Before you read further, here are some quick links to help you navigate the page. For more information on what The Plant Based Bae is, you can click here. If you’d like to learn more about who I am & my background, you can read hop on over to the About Me section. If you’d like to read on about why I was inspired to start this site & get back into writing, read on….
The Plant Based Bae was a little nickname and almost alter ego I developed shortly after my separation in 2019, the time where I was able to start living fully vegan and halting the total support of the animal product industry in my household. I’m super proud of how far I’ve come, staying committed to the plant based lifestyle & developing a conscious, yet curious mindset that got me to where I am today. I’ve been through quite a bit in my short life so far, but I’ve learned lessons that I’d like to share with others to help them through their own obstacles and improve their overall health.
As a little girl, I would love to cook with my mother absorbing everything she had to share with me. She would write recipes in notebooks/notecards for future reference. I remember looking back on them while going through things at the house sometimes and thinking she needed to start a cookbook with all her creative ideas. She has always been known for that and her inventive mind and always looking for a healthier way. I credit my love for DIY projects to her which was directly influenced by scrapbooking together and resourceful crafting from everyday ordinary objects. No project was too big or too small and wherever we lived, we did our best to make our houses homes through the years. We painted walls/decks, made stained glass, & planted flowers. It taught me to be resourceful, frugal & to use my creative mind for the betterment of things. Much like my problem-solving mother when I was growing up as a child, I now seek to venture out and learn about a better solution to may of the problems we all face today.
I had intentions of starting this blog back in 2018, after interviewing on The Creative Brew Podcast with Quantal Langford. I couldn’t imagine back then just how much my life, and entire identity would change. I went from being a military spouse, to making it on my own…successful business leader and advocate, to focusing on real self-care and talking about my true passion…I’ve lost a lot of “dead weight”, literally and metaphorically speaking, including friends & family throughout the past couple of years through my own personal growth journey. Throughout this time, I stayed consistent with my commitment to the earth, animals & future generations to increase my own positive individual impact in the world.
As you can see, this blog has been a long time coming, but what’s been holding me back? There have been a number of factors in my life that have played a role in getting me to the point to where I felt ready to start this blog. Part of it was to cope with stress from work and to use writing as a form of therapy to deal with some of the significant events that have happened in my life.
A Pandemic “Vacation” &
the Catalyst That Started It All
In November, I took a mandatory “staycation” which included 2 full weeks off work per orders of my aching body. I hopped back in on more social stuff this week midway through since had been a little MIA IRL to get the space I needed. I silenced my cell phone during that time because it was time for a clean break. My mind, body & even fur babies were telling me in many different ways to just stop 🛑.
So… how did this happen?
My life was typically “busy” without a lot of time elapsed between work, the fur babies & day to day activities when I worked in the Chamber of Commerce industry. With the type of job I had, a lot of businesses in the community knew they could come to me with all sorts of problems because I’ve gained an expanse amount of knowledge working with a variety of industries from over the years learning about everything along the way from internet/social media marketing, graphic design, publishing, event hosting, content writing, public speaking and even interacting with various levels of government from city to congressional level. This is due to some proactive research on my part, but more so because I got to chat with people like notaries, photographers, graphic designers, restaurateurs, brew masters, PR account managers, social media marketing consultants, podcasters, realtors, chiropractors, coffee shops, gym owners, barbers & musicians, and many more amazing titles throughout the city of Oceanside, California and beyond on a day to day basis.
Their wisdom has inspired me over the years to do my best to smile through the face of adversity. I’m glad to have called many my clients, earning their trust to do business and sometimes with stellar connections, my friends to lean on for advice and good company. Each day new industries would arise and I would gain more knowledge of the way things work out in the world far beyond the city I live in. I was reminded about the complexity of global trade each time I helped share information on how to complete a Certificate of Origin or our beach sand erosion whenever dredging season came around it didn’t happen on time. In addition to adding to my ever growing vault of knowledge, this role kept me very busy with sales, events, projects, and other tasks, leaving little time for error on my part. Even so, it has gave me opportunities I would have never imagined and I am so glad have crossed paths with so many talented people along the way. Thank you to all of the mentors who have led me to hone in on my skills & believed in me during times I thought I would fail. It wasn’t until recently when I made the conscious decision to join all of them and started believing in myself too.
The COVID-19 Crisis &
Walking Away From A Career I Loved
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of shifts in role this year which led to a hectic schedule from 8 to 4, and even impacted my income which is heavily reliant on sales (if you are even remotely paying attention to today’s forced closures & impacts on the economy, you’ll understand why this type of climate can be a hurdle for commission earners). That sent me into “overdrive“, looking for every way I could to be helpful to as many businesses as possible in every direction through calls, sending proactive resources & even looking for direct ways the company would purchase from them in hopes that this support would come back in the future when it counted. This is because I genuinely believe that if you continue to put good out in the world, you’ll receive the same energy in return one way or another.
Because chambers are important for community and business engagement the limitations on staffing & strict mandates on gatherings left me feeling completely overwhelmed having been their main person doing in-field work, Zoom networking & planning social events on top of meeting my sales quota (I told myself “but hey, it’s me and I can do this…. right?“). Let me tell you, was starting to become more difficult by the day to find ways for people to connect in person with a governor who is so heavily against improving the pandemic situation here in California…. and a spreading stigma that health only exists only in the window of trust within your own household or just specific industries depending on the day. For those not experiencing COVID-California, the question on whether to wear, or not to wear a mask is constantly being debated and the “case” statistics have been questioned from the very beginning. It’s impossible to know the exact impact the virus itself is having on communities because of the inflated numbers and low confidence in legislators to do the right thing. Some days it feels like the Wild West out here with how things are going in this state regulation wise.
Despite those hurdles, I’ve been able to find ways to keep small & large group Zoom meetings interesting when the in-person stuff isn’t possible so business owners can stay connected. One of the most humbling experiences through my role that I got to experience was diving right into charitable giving. It had been some time since I had gotten really hands-on and in-field with a lot of businesses face-to-face so it was exciting to get out and feel some sense of normalcy again. Delivering grant checks and completing purchases to some of the most resilient small business all over the city for North County Cares & Oceanside Small Business Grant Program gave me a chance to play a role in the organization’s support to local families in need through the nearby school district, restaurants, and many more that have suffered greatly during this challenging time. One new hat for me to wear was project manager & concept creator, launching the initial framework for the chamber’s efforts on the 2020 Shop Local Oceanside Program in partnership with the city and MainStreet Oceanside which gave me an even deeper perspective into what some business owners were experiencing over this seemingly never-ending year. It was group effort each of our staff played a part in and it’s so exciting to see it sparking interest in supporting more businesses throughout the community. I’m thankful to everyone who took the time to stop and share their stories with me during the visits. It was truly heartwarming to hear that these funds were how they were going to pay their employees, rent, and utility bills.
The thing to remember about small businesses is that it’s not all about “making money” or wanting to ignore public health orders by reopening outside of their assigned “stage” that they personally have no control over. I think until you ask hundreds of business owners individually about how they have been doing, you can’t begin to wrap your head around the true struggles they have been through this year. Each person has been brave enough to launch their dream and has been given an extremely unfair disadvantage that no one has ever experienced before, removing the possibility of looking back at history with benchmarks to measure success now rather than just breaking even or getting a certain percentage “out of the hole”. Many people I talked to have shared concerns about leaving the state or shutting down altogether… Sure, we have had many health crises over many eras through the decades, but never to this level of governmental control impacting the way people do business on a day-to-day basis through implementing new health/safety protocols, added expenses for chemicals/signage, loss of employees/revenue, and generally just getting into the weeds (IMHO) with COVID-19 related topics to make sure they could not only stay in compliance but stay ahead of what could be coming next. Believe it or not, we are all still experiencing a significant moment in history as Californians (and Americans) where we can either stand up for ourselves and what is right or we can fall silent to the situation that is happening around us.
The in-person events seemed to be work at first but only with special conditions: within the County’s health regulations with calculated care and planning on my part. However, it seemed that the more successful I was in these areas, the more I was pulled in other directions juggling pre and post-pandemic projects. Somehow, I still managed to keep trucking along, and even ended up producing my first solo-project publication in August, 2020 Best of Oceanside City Map. Most of my work was through ad sales/content, map plotting, layout & any major updates (i.e. our new company logo, the cover, and the cool new golfing section😎). Despite feeling the effects of burnout from the workload, in October I ended up my best sales month all year and overall member retention was ahead which meant clients I was assigned to were at least staying happy.
So it seems like I had been thriving while others around me were still struggling to figure out how to navigate ways to “pivot”. Unfortunately, at the rate it was going in the beginning, I was doing great performance-wise but my body just wasn’t feeling it and eventually it became impossible to maintain. If you know anything about the chamber industry, it’s that there is always something more to do. New problems kept arising from the crisis and each day and I felt more exhausted, unfortunately sometimes to the point of tears. I felt like I might be experiencing physical symptoms of burnout and had and suddenly had overwhelming sense of doom when it came to walking into my job. At one point, I looked around and realized it wasn’t a culture I felt a part of anymore. I felt isolated at work with no one to turn to so I decided to tender my resignation once I started noticing more serious problems like unintentionally losing more weight and worsening physical symptoms. You can read more about that here.
Reuniting With My Family &
Cutting Off Toxic Friendships
Back in July, my boyfriend Austin and I travelled back to my home state, Ohio to attend a friend’s wedding & reconnect with family. We covered to 3 different states to see everyone and had an unforgettable trip we will always remember. After around 2 years of not seeing them or having a lot of frequent contact, seeing old friends I hung out with during the worst times of my life helped me remember who I was when I was with them and who I am now. It reminded me of the habits they fed into while I was with them and what type of person I viewed myself as whenever I looked back at old photos of us together…Because, after all the people you surround yourself with are only mirrors into some of your own personal traits & characteristics. Ultimately, I decided that some of the people from my old military life needed to go. It wasn’t nearly as hard to do as what I had done to initially recover myself by escaping an abusive relationship, but it was painful sitting with the fact that I did exactly what I needed to do.
I trusted my gut instinct after how I felt after seeing them, have finally gotten to experience closure from my last chapter, and form better friendships closer to where I am now. When I realized who wasn’t really there for me when it counted most but just wanted to be there at the finish line to rate the success, I knew it was over. The final resolution being the idea of meeting new people who were better influences in my personal life and who truly care about my goals/passions in the future. I recently realized that I had spent a good majority of my time here in California over the past seven years with friends who had no clue of the depths of what did for a living in my past jobs and that sucked because, for those of you who have known me my whole life, I’m the type of person to almost never want to stop talking about my passions including work. I really couldn’t do that for a very long time but now I’m so glad that I can with the right ones.
In the present day, I have friends who ask me for restaurant recommendations, praise my talents & support my plant based lifestyle. We dine tables with all vegan or omnivore meals without judgment or hesitation to dive right into real life-changing topics. The more I align with these groovy people, the more I find myself removing the mental blocks I’ve put on leaning into it all and developing better habits. While I still love a night out with friends over drinks, I’m good without the repeat experiences falling on my face or “making a fool out of myself” being intoxicated too frequently because of societal pressure. Even if you don’t partake, and you’re wondering if your friends are negatively impacting your well-being by their contact/presence with their own bad behavior, you’re probably right in the feeling that they are. You cannot thrive in the same toxic environment that wrecked you if you ignore inappropriate behavior.
Running around my hometown in Defiance with Austin was so much fun to grow our relationship further through storytelling and visits and removing potentially harmful connections to my new life had left me feeling “new” & so self-assured, but I have to say that my family visit was nothing short of healing & completely transformative. Reconnecting with my mom & kid sister after a year brought me back to my beginning and showed me how strong I really am because she set the standard for me as a kid by teaching me not to give up on things so easily, how to tap into my creative side, that good things in life don’t come without diligence, to always follow my dreams and to teach others in the process. Being with her while she cooked vegan tacos, mango salsa & rice in the kitchen for us while we talked about my sister coming into her own as a sassy “tween“, really was a display of all that had changed with our lives.
My grandparents gave me the warmest embrace showing me the comfort of home after nearly two years. My tractor-raised, steak n’ potato loving grandpa (who at one point didn’t even like pizza) even made us some killer vegan burgers, going completely outside his comfort zone and everything about what I knew to be true about my old Ohio culture. Hugging my dad reminded me that I don’t have to act so “tough” sometimes because I’m safe and still have family looking out for me no matter where I go. He also reminded me not to take myself too seriously because life is one hell of a ride. Seeing my Aunt Kelly, Uncle Tim & their kids for the first time in almost 3 years was eye-opening because of how much the girls had grown since the last time I saw them and hearing my uncle ask me how I got to the point where I am in my mindset of positive thinking. They also broadened our spectrum of plant based alternatives by bringing the beet burgers. And finally… probably the most surprising of all, I reunited with all of my siblings Jacob, Sarah & Cade collectively after nearly a decade!!! We filled in the gaps with what happened with a lot of the lost time once we all started talking, I really felt like I had made it home. Everyone was so supportive of me & my new relationship and it was great to be able to share some of the new dreams I have with them and how I grew from my past experiences.
Trauma Related Stress + Burnout
= Compound Interest On The Body
While the overall trip was amazing, I was totally exhausted and so, so homesick already upon returning that I felt completely wrecked. I jumped right back into things at work because I felt like I couldn’t afford to miss another day with everything going on in the world and then somehow, I found myself and my health on a slippery slope… At first, I noticed myself slowly pulling back from my family again and dropping out of the group chat with my siblings after my recent trip home despite how positively transformative it was and my deep desire to stay in touch with everyone that I love so much… but I didn’t want to share the burden of being stressed out from my current state of life in COVID-19 California and my frustration with that conflicting with my overall present state of happiness. I kept to the smaller circle of my life here near San Diego by doing the bare minimum. Waking up, working, shorter works, helping with fewer chores around the apartment all while struggling to make quality time for own my self-care as well as my partner & friends (Note: Physical & quality presence are two different things and I just couldn’t be either some days). Then, I stopped answering texts from friends who I knew would want to hang because that it was just too much “work” to get ready, especially when I couldn’t even bring myself to think of anything positive to discuss anymore. I was cynical, short, and barely present in conversations.
If you know me, you’re probably thinking: Who the hell even is this person and how did this happen?
I had found myself in a burnout state from obligatory “yes” responses after taking on more just to meet the outside expectations of current and prospective clients while maintaining the previous speed I was at the end of 2019; which was fast AF because I had hit the ground hard after my separation leaving a four-bedroom house in the quiet suburbs for a studio apartment located an hour away which was downtown and right in the hub of activity in a busy city. With literally only $1200 in my bank account to start a new life, transferred to me before I was kicked off the joint account for good and on my own with Odin, Freya, Rey & Blu from there. It took a substantial new personal loan to help me hire a serious lawyer and find a place for us to live long term or short term nearby. It also took a lot of research to find places that allowed so many animals, were somewhere I would be safe and could commute closer to work. If it wasn’t for my friend Aly, I’m not sure I would have found a place so quickly. It didn’t matter because I had finally made it out of a toxic relationship, found safety & finally came into my own this year.
Since then, I’m coming up on a year in this new apartment and have lost nearly 40lbs through having maintained a healthier environment, lifestyle, & routine. l paid off the hefty personal loan and some unexpected tax fees which had been really exciting because it brought me closer to paying off other debts related to the divorce. Quite possibly the best result out of this was that I have learned to let love back in and gained the most amazing partner/best friend in my corner. It’s taken me a lot of time after learning about all the yellow, orange, & red (like fire engine red) flags that I missed the past half-decade, and things that were happening far beyond my control, so understandably I’ve put up some pretty tall walls to keep anything out that could harm this newfound peace and freedom.
Finding Real Love &
Harmony at Home
Because of that, when I was ready to jump back into the dating field, I wasn’t really looking for love or showing up as my true self out in the world like I thought I was. I was still so into self-preservation that I blocked out anything that could even hint towards a serious relationship or showing who the real me was behind the professional mask. I wasn’t even considering the long-term qualities I actually wanted in a future partner because I was too focused on what I didn’t want to repeat within my control. At one point, I had accepted the fact that there was literally no one out there that could truly understand me and that was okay as long as I didn’t let mistakes from my past relationship happen again; I had become reserved to making my career my only passion which still left my apartment quiet and me wanting more. Fast forward to February this year when I met my twin flame (I recently found an article on twin flames, started doing more research, and found this one to be the most accurate for us). Our life together is so lovely, each day just a bright new page to be written in this new, beautiful chapter of us. The best part? We’re both so passionate about living a plant based life and helping others so we can do that together now!
One quality I absolutely love about Austin is his patience & perseverance. It took a lot of deep discussions about the topic among many other things in life, but after some time I was finally ready to fully accept not only his “big love” but love in other areas of my life I had been working to block out. This resulted in us moving in together and the drive to help rebuild bonds with my family that I had lost due to minimal contact with them during my previous ties. Most refreshingly, it’s helped me form new relationships and gain support from Austin’s family in my current “home away from home”. He always makes an effort to me make time for self-care and for that I am eternally grateful because eventually, I’d run out of steam. Each day is so fun and exciting no matter where we go or what we’re doing, I’m with my real best friend (I swear he’s the tall, dark & handsome guy version of me!)The home we’re creating together right now has become such a tranquil space that you seldom want to leave if it weren’t for all the other amazing things out in the world to experience (and yes we are that Netflix gaming couple sometimes). I love him and am so glad we found we found each other, especially so we could speak little French things I don’t understand except for “Je’Taime” (yet) for the rest of our lives.
He is incredibly amazing to our fur babies especially during times of frustration with training. We have had several setbacks due to anxiety-driven tendencies from their past like obsessive licking/biting, barking/whining, random bouts of inappropriate fear/excitement, and unfortunately even some more health concerning situations like random accidents or pukey time on the patio without any real reason (sad face). I don’t know anyone else who I’d rather be with through fully rehabilitating them and helping them feel safe again with a strong male presence added “our pack”. Everyone is now in great health and I’d say all the guys in the house are getting a little thicker (I’d say that’s another sign of their happiness). Ironically, my dog Freya and I both share common symptoms of anxiety but are letting go of negative energy holding us back from relaxing at home and not being as hypervigilant, remembering to explore the outer world because all is right with our inner world now. Believe it or not, dogs can pick up on your intentions/energy throughout the day, and even more intensely if they are bonded with you. Looking back at all the bad accidents they had & other habits I had to break them of over the years, it was due to the environment they were placed in. Every time my mental well-being was compromised through the years, they found ways to show me they could feel it too through their behavior and sometimes downright defiance in certain situations. Everyone who has met them can tell they were “high energy” & “loud”, but what it really took was the patience to realize that my own health affects them and that they are capable of being described as “calm” and “quiet” now regardless of their previous frequent classification as “bad dogs”. Every day they learn new lessons and I am reminded of far we’ve really come together.
Early Writing & Advocacy Influences
I have always loved to write since I can remember whether it was an essay or a poem, I gave it my all to add a little spice to even the most mundane subjects for readers & audiences. Despite my introverted image in high school due to my anxiety, I had quite a lot to say about a lot of different topics ranging from Shakespeare to what I had angst about. Aside from my English teacher in high school, I remember having much earlier influences in writing. In fact, I still remember placing second for the DARE essay contest in elementary school that I was so proud of. I still feel very strongly about certain substances as an adult, especially after being exposed to the effects of addiction and drug use at an early age. That same year, I created a coloring page and submitted to a local company through my school for an anti-littering ad campaign. While this seemed like another assignment to many, I took it so seriously and thought I could really encourage others not to throw trash on the side of the road. Even back then, my reasons were for the earth and the animals. Around that time, I had been matched with 2 different pen pals Albuquerque, New Mexico and Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (a town in England). I stayed in contact with Megan from Aylesbury and we’re still Facebook friends until this very day. I hope that one day we might be able to meet each other face-to-face after all these years of distant support.
During my time in the chamber of commerce industry, I had written several articles to the 2019-2020 Best of Oceanside Community Guide editions, specifically on membership promotional content and the Oceanside Young Professionals Program I had previously managed. I had an opportunity in June 2020 to write my first advocacy letter when I had been tasked to publicly address my company’s opposition to the closure of personal services sector businesses (i.e. nail salons, eyebrow threading, lashes, etc.) in our city through a letter to the County Board of Supervisors for San Diego County.
In July the same year, I confronted my frequent anxiety about public speaking when I joined in on a meeting with those same supervisors to take things a step further and to end their reversal of the recent reopening of small businesses like breweries, wineries, and restaurant dining. As nervous as I was for the new experience, the only thing that got me through it was that the words in my testimony weren’t about me, but were about fighting for locally owned businesses to survive this unfair climate legislators have created. You can read the script I wrote for my phone-in testimony below.
I’m just now starting to compile the publications I’ve written for & podcasts I’ve been featured in not for bragging rights, but to simply see what all I’ve really done. It honestly didn’t feel like much until I really started listing everything. At the time it all seemed like small accomplishments on my part regardless of how cool or unique the opportunity was or how positively it was received by others around me. It took me too long to realize I have made it through quite a bit in my short life so far and for what I’m doing now, I am enough. Never forget to take time to be proud of your own accomplishments. Think of it this way, if you can’t be excited for yourself, how can you expect others to as well?
A Closed Chapter Attempting to Reopen Itself
After nearly six and a half years, I decided to leave an abusive marriage in November 2019 and filed for divorce the following month. The military helped me establish a protection order that was enforced on base, and I had to file a civil restraining order to cover my safety out in town. It took me a very long time to recognize the signs and to see that the relationship I was in was not only unhealthy, but abusive in many ways. Because of the military culture, I did not think the treatment I experienced constituted as abuse and I was encouraged frequently not to reach out for fear of ruining my spouse’s career. I thought it was normal to be humiliated in front of company, to be told what to do all the time by my husband, and to be called names or threatened with comments like “I could just kill you” or “I should punch you for that”… I know that I made the best decision by saving myself and the animals from being subjected to future instances of abuse if things kept going the way that they were. Trigger warning: this topic is sensitive, covers drug abuse, & is as candid as I can be right now in hopes that someone else can read this and that it will help them through their own abusive situation.
The first time any type of violence entered my home I was in my early 20s, I thought it was my fault because he said so. The truth of the matter was that we were drinking and I found out later that I had an extremely adverse reaction to the alcohol being mixed with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications I was being prescribed at the time. I remember leaving the house shortly after to ask the neighbors for help but he told them I was “crazy” and somehow I ended up back inside and in bed. The result of that night ended up in me being cooped up in the bedroom under another spell of depression without any medications because they had been taken away without any conversation which was even more difficult at the time because I had just started testing whether they would work for me and wouldn’t have an opportunity to discuss that in therapy ever again.
The wall got patched and there were no apologies except for on my end. I reached out to my family during periods of isolation and thought this might be it for me to get out, but instead, I decided to cut them off in order to remain safe in my relationship. I was too scared to leave without the dogs (no kitties at this point), no real plan, and the financial instability that I decided to agree to stop taking my meds in order to stay in the relationship and had even agreed to stop drinking altogether. Of course, alcohol had to stay because that was “stupid” and just part of that way of life at the time. This was about the time the abuse for the animals started getting more serious with frequent accidents in the house and the dogs developing severe anxiety. In addition to being struck, they were also forced to perform tricks in front of company as a form of show to impress others regardless of how tired, hungry, frustrated they were. They were treated exactly like property and made to be 100% obedient…or else. I feel lucky to have kept Freya this long because she was always the “problem dog” and was often threatened to be sent off to a shelter or worse. She was not pure bred and I took her off the hands of an abusive backyard breeder so she had always been treated like the “black sheep” of the family in the household.
I had other experiences with drinking as a cry for help and ended up in the hospital one night thanks to friends who helped me get there from the things I was saying about hurting myself. Those were very dark times for me feeling isolated at home most days and I couldn’t see much light at the end of the tunnel most sometimes leaving me to feel completely hopeless. But, when I look back now, I realize that I’ve truly learned from them. It wasn’t until the years went by and the situation escalated to my personal tipping point (fear for overall safety/future & partner’s use of drugs), that I realized it was time to go. If you can relate to this story in any way, I hope it inspires you to make the changes you need to for your own safety.
I kept thinking it was finally over but the toxic world I had worked so hard to escape from started to rear its ugly head back into my life with the military side of things asking for my cooperation in my ex’s trial for animal abuse allegations among other things that happened during the relationship and about the time spent in on-base housing. I didn’t understand why this was happening because by this point I had already been interviewed by NCIS and had shared the things that had happened to me and my animals, noting things individuals had expressed concerns about. I had nothing to hide and just wanted the situation to be over so I fully cooperated with any requests they made like even producing a copy of my cell phone for evidence like texts to show the true nature of how I was treated during the marriage.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough to get justice for the things that happened to me, but it was enough to raise more questions about the animals because there were more witnesses during the times of abuse due to the frequent all-night partying producing large number of random guests in my home at any given time. It’s sad to say that many people let me know after I go out, they could see how badly I was treated when they were in my home over the years, but never felt it was their place to say anything. If they had validated what I was already wondering, I probably would have left the first time things got loud/broken or I felt disrespected in my own house by others. If you see someone you think is in an abusive relationship, please speak up and say something to them. They are probably doing their best to hide it from the world and remain invisible because it’s a common survival mode tactic that has helped them in the past. Ironically, I spoke to several women about their own abusive relationships and am proud to see a few have moved on from their situations into healthier environments. I didn’t feel like my home life was as bad as that, so I never spoke out and even thought it was a model example of how a home should be by denying the hard facts.
This experience left me with a sour taste for the military judicial system because apparently, it only counts if you punch a wall in your house if it happens on base and you report it. In retrospect, there could have been more care and attention to what was happening in the household from the unit’s perspective, especially after that with nearly ten hazing allegations towards other service members that mysteriously disappeared thanks to friends in higher ranks. I don’t classify myself as a victim of white-washing, verbal, financial, physical, or any other type of abuse by any means, but someone who speaks from experience on how to help yourself out of those kinds of situations especially as it relates to the military. I decided to finally start sharing what happened and how I moved on so that someone else can read this and have hope that they will make it through their own toxic situation.
Developing Healthier Coping Skills
Today, it’s not often that I drink because of those negative experiences, and because I don’t feel the need to numb out the status of my life, worth, or current treatment anymore. When I do drink, it’s typically for a celebration, and it’s not in excess. I also find myself having fewer moments of intense sadness from flashbacks while enjoying times with friends. I can finally face things head on instead of looking for a distraction to tune out my emotions. Most importantly, I would much rather use plants as medicine in place of pharmaceutical medications and have a partner who encourages healthy habits like eating good food, adventuring, writing this blog (Austin’s helped me edit this so much, so thank you, babe!) am closer with my family, (including in the group chat) & leaning into my true passions along the way.
Part of developing better coping mechanisms is establishing healthy boundaries for yourself. When my line rang and there was potential “justice” in the end to testify in the trial, I had a moment of uncertainty on what I should do putting me right back into the feeling that I had when I made the ultimate decision to file for divorce which was anxious for the repercussions. As much as I wanted to continue leaning into my new forward way of thinking and path of veganism fighting for the animals and myself, I couldn’t bring myself back to that environment day in and day out again through frequent calls with attorneys or even a public testimony. After all, I had just gotten to wrap up the experience of working with a lawyer for a full six months thanks to California’s “waiting period” despite having a prior military protection order and a formal temporary restraining order in place involving both parties. I simply couldn’t afford to keep my legal representation on retainer to protect myself in another case that didn’t need to involve me. I had been threatened via email that I would definitely be called on the stand to testify so that the other party could have a chance to face me & pick apart my story. After weighing the options and getting tired of seeing news like that via email, I decided that we all have our closure and I needed to be done with that nonsense taking up more space in my bright, brazen new life having no reins attached to it.
What It’s Like to Get a Divorce in a Military Marriage
Someone once told me “marriage is easy, but divorce is hard”. That saying is only true if you are considering the selection process, not necessarily the logistics & finer details. I was married at nineteen and divorced by twenty-six years old. After all, is said and done (lessons learned removed), I had wished that it had been more difficult for a teenager to get married (yes dad, I finally said it) in Ohio. The process to get a divorce is already extremely complicated let alone involving the military logistics and no direct contact between the two parties. If it wasn’t for the family advocate who contacted me through the unit, it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out what was happening and how I could protect myself from what was to come. The process included everything from jumping through hoops to find out how it all worked with a military divorce by attending a class on base just so they could offer free one-time legal advice to help you get started with filing and would only serve one party. The worst part was that reception could not disclose any information about whether the other party could be seen due to the legal protection of their clients regardless if the case involves any allegations of abuse.
I will never forget the awful feeling I had while sitting in the offices waiting to be seen hoping that I was still eligible since they wouldn’t let you know ahead of time which meant this could either be helpful or a complete waste of time. I had been barely eating from nausea due to stress and had been feeling really dull about my appearance because of everything I had felt stripped away of so it was really uncomfortable being around a bunch of male marines in an environment where I figured they typically don’t see a lot of civilians unless it’s for a bad reason. Six years of being brainwashed into the toxic sides of military culture taught me that and much more. It also taught me how to “stay on top” of everything and make it to the office in time to be eligible to be served. There was a moment of panic as my fears came to life and I saw my ex walking from the window view to the parking lot.
Thankfully I was the first party there and had been able to prepare my paperwork in person with them. Thanks to being very organized and having my own personal finances in order, it wasn’t as difficult as I had thought it would be allowing the opportunity to have them help draft up the paperwork right then & there. I still had to run to the courthouse for filing, but I’m certainly glad I had someone more experienced to lean on while I was working on a tight budget instead of just trying to figure it all out on my own. In my situation, it also meant more time at the courthouse having to take another day off work to wait for a request to have a temporary restraining order approved which would extend the initial military protection order that only applied on base, all while questioning the entire time whether I was making the right decisions by speaking up about the things that happened. I was still partially brainwashed by a culture that fostered an environment where using the very basic levels of communication chains for “family problems” was not encouraged and simply talking to the Family Readiness Officer (FRO) would possibly end your partner’s military career as you knew it to exist. I knew the anger this would stir against me so I often referred to it as adding a “huge target on my back” by being the potential thing that could hold a person back from things like owning a gun, future career plans & time outside jail it were to be violated. At that point, I was still considering my actions a justification for the negative treatment I was experiencing. I was called “crazy” a lot in the past and during my separation, without a true path I could see in front of me, I thought they might be right despite what others were telling me about the seriousness of my situation.
The Process of Obtaining a Civilian Restraining Order
I watched others who were in before my place in line sitting all around the room and paid close attention to how soon each one was called back for the next step in the process which was either approval or denial before finally delivering it to the enforcement side for sheriffs to do the actual serving. Survival mode was in full swing helping me become intensely aware of my surroundings (since then, I’ve worked hard to let go of my hypervigilant tendencies and have learned to let myself learn to relax). Each time the attendants came out to call on someone to tell them whether their TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) was approved, my stomach completely dropped because it meant I would be up soon. I didn’t want the outcome to be what I came there for but at the same time, I didn’t want this situation to really be my life or in any records to affect my professional life because at the time I felt that was all that I had. They finished up with a couple of people and then called my name. They said that the judge quickly approved my TRO, but also shared the disturbing fact that ‘pets’ are not frequently listed on protection orders but they felt it was necessary for all our safety at the time.
It was near closing at the courthouse and I was almost to the finish line which was making it to the final office to deliver paperwork a few floors up. Taking the elevator up felt so liberating yet terrifying at the same time because of what I was about to set in motion by submitting the final paperwork. I was afraid of cunning civil retaliation or the actual prospect of the TRO being violated. Because of everything it covered and the confidence I had from my family advocate, I felt like I had completed the last step to get to where I needed to be in order to feel truly safe again.
My Very Public Experience of Shame
I thought that was the “light at the end of the tunnel” ending any harmful contact by the other party but was shocked to find a sheriff from the same county I had just moved from at my work during our Christmas party ready to serve me with a restraining order. I remember talking to her through tears just asking “why” and “how could this happen?”. She couldn’t give me more details than what was on the report, but it alleged that I was everything from an alcoholic, drug abuser & mentally incapable of taking care of the animals by myself. It also said I had harassed him by contacting his “job” when I utilized my rights as a spouse to contact the unit when things got out of control and had a family advocate checking on spousal support that I was supposedly entitled to (in case you are wondering, the steady 6 months of financial support never came because of more loopholes found in the military judicial system). Fortunately, I’ve made it all work with my own money in my pocket thanks to a lot of hard work and leaning into my natural quality of resilience.
Thankfully, the office party was small & just wrapping up when it happened, so I decided to spend the rest of the time in my office thinking about how I could still walk out with my head up high. and what I would have to do next. Several of my coworkers checked on me in their own different ways each offering support and I even got a great lawyer referral from, you guessed it, the chamber! To this day, I am still not sure how that temporary order was granted for the other party but all I knew was that this could now affect my record and future career goals with a bad public image, so I consulted my attorney. The way it was agreed upon was that I would agree to drop my TRO if he would agree to drop his, we would both leave each other alone and walk away from this nasty situation. This didn’t really seem like a win-win after and had a negative impact on the recent validation I had received from friends, family, and professionals. If that wasn’t enough, shameful but also terrifying to someone who experiences frequent feelings of anxiety, my personal life got brought into my place of work one more time for a subpoena on my disciplinary records (which do not exist) and apartment complex records (including my address) only to have to drop the civil restraining order that made me feel some weird, invisible blanket of safety completely removed.
Finding My Way Through Recovery
From there I made mental and physical lists on what I need to do for safety, to keep things financially for myself, and entered therapy treatment through the family advocacy program on base. I joked to friends & family that this was the one service I was able to utilize in the end and I wished that I had known about it much earlier on. The therapist I was assigned to was the most down to earth individual and it was absolutely amazing working with her. It’s helped me not only process what happened over the recent past years of my life but also trauma from my childhood that I was still hanging onto. If you are even remotely interested in trying therapy, I’d encourage you to give it a shot because it’s really helped me move on and find healthy coping mechanisms to live life to the fullest.
I also couldn’t be more gracious to how quickly my attorney responded due to the type of case this is and how they also did their best to best to look out for my emotional well-being during the process. During my first call, I remember him saying “I sincerely hope you are getting the treatment that you need for everything that you’ve been through”. It took my attorney point blank stating the seriousness of the level of real danger I was in at the time for me to really “get it” because I was still “wishy-washy”, about my decision making at the time from years of manipulation/gaslighting. I was so grateful for my attorney’s experience in this situation, being my side to represent me in court, and for answering every question that I had (if you know me there were a ton).
Because of their connections with them, in December it inspired me to volunteer at the Women’s Resource Center which aids families needing support in abusive situations. It was the most humbling experience to spend a morning giving back to a place that had helped inspire me to make a change in my life so unknowingly and indirectly. Believe it or not, I had actually toured them once for my job while completely ignoring my own personal problems for the sake of embarrassment because I didn’t think my situation was quite to the scale of the clients they serve and would only get better with time. Wrong. Looking back, things may have been easier if I had been brave enough back then to share what had happened because it was bad enough before anything got broken and drug use begrudgingly making its way into my household. I ended up finding my way out of it without WRC’s services, but through sitting through a round table session with more women who experienced situations like mine in another organization, I am thankful they are all there to help.
During the session, I heard similar arguments/stories about things that were taken just a little or much much further than mine time and time again. Then about how things got even worse when children were brought into the picture. I wanted kids but was grateful I had proper planning to ensure I had personal control over whether that happened through choosing & finding justifiable reasons to keep my own protection method. I wondered if I had made “a bigger deal of things than they really were” like some other people thought I did, but, when I shared my own story with the group, I was surprisingly met with support & advice. They knew what I was going through and we’re proud of me for just being there even for a single session. I found that group therapy isn’t for me right now, but I’m grateful to the women I met, validating my decision making in standing up for myself and reminding me that it could only get worse with more years & the possibility of adding kids to the toxic mix. Visiting WRC gave a visual to all of that which led me to feel incredibly at peace for the place I was currently taking up at the craft table and it was okay for me to just go on out there by myself without sharing my story. However, if you are in a dangerous situation and in need of support, please don’t be afraid to give them a call.
I’m so thankful for the friends who helped me move into my apartment and for those that were there for emotional support especially my siblings Sarah & Cade on video chat and my mom via phone. I wished I could hug them both and many others during this but our distance gave me space where I could process things the things I experienced here in solitude. For now, I hug friends like Kenzie & Kam who I could talk to for hours on end over a double date brunch. I’m grateful to all of the friends like Diana who also encouraged me to get back out and enjoy life by doing things on my own like personal shopping & dining out instead of hiding away for survival & safety. Thank you to everyone who’s collectively joined me to take it all in…instead of house partying on base, I got to experience real nights on the town on so many occasions over good drinks & good food with all of you. If not, I probably would be writing a blog about being a hermit instead… Believe it or not, I found out people will write about anything these days…
So, I thought to myself, why not hone into my talents while writing about vegan life I had once hidden away and have now become so proud of? I realized that I have a chance to encourage people to make changes that can lead to their own true happiness and overall health while saving the animals. This was a no-brainer for me once I came up with the concept because I waited far too long to launch it and be open about my advocacy for the innocent. The initial website layout, content, graphic design elements, were ready and I had a few posts up after having to rebuild the website from scratch because of an initial snafu with the first web host I had picked (live n’ learn, folks!). Writing this blog has helped me process through a lot of things that I had been very quiet about with people I see on a day-to-day basis because I felt before like they could never really understand or it didn’t matter to them. If at least one person can find a good recipe, new food spot, or advice that helps them in their own life, I’ll be satisfied. Until then, I’m sharing all of the positives that came out of this experience to see what topics pique your interest most.
How Being Vegan Has Impacted My Journey Towards Healing
Being vegan for the past 2 years through all of this has been something I was nearly silent about because I was never truly supported in it. Most people that met me didn’t even know I had switched to a plant based diet, unless it was being talked about in the negative sense. Trying a new 100% vegan place was of the small joys I had once in a while by when I was by myself aside from being with nature & the fur babies. I typically found things at places out of convenience because I only had to go for work or by the approval of my partner and was never really encouraged to invest in the things I needed to really thrive as a vegan. Six years ago, starting this blog would have been a joke to many (myself included), but here I am with new information and a fresh lens to share it all.
Now, I have the pleasure of being able to halt my complete support of the animal product industry like I originally intended, completely removing those types of products from my home (& most thankfully, fridge!). Ultimately, it has taught me to stand up for what is right, especially in the face of mockery. I still haven’t heard a good vegan joke yet because I don’t find it funny to torture animals and that’s why I choose to be vegan every day.
Doing more research on the products I’m buying has taught me to try my best to take the time to stop and weigh out all of the options with every decision (think of it as a product comparison with a cause/result item for each action you do). It’s taught me that natural living has brought me to the best overall health of my life and that I make some damn good food doing it. Most importantly it’s taught me to fall back sometimes and not just admit my mistakes, but learn from them. The biggest reason I hear about why people choose to quit being vegan or won’t try it aside from loving the taste of flesh was that they’ve made too many mistakes with it and it gets too hard to “keep up with”. It’s important to remember that so much can change if persevere & keep doing the right thing, especially when things get tough. One small decision that can impact so many lives could be your next meal or ditching animal fashion.
Fast forward to December 2020, where I’ve walked away from a career I once loved because it was what was best for me. I’m using this time as a “reset” to get back to a good status of health, do the things I love and reconnect with those I cherish the most. I’m currently diving back into a book I got in February called On Time by Catherine Blyth and have been having so much fun cooking up new recipes & catching up on lost time with my fur babies and Austin. We have all never been happier and I’m so excited to share that I’ve finally had time to compile all of my vegan related pictures to share my positive experiences over the past 2+ years and want to share new creations for everyone to enjoy.
I’ve done a lot of reflecting and looking for ways to ease some of the tension in my life. It wasn’t until that 2 week “vacation, that I started sharing my story & processing….now that I have more time to be fully present, I’ve really started enjoying it! So far, it’s been blast with staying up a little later, taking more walks with the kiddos, making time to do meditation, and reminding Austin just how lucky I am to have him by my side on this long and winding road.
Aside from catching up on time with my little family here at home, most of my time has been consumed by stirring up old recipes & cooking up exciting new ones to try. This led to me rediscovering my love for all things plant based and realizing how sharing my own passion can be inspiring for others to make positive changes in their life. I reached out to my brother, Jacob to share the site before launching almost wondering if it was worth it and he replied “I believe in you” and that was the final confirmation I needed that this is really going to happen. Starting this blog is a major call to action for me to remember to stay true to what I love and to grow my network full of people with forward-thinking mindsets. The Plant Based Bae is really for anyone curious about veganism is like. You can read more about it here.
You’ll see more personal posts about me and my life, but the main focus of this page is to on advocating for the lives of animals as an individual through plant based living. I have a broad net of vegan and omnivore connections in addition to a bank of delicious content I’ve collected from restaurants & home-cooked meals over the years that I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned and where I’ll go. I’m also excited for parts of this blog to be for ways for my family and friends to stay in the loop from afar and for any of those brave enough to reach out to me about trying a plant based lifestyle. Stay tuned for future posts on recipes, vegan myth busters, interviews & even holiday meal tips for new vegans.
Have questions about the blog or topics surrounding veganism? Leave a comment below.
As always, thanks for your love & support.
‘Til next time!
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