Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving, to me, is about being grateful and giving thanks for what I do have. Not regretting what I do not have.

I didn’t do the usual 30 separate Facebook status posts for the month of November because I know myself well enough to know that I’d rather give thanks at one time, in one blog post, as opposed to mentally beating myself up because I missed two days on Facebook and then having to play catch-up. It’s not my style.

So from that last paragraph I found 4 things I’m grateful for:

1. Being able to share this blog post with you.
2. Working on not beating myself up all of the time and learning, through yoga, how to let thoughts enter my mind, acknowledge them and then move on.
3. Knowing myself well enough at 32 years of age to know what is and is not my style.
4. I never do “the usual”—to quote myself!

So what does a unique, vegan girl and her vegetarian husband do for Thanksgiving dinner? Well, we usually spend Thanksgiving with my grandmother. Since Pete and I have been together, my husband always cooks Eggplant Parmesan and we take it over to my grandmother’s house to share. My grandma always takes all of the leftovers and we laugh, like that’s a surprise to us. For some reason, we always take my Monster (a/k/a Kasey—my dog that eats everything that’s not food). This year, since my yoga studio is open on Thanksgiving morning, I will be going to a class in the morning.

And the list of gratefulness continues:

5. Having one tradition left with the Dalton side of the family.
6. Obviously—having a dog called Monster that we can take places, knowing that she will be good the entire time we are there.
7. Being vegan.
8. Having a husband that became vegetarian because he respects, not only my veganism, but me as well.
9. Having yoga classes to go to in general, and a studio to go to that’s open on Thanksgiving morning.
10. Having another option for exercise on Thanksgiving that does not involve getting up and standing outdoors in the cold to run any distance at all.
11. Having a husband that cooks.
12. Sharing a meal that doesn’t involve harming any animal.
13. Having a portion put to the side that is vegan with no Parmesan cheese all for me!

After we share our meal, we visit with my grandmother in her living room and watch TV. Afterwards, as we drive home, we gawk at the Black Friday shoppers that are all lined up outside of Best Buy at 9:00pm on Thanksgiving day. As I go home, visit with my other two dogs and eventually go to bed I think to myself how grateful I am that:

14. I’ve spent a wonderful day with my grandmother and my husband.
15. I’ve got two other dogs waiting to greet me when I get home—Mr. Biggs and Bonnie.
16. I have my grandmother in my life.
17. I do not have to stand in line at any store on Thanksgiving night, outside, in the cold.
18. I do not have to stand out in the cold ever and will always have a home.
19. I have a job and could go out shopping the next day but choose not too.
20. Did I mention how grateful I am that I don’t have to go out on Black Friday? Well, let’s square that to infinity and beyond and you’ll know how grateful I’m for that.
21. I have a car that gets me to places I choose to go, like my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner or work or to out to play with friends.

So that leaves me with nine more items to be grateful for. Honestly, nine isn’t enough. Ten isn’t enough. Eleven and twelve wouldn’t be enough. However, I set the list at 30 so here’s the rest. If I had to list only nine more things that I’m grateful for, they would be:

22. All of the lesson’s I’ve learned in my life so far and to come.
23. The coffee I drink after yoga is over.
24. Having time off to spend time with family and friends.
25. Life from my mother and father.
26. All of the following activities I’ve been able and am still able to participate in: dance competitions, 1/2 marathon, a full marathon, triathlons, swimming, cycling tours and hot yoga.
27. The willingness to try the activities in post 26.
28. Teachers that give up their time to teach.
29. The beautiful autumn we had and the exciting winter to come.
30. The ability to smile.

If there had to be a 31st gratefulness post, do you know what it would be?

31. Soooooooooo grateful for not having to go shopping on black Friday.

No joke.

Have a wonderful day of giving thanks!

Sara Sawochka

Do We Have a Case of “Smug Alert” On Our Hands?

LOL! After learning what a “smug alert” is, I certainly hope not!

I first heard the phrase “smug alert” from Pete’s former boss from a long time back, Paul. We were sitting at Lucrezia’s having lunch on July 21st of this year and I was complaining about Pete and his pain-in-the-butt car (as I viewed it then). I was moaning and groaning about how slow Pete drove, how slowly he accelerated and how slowly he stopped, and how he would never turn on the A/C in the summer and heat in the winter—my biggest complaint. After lunch the three of us walked back to the car and Paul mentioned that we had a case of a “smug alert” with Pete and his Prius C. Neither one of us knew what Paul meant. Paul told us to check it out on Google and that it had to with “South Park”.

Wikipedia describes the “smug alert” best:

The episode [of “South Park”] was written by series co-creator Trey Parker. The episode acts as a play on the attitude of owners of hybrid cars, as well as the similarity between the words “smog” and “smug”.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on how the show starts:

Kyle’s father Gerald buys a new “Toyonda Pious” hybrid car (based on the Toyota Prius) and drives it all over town to show it off and gain attention. He soon decides that his commitment is not enough and starts an unwelcome campaign to convert the other townspeople to environmentally friendly vehicles. After alienating all of his friends with his preachy attitude, Randy tells Gerald that he has become so smug that he probably loves the smell of his own farts. After deciding he cannot live among such “backward and unsophisticated” people, Gerald decides to move his family to San Francisco.

(You can watch the complete episode at the show’s website.)

I’ll let you infer from the description above what a “smug alert” is.

So…do we have case of “smug alert” on our hands? Again, I certainly hope not. No one likes the smell of their own natural gas.

I will admit, however, there is some truth to it. Once you drink the Prius (or any hybrid car) Kool-Aid, it’s hard want to go back to a gasoline engine.

But don’t worry—I’m not moving to San Francisco anytime soon!

Peace!

Sara Sawochka

Project Prius C: Filling up the Tank

It was inevitable. I couldn’t drive on the battery forever. I would finally have to fill up the tank. I found a gas station and paid the unhappy price of $3.45/gallon for 6 gallons of gas. I still had three gallons left but Pete somewhat insisted that I needed to fill up soon.

Filling up the tank was a sad moment. All of my gauges were re-set. Here were my numbers for this round of driving:

  1. 331.1 miles
  2. 70.0 miles per gallon

When Pete and I went out this week for my weekly evaluation on the way to the grocery stores, here’s what he observed:

  • As we were pulling out onto the first major street from our subdivision he noted that my Corolla had a much more comfortable ride than the Prius did. And he’s right. I notice the Corolla is a much smoother ride as a passenger and a driver. I’ve told Pete for a long time that the Corolla has a more comfortable ride overall. Interestingly, as a driver of the Prius C, I’m not noticing the lousy ride because I’m so busy concentrating as a driver, but the bumps go unnoticed as a driver but are definitely noticed as a passenger.
  • He found that I had gotten much better about not drifting into a stop from so far away from my target stopping point.
  • He noted that I needed to work on two things:
    1. Going up hills. My current predicament is that I use some momentum to drive up the hill from the previous down slide but my miles per hour suffers on the hill because I’m trying to stay on the battery. For example, let’s say I’m cruising on a road that is 30 mph. I’ll accelerate going down a hill while still on the battery. Then going uphill I lose the momentum because I’ve been stubborn and don’t want to switch to the gasoline engine. The battery starts to lose charge and the mph starts to drop from 34 mph to 25 mph. Pete mentioned that can be annoying to drivers behind me because I make my driving less predictable.
    2. My cruising score also needs work. This is a related problem to going up hills. There are three scores that you can get which give you an overall ECO score. Those scores are start, cruise, and stop. Pete noted that my starting and stopping scores were fine but that my cruising score wasn’t as high. One problem is my trouble with hills. The other thing I need to work on is getting up to speed a little faster, then lifting my foot off of the accelerator, then putting my foot back on to engage the battery, and then staying at that cruising speed as long as possible.
  • He was proud of me for doing such a great job with my overall gas mileage and that I was sticking to the project!

My notes on the project so far:

  • I’ve noticed that I really engage my leg muscles to drive, my quadriceps in particular, to work the gas and brake. My right upper leg is completely engaged the whole time. Who knew driving could be so physical? Actually, I’m so aggressive on highway ramps in my Corolla going around curves that my abdominal muscles engage a lot when going around those curves. So whenever everyone else in the car looks sick and is leaning sideways and has that open mouth look on their face, I’m sitting there upright with a smile on my face and wondering why everyone else looks so upset!
  • I don’t notice what’s behind me and how people are acting (are they mad, or waving around behind me, or trying to pass) on the back roads. On roads like Route 30, which we did take to Strack’s in Valpo on Friday night, I really have to not let my nerves get to me. Driving on the back roads has become relaxing to me and is a simple way for me to get home, get great gas mileage, and not have to deal with much stress. When we were driving to Strack’s in Valpo down Route 30 I felt myself wishing I had my Corolla with me to drive because people were flying around all over the place. It was the first time I’ve really noticed how aggressive people can be, myself included, in gasoline-powered cars (or hybrid cars not driven for maximum gas mileage efficiency efficiency). My anxiety hit the roof when we were on Route 30. I’ll stick to my back roads and get to my target destination taking a little more time to get there.
  • In the last two weeks I haven’t paid attention to gas prices at all because I’ve been more focused on getting better gas mileage over a long period of time. It was a shock to fill up. However, it took me two weeks to get to the point where I needed to fill up which is pretty darn good! I’m liking the time vs. money equation. The money I’ve saved spending on gas will definitely help fund next month’s project! In fact it already has—I’ve purchased two items to get myself started for next month.

And here’s a word from my expert driver, Pete, on the project relating to our two cars:

Based on the roads Sara and I take, and our different styles of driving, it’s hard to say for sure what has contributed to my much higher mpg in the Corolla than Sara usually gets for the first two weeks of this project, but I’m inclined to think it’s a combination of a) longer drifts to stops and b) driving on roads that are right around 40 – 50 mph, which is, as I understand it, most manufacturers’ fuel efficiency “sweet spot” for gasoline engines.

Looking ahead, I have a couple of things to work on and a full tank that will hopefully carry me through until 10/1/2013 when, I have to turn in my keys to the Prius C. We’ll have to see how that affects my overall gas mileage in the coming weeks.

Peace!

Sara Sawochka

Project Prius C – Week 1 of Drinking the Prius Kool-Aid!

I’m really enjoying this project so far! I’m learning a lot about driving more efficiently. I love trying to maximize my fuel efficiency. I met up with a friend last week on Friday night for dinner. My friend noted that it sounded like I was drinking the Prius Kool-Aid. Turns out she is right!

My average gas mileage in the mornings on the way to work was 67 miles per gallon last week. My average gas mileage on the way home from work last week was 80.25. I’m so happy with both of those numbers. The reason for the big difference in morning versus the evening is the temperature outside. Mornings tend to be cooler. The cooler it is outside, it seems like the less efficiently the battery powers the car. In the afternoons, since it’s summertime and hot, the battery seems more efficient, which means more time spent on the battery and less time using the gasoline engine.

Pete went out driving with me over the weekend when we went grocery shopping and here was his only tip to me—do not start drifting to stops (signs and lights) too soon because two things could happen:

1. Drivers behind me might become (possibly more) irritated with me.

2. Drivers who have gasoline-powered engines run inefficiently at lower gears and drifting into a stop causes them to burn more gas.

I will take his suggestion for the upcoming week as something to work on. Other than that, Pete said I was doing a great job and that he had nothing to complain about! Pete even told me I was exceeding his expectations on the project!

Positives of the project so far:

1. Great gas mileage. Haven’t had to fill up the tank yet!

2. I’m learning to allow myself more time to get places with this car, because it takes a few minutes longer to get places. I feel much calmer now in the car going at a slower pace but knowing I’ll get there on time.

3. I do not miss the rush and bustle of the highway and expressway. I really enjoy the slow, relaxing drive on the back roads.

Negatives on the project so far:

1. People tailgate, pass me in turn-only lanes on the right side and I even had one official honk!

2. The first week was mentally tough on me trying to figure out how to optimize my gas mileage. The combination of having a parade of cars behind you as you figure out how to efficiently drive up a hill and coast down another has been a bit of a challenge.

New discoveries:

1. Pete gets much better gas mileage in my Corolla than I ever have. This first week he got 40 miles per gallon and only used about 1/4 of a tank of gas. Pete drives double the miles I drive to and from work.

2. Interestingly I get much higher miles per gallon than Pete does.

3. I’ve tried different things like talking on the phone, having slow and fast music on in the car, or have a talking passenger with me and nothing seems to break my concentration on driving efficiently. I seem to get the same miles per gallon no matter what outside distractions are going on.

I’m off to a great start for my first week of the project! I can’t wait to see what week two brings!

Peace out!

Sara Sawochka

Project Prius C–Bring on the Green!

Today was my first day taking the Prius C out on the road.

This morning I was running a little late—OK, more than a little—a lot late. So it was absolutely necessary to take the expressway (I65) and highway (US Highway 30) this morning. I clocked in at work at exactly 8:00 am!

Here are my results from this morning’s drive to work:

Time: 22 minutes
Miles Per Gallon: 56.1 mpg
Total Mileage: 13.1 miles

Notes:

  • I was always within 1 – 2 miles over or at the speed limit.
  • I sat, painfully, in the driveway and waited impatiently while the car warmed up (which sucked up 2 minutes of my time).

After work I had no where particular to go so I totally back-roaded it all the way home. Typically my drive home is the reverse of the same route I used this morning. However this evening’s ride home was a very different route.

Here are my results from this evening’s drive from work to home:

Time: 48 minutes
Miles Per Gallon: 78.1 mpg
Total Mileage: 13.4

Notes:

  • I was always at the speed limit; sometimes, I was even below.
  • It took me twice as long to get home.
  • I surprised myself and even Pete with my awesome gas mileage!!!
  • It was a very stressful drive home. What should’ve been a relaxing drive home on back roads turned out to be a nerve-wracking, watch-the-speedomoter-and-ECO-Gauge-the-whole-time ride home to ensure I got said awesome gas mileage.
  • And did I mention the line of pissed off drivers I had behind me? Oh yeah…there was a huge line of them which made the 78.1 mpg that much sweeter!

So today’s findings brought me to an interesting question to consider over the next month: Is the awesome gas mileage (and money saved) worth the major time investment? Is it part of going green? Or is there a compromise—not-as-awesome gas mileage (and a little less savings) and more minor time investment?

It’s amazing what a person can learn in one day of change!

Peace out!

Sara Sawochka

Project Prius C—What Happens When a Speed Demon Goes Green?

What happens when you cross a speed demon, lead-footed, aggressive driver with a hybrid car designed to be driven the speed limit on the back roads of town for maximum gas mileage efficiency?

Here’s the place to find out! This month long blog project will answer that question and more! As of yesterday, Pete will be driving my 2011 Toyota Corolla and I will be driving his 2012 Prius C for the month of September.

Here’s some more information on the particulars of the project:

Who: Sara and Pete Sawochka
What: Prius C
Where: You’ll find me on back roads only, unless taking the highway or expressway is absolutely necessary.
When: 9/1/13 – 9/30/2013
Why?: To see what it’s like to drive a hybrid car for a month, to try and be more green and hopefully will learn some patience in the process and how to drive more efficiently in the long run.

Question: Why did I choose this particular project?

Answer: I want to understand how to maximize my fuel efficiency and be a calmer, slower and safer driver. I want to see what going green will change in my regular daily routine. For instance, I’ve promised to stay off of highways as much as possible even though my job is in Merrillville and my gym is in Chesterton–30 minutes away–by expressway! Not to worry about workouts, though–I already have a plan for those!

I’d like to give you an example of what a typical drive with Pete is like. In this scenario, Pete is driving us to the grocery store in his car:

1. We get in the car, he starts it and then we sit in the driveway for several minutes while the car warms up. I’m not really sure what the purpose of this is but I promise I will find out. I just know that sitting there in the driveway feels like forever. Pete warms the car up every time before he drives it. And FYI this includes every season of the year (even summer!).

2. Next Pete will slowly back out of the driveway and put the car on EV-mode as he proceeds to the street entrance. Driving in EV mode keeps him on the battery only (under 25 mph) without having to use any gas.

3. In the winter and summer Pete never runs the heat or the a/c unless I am with him. He will not turn on the heat or a/c until we are out of our subdivision and have hit the first stop sign on the way to the grocery store.

4. Pete drives THE SPEED LIMIT the entire way there–never above…not even 5 or 10 mph over (like me).

5. Pete drives nearly all back roads to get wherever he’s going. Apparently the car doesn’t get as good gas mileage when driven on a major highway or expressway.

6. Pete pulls into the parking lot and puts the car back on battery, or EV mode.

6. Pete turns the car off and waits for the computer to generate his mpg.

After having this Prius C for a year, I do give Pete credit in that he’s one of the best people I know that can maximize fuel efficiency. He typically gets 60 mpg plus depending on what season it is and the current driving conditions. The most mpg I can recollect him getting is 80 mpg. That’s pretty damn awesome! It also requires a lot of focus and dedication to driving. He is a very safe driver. Ironically, I really worry about him sometimes in his attempt to be safe. I worry he’ll get nailed in an accident. When I talk to Pete on the phone after work (we both have Bluetooth built into the car—again safe) he always sounds mad or upset. Most people do not drive the way he drives. People tailgate Pete, or speed up to pass him in no-passing zones, almost causing an accident. I’ve heard other tales of woe as well and they always make me worry.

Pete has been kind enough to share some of wisdom with me so I can get somewhat comparable gas mileage (I’m shooting for at least 60mpg). He gave me a couple of driving lessons two nights ago.

So. again, just like Pete, I’ll be driving his Prius C taking mostly back roads, following the speed limit exactly, and leaving earlier to get places since driving slow means longer travel times. Tomorrow will be my first day driving to work with the Prius C.

I’m eager to see what it’s like driving green, maximizing my fuel efficiency and hopefully finding my zen in driving. Perhaps I can change my ways a bit and use this experience to learn to drive my Corolla a little bit greener and safer!

Peace out!
Sara Sawochka

Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken

As I found myself at another depressing day at work with nothing to do (after about three consecutive months with nothing to do) I’ve started to find sites to visit and other things to do to fill my time when I would normally be working.
I found this article on Leo Babauta’s blog and wanted to share it with my readers.

It starts with this quote and then goes on with Leo’s writing from there. Enjoy:

“You lethargic, waiting upon me,
waiting for the fire and I
attendant upon you, shaken by your beauty

Shaken by your beauty
Shaken.”

~William Carlos Williams

“This morning I awoke, meditated in the quiet dark empty room, and then went to make my coffee.

The world outside is wet, and the raindrops patter upon the leaves of the lemon tree, with its bursts of bright yellow.

My kids and Eva asleep, at peace.

And as I drink my coffee I think of you, dear reader.

And I am struck by the beauty of this world, and the fragile human lives struggling to make their way within it.

And shaken.

The pain and stress and anger and sadness and loneliness and frustration and fear and cravings and irritations that we will experience today … they are made up. We can let them go as easily as they arise. They are unnecessary, if we realize that we’ve created them for no good reason.

Instead, see the beauty in every moment. In every person’s so human actions. In our own frailties and failures.

This world is a morning poem, and we have but to see it to be shaken by its beauty, over and over.”

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Sadly I feel shaken almost everyday I go to work. I feel shaken because there is no stimulation for me. I enjoy being busy and enjoy having things that keep me busy. However I have to look at the situation as it is: beautiful.

I’ve felt each of the emotions Leo write’s about while sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day with nothing to do: The pain, stress, anger, sadness, loneliness, frustration, fear cravings and irritation.

I’m working on taking one hour at a time during the day and finding something to do while we have nothing to do. The hour should be beautiful and not something that causes pain, sadness or irritation which I’ve let it do to my life.

Sara Sawochka

Project Friendship Bread: Vegan and Non-Vegan

I received a non-vegan Amish friendship bread starter at work today. I accepted it with the intention of making it for Pete. He always complains that I never bake for him anymore. Pete is a vegetarian so there’s nothing in there that he cannot eat.

After pondering a little more carefully on it I thought to myself, “There has to be a vegan version of friendship bread out there somewhere.” I found what looks like a good recipe so I printed it out and will make it at home in the next few days.

The plan is to make the vegan and non-vegan versions of the starters and see how they turn out. Pete will be the taste tester since he will eat both versions!

Once we’ve made both starters I’ll post the recipes and the results. And the best part: if you want a vegan or non-vegan starter just let me know and I’ll spread the Amish friendship around!

I’ve been looking for a good project to do since The End of the Broken Clavicle Bone Vegan Project came to a halt. So this will be a good project for me to continue on with!

Sara Sawochka

Inhumane Use of Gestation Crates For Mother Pigs

I feel the use of gestation crates on mother pigs is inhumane and cruel.

Iowa State University conducted a two-and-a-half year long economic comparison of gestation crates and group housing and found that “reproductive performance can be maintained or enhanced in well-managed group housing systems…without increasing labor.” Overall, the study found that “group housing…resulted in a weaned pig cost that was 11 percent less than the cost of a weaned pig from the individual stall confinement system.”

Animal welfare scientist Dr. Temple Grandin says, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and gestation stalls have got to go.” She continues, “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.”

Thankfully non-profits such as Mercy For Animals campaign against these cruel practices. Click here to find out more about the Mercy For Animals campaign.

Sara Sawochka

Notice Me

Notice me, notice me, someone please notice me. Please validate my existence. Please compliment me when I do a good job. Please acknowledge if I’ve made a mistake. Yell at me. Hug me. Bug me. Just don’t ignore me. These thoughts rolled around in her mind as she walked down the street. Tears streaming down her face. She was on her break at 3:15pm in the afternoon from work. She just wanted it to end. She wanted it over. What was the point of feeling the pain anymore. “NO!” her boyfriend shouted on the other line as she cried to him on the other end, “Please just end it. Please let it be over. I don’t want to feel this way anymore.” She kept walking and knelt down on the cold concrete in tears and a van passed her and came to a sudden halt. Gray clouds passed over her on that blustery, autumn October day and rustled her curly, blonde hair and brown-colored shirt. A woman got out and asked her if she needed help or wanted a ride somewhere. It struck her that someone cared. A stranger cared enough to stop and see if she needed help.

If you’ve ever been touched by depression then you know what it can feel like. Depression can get to the point where you do want to end your life. Without help or any kind of medication regulation, depression really can get to that point. Sadness can be so strong, you can’t stop crying. The beautiful thing about a depressed person is that they won’t end their lives because they’re too depressed to do anything about it. However, a depressed and highly anxious person is someone to worry about. Anxiety and depression can breed panic attacks which are moments when you can’t stop crying or can’t breathe. Everyone is different.

Eight years later she spoke to her husband on the phone and said, “I can’t stand feeling this way anymore. I really want it over.” Her husband cried “NO!” on the other end of the line. She was on her lunch break from work and sitting in her car talking to her husband over using her Bluetooth connection in the car. She couldn’t fix anything. She couldn’t get her medications regulated. In the depression world they’re called “meds.” This time it felt like no one was helping. No one knew how to help except the doctor. Until then she just had to deal with it. Feeling alone and like you have no one to help you is the worst feeling ever. There’s no feeling worse than feeling alone and unnoticed.

Depression isn’t something that a person can help sometimes. And it can be hidden even in the peppiest of Facebook posts or the happiest-looking person. Watch for sadness. It can be all around and you may have missed it and never even noticed.

She knew depression wasn’t something to be ashamed of. It was a dance she knew well. It was like a flirty cha-cha that wouldn’t ever go away. It was always there tempting and tormenting her at the same time. Being alone all day at work with only the grunt of your boss with a hello in the morning. Being alone at the gym in the late afternoon. Seeing her spouse for a 1/2 hour at night before going to bed. It’s hard being alone.

Life is dealing with ups and downs. Emotions go up and down. Don’t end it. It’s better to live it. You just need to get through the downs to see the ups. It’s worth it even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Sara Sawochka