I’m not going paleo.
Just to get it right out there, right away: I have not joined the list of former vegans. This is not a post about my body needing animal products. But it is about change.
Some epiphanies arrive like a high-speed Japanese commuter train; and some, like the one I’m writing about now, begin shyly and quietly with a nudge here and there, a nagging feeling that won’t go away, a sleepless night or two. These kinds of epiphanies are polite – they don’t want to be overbearing – but when you refuse to hear them, they get pushy and they get loud. After months of ignoring the subtle signs, I’m finally paying attention to the large frying pan hitting me over the head.
Over the past 2 years or so, there has been a shift in the way that I write my blog, the way that I perceive it and the way that I feel about it. Possibly also in the way that others view it. Who knows? What began as a way to fill the sweltering Oklahoma summer days when it was impossible to be outside turned into a full-time job. An un-paid job, I might add. Now, I wasn’t looking for a job replacement or substitute, or even an additional revenue stream. I did not move to the sticks to trade 9 hours at a desk in an office building in the city for 9 hours at a desk in my home in the country. What I was looking for was – what, really? – a community of like-minded individuals with whom to share thoughts and recipes. It really was as simple as that. I had no intentions and no idea where it might lead.
Three plus years later and An Unrefined Vegan bears only a slight resemblance to the blog that was born in October 2011. There have been some very positive changes, such as a better understanding of photography. I’ve met some inspirational, funny, thoughtful, smart, positive people. I’ve improved my cooking and recipe-writing skills. I’ve created a few silly movies. I launched Virtual Vegan Potluck. I’ve self-published a book and my first cookbook is due out in April of this year. I wrote and designed my first e-cookbook (more on that soon). Wow! I wouldn’t trade any of these experiences. Frankly, I’ve learned more and picked up more (self-taught!) skills over the past three years at home than I would have at a regular job during the same period of time. Put that in your resume and smoke it!
And yet…simply put, I haven’t been happy for a long time. Happy with where I live, happy with the food I eat, happy with Kel and with Ike – yes. But with the way I was spending my time, no. I’ve been spending too much time looking out at the beautiful fields and sky and trees of my 160-acres of paradise than actually being in that tall grass paradise. My mental and physical states have suffered as a result.
The change happened slowly over time – one giveaway, one comment, one affiliate link, and one social media platform at a time. I got caught up in the excesses of blogging and “socializing.” I really noticed the change when my cookbook deal came through. It didn’t feel right from the very beginning, but I let the tide of flattery and excitement take me out to sea. Working on that book felt like wearing a turtleneck that was too tight around the collar and too short in the sleeves. Instead of a process to be enjoyed, savored and experienced, it became an item that I wanted desperately to scratch off of my To Do list so that I could get back to the business of living life. Do I regret writing that cookbook? No way, Jose. It’s been a learning experience, a gift in its own way, and I’ll be glad and proud to hold a copy of it in my hands. Am I going to become a serial cookbook author? Under my own terms and my own timetable, perhaps. But don’t look for me at a Barnes and Noble book signing any time soon.
That’s the paradox of blogging, isn’t it? Stepping into the wide virtual world with the idea of sharing a bit, interacting just a little, connecting – which morphs into self-promotion, a need for affirmation, attention, a desire to be “known” on a mass scale – as it takes one further and further away from truly being, knowing, and sharing one’s self. Of course I enjoy being admired and flattered and noticed, but I don’t want those things to drive what I do or how I think.
UPDATE: Oh, the irony! Since writing the above, an amazing opportunity dropped into my lap. So amazing that I couldn’t turn it down. So…January is going to be even crazier than my summer was! But after that…I’m coasting, I swear!!
Things that matter.
Not long after I published A Terminal Illness Primer for Caregivers, I had the honor of connecting with the founder of Voices Against Brain Cancer. Mario lost his son to glioblastoma multiforme, the same disease that killed my brother – so we had some deep feelings in common. Mario is an amazing guy. He retired from his job in the fashion industry and has dedicated – as he puts it – 25/8 to work that funds brain cancer research all around the country. I’m not sure he ever sleeps. Just talking with him makes me feel positive about the chances of finding a cure and energized about doing my small part. One of the cool things that Mario’s organization does is to host 5k runs and awareness events in cities around the country. When I told him Salt Lake City (where my brother lived for most of his life) and Oklahoma City did not have these 5ks, he immediately said, “let’s do it!” How could I say no?! So, in September 2015, the inaugural run dedicated to my brother will take place in Salt Lake City with proceeds going to my brother’s fund at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I couldn’t be more excited and proud about this. On October 5, VABC will come to OKC for its first 5k benefit run. You can bet I will be running at both of these events. My dad and I will be working with VABC to organize and promote both of these runs. For my runner friends out there who don’t mind a little travel, I would love to meet up with you at either or both of these events. I will have more information in the months ahead.
Some time within the next few weeks, An Unrefined Vegan will take on a completely new look. I am so ready for this! The new site will more accurately reflect how I perceive AUrV. It will be cleaner, tighter, less cluttered and easier to navigate. A new logo is in the works. Most of the ads will be gone. I will be more selective about which products I promote and what giveaways I host. The makeover will emphasize the parts of blogging that I enjoy: taking beautiful photos, creating recipes, and interacting with readers.
As I mentioned above, I will be reducing the number of giveaways that I host and many of the ads you see now along the side bar will be removed. (Having said that, I have great giveaways coming up throughout the next couple of months for The Best of Jazzy Vegetarian DVD, But I Could Never Go Vegan!, by Kristy Turner, Eat Clean Live Well, by Terry Walters, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page, and Teff Love by Kittee Berns) Many of you know that once product promoters get ahold of your email, they hang on to you like a terrier with a bone. One’s In Box gets flooded daily with the inappropriate (no, I’m not interested in interviewing a dairy farmer), absurd (Poop Pills – I wish I had made that up), and boring (Soybean Council, I’m looking at you) – and a few genuinely interesting or relevant products. While I’ve never said yes to everything, I’ve said yes to things that I didn’t have my heart in – and I’m not going to be doing that anymore. Maybe you, like me, have realized that there are some entities that take just a little bit of an advantage – recipes get shared, photos get borrowed – and in return you barely get a thanks, let alone a paltry Tweet. No more. Anyway, my blog isn’t about someone or something else – it’s about me and it’s about plant-based recipes and living a vegan lifestyle.
I will be posting when I feel like it, when I have something good to share rather than adhering to a schedule of my own control-freak making. Quality is more important than quantity. Which is why I’ve passed the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck baton on to my friends Angela and Poppy. It’s been fun and it’s been wonderful to meet new bloggers, but I can no longer commit to the time expenditure and the schedule. Stay tuned for more on the linky potluck from Angela and Poppy.
What about the Virtual Vegan Potluck? I haven’t quite decided about this. The downside is that this event takes an enormous amount of time, effort, and planning. But since I invented it, I really have no one but myself to blame, right? I can own it or not. The upside, of course, is that the participants are fantastic and the idea is, well, just nice. So for now, I’m going to go with the flow, see how I feel as Spring 2015 approaches. A big part of me would be sad to see it end. I hope you’ll be patient with me as I figure out what to do.
Each of us has reasons for why we blog. The reasons are personal and molded by our backgrounds and experiences. We are motivated by different needs, goals and desires. After over three years of blogging, it was time I revisited the initial impetus that drove me to create a blog in the first place. I asked myself this simple question over and over again: what do you like about blogging? And I kept getting the same answer: I like making food, I like writing, and I like taking photos. These will be the driving forces behind the “new” AUrV.
I thank those of you who have been with me throughout the journey and through the many incarnations. You make it all worth it. I hope you’ll continue to let me into your lives and kitchens.
I just love and adore you Annie and relate to you on sooo many levels here. There is a reason why I hardly ever do reviews or product reviews only blog or giveaways…I’ve done very few. Quite simply, I don’t want my blog to be all about giveaways and reviews. Yes, from time to time, I love to do them…from certain bloggers I truly admire (like you) I am honored to do cookbook giveaways, but some blogs have a giveaway every week from soap to tea to chocolate. For me, I started blogging because I want to share food and help people make better choices, and now especially, save animals from being eaten. I want as many people to change their ways as possible and the more my blog grows, the greater chance of those things happening and people, and animals, lives change…..all while I get to use my passion and talents. It’s a total win win. I have a mission and it’s to help people. That’s always been my overall goal and it’s so much fun to photograph and her some cool deals along the way that further expose my blog.
I totally get you on the exhaustion part of it though….its so easy to get sucked into comparison or pressure part. In fact, just this week I was telling myself, don’t feel the need to post 2-3 recipes a week just because others do. That was freeing. I will probably stick to 1 now a week, less pressure, and more time to work on other projects I want to do.
Sooo exciting about the run that you will be involved in! You are an amazing woman with a beautiful heart and I truly adore you!! Sorry for the long comment, lol, just wanted to share my thoughts and agree with what you’ve wrote. ❤️
Brandi, you’re a gem. There’s no doubt that you are fulfilling your mission – you are already helping people in the best way: showing them with delicious, healthful, cruelty-free food and with kindness that there is a better, more compassionate way to be. You are a role model for so many. Thank you for your constant support over the years and for the inspiration. xoxo
Best of luck and have fun with the renovations. I am glad you have decided to pursue those things which matter most to you as opposed to letting the whirlwind devour you.
Thank you, Steve! I think a refreshed site will be just what it and I need :-)!
Annie, I’m so excited for you! I’ve been re-thinking my site, my approach, and my level of commitment as well. Being a blogger is far more challenging than I could have ever imagined, and I am still very much in the beginning stages of my site. I’ve considered giving it up, but I can’t. Writing, sharing my insights and my experiences are a part of me and I feel I have so much more to offer. I look forward to joining you on this journey!
Thank you, Laura. There are so many good things about being part of the blogging community that I don’t want to sound like an ingrate or downer 😉 – but it is comforting to know that many of us feel swallowed up by it from time to time. I’m glad that you aren’t going to give up on it either – the voices are what make this such an amazing “place.”
Annie, you write so beautifully, I truly feel like I’ve been on this emotional decision making journey with you just from reading.
There is SO much I want to say, but I will keep it simple…. First and foremost, you are brave; not only for facing up to that relentless frying pan but for acting on its message and for the courage to stand on this platform and share some of your vulnerable feelings and fears.
Secondly, I, and I know so many others will too, resonate with this and emphasise with you. For some different reasons, some the same but the fact is, it’s so easy at times to get lost in the aesthetics of blogging, the self pressure, the corporate demands and the promotion. It’s hard to forget, even if only temporarily, why we really do this.
Lastly, you are a beautiful, kind, strong, inspirational woman and your impact is well embedded in those of us lucky enough to have been touched by you in some way. That is done, and you don’t need to reaffirm that, you are one of the rare people who leaves a large footprint on ones heart. All your support as a fellow blogger and as a friend is not unnoticed, reading our posts, taking the time to comment, checking in to say hey, creating incredible events for us to enjoy like the Potlucks and so much more. However, I for one, would love you just the same without all that.
I’m going on and I did say I would keep it simple so I will shut up now!!!
I just love you, and I am inspired by you, if not before, definitely now.
Oh, Poppy! See what I mean?! You are the kind of connection that makes blogging so wonderful, enriching, worthwhile, and well, just incredible! How lucky was I to have met you in person, too! I remember that we talked a bit about some of these issues, and I remember feeling better that you felt the same way from time to time. We truly are not “in it” alone. Anyway, thank you for your sweet and kind words and your support and friendship. Much love, dear Poppy.
Annie, thanks so much for your post. I’m so glad to see you moving in a direction that truly FEELS good and is right for you. I just love your blog, and I understand the pressures and confines it can place on other parts of one’s life. I write this comment to offer my full support of you, your work, and AUrV! I can’t wait to see what visual changes are in store here on your site, and I’m always so inspired by the work you do here. Taking a step back from obligations, even ones that we love, is such a necessary part of life. I wish you well on this next part of your blogging and life journey. 2015 is going to be a great year, and I can’t wait to see where it takes you!
I feel like you’re my blogging sister, Rachel. What a journey!! Your support over the years means so much to me. xoxo
Annie! You are too sweet. I feel the same way! We’re two peas in a pod, the two of us. Together in this virtual journey since the beginning. I know this next part is going to be just as grand as the past few years have been! 🙂
Once again, you lay out your thoughts and decision making process in a way that inspires through its candor and the revelation of your gentle, well-meaning spirit. Wherever you bring your determination and generosity will be a better place. It has been a delight to enjoy your work and to converse with you as bloggers, and will continue to be so as you continue to direct your considerable energies with thoughtfulness and respect. Congratulations on your new opportunities and the changes and blessings that the New Year holds!
Thank you, Lisa – – now if I can make myself STICK to these pronouncements! Which is why I shared them here…try to keep myself honest and accountable! Slap me if I get out of hand…
We all need a gentle slap now and again, don’t we? 😉
It’s what friends do for each other!
You are amazing Annie! Very proud of you for taking charge and getting things back on your own terms.
I was nodding along to myself while reading this as I totally relate. It’s very easy to get sucked into this blogging thing – for good and less good reasons. I adore the community of like-minded people but have had many periods of overwhelm when I felt I needed to post 3 or 4 times a week to “keep up”. It must be hard doing this full-time as you have to be strict with yourself about how much time you devote to it. My blog is just a hobby of mine (I do something else full time) but I’ve let it take over too much and it’s impacted on my personal life. I’m starting a new job soon which will be even longer hours and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage blogging but I would be very sad to leave behind something which has brought me so much happiness and friendship.
Fantastic to read about the run organised in your brother’s honour. I was very moved by your story and guide for caregivers.
All the best for 2015!
Thanks, Emma! It IS all about the community – – and it would be tough to leave that behind. And I do not know how you produce the quality that you do: beautiful photos, creative recipes, honest writing – all while working and squeezing in a personal life :-)!
This is why you are one of my favorite bloggers, that and I feel like I’ve been with you and your blog for quite some time now. I think we all go through this “why am I blogging and where do I want to go with it” phase, and actually I don’t know if it ever really goes away, but just grows with us. I know for me when I stepped away from the feeling of “having” to blog vs. “wanting” to blog things felt right. Your readers will always be here to support you and all your adventures!! I can’t wait for your cookbook release, and big things are coming your way my friend!! NOW get out and enjoy those tall trees!
We’ve known each other AGES in blog years :-)!! You’re an inspiration, Brittany – cuz you always lay it out there with honesty and candor. How’d you get to be so wise for someone so young??
Let me just wipe the snot and tears off of my face. You are incredible, and I’m so proud of you. Looking forward to being by your side at the run in September for Charles. Xoxo
We will get each other over that finish line, babe! Love you!
I totally get it Anne! It can be overwhelming, when one blogs for a long time. There have been many, many times I have nearly walked away from my writing. Usually a change in how I write, taking time off and finding new things to write about – that makes me so much happier. This past year I took a LOT of time off my oldest blog (my outdoor one), and really thought about what I needed from it. So don’t feel ever that you “owe” anyone, anything 🙂
Just keep being you!
I’m a slow learner, Sarah – but I think I’m over feeling like I “have” to do anything! Thanks for the encouragement!
In a way, I actually feel a bit relieved for you. I’ve seen how big this has all gotten, and while I’m truly happy for your success, I did wonder how it was going. I hope getting back to your roots, so to speak, brings you the fulfillment you are after. I look forward to reading the occasional post about how it feels to take in that lovely scenery, to enjoy the fresh, clean air, along with your inspired recipes and photography. Here’s to happiness in 2015! 🙂
What a wonderful post! First, I love your involvement to help brain cancer. I lost my uncle to glioblastoma, have a mommy friend with two young kids who just lost her husband to it as well and my friend and neighbor is fighting brain Cancer now. If you ever do a run in San Diego I’m there as I love to support and love running!
Second, thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts. Being new to this blogging thing I strive to learn from those with experience. I don’t want it to consume me and take away from enjoying life in the here and now. Along with helping others see how amazing and delicious eating vegan can be, I do want to make my blog into a small business and be able to contribute a small amount to my family income one day. But I do believe in small steps and not letting it consume you so I appreciate your thoughts and experience on what has worked and not worked for you. I loved being part of the potluck and although I hope it continues I truly understand if you don’t. I look forward to all you will focus on and do as you move forward! You are so awesome and talented. I will always be a follower and supporter!! Lots of love from Veggies Don’t Bite!!
Sophia – I SO appreciate you taking the time to leave such a thoughtful and kind comment. I have to say that I’m so sorry to hear how glioblastoma has touched your life. I’m afraid that I hear about it more and more these days. Is your friend by any chance being seen by Dr. Santosh Kesari at UCSD (http://kesarilab.ucsd.edu/Pages/default.aspx)? He’s doing some pioneering things there and I’m forever grateful to him for supplementing my brother’s care with treatment not available in Salt Lake City. As for a run in San Diego – there may already be one! If not, VABC is constantly adding new ones as their goal is to have them all over the country.
I wish you all of the best in (slowly :-)) growing your blog to where you want it to be. For many successful bloggers, it is worth the blood, sweat, and tears that can accompany this type of business and I truly admire those who can earn even a small living doing it. There’s so much I enjoy about the experience, but it can be difficult to keep a balance that feels right. I probably will keep doing the Potluck, but won’t make myself adhere to a set schedule as I had in the past. Anyway – thanks again, Sophia!
That’s for the info on the doc, I’ll definitely pass it on as we are in San Diego. I know my friend that lost her husband saw docs in Salt Lake City as well as here, just not sure who. But he did live for 3 years before passing which is much longer than originally thought. It’s such a terrible disease and I hope research and technology can one day bring a cure.
Blogging is definitely hard work and so far for me with every bit as I love it. But I do try hard not to get caught up in the “rat race” of it all and focus on my belief of taking small steps for long term success. Finding balance in life has been something I’ve worked on ever since struggling through fertility problems many years ago with our first son. I worked hard to change my all or nothing outlook on life and live a much less stressed filled life by not putting pressure on myself to be perfect and 100% in all I do. It has been a challenge as thats my innate nature but I’ve come a long way and it has definitely made me a happier and better person. Ironically yesterday I faced a few unkind people on social media who attacked my philosophy, but I’m happy to say I chose not to engage and it all rolled right off my back. I think you’re making a great move to not put the pressure on yourself and that you will be so happy with these new changes! Can’t wait to see what all the happiness leads to because happy bloggers always come up with amazing recipes!!
I just love you Annie and relate to you on sooo many levels here. You write so beautifully and I completely understand your situation. It takes great courage to take time to stop and search deep down in ourself what make us happy. It takes a lot of insight to make these kind of decision and pin pointed what is right for you. You are admirable for that !!! Whatever decision you will make, I’ll still be there to support and respect it. You are a great inspiration Annie !!!
Do whatever feels great for you and make you happy, I’ll be an happy member of your site 🙂
I really admire your involvement for brain cancer !!! That’s wonderful and very meaniful for you and your well being !!! Go girl !!!
You’re a sweetheart Annie 🙂
You have a little extra insight, don’t you, Jessica – into the cookbook-writing process :-)? I can’t thank you enough for your help and support. xoxo
You are a real sweetheart Annie 🙂 xox
Good for you! Wait for hit. that frying pan is going to hit me one of these days. i just hope its after the book 🙂
I think I am learning to say no and learning to not read emails that clearly sound like a random pitch. I am also learning to delegate stuff (usually goes to hubbs, the poor sweet awesome person that he is, but usually its stuff that i know he will eventually be intrigued about enough to take it on, or find someone else to do it). i agree on the cookbook part. it is a lott lottt of work.
even though i dislike the song, i have to remember to let things go. 🙂
Good luck with the new direction. Here is to finding our true calling and following it without the frills and demands.
It is so hard to take a realistic look at what you’re doing. High five for productive introspection. I can’t wait to see the new changes, and I hope that after the January craziness settles, you’ll be able to enjoy country living!
I think this is absolutely wonderful Annie. You need to do YOU. And we all really REALLY like you, so you can be sure we are all going to like the way this blog is going to change 🙂
Awww, Gabby! You’re awesome!
Beautifully written, Annie. I’ve only had my blog for half a year now, so I can’t relate to all the things you mentioned like having too many (weird) product advertisements requests BUT I can totally feel you on having the “need” to keep up, to post because the last recipe was posted XXX days ago. But why do we feel that way? It isn’t like readers couldn’t be vegan anymore because there is not a new vegan recipe on the blog everyday. We all deserve a break and a little more relaxation. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to seeing the new blog design & logo and I’m sure you’ll have something wonderful planned 🙂
Good question – why do we feel that way? We all put so much pressure on ourselves, don’t we? I’m trying to lighten up ;-)! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Bianca!
Beautifully expressed. I hope that alongside the amazing culinary creations and exquisite photographs writing will continue to play a significant role in your blog, because you’re so good at it. Way to go with the 5k runs, that’s a terrific idea and a great way of celebrating your brother’s life. I can identify with the blog-running-your-life business and I agree that you should do what makes you happy with a blog and not what you feel you’ve got yourself trapped into. Lately I’ve been wishing I’d chosen a different blog name for my main blog because I no longer want to concentrate on tearooms, but neither do I want to lose all my loyal followers by abandoning it completely. Blogging is a far more intensive activity than I’d ever anticipated it would be. It’s wonderful in some ways, such a positive and encouraging community, but it can so easily become a millstone round your neck if you don’t listen to those little warning voices.
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