Back at the Safeway today. It was gloriously quiet. Apparently, everyone is still sated from the excesses of the holidays or still quietly sitting in their crashed cars, spun out from the snowy roads, wondering how to explain it to the insurance companies and/or spouses. No matter -- it makes the store aisles nice and clear for ME and MY shopping vision.

Produce section first for grapes and apples and onions and potatoes and juice and bananas,and then I walk over to the meat department and...EEWWWW. MEAT SMELL. Not good meat smell, like a grilling steak or a slow cooking roast, but uncooked OFF SMELLING MEAT. Bleah. God, how I hate that smell. In a word, it smells like death, because, well, IT IS. Slabs of formerly-living creatures all sliced up and decaying in a well-lit public consumption arena. Sigh.

I eat meat, but I am disappointed that I do, sometimes.

I was a vegetarian for 12 years. When I mention that, people are often mildly surprised, as if I had casually mentioned I once had a an extra toe or something. They also ask me why I am no longer a vegetarian. The answer is both dull and complex, perfect for blogging.

Two things contributed to my becoming a vegetarian in the first place. I was struggling with food in general, with some allergies as well as an increasing number of foods that didn't "settle well," one of those being meat. It started to feel too heavy, too greasy, too hard to digest, too much. I also was in that quaint newish-adult phase of figuring out what I stood for, what I was passionate about. I joined PETA, animal-lover that I was and am, read about the miseries of factory farming and such, and decided I just wanted no part of it all. First to go was red meat, then poultry, then fish. I could never be a great vegetarian, which would mean being a vegan. My Wisconsin heart could never think of giving up cheese, and soy cheese AIN'T CHEESE.

But I was quite happy being a lacto-ovo veg, obviously. I liked learning how to make new meals, although sometimes they did not work out so well. The first Thanksgiving I had as a vegetarian in my own home I decided to make an entree out of the PETA newsletter recipe section, which was a sunflower seed loaf. It all sounded pretty tasty, pretty easy, and I went about making and baking it, along with most of the rest of the tasty traditional side dishes. I served it up proudly to my husband, who took one bite, made a funny face, and then proceeded to laugh his ass off for about a day. I had neglected to SHELL the sunflower seeds, making the loaf just A LITTLE INEDIBLE. I got all upset at my Loaf Fail and the continued hooting, but it was really funny.

Baby Boy #1 and Baby Boy #2 were raised vegetarian, despite the frowns and concern on occasion from friends and relatives. As the boys grew, healthy and strong, it was clear that their diet was perfectly adequate and I made everything they ate count -- fruit and/or veg with every meal, a grain, calcium, and a protein. They ate better than I did, as it turned out. As life got busier, I became ALL-CARB VEG, eating big plates of pasta and pizza and bread, and it showed. I ended up looking and moving like a big giant bag of socks, lumpy and slow. I didn't feel so great anymore like I did when I first went off of meat, and I just didn't really have the energy to do better.

When Baby Girl #1 started up, my decision was made for me. After lying on the living room couch for about 18 weeks with hideous morning sickness like, well, a big giant bag of socks with a baby in the middle of it, I started to feel better and then immediately developed gestational diabetes. OH YAY! Oh man, I cannot tell you how ANGRY I was the day my midwife sent me over to the diabetes clinic at the hospital. I wanted to smash something. Surely this was a joke, some kind of stupid overreacting mistake. Well, it wasn't. I was overweight, just turned 40. Old + fat + body stress = THERE YOU GO, IDIOT. The nurse there informed me that I would have to test my blood four times a day, and follow a strictly-timed diet, eating every three to four hours, and in order to get enough protein and calories for the baby, MEAT was required. I looked at the damn meal booklet. MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT. Aw, shit. I asked if I could do this and that and substitute this or that, and she shook her head, no, not really, not this time.

I left there full of rage and tears, mad at this very serious thing that I now had to deal with, that was in part my fault. I wasn't going to fight them. My job was to make sure that baby was healthy. So I poked my fingers and logged the results, saw that orange juice was RIGHT OUT, saw that the diet worked to keep things in control, and I never needed to use insulin. My daughter was born, and the diabetes went away immediately. But both she and I are now at a lifetime risk for Type 2 diabetes, and my blood sugar is sometimes right on the border, and it worries me.

So we all switched back to meat, except for Baby Boy #1, who was old enough to make his own choice and wanted to remain a vegetarian, which he still is. My daughter rhapsodizes about how she loves link sausage and bacon. She is just a little bug, skinny, and healthy too. She asks questions sometimes about why her eldest brother doesn't eat meat, and why the family used to be like that. I make her a hot dog and sigh and explain.

So here I am. I weigh less than I did 20 years ago, eat a varied diet, probably the healthiest I have ever eaten. I run and lift some weights. I think I finally understand what works for me, and I will stick with it. I never eat a pile of meat, as it still tastes too rich to me, but I eat it. I haven't forgotten the cost of that, and it does make me sad. I guess I am a lame vegetarian and a lame carnivore.

I go through the meat department,breathing though my mouth so I don't have to keep smelling the icky meat smell, can't find anything but some chicken breasts and Italian sausage today that I can tolerate buying. I move towards the paper products, and can think about napkins and paper towels and toilet paper instead. For now.