When Real Food and Real Life Collide

on September 15 | in Real Food | by | with 57 Comments

[info_box]Guest Blogger #2: Tana Agudelo.  I adore all things natural.  The scent of lavender makes me swoon.  I’m always on the hunt for fresh, raw, organic, fair trade, or handmade.  I love babies and the Awesome God who makes them.   I have a super amazing husband, seven super wonderful children, and when I’m not answering the MOMMY call, I like to paint and read and cook and lots of other stuff as well, especially if it has anything to do with art or food or music or food or books.[/info_box]

I always wanted to be a hippie.  I was born in the 60’s, a little too late to join in all the fun (probably that is a good thing), but I remember sighing with admiration over the twenty-somethings with their long wavy hair, their long flowing skirts, and their cute little beetles plastered with messages of peace and love.  Even as a five year old, I so wanted to be THEM.  I was a little kid; however, I was plotting my course THAT early in life.

So over the years since, as you might imagine, I’ve done a lot of natural, “green” hippie-like things:  cloth diapered, raised and milked my own goats, made yogurt, cheese, bread, peanut butter, sprouts - you name it, I’ve made it.  I put countless miles on my car driving to buy raw milk, grown fruits and vegetables, recycled and repurposed, homebirthed/waterbirthed, doula-ed (is that even a word?), practiced the family bed and natural family planning, did extended breastfeeding, used herbs medicinally, and so on and so on; you get the picture!

And I have been fairly passionate about some of these things.  It’s easy to be more than a little committed to our sought-out and informed choices, whether we’ve always done it this way or we are a new convert.   But I’ve seen a couple of things happen as we exuberantly skip down the path to health and wellness.  One is that we become all-consumed in our quest to purge our lifestyles.  We get a little obsessed.  Truthfully, there is almost no end to the ways you can up the ante on yourself in the quest for being more natural, more healthy, more green.

We get confused when we go to a restaurant like Sweet Tomatoes, with it’s 45 foot long salad bar: all those lovely fresh vegetables and salads and delicious yumminess galore, I mean, it’s not greasy hamburger and fries, but oh bummer, it’s not certified organic.   Can I really eat this – is it toxic – is it bad, even though it is fresh and has the appearance of health?  Our minds question everything and anxiety replaces enthusiasm.  This quest for purity can be exhausting and guilt-inducing, especially when we fall short of our ideals or that other sticky trap we might fall into: living up to the ideals of others we feel are more green and earthy than we are.

The second, possibly even worse development that can happen is that we might become critical, judgmental, believing that we are “The Enlightened” while the unwashed masses drive their gas guzzling SUVs down the highway, laughing about their contribution to the death of our beloved planet.  Okay, maybe we don’t actually think that.  But we can start to feel HOLIER THAN THOU.  We learn something new; we get excited about the benefits and obvious rightness of it all.  It seems so, “of course this is better.”  We want to share our knowledge with everyone else so they can know it, too.  But they aren’t as impressed with cloth diapers as we are.  They don’t want to give birth without an epidural or nurse their children for years on end.  They don’t have a problem spraying their yards with every poison available or feeding their kids Ramon noodles.

And so it happens.  The division.  A crack in the relationship.  We might not see it or admit it.  But there it is:  Other-ness.  Not the same-ness we hoped for.  We realize suddenly that we think differently.  And then doing community with our neighbor becomes hard.

How do we wrestle with all of this conflicting thought-process to find balance in our lives?  How do we let other people do what we think is a “no-brainer” wrong thing and accept them for where they are?

I think the answer lies in peace and grace.

Don’t you like how tidy and neat I wrapped that up?  You know as well as I do that living-it-out is where the messy, difficult, sometimes painful stumbling and skinning our knees comes in.

First, Peace.  It is important to be okay with where we are in life.  I don’t mean that we become complacent and give up on learning and growing.  We should never stop searching for truth; truth sets us free.  And it doesn’t lead us into bondage.  When we start feeling bound up and anxiety-ridden and fearful, we might need to step back and see if something is becoming a fixation and we are giving it too much priority in our lives.

We have to give ourselves permission to not be perfect all the time when it comes to those things that are not of the heart.  This life is not about eating and drinking, and it’s especially not about how faithfully we recycle.  We want to take care of our bodies and the world God made, of course.  I believe we should do the best we can with these things.  But we also have to just do what is possible at the moment, while remembering that our REAL purpose is to cultivate our love for God and for others.  There is no end to what we COULD be doing, but maybe not SHOULD be doing right now.

Second, Grace.  Gace is unmerited favor.   That means we don’t deserve it.  We didn’t do anything to earn it; God just gives it to us.  We accept it from God and we give it to others.  We give them space to be where they are in life at the moment, realizing that they are evolving just as we are.  It is easy to start feeling threatened and defensive when others don’t agree with us.  But one thing I have learned is the hard way is that gentle words and example woo much more effectively than our passion turned in pride or defensiveness and anger.

Oh, how we secretly want others to be like us and we search for people who do things like we do.  We can’t help it because God made us for community.  We want to belong somewhere, to be like-minded, and to have others to walk the path beside us.  But the community that we were made for and we thrive in is actually not dependent upon agreement on peripheral issues.  Granted, it makes things a WHOLE lot easier, and we do need friends who lift us up and support us.

But when for example you go to a birthday party and all they serve is hotdogs on white buns with sodas along with cake with ice cream, can we in good conscience take part in that?  I believe that if at all possible for you, then yes, we should, so as to not offend and cause greater division.

This is where both peace and grace come in.  We realize that everything we eat is a total waste; there is nothing good for us in any of it.  We might choose to just eat half the hotdog, drink water instead of soda, and take a small portion of cake and ice cream.  We can smile and thank the host graciously – sincerely.  We try to go ahead and let ourselves actually enjoy the food, knowing that it is minor in the face of something greater in play, which is loving our neighbor.

This is peace for us and grace to them.  We go home and eat a huge salad and lots of fiber and water and try to move everything out as quickly as possible, take extra supplements and eat super healthy or whatever for the next couple of days to compensate for the yucky stuff.  But we don’t fret over it.  And when we host those friends for dinner, we prepare the most delicious healthy food we can to bless them and show a different way at the same time.

One last thing on the subject of peace:  there may be seasons when we need to let go of some of our ideals – for a short time or a long while, when other pressing matters take precedence in our lives.  We are not failing, we are adapting.  The things that are truly important to us will find a way back into our lives when the time is right.   It helps to remember that other people may be having to do this too.

What are some ways that YOU have struggled in your quest for healthy living and how did you come to terms with it?  And how have you managed to give grace to others who don’t agree with you and found some sort of community with them?

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57 Responses to When Real Food and Real Life Collide

  1. Ann says:

    What a wonderul post! It’s so easy to get down on yourself when “life happens” and your child comes home from a birthday party with stories of hot dogs and cake or when your well-meaning family or friends serves something that you wouldn’t normally deam of eating, but you’re absolutely right. The larger community and the relationships you wish to cultivate are far more important than one night’s food or a bite of cake. You can repair any minimal damage from the yucky food, relationships are much more fragile and much harder to repair once injured.

    • Tana says:

      First of all, Thanks! It took me a few “skinned knees and bumped shins” to figure out that people matter more and that it is indeed harder to fix relationships!!!

  2. Julie says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your article. I have to be careful sometimes how I respond to people. People are more important and you can reach them easier if you are kind and humble. After having a baby friends and family show love and support by bringing over dinners and I am overwhelmed by the generosity and love and even if it isn’t what I would serve my family, it doesn’t matter. The love they shared is far more important. My kids will live through a few meals;)

    • Tana says:

      We all need all the love we can get! and isn’t it secretly a little frustrating how cheerfully the kids “survive” those meals, haha!

  3. Kelly F. says:

    This is so good! Right now I have “morning” sickness and can’t hardly stand the smell of food in the house, so we’re having to eat out a lot. Our kids are eating stuff I normally wouldn’t let them eat, simply because it is what my tummy can tolerate right now. AND our cloth diapers are taking a respite due to my nose not being able to stand the smell of them and my exhaustion not being able to keep up with the laundry. So, I can understand the need for grace and peace right now! I miss liking the smell of homemade broth cooking, but right now I have to focus on more important things, like keeping food, (almost) any food down, and loving my family and my Lord! Thanks for helping us keep things in perspective. :)

  4. Jolee Burger says:

    Tana, I love this post. I think it is something we have to keep in mind to stay sane, as we all try to do the best for our families. Our thoughts can be so much more important than a hot dog… Moderation in all things. Thank you!

    • Tana says:

      :-) thanks! Sanity can be in short supply at times in these Mommy years. It’s important that we find that elusive moderation and balance and it sure has taken me some messy times to learn this. And, I’m still, still, still learning..

  5. latisha says:

    this was just beautiful. i dont struggle with others so much as myself. unforgiving for my ‘cheats.’ ive just had a baby and with a 2 year old already at home the ‘real-food/natural’ lifestyle, without a village, is oh so hard. i have so much mama guilt for the dinners from the deli and the days we watch too much tv. i most especially loved your last paragraph. thank you for sharing this gentle permission to be kind to everyone, including ourselves.

    “…there may be seasons when we need to let go of some of our ideals – for a short time or a long while, when other pressing matters take precedence in our lives. We are not failing, we are adapting.”

    • Tana says:

      Wow, thanks. May God give you peace and rest as you delight in your baby. It will get better – I mean, you will be able to do those things again as your baby grows and the constantly-needing-mother load gets lighter. I’m only nine months into my recent baby’s life, and already it is impressing me how much more I can do now than six months ago. You are right, it is hard to do all of this without help. So enjoy this time, and let peace wash over you!

  6. Mae says:

    Ugh, this was beautifully written :] The constant upping the ante and judgement made me want to leave a community I was part of. And everytime I thought I was on the path to Enlightenment, I was proven wrong, yet again. It made me want to go out and buy BPA laced storage containers and water bottles or go get some french fries from Dairy Queen just out of pure rebellion. But I got over it.
    Now pregnant with my second and running around after a 14 month old, I find it impossible to soak grains every night, make the effort to wash cloth diapers, recycle every scrap of everything like we did just a few short months ago and it’s hard not to get down on myself about it. But there is a lot of freedom in the Peace that Jesus gives you in allowing us to be cared for when we don’t deserve to, or can’t do it “up to our own standards” He IS good enough!

    Thank you for sharing this post and good luck!

    • Tana says:

      Thanks, Mae. I really do understand that feeling of judgment – having sadly been on both the giving and receiving end of it!!! You are so right, Jesus came to set us free – but we seem to have difficulty letting ourselves be free, indeed!

      • Mae says:

        Oh, I’m not saying I haven’t been the judge myself!!! I remember the first time I said outloud “I bet she doesn’t even breastfeed her kids” I felt AWFUL! Then I started letting it get really out of control when I lectured my husband about eating non organic chicken or something…it went full circle. From strangers to my husband… no one was safe. I think it’s an easy trick.

  7. Joanna Moore says:

    this is exactly what has been on my heart lately! i’ve been struggling between being judgmental of others that don’t share my newfound principles, and guilt/self-consciousness where others live more natural/healthy/etc than i do. i have to remind myself that my body is only temporary and my relationship with the Lord and others is more important, while still doing what i can to be a good steward while i’m here. your example of a bday party rings so true– it’s better to be gracious and just our best with what we have each day. i’ve found sometimes when i feel bad about eating out that even though it’d be physically healthier to cook a nutritious meal at home, it means less mental and emotional stress over the preparation and time spent. great post tana! i think we can all relate in one way or another to so much of what you’ve written.

    • Tana says:

      :-) Thanks so much! I am really glad that it touched you. As one exhausted mom to another, I hope you can CELEBRATE eating out and lose the guilt over it!

  8. Lesley says:

    Oh wow Tana…this was so what I needed to hear right now. I often chastise myself for not being up to speed on all things “natural and good.” I mean I have my babies at home, I breastfeed, I cloth diaper, etc… so how do I explain that I also shop at walmart, we eat out at places like whataburger once in while ( GASP!) and I panic when I need to take a meal to some one at bible study because I am fearful they wont eat it cause its not organic or soaked or dehydrated. Basically I am soo hard on myself because I see others being able to “do it all” and I am not allowing myself the grace to do the best I can.
    Facing the issues I have faced with this newest baby of not being able to feed her at the breast and having to have testing done that includes radiation, and others toxins….I have almost felt like I need to keep some of it “secret” as not to be judged. Oh why oh why do we judge each other soo much! So this paragraph spoke directly to my heart…thank you for blessing me today.

    “One last thing on the subject of peace: there may be seasons when we need to let go of some of our ideals – for a short time or a long while, when other pressing matters take precedence in our lives. We are not failing, we are adapting. The things that are truly important to us will find a way back into our lives when the time is right. It helps to remember that other people may be having to do this too.”

  9. rebecca says:

    Great post Tana! It is a great message. People are more inclined to follow this way of life when they see you living it graciously.

  10. Tana says:

    I’ll tell you a secret, Lesley, nobody does it all…even if it just looks like that from the outside. Please know that you are loved. I know that I personally was grieved that you have had such a rough time breastfeeding your sweet little girl and for all the troubles you guys are having and I don’t even know you any where near as well as everybody else in bible study. Truthfully, we are all struggling along, stumbling badly at times in our attempts to love others well. I really think it helps to know when we have made someone feel judged so we can look hard at ourselves and grow – and change. Thanks so much for your transparency.

  11. Mimi says:

    Right on!! Also, keep in mind that us older folks may want to follow suit and be healthy, but we may be slow learners. If Whole Foods was closer, it would make it a lot easier. We’ve been using Sprouts for quite awhile now, but we find that they are not at all responsive to our requests for specific items we want to order. Also, the healthier items that sell out quickly, apparently don’t merit having more shelf space. They just let the other stuff sit on the shelf for weeks at a time. That’s not the way to grow a business!!

    • Tana says:

      I also personally feel a little bummed sometimes over how expensive and how inaccessible some things are, raw milk for instance. I miss the days when I could get it for $2.00 a gallon at the dairy, while it was more expensive in the stores at the time. Now I pay $8.00 at the dairy and it costs $1.28 at Walmart. Seems so wrong, doesn’t it?

  12. Anna says:

    Thanks for posting this. It is easy to be proud in thinking that your way to do things is the only right way. I have felt this way in the past about women who get epidurals, or opt not to breastfeed. But I have witnessed the pain of mothers who have the desire to breastfeed their baby, but not the ability. I have also seen how a mother can give glory to God in childbirth and still have an epidural. Being a Christian, there are much more important things to stand firm on. Food, birth and living naturally probably shouldn’t be high on the list.

    • Tana says:

      I have had those very same feelings and experiences. You are so right, there are truly much more important things to stand firm on. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Tana says:

      So right. I also have seen those things happen, and it is really very wrong of us to condemn others, especially for that which the Lord does not condemn them. I am so thankful that God is much more loving and gracious than I am, and thankful that He is patient in teaching us how to love others as He does.

  13. James says:

    As a doctor, father, husband, son, friend, etc. this concept is the hardest for me. The more I have learned, the more I feel out on my own and like I need to bring everyone with me. What I have found is that many people are very resistant to the message for whatever reason. It kills you inside to know that these people are poisoning themselves and you wonder why they just won’t listen. One thing I’m working through now is to just love people where they are. It really is true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Excellent job on your post!

    • Tana says:

      Thanks James. You said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care…” SOOOO true. I’ve been experiencing that lately with my children too, oddly enough. It’s easy to get backwards on that.

  14. Leah says:

    What a wonderful post. I feel like you spoke to me right where I am today – needing to extend grace both to myself and those I love. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Kristine says:

    Great blog! We all have our own personal soapboxes and beliefs that we want to share with everyone else. We should be able to love and accept others even if we don’t agree on every point.

  16. In Bible study today- which we really missed you- FC talked about this exact thing on the DVD. It’s so easy for us to pass judgement over things we are passionate about. I brought up your post because it was so appropriate. Have you seen all the people reposting it on FB? You have ministered to a lot of us by what you wrote, thanks for taking time out of your crazy schedule to put these thoughts down. This is something I pray through a lot. Excellent blog, thanks!

    • Tana says:

      Oh, Thanks Cindy! I wanted so much to be there!!! We had car scheduling problems today – sometimes my husband and I need the car at the same time, and it’s a little too far to walk, haha. I haven’t seen the repostings, but that makes me feel so honored that it touched you all. As I said earlier, I have been on BOTH sides of this, and it hurts the body, either way.

  17. Heather says:

    Tana – I have never run across an article where this subject was handled so beautifully. It actually made me want to run out and “compromise” just so I could experience the grace and peace you described! Thank you for such a thought-provoking contribution.

    • Tana says:

      Wow, wow, that is so sweet and kind. Thanks so much Heather. Hope your baby-bliss time just goes on and on. We are all so happy for you guys.

  18. Vivian says:

    Great post, so true. I’ve found it helpful to remind myself, with my own “important practices”, that there is always someone on both sides, someone more rigorous in their practice, and someone less so. And often both have well thought out reasons for their practice. And sometimes not! LOL. But remembering that I’m in the middle is helpful lest I get judgmental about MY ideas and forget to love others for who they are. So I may eschew donuts and eat 6 fruits or veggies a day, but my neighbor swears by 6 unprocessed ones. And another does only uncooked, unprocessed, and another + organic, and the next organic bought from a store that only sells organic products, and another only organic from the farmer himself, and another has to grow it her OWN self, and it goes on and on. And in so many categories… I may not drive a gas-guzzler, but the next guy drives a hybrid, or takes public transportation, or only bicycles… There is ALWAYS someone more rigorous than I am. Which means that to them, I’m the one being judged. A few times around the block with that, and it’s easier to remember to extend that grace and love to others! And share why I do things the way I do if they ask, or it’s appropriate, but not feel that everybody has to be in the same place as I am. And it also makes me want to see my community of faith be very diverse, because it’s all about the Gospel, not about what I eat, or drive, or whatever. So if I see a place where everybody is all alike, then I can bet there’s some inappropriate judgment going on, and there is stuff being added to the gospel that you really ‘need to do’. But we don’t. Cause Jesus did it all! And now we can work out how best to live our lives with His help and guidance for our particular lives. Blessings!

    • Tana says:

      This is EXACTLY what I was thinking about when I said “up the ante.” Thanks!!! It is never-ending. If I am using cloth diapers, somewhere out there is a woman who made the diapers out of cotton she grew herself and is washing them in the backyard with rainwater that she caught in the last rainstorm and soap that she made by hand, LOL. I cannot compete with that! And yes, yes, no matter where we stand, we could be the one judging or the one being judged, but if we can see each other as God sees us, all very unique and different, what a marvelous community becomes possible.

  19. Becky says:

    AWESOME! We are saved by GRACE through faith and with that comes PEACE. You did an amazing job with this. Working daily with expecting and new parents it is so hard to not want to “convert” them to the “natural way”. I must always remember that God has called me to do this ministry and to educate while not passing judgement. We must support decisions others make as we do not always know their story and everyone has a story. We must Love one another and meet them where they are. thanks for the reminders….great job.

  20. Julie says:

    What a beautiful post! I think your words apply to many more areas of life than just food, too. I have learned the hard way that we all must accept others for who they are and where they are in life if we want to share a friendship/relationship with them. There’s no way any of us are going to approve of everything our friends and family members do with their lives at all times, and it’s just not worth it to keep judging.

    My husband and I are starting out on the path of healthy, real food eating. I have found myself on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, I want to scream the joys of organic produce and grass-fed beef, and cutting out processed food. I’m finding it harder to eat fast food or chain restaurant food (think Chili’s, Friday’s, etc.), and I have unfortunately found myself judging those who eat processed food. On the other hand, I just flat-out refuse to give up DrPepper and semolina pasta. I do limit my intake of it, but it’s still there in my diet. Which makes me feel guilty and like I am selling out.

    I visited some relatives recently who pretty much eat nothing but processed food. We were there for an entire weekend, and I found myself inwardly cringing at much of what they served us, and trying not to think of all the chemicals I was ingesting. But it’s not my place to judge, and I wish no harm to the relationship with people I love dearly. So I ate it with a smile. I won’t go into details of how much my digestive system was yelling at me. But it was worth it not to damage the relationship and judge their eating habits, which is not even my place in life. It is really refreshing to be able to just do what you can, and what you wish to do, and stop constantly upping the ante and trying to compete with others. I still enjoy my guilty pleasures, but I know I am doing myself such a great service by eating organic, and I’m happy to do that. Besides, we ate salads and water for about a week after returning from that weekend, and we are just fine!

    Thank you for a wonderful post!

    • Tana says:

      Thank you, Julie, and like you, I have my own areas, too, both pleasures and guilts. It is so hard to kill that little voice sometimes. My husband and I travel a lot, at least once or twice a month by plane with our baby, and we only take carry-ons to make things go faster and smoother. I just can’t take cloth diapers unless I want to have one carry on be the dry diaper bag and the other, the “wet” diaper bag, LOL. So, I buy disposables. And I have to listen to my guilt-o-meter. To make matters worse, if I haven’t been organized and made it over to Toys R Us for the Earth’s Best, I have to run to the neighborhood grocery store just minutes before we leave and get Huggies Pure and Natural, which I like better than the normal ones, but they aren’t really truly eco friendly. And if they are out of those, which they frequently are, then I have to choose something “worse”. And then, my inside voice is just screaming. SO, I just tell myself, “It’s only for the weekend, can yourself a break and just get them, or you’re going to miss the plane! Just standing here will not make a better choice suddenly appear!” (Please tell me I’m not the only one who talks to herself…)

  21. Leah says:

    I am very thankful I grew up in a different lifestyle and was introduced to so much more at a young age.
    What kind of weirdos milk goats?! (WE DID)
    Nobody can believe I did not know milk sold at the grocery store until I was ten.
    I’m glad you have taught me so much about healthy eating habits and taking care of your body but don’t hate on SWEET TOMATOES woman!

    • Tana says:

      HAHAHA…Thanks for saying you learned something from me, LOL…I still laugh when I remember that day I had to tell you that chicken came from…CHICKEN, and beef came from…COWS, and fish came from…FISH! And don’t worry, I love Sweet Tomatoes.

  22. Wow, this post was so good Tana and so humbling and convicting at the same time! I know I’ve been critical of friends and patients of mine in the past about their choices for their families because my entire life and entire career revolve around making right choices for your families future and health. But this is a good reminder that even though I am passionate about what they do, it is still their decision and to love them through it no matter what. It took me years to get to the point where if they didn’t take my suggestions and fed their kids junk and watched them get sick anyway that I was ok with them making their decisions and didn’t get upset with them! Thanks for the reminder and you’re right, you have an awesome husband and 7 incredible kiddos!
    Jim Bob

    • Tana says:

      Alvaro and I always love your advice Jim Bob, and appreciate you and Cindy SOOOOOO much! Thanks for taking the time to read my post!!!

  23. Em says:

    Wow, I can SO relate! I, too, have been a hippie my entire life, just born in a different decade :) You truly captured the struggle to balance a desire for a healthy, natural way of life with everyday reality. What a great outlook. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  24. Scott C says:

    absolutely stellar. This was the post I was going to submit, had I had the time amidst moving to write it — that being said, you handled it with far more wisdom and grace. Thanks for saying what you said. I know too many (just a few :) who would eschew community and relationships just because it would require compromising and going to Chili’s in order to build that community or relationship.
    Wow.

  25. Stephanie says:

    What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your heart, and in such a gracious and loving way. In the last few years the Lord has worked on my heart with regards to judging others based on my own convictions…especially in this area. Unity and fellowship with other believers is far more important than any convictions I may have about natural and healthy living. Of course, you said it much better than I could have. :)

  26. Alison says:

    This was wonderful! She gets my vote for sure!

  27. [...] they are able to reach more moms without draining too much time away from their other commitments. Tana and Vivian were crunchy before it was cool. They’re fun, accepting and wise. They remind me [...]

  28. Leah Johnson says:

    Old post, but I sure needed to read this! I am constantly struggling to balance my desire for change, progress, and improvement with the other priorities in my life. I am also constantly struggling to balance my passion for my new knowledge and the positive lifestyle changes I have been making against my desire for unity and fellowship with people who don’t share my passion.

  29. [...] Mommypotamus – When Real Food and Real Life Collide.  This post was written by a guest blogger, but the blog is a good one to start following especially if you’re interested in a grain-free or GAPS diet. [...]

  30. Tarah says:

    A great way to put things in perspective!

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