share another excerpt from my memoir about the challenges I faced as a mom. As you’ll see in my Stupid Deer story below, once you’re a mama, those feelings run deep, and can hit you in surprising places.

 

The deer members of Club Critter in my back yard are stupid.

There’s one doe in particular who’s not exactly the sharpest point on the antler rack. My husband named her Clarice, like Rudolph’s girlfriend.

Clarice is a regular at my popular social venue, stopping in throughout the day. I thought deer were nocturnal–sleeping during the day and foraging for food at night. But Google says deer are actually crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.

Clarice doesn’t know she’s crepuscular. I see her at the club in broad daylight, grabbing a snack at my all-you-can-eat garden buffet and lounging in the shade.

A smart deer would be more careful. Humans are predators, after all. I don’t happen to own any deer-hunting weapons more deadly than a broom. But for all Clarice knows, I could be a gun-totin’ sharpshooter just pining for some venison stew for dinner.

If Clarice had half a brain in her pointy head, she would at least try to blend in with the wood fence or a tree trunk. But, no, she prefers the green grass where she stands out like a lawn ornament. Or a target, more obvious than a red-nosed reindeer.

There’s another thing that shows Clarice is two hooves shy of a six-pack. She devours plants that she’s not supposed to like. Google and all the other wildlife experts say unless deer are literally starving, they won’t eat certain flowers and shrubs.

Well, I shut down the deer dessert bar at Club Critter, getting rid of every single gourmet menu item. All that’s left are essentially tofu burgers. The woods behind our house offer a much tastier smorgasbord. But what does Clarice eat? The garden equivalent of napkins and silverware.

The biggest indicator that Clarice is dimmer than dirt is when I try to boot her out of the club. When I throw up the window sash and yell “Go away, Clarice!” she just looks all innocent at me, wagging her white tail as if to say, “How’s it going, girlfriend?” And when I run into the yard in my pajamas, waving my arms and yelling “Git!” Clarice calmly looks up with a mouth full of foliage like I’m the one who’s stupid. I have to get really close and a bit crazy before she finally trots away.

And then, Clarice got sneaky. As I was in the middle of writing this blog, she showed up with Bambi.

He was tiny and downy with white spots and saucer-sized innocent black eyes that made me realize where the term “doe-eyed” came from. He had spindly, wobbly legs that barely kept him upright as he silently pitter-pattered around Clarice in the grass. Bambi gazed up at Clarice and she bent down to lick his head all over, smothering him in deer kisses.

When I saw the pair, I didn’t throw up the window or run out into the yard or yell. I just watched, mesmerized, as they nuzzled and nibbled before they tiptoed back into the woods.

Well, Clarice is dense if she thinks I’m not going to run outside in my pajamas and yell at her simply because she shows up with an adorable little fawn.

If she believes I’ll let her gobble up my garden just because she has another life to care for, she’s wrong.

She’s got another thing coming if she plans to win me over now that I see her as a mama, just like me.

I keep looking out the window, hoping to see Clarice and Bambi again. I wonder if they’re OK.

Stupid deer.