Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giving Thanks

As the holiday approached, I eagerly anticipated this Thanksgiving for it would be a day filled with firsts.  Earlier this year, my first-born had moved out.  This would be his first Thanksgiving waking up in a home of his own, the king of his castle.  It would be our first without him.  He wanted to celebrate and decided to host dinner this year.  His first as host, our first as guests.  It would also be my first time not portraying the "Lady of the House" since his girlfriend was well suited for the role.  My husband and I expressed our feelings of pride. It was a pleasurable experience to watch the maturity and growth of our son.  Personally, of course, it was also my first vegan Thanksgiving.


Leading up to dinner, I had a brief moment of insecurity and fear, flooding myself with questions. I had to remind myself that I would be with immediate family: husband, adult children, and intimate friend each of whom provide truth, encouragement, support and inspiration.  This thought provided the calm needed to overcome the feeling of trepidation.  After exhaling a deep cleansing breath, I relaxed and was able to create a simple meal of staple foods I had previously prepared for myself up to this point.  

Go with Whatcha Know!

I answered each of the questions swirling in my head.  I go with "what I knew", I prepared a bean/veggie patty, accompanied with veggies and made a vegan sweet potato pie to present to the dinner guests.  I packaged my meal and took it with me.  At the dinner table, as I took my seat, I placed my platter on the table.  Since I was not the hostess, I did not sit opposite the head of the table.  I sat in a seat alongside the table, as a guest, next to my husband, across from my baby (also now an adult), at the left of first-born, and at the right of his girlfriend, a wonderful young lady.  I chuckled to myself, at how silly I was at second guessing. I had to once again,  remember to "go with what I knew"  - that with all of this genuine love at the table, how could I question non-acceptance?  

My 1st Vegan Thanksgiving Preparation
Pinto bean patties with collard greens, corn, and sweet potato
After we expressed our gratitude for this gathering of firsts, my adult home-owner son says to me, "That looks good Mommy."  In those few words, my first Vegan Thanksgiving had been summed up.  I had what many seek and sadly do not find:  gratitude.   However you define gratitude doesn't matter for the meaning is germane to each.   For me it is love, life, family, health.  What is important however, is to take the time to give thanks for the small progressions realizing that huge leaps are few and far between.  It is the little steps and tiny increments that secure our footing and lead us to the next big thing.

Remember to identify and express your gratitude.  
Give thanks for the non-tangible
                   Be grateful for non-monetary experiences
                   Be thankful for embrace, warmth 
                             Welcome each opportunity to share
                              Express gratitude for ability to give, to grow, 
                                                   Be humble and eager to learn.

Yoga:  n-a-m-a-s-t-e  
Namaste  is an expression of gratitude.   It means, " the light in me honors and bows to the light in you."  It also means to be humble.  As you quietly say "Namaste",  close your eyes, press your palms together in the middle of your at your heart and lightly bow your head and shoulders, give thanks and be grateful.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The Inquisition - Day 75

When I tell an omnivore that I'm vegan, I'm usually bombarded with a series of questions.  We all know by now that the number one question on the top ten list of vegan questions is  "where do you get your protein?" I'm all for inquiries and genuine questions for you never know, there may be an opportunity to learn something new on behalf of both the person answering and the person asking the questions.   I find those questions which are borderline judgmental and accusatory are those which irritate me most.  Between each cleansing breath, I feel as if I have to defend myself and vegans everywhere.  As unrealistic as that is, the feeling is still there.  I'm finding that there seems to be a group of questions that almost immediately follow the first one:
"Have you always been Vegan? "
"How long have you been Vegan?" 
or my favorite, "Don't you MISS meat?"

The answers are "no", "not long", and "heck NO!".   In an instant, I'm transformed into some sort of creature for inspection.  If I hadn't said anything, would I look, act or be any different?  In my effort to remain positive, I go into the same explanation of how I became vegan.  For me, it was not a hard decision.  It was my destiny.


Know where you come from: My mother's
Sweet Potato Pie
Vegan Version - "NO!" dairy
"You don't know where you're going until you understand where you've come from".

The statement is really powerful.  In just a few short words, your entire life history, present, and future are captured.  As I've said, I feel destined to be vegan.  Meat has never been at the top of my list of favorite things.  My earliest memory of rebuking meat was at the mere young age of five years old.  As I've mentioned my post last month,  "Back to Basics", my family grew up on a farm.  Well, my father and uncles were quite comfortable with hunting and preparing "fresh killed" meats.  When I was five, my uncles had gone hunting complete with blood hound dogs and guns.  They brought back their "bounty" and eagerly shared with my parents who, now living in the city, were ecstatic for memories of "home".  My uncle presented my father with a rabbit.  My father took it into the basement.  I was curious and asked to join him.  My father was happy to see my interest - maybe I was going to be a second generation country girl after all... I watched in horror as my father skinned the rabbit and how the blood slowly dripped onto the floor.  I asked him why was he doing that to the rabbit and he informed me it would be our dinner that night.  "NO!"  I told him I was not eating that rabbit.  To this day, although I've consumed other meats, I am proud to say rabbit has never crossed my plate. To add salt to the injury, later that year, someone in my family gave me a "rabbit's foot" key chain as a gift.  I remember feeling the toes, and bones under the fur and hated it.  I threw it away and lied to my mother that I had misplaced it.

At twelve, I stopped eating all animal-organs and baby animal meat after I began to question my mother about every piece of meat that was presented to me.  "What animal did this come from?  What part of the animal is this?"   I just couldn't "stomach" eating liver, veal, or lamb.  It was also the age that I started cooking.  I remember feeling nauseous when I smelled raw eggs and could not eat them if the little white connector between the yoke and the white hadn't been removed.  I remember the shock and "gross-out" experienced when I went to a delicatessen with a friend and she ordered a beef "tongue" sandwich and it was really sliced tongue! By age 19, I could not eat a piece of chicken if I had to butcher an entire carcass into legs, wings, and breast prior to cooking it. I hated the feeling of the organs squishing in my hands as I reached in to clean out a turkey.
"HECK NO!" - Whole head fish dinner
Same for fish.  The idea of an entire fish on a platter with the mouth open and eye "looking" was disgusting to me.  I was well into my thirties before I even learned how to clean a fish because I could not bring myself to cut the head off.  I could only eat meat if it had been objectified - skin removed and all hints of life as a being had been removed.  I never ate a rare steak with the blood running all over the place.  In my early twenties, I became a vegetarian.  When I was expecting my first child,    being young and uninformed, I began to eat meat again after my I obstetrician told me I needed to eat meat for "protein" and for the baby. Fast forward to my late forties, prior to officially becoming vegan, I can't  honestly remember the last time I had a sandwich made of luncheon meat (little slivers of flesh-ugh!) or a glass of milk.  I am proud to say that I've never had nor desired to eat oysters, caviar, tripe, or any raw meats (lox, sushi, etc). I've been making vegetable stuffing for years and salad has always been my best friend.  So you see, when you hear my detailed history, you understand why I was destined to be vegan.

What's Next?

The next step is to continue to evolve with decorum and civility. Let's look at the meaning:

ev·o·lu·tion  (v-lshn, v-) 
A gradual process in which something changes
 into a different and usually more complex or better form 

Hmmm...better form; more complex.  Translation: to evolve is to develop or achieve a style of one's own gradually.  I am ready to evolve.  I am ready to move forward.  Everyone realizes that we, as a species have evolved.  Although we don't always act like it, we possess intelligence, the ability to have empathy, and compassion for our fellow animal beings of this earth, and we grow plants;  why is so hard to realize that we no longer need to consume meat to continue to evolve. 

Intelligence, empathy, compassion for all beings,
sole consumption of plant-based diet....
the need to evolve still exists
I can answer questions with a simple "no, not long, and heck no" and leave it at that because most people really don't want to know my real history, my true gradual development, my authentic evolution.  Only those with an expressed interest in becoming vegetarian or vegan or care for me wish to hear the history.  Knowing you can survive the inquisition, the need to have that cleansing breath before each answer disappears for you can't punish true ignorance or the lack of information.  An an evolved being, I must show empathy and compassion in the face of accusation and judgment and become an example of intelligent complexity.

The next steps for me are to continue to learn, to grow and to forge deeper into this new wonderful experience.  Taking the time to remember where I came from and helps me to know where I'm going.

Yoga: Anusara Style.  Individually based, soft practice - to "follow your heart" with emphasis on balance, alignment and respect for personal limitations; to gradually evolve; to focus with organic energy.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Overcoming Fears

Day 60.  Wow, It has been two months since I began this journey.  I actually do not remember the last time I ate meat other than it was fish that had lost its appeal.  Two months is a short period, a mere infinitesimal spec  in the flash of a lifetime.  Who specifically remembers any random two-month period unless it is bookmarked, representing something which will effect the remaining days, months, and years ahead? The thought of this "notch" that I've created is numbing.  In this short time, I:
  • have absolutely no desire to eat meat, dairy, or any animal product
  • am completely comfortable in this lifestyle
  • have begun to see and fear the unattractive aspect of the vegan world
    Ugly Truth?

    Animal Rights?
    For the most part, up to this point, this journey has been a "kum-ba-yah" experience.  I had readily fortified and prepared myself for the comments, feedback, and response from non-vegans.  It was to be expected.  The shock came from the realization that within the vegan world, there is another side - an ugly side.  I am becoming more and more exposed to it as I delve deeper into veganism and I do not like what I have begun to see.  It frightens me.

    In my "new girl" naivety, I failed to realize that the vegan world is no different than any other, that there is an extreme element that lives on the outer edges, just outside of the "norm" with levels of judgment, feeling of entitlement, and accusations of what is right and wrong.  I came across a dialog in which a dedicated vegan posted a faux meat dish that had been prepared for her children.  Almost immediately, she was met with an onslaught of hate and criticism by a "fellow", extreme vegan who felt she was being hypocritical for  making "fake meat", that vegans who do so are secretly harboring desires to eat meat; that somehow, she wasn't being a true vegan.  But what about me?  What about those who are converting or who are thinking of converting?  Where is the bridge?  The accuser had a right to his opinion but the tone and the language was so  ugly.  This person spewed anger with words just short of hatred toward a fellow vegan.  Aren't we all on the same team?  Several people on both sides of the debate commented but not me.  I was too afraid to say anything.  It was disappointing yet sobering as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice cold water on me shouting, "WAKE UP!!!!".  Are there vegan activists out there who profess their love for animals so much that they would not hesitate to show lack of love to their fellow man?  Would these same people commit an act of violence to express their viewpoint?  

    I seek to receive and work to give peace.  The thought of a physical, negative encounter with a fellow vegan is really scary.  I feel immediately faced with a new challenge - how to overcome this fear?


    Wheatgrass: the drink of resilience and coping
    Just before the "ugly", I met my friend Susan for lunch at a vegan restaurant.  Susan is not vegan.  I appreciated that she, as most good friends do, supported my efforts and "tried something new".  She had her first shot of wheatgrass, surprised that it tasted a little sweet. We discussed our latest endeavors and she mentioned the need for resilience.  Later, in a blog entry about our lunch, she revealed her own fears and the need to cope.  EUREKA!, there were the magic words I had been searching looking for:

    • COPE - to face and deal with a difficulty in a calm or adequate manner. 
    • RESILIENCE - the ability to recover; to return to original form or position after being bent or stretched;  buoyancy.
    Since I'm not much on the water, I related the buoyancy to being rooted.  I love root plants.  Ginger, mushrooms, onions, garlic, radishes, potatoes, turnips, carrots, yams, and my favorite, the mighty beet.  Root plants are tough with thick skin.  They manage to grow, thrive or "cope" in all types of soil compositions while maintaining  strong, full, earthy flavor, and hearty texture, even after cooking.  Root plants are resilient. Since they grow underground, they absorb minerals and nutrients from the soil and provide a plethora of health benefits as they contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, antioxidants, fiber, and potassium just to name a few.

    Stay rooted:  Beet greens, beets, and turnips

    Staying Rooted

    As I processed each of these experiences - the high of lunching with Susan and the low of the ugliness, I realized that there was one point of relevance between the two:  Me! I was the connecting piece between the two.   While I had reached out in one instance and recoiled in another, I had remained in the same place.  I was rooted and didn't realize it.  Although the unfortunate incident had frightened me, I had remained steadfast in my commitment and desire to be vegan.  I feel empowered to grow my roots, to introduce my non-vegan friends to something new (who knows, perhaps a few of them will join me).  I feel that I can grow my roots even stronger and as this strength increases, perhaps one day I will be able to confront the extreme beings on the fringe.  Perhaps one day, I can show them that you can gain more with a positive, loving approach than a negative one  that we are all on the same team. That each of us may arrive at a destination along a different path or vehicle but that the point is:  we all arrived and are in the same place together.  It is a choice.  In my lifetime flash, I will remember these past two months.  I will remember how I chose to grow my roots with positivity, togetherness and compassion.

    I will also remember the exact moment in the future to yet come when those roots strengthened and enabled me to cope with resiliency to overcome my fears.


    Yoga:  Boat pose for buoyancy,  Mountain pose for root connection to the Earth.