Sunday, August 30, 2009

And Don't Forget the GRATITUDE!!!!

JC and Adena rode with me to the farmers market yesterday. We cannot resist stopping at every garage sale along the way. We are on the hunt for lightweight perfect storage for campers. And the occasional useless tchotchke (yiddish), knickknack (english), pootie nootie (swedish), kikorokoro (swahili).
I found the jiggling hula man for someone's dashboard.
He is already in the mail heading to my friend Wendy for her outdoor mosaic heavenly gardens.

At one sale, it seemed that everything in the house was up for grabs. When we pedaled up to the front porch, there were about 5 people (including a smiling dark haired man in his forties in a wheelchair) who greeted us. Inside the house was everything from decades of old Mother Earth News mags to canning and gardening supplies. The whole porch had great tools. Everything was perfectly organized. I asked a guy in the kitchen if the sale was a benefit for some organization. "Nope, it is actually our friend Steve's house and he had an accident and can't live here anymore. He fell down some stairs in February and is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life now. He was a great carpenter...and gardener..and cook. But there is no way to make this house accessible and he moved to an apartment." I started looking at everything through new eyes....I pictured the smiling man I had seen out on the lawn walking through the house and canning veggies and fixing up the place with those tools.
I didn't bother doing my usual haggling for the best prices. I just paid the asking price.
We stood next to the wheelchair, straddling our bikes and got to know Steve a little. 7 months after his accident, he was sitting in his tall wheelchair unable to use his arms or legs or open his hands. He proudly showed us the one finger he could move. He was so positive and warm. Even while telling us that he lost his job and had to leave his favorite house and gardens because of the accident, he was smiling and hopeful looking about what he might be able to do with some more time and work in physical therapy.
As the three of us said goodbye to him and lifted our healthy feet onto the pedals of our bikes, I was aware of every easy movement I usually take for granted. I cried as we left the yard sale. I wasn't crying because I felt sorry for Steve. I was crying because life can change on a dime. One minute you are running and the next minute you're horizontal and being told you will not walk again. And I wasn't even crying because of that. I was crying because I can forget to be grateful. Everyday I forget. Not all the time, but most of the time. I forget to be grateful for this healthy body, my loving partner, my loving friends and family, my unlimited choices, my lack of hardship. I actually think that I have hardship sometimes....but I don't. I have such ease. I have everything a sane person would want. I cried at the way I can be so blind to how lucky I am to be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk the dogs for hours or type these words on this machine or cook up great meals. I complain about this and that....the weather, the computer "taking my time", my fuzzy hair, my poofer belly, my wrinkles, and blah blah blah.....
All I can think right now as my fingers fly on this keyboard is "I am so fucking blessed. I hope I never forget it." And I know I will. And I know that some Steve or some other person or thing will end up right in front of me to remind me that I have EVERYTHING I need...and lots of pootie nootie I don't need.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Busy Bees with Vegfund.....

Here is an article in Vegnews Online about Vegfund.
check it out!
We are incredibly busy with this project.
Rewarding and wild.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Consistency Ahhhhhhhhhhh years my dogs were veg. I figured that it was crazy to care about them by causing suffering to the animals used for dogfood.
Then came a dog who did not want to eat that veggie food. Combine that with my Jewish upbringing and things definitely went in a backward direction. I am happiest when everyone is full and "wanting for nothing" as my family says. The idea that my dog or anyone in my life would go hungry for even an hour makes me sad. When my various dogs have had surgery and they say "no food after midnight on the day before the surgery, my heart sinks. I set the alarm and give them their "last supper" at five minutes to midnight. I do the same with myself. I am a chow hound. If I weren't a vegan who loves healthy food, I would weigh about 200 pounds.
OK, back to the dogfood issue. I slipped into feeding not just one, but both dogs, meat based dog food. I went into that sleepy denial that lets us forget about decades of knowing about, seeing and teaching about the horrors and violence in the animal agriculture industries. I turned my back on what I know to be true: The animals used for human and non-human food suffer in ways that would shock most consumers. If slaughterhouses, factory farms, trucking companies who ship animals, and stockyards all had glass walls, the meat industry would go belly up. It is amazing what we can deny. I have seen all the images. Not just a few times. Hundreds of times. I have shown the films and slide images of the violence in factory farming to children and adults in education programs for years. And yet, somehow, I pushed this information aside and went back to feeding meat to the dogs.
Then, just last week, JC and Adena and I went to see Food Inc.

We leafleted with the Vegan Outreach Compassionate Choices booklet before and after the film and everyone took one on the way out. This is not a vegan film by any means. It is a film about how our food is becoming less and less food and more and more product. The film did include footage of animal agriculture. Mostly footage I had seen before, but for some reason it grabbed me this time. It may be because is came on the heels of a discussion about what I feed the dogs. The three of us had this discussion. This makes realize the power of not only a well made film, but of a well timed, unthreatening, open discussion with friends and family.
After the film I announced that I would no longer buy animal products for the dogs. JC is delighted. He has been wanting this for three years. Bean and Tikvah were not happy at first. But they did not have to go hungry for long. They scarf down the veggie food almost as fast as they did the meat food. As a little side benefit, it seems to be changing Beans preferences and she is taking part in Tikvah's nightly raw cabbage feed in (his favorite treat).
Having this consistency back in my life feels wonderful.
I was feeling very hypocritical when leading programs on compassionate living and feeding my dogs tortured beings.
(Downed cow being dragged onto truck by chain-What we no longer support)

I am breathing a sigh of relief. We all are. Me, JC, Tikvah (who has been prone to tumors and should not be eating any meat), Bean (who is young and will hopefully be healthier with this way of eating), and the thousands of animals who will not be raised, trucked and slaughtered for any of us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Mint On the Pillow

(from left to right: Bean, Me, Taylor, Crystal)

We are with the whole pack. Adena and her two dogs, Taylor and Crystal.
They welcomed us with open arms and paws.
No mint on the pillow, but plenty of wet dog noses instead.
We will be here in Ann Arbor until Adena's house sale finalizes and we can finish helping her pack it all up.

Then Bean having an affair with Adena:

Jim and Lydia came to visit and have dinner.......we all laughed so hard we were getting "the look" from the other booths...hmmmm, was it our laughing or the ever present event happening on Lydia's head? She signs her email "big hugs, not big hair". I thought that the Vegetarian Summerfest should have put her hair on the schedule as an event.
Wherever she travels people ask to have their photo taken with her. This sweet little cross between a model, a chia pet and and cousin It also happens to be one of the best vegan bakers around.

Lydia has had an affinity for all creatures for her entire life. But when you combine this with her girly girl-ness, you get someone who, if you wrote a book about her, you would have to call it fiction because no one would believe it otherwise. As a teenager she took her pet boa to the vet because he was sick. The vet kept questioning her about what she was feeding the snake. She kept insisting she wasn't feeding the snake anything weird. The vet eventually figured out that the snake was swallowing bubbles during his regular bubble baths and told Lydia to stop bathing her snake. Crazy kid. Jim's claim to fame is the Vidalia onion and Yukon Gold potato.....they are on your grocer's shelf because of him.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Link to the Ceremony

Ted Barnett put together a great video of the ceremony. About 30 minutes.

You can just see it on line rather than downloading it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are We Still Talking About This? Come on folks.....move on!

OK, folks are actually still asking about the ceremony.....which was wayyyyyyyy back in July. We have been married so long that we have separate twin beds with a little bedstand and a lamp between us and when I say something important, JC just says "uh huh" as he keeps reading his newspaper. Just kidding....we are still blissfully hanging out in our home on wheels with two muddy dogs.
But honestly, people who were not at the ceremony and people who were have been asking for a copy of our vows. Seems strange to post them....but since I need to read them anyway, I will reel them into the blogspace. I did not actually read mine at the ceremony, and I was going on four hours sleep and so brainless at our ceremony that I didnt really hear JC's. So we can all check them out together.

Rae's vows to JC:

-It is not easy to write vows for this. The power of our connection is something we have not even been able to put into words for each other when it is just the two of us. It is those silent grateful times of knowing that are more common than having to say what we feel to each other.
-I walked by the bookshelf and saw David Whyte’s poetry book on the shelf called The House Of Belonging. I pulled the book off the shelf and stared at the title. That is IT I thought. That is what I have with you. I have searched for HOME for a long time. I have only felt that HOME when alone or with dogs in a very quiet place with no human made sounds. I have never felt totally at HOME with another person. With you, JC, I feel I am in the House of Belonging.

While holding a beautiful stone that I found that is half black and half white:
We are an unlikely pair in many ways….very different histories….proof is our different music taste and cultural experience…
When I cover the black part of the stone it looks like a boring white stone...when I cover the white part, it looks like a boring black rock. But both together are is the contrast that makes that stone what it is....

What you give me-
Your acceptance of who I am, Your understanding of what brings me despair and what brings me joy, and your willingness to share those with me even when they are not your own. I can be quiet inside when I am with you. I am not alone in my pain about the suffering of the world. You feel it too.

I don't know all of what I give to you. But I know what I love and respect about you.
We met and my way of communicating openly about everything was new to you and you were willing to learn this new way of being.
You have the strength to tell me when I am being a shit and the willingness to admit when you are being one.

-You act on what you know more completely than anyone I have ever met.
You work tirelessly on alleviating suffering in the world and speak your truth even when it means sacrificing fitting in and being liked by everyone .

-You care for the planet and yourself and me with such dedication.

Remember when were in Athens walking back from the park along the railroad tracks. I started tightrope walking along the rail and you were on the other rail. We were falling off a lot. You held your hand out to me and we walked along easily without going off balance.
Life is like that. It is tough to stay balanced on that thin slippery rail of life.
You have been that solid support in my life…..always there adding stability and ease.

I love you with the biggest room in my heart mansion JC….

JC's Vows to Rae:
Debra Rae Sikora, three years ago you came bursting into my life at this wonderful event called the Vegetarian SummerFest. In that short period of time my love for you has grown into a deeper satisfying relationship than I ever thought possible. It seems I love you more each day.

I adore so many things about you, from the childish glee you get with snuggling in your sleeping bag, to warm fleece jackets, to post-it notes and highlighters. From fingers in your ears when you are frightened to rhythmically squeezing my hand three times to say “I love you.” You warm my heart each time I glance up unexpectedly and find your sweet gaze studying my face.

We have traveled long in life and have shared our lives with many others. Our paths have crossed and meandered in the past, but now they have merged. There is an ease of life with you, the likes of which I have never known. We share many values… from work and play to hopes and dreams. I have finally found what I’ve always missed in life and this is a very good thing.

Wherever we may find ourselves on any given day as we travel around the country, I want to go to sleep each night with your kiss on my lips and to wake every morning seeing your peaceful shining face.

You are a true friend, Rae. You keep me emotionally honest and genuinely real. Your laughter can fill my heart, while your tears can shake me to the core. I feel honored to be loved and cherished by you and I can only hope that I have, in some measure, returned the happiness that you have brought to me.

I love you, Debra Rae Sikora. Would you honor me by taking this ring and joining me in forging the next phase of our lives?

OK everyone, dry your eyes and get back to work. Enough of this romantic stuff.
Back to the business at hand....packing up Adena's house, finishing my book editing and writing this blog when something juicy happens.

I mean really, daily life is not romantic vows. It includes stuff like JC giving me a used bag to use as a poop bag for the dogs and swearing it had no holes. Then, me taking our dogs and Adena's dogs for a walk and scooping her dog Taylor's soupy poo and finding it running out a hole into the palm of my hand. Real daily stuff as Ms. Menopause talks to Mr. Hearing Aid and a mouse moves into the little home on wheels and runs laps on all your clean stuff while he uses it as a litter box.
And through it all we just keep popping our heads up from the wild ride and seeing that the other person is still there riding next to us...solid as can be.
(Our next dog will be like this guy and save me the trouble of those potentially hazardous bags)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mourning: It's Not Just For Humans...

We are in Ann Arbor Michigan at Adena Kling's house. Her two sweet dogs have welcomed our two dogs right into the fold...and as usual, Adena has made us feel totally at HOME.
Photos to come....
We already biked to the farmers market and a few garage sales and have gotten to eat incredible Adena food.

I recently wrote a humane ed lesson on mourning in all species and the last few days have given me ideas that I want to add to it. I have written about mourning elephants and dolphins, but I had nothing on rats and squirrels....until now. A few days ago while staying with Rita and John in Cleveland, she came out to tell us about one of their three rescued rats dying in the night. The two surviving rats collected all the bedding from the upper floors of their rat habitat and brought it to the bottom of the enclosure and buried the rat who had died. When Rita and John tried to get near the body of the dead rat, the other two got angry and did not want his grave disturbed.

A day later when we arrived here in Ann Arbor, Adena told us about the squirrel who had died in her yard. She did not want to bury him in the yard because her dogs might dig him up. So, she wrapped him up and put him in her trash can. No sooner had she done this and one by one the squirrels came and sat quietly next to the trash can looking toward it. She described it in exactly the same way you would describe humans paying their respects as they go past a casket.

What got me started, years ago, thinking about mourning in other species, was the story of a beluga whale. When the beluga lost her baby, researchers took the body to see why the baby had died. The mother beluga pushed a piece of driftwood around in front of her nose for weeks and made moaning sounds.

It is no surprise that I would be working on a humane ed book of animal intelligence material. Once we open our eyes to the rich lives of other beings, we cannot just discount them as things to do as we please to. They stop being a species and start being individuals, they stop being property and start being our extended family.