Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Good in Us All

There are times when my judgments of humans and of the destruction we have caused on the planet are all I can see of our crazy species.  When we moved here we heard horror stories about some of the neighbors.  Those telling me the horror stories were people who do not speak Spanish have not been able to have a conversation with our many Hispanic neighbors.  I took their descriptions to heart and made assumptions about many of our neighbors who have recently moved here from Mexico. 
One neighbor has many animals....from goats to dogs to chickens. 

 http://russ-stickacres.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/dsc_0006-small.jpg

One of their dogs adopted us as soon as we got here and hasn't left.  Another one of their dogs is a huge white Malamute who has been tied for a few years on a short chain with no shelter and often no water.  I called animal control recently and they came out to check on the dog.  They gave the family two days to provide water, a longer chain and a shelter.  A pitiful A frame made of old plywood appeared in the hole the dog has worn out with his chain over the many days of pacing.  Then as I went out skiing yesterday, I noticed that even that pitiful shelter was gone.  I was prepared to contact animal control again as I was skiing back toward home.  But, what I saw surprised me. They had replaced the A frame shelter with a large strong dog house that is up off the wet ground.  I saw a man near the dog house and we talked a bit about skiing and about the dog house.  This is not an evil man who keeps goats in a pen and a dog on a chain.  This is a really nice guy who is doing what he knows.  He had never thought about the dog having needs.  Today there is also a big blanket out there for the dog.  It was such a good lesson for me in not judging.  It is quick and easy to judge someone who does not care for the animals in their care like I would like them to.  It is easy to assume that the rumors spoken by other neighbors are true.  It takes longer to get to know this person and slowly plant seeds about another way to view and care for all living beings.  It takes longer to be friends with him and his family first and then share our ideas.

When we moved here there were more stories about another neighbor up the hill from us.  People who have lived here for years have not ever had a conversation with him because he and his family speak Spanish.  I went and talked to this neighbor about crossing his land to get to the public land.  He was kind and easy to talk with and gladly gave us permission to cross his land.  Now I am looking out my office window at his grandchildren sledding down their steep driveway with their three dogs chasing the sled and climbing back up with the kids.  This scene is a far cry from how these neighbors were represented by others when we moved here.  OK, these are the same neighbors who throw their trash out the window as they drive along.  And, yes, many of our other neighbors do the same.  But, culturally this is not taboo for them.  These are people who get up in the morning and do their best with what they know.  Just like me.  Just like you.  They have blind spots when it comes to mindful living and so do you and so do I.
 http://media.nowpublic.net/images//b0/8/b085886e9cbbd309872e0bf2013349e6.jpg


I am reminded of how impossible it is to really know another person or another species if we don't share their language and culture.  Somehow, I can easily assume the best about other species.  I don't have big judgments about them.  I am living here for a reason.  I am living surrounded by people who's culture is, in many ways, very different from mine.  I want to find that same caring and openness that I have for other species, for these neighbors.  Once again surrounded by my teachers.


http://bettinahansen.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/rockyhillsnow05.jpg

Thursday, December 22, 2011

To V or Not to V

It is on the happy cow website.....
I will write some blogs just for this space....but right now my latest two are on Happy Cow.
http://www.happycow.net/blog/?p=2731

and a new one is coming as soon as they post it...it is called Bending Toward Justice.

Happy Solstice and I will see you back here after the new year.....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To V or Not to V

You can find this blog on my new posting spot:
http://www.happycow.net/blog/?p=2731

I will still be posting here, too ....when there is a blog that does not seem perfect for the Happy Cow site.

Thanks for jumping over to Happy Cow to read the blogs!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Blogs now on Happy Cow

For my most recent blog posting go to:
http://www.happycow.net/blog/?p=2671

Thanks to all my loyal readers....hope you won't mind hopping over to Happy Cow occasionally for viewing. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The HUMANS are out there! Stay home for your own safety!

Now that we are not on the road, it is easier to look back and appreciate it.
When you are out there, you get to see all sorts of educational things....I call it "visiting America"....

Billboards like the one for:
Angry Bull Steakhouse
right next to a hospital billboard:
We Treat Men Friends With Prostate Cancer
(Is it just me, or do you think they work as a team?)

Or.......how about this one...
Jesus Christ is Lord Travel Center 5 Miles Ahead!
Featuring the Heavenly Hamburger!

 http://travelswithace.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/roadhometx-006.jpg

Then a bit further down the road, another billboard:
Top of Texas, Catholic Superstore!

And somehow we resisted stopping at:
Jesus Christ is Lord, Not a Swearword Travel Center
  
 OK, I can't just pick on Texas....
A sign we saw in Maine:
Benefit BBQ for Cancer!  Pork! Hamburgers! Hot Dogs!
("Yes", I thought, "this event will benefit CANCER...but not the cure or prevention!")

You might think this crazy little oxymoron is unusual, but you can find a pig roast for cancer in almost every state!




 http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/276871_130658160315380_277793010_n.jpg
And just in case you didn't know that the cancer fundraisers around the world can be just as insane as in the USA, here is one in Ireland:
http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/276817_267871769906050_807461_n.jpg


 
 There are things you only get to experience when you are on the road.....do you really want to miss one of the greatest southern wonders?  Jesus appearing in the kudzu? For a small fee, you don't have to miss out.

 http://travelswithace.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/kudzujesus.jpg

The Unimaginable


If you are someone who is willing to witness all the pain and beauty in the world on a regular basis, you have probably known despair.

A few months ago we stopped living full-time on the road in our solar camper and we started working on a house we bought near Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Working non-stop on the house has been a labor of LOVE.  And we have been physically and emotionally exhausted from the process.  Writing has not been an option for me.  I was too tired to be inspired. 
  
                                                                                       HOME
                                                                               
But now, we are in our home and loving it.  It is quiet, solid, peaceful and warm and we are surrounded by incredible day and night skies, a kirgillion birds and snoring neighborhood dogs (all spread out on rugs and furniture around the house).  All of the unloved critters in the area found us within a day of us being here.  I cleaned and dressed their physical wounds and JC and I continue to put healing love balm on their emotional wounds daily. 


One of the neighborhood, previously unloved dogs, resting on the sofa.




Seeing the deplorable condition of the dogs and other animals in the area along with doing my usual research for my work.... and, on top of that being exhausted and breathing lots of toxic stuff while working on the house, was making me sink deep into despair.

And then, just as unannounced as the despair came, it is gone.  Intention is so powerful.  I decided yesterday that I would read a few Mary Oliver poems each morning and write down a favorite line.  Every time I read her poetry, there is some line that grabs me and gives me exactly what I need. 

Today’s line was perfect: “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable”
I think much of our despair comes from not being able to imagine a bright outcome when we see the suffering humans are causing in the world.  So, for now, I am going to leave some room in my heart for the unimaginable….A world free of needless suffering...a world where the humans care about life on earth and act on that caring. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

With Liberty and Justic for ALL

http://images.sodahead.com/polls/000467887/polls_pledge_of_allegiance_in_school_0815_205193_poll_xlarge.jpeg

Unless you were a feisty kid who was committed to only doing what you believed in or understood thoroughly, you probably grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  
Not many people know that the Pledge of Allegiance has gone through some major changes since it was first written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy (a socialist).

The first version (1892) read:
“I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

The second version read:
"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

The third version (1923) read:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

The fourth version (1924) read:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

The fifth version (1954) read:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Under god wasn’t added until 1954. In a country that claims to separate church and state, this addition does not make sense.  But it also doesn't make sense to close all government offices for Christian holidays but not close them for Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu or Jain holidays. 

The pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point.  Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds.  In his initial version he considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided not to because he knew it would not be approved by the state superintendents of education on the committee.  They were against equality for women and African Americans.
 http://www.missouri-slave-data.org/GirlsBuncetonBBall.jpg

Through all these changes, I can’t help but notice that one part was not messed with:  “….with liberty and justice for all.”

I am surprised that no one thought to eventually change it to  “With liberty and justice for all humans.”  ….just to reflect the reality of our laws and social structure. 
 http://www.modernhippiemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/EarthTalkAntibioticResistance-300x186.jpg

Just like the golden rule, we somehow conveniently forget to actually pay attention to the literal meaning.  In the golden rule, Others means Others…all others.  In the Pledge of Allegiance, All means All.  The most accurate way to define all is probably “anyone who would benefit from liberty and justice”. 
Let your imagination run with that.  Who would benefit from liberty and justice?  All humans, all species, all life and the earth itself. 
It is much easier for me to imagine pledging allegiance to the earth and all life than to a piece of fabric with a design on it.  So, here is my suggestion for revision number 6 of the Pledge:

“I pledge allegiance to my earth home and all life which it supports. We are but one world, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

And just for fun, watch this little you tube ….


 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-54xNZdkYKlc/Tbhidgv25rI/AAAAAAAAAIw/73whZvpmIRE/s1600/earth-day.jpeg

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Balance, It’s All About Balance

 http://yardener.com/yardener_files/image/kale-dwarf-green-curled.jpg

I know how busy everyone is, so let me make this as brief as possible. If you were at our green smoothie demo at Summerfest or you just love throwing a lot of kale in your smoothie, you will want to read this.  If you are a woman approaching menopause, going thru menopause or are post menopausal, you will want to read this. 

The following all relate to each other:
1-The smoothies I make typically contain the equivalent of one full bunch of raw kale. 
2-This year I discovered a creamy delightful unsweetened yogurt made by Whole Soy and was eating it by the case.
3-This year I discovered the joy of making “massaged” raw kale salads and have been eating a lot of them.
4-A few months ago I went from my usual complaint “I have way too much energy” to feeling like doing anything was too much effort.  My first full blown exhaustion.   In addition, my throat felt tight and I sounded like a cigarette smoker.  The exhaustion was accompanied by brain fog….forgetting even simple words.

After lots of research into possible causes, I decided that the symptoms could be thyroid related. 70% of menopausal and post-menopausal women have thyroid issues. My research into hypo-thyroid consistently came up with the same results:  Eating way too many raw cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables (also known as brassica veggies) can be harmful to thyroid function.  Eating way too much processed soy can be the same.  


6 days ago I stopped eating processed soy and cut out all the raw cruciferous veggies to see if I felt any different.  I continued to make green smoothies but used wild greens, lettuces, parsley, and other raw non brassica greens.  Within two days I could feel my energy coming back.  By day 5, I was back to my familiar “too much energy” and I no longer sound like a cigarette smoker.
 http://www.thyroiddiseasetreatment.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/1311085102-45.jpg


I will start including raw kale and some soy back into my diet, but in balanced proportions.

Let me just be clear.  I am not a doctor or registered dietician. And, this is NOT AN ANTI-SOY OR ANTI-RAW GREENS STATEMENT!
While I am in touch with how my own body is feeling, I do not know a lot about the physiology of a human body.  Before this experience, I did not even know exactly what the thyroid did or that it is shaped like a butterfly.
My conclusion after all my research and my own experience is that soy and raw greens are both healthy foods.  Soy is one of the best foods for hormonal balance in menopausal women.  Raw and cooked greens are great for healthy nutrients and minerals. 
And, too much of a good thing is….well….too much.
While nutrition is not my expertise or even my number one passion, I love the idea of healthy energetic vegans going out into the world and making it a more compassionate place for all species. 
 http://us.cdn2.123rf.com/168nwm/mandygodbehear/mandygodbehear0803/mandygodbehear080300048/2634668-happy-fit-healthy-woman-jumping.jpgHere is how I want you to feel....

So, eat your raw greens and eat your soy and don’t overdo it!
Balance, Balance, Balance….It’s all about balance.

Here is a link to one of the many articles I found about this issue:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cow Love

 http://www.animalinterrupted.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/dairy-cow.jpg


We stopped on a road in New Hampshire and JC napped while Bean and I walked a dirt road.  We passed a gate with a large cow pasture.  Bean and I stood by the fence and I said quietly to the cows across the pasture, "We are working on it.  You won't be milk machines for long if we can help it."  And I just stood there feeling a lot of love for these long lashed big eyed beings.  They were all looking at us and when I spoke out loud, the leader of the herd came over to see what was up.  She sniffed Bean through the fence and then brought her sweet face up to me and licked me.  It was what you would expect of a dog.  Then the rest of the herd saw that there was something nice going on and hurried over to join us.  I had my arms out rubbing their heads and necks and eventually I had a dozen tongues licking my bare arms.  Exactly like a pack of affectionate puppies.  We love the little cute animals and disregard the older ones who we may not see the beauty in.  These cows loved the affection....couldn't get enough of it.  Of course.  They feel everything that the dog living under your roof feels.  Given the opportunity they love affection, play, relating to their favorite friends, feeling comfortable.....Given the opportunity they avoid pain and suffering....like all of us. 

I recently read a story about a cow who gave birth to a stillborn calf.  She was weak and in pain after the ordeal.  And still, she managed to get up and walk a long distance across miles of fields to find her own mother for comfort.  She was found in the distant field with her mother wrapped around her nuzzling her.  Their two large bodies like one.



I have lots of friends and family who still eat dairy.  What most of them do not know (or do not want to know)  is that dairy involves more prolonged suffering than the meat industry and that in fact dairy cows do end up slaughtered for beef.  So they just go through a longer captivity/slave period before being slaughtered.  Their babies are stolen from them so that humans can drink the milk.  This is just a small part of the suffering these gentle beings go through before being slaughtered.  I know that many people do not want to read about or watch the reality of the horrors we inflict on other species.  Not wanting to witness the violence is fine....IF you are not contributing to it in your daily choices.  For those who have already chosen a path that does not support this kind of cruelty, there is no need to witness the violence.  For those who still choose to support animal agriculture, at a minimum, please be willing to witness what you choose to support.  If it is too difficult to witness, you may want to consider not supporting it in any way.  Next opportunity, stand face to face with a cow.  Look her in the eyes.  Connect with her.  Then do all you can to ensure that her well-being is all you are willing to support.
http://www.farmland-thegame.eu/images/animals/Dairy-cows-pict-1.jpg

Friday, June 24, 2011

Do You Feel Like Giving Up?


 http://www.victorpest.com/resource/images/victorpest/Rodent_Library/deer_mouse_babies2.jpg

There are times when even the most caring educator or activist wants to throw in the towel and give up their outreach work.  If you want to stay motivated to be a voice for the voiceless in society, just keep your eyes open to what is going on around you.
Trust me: Your despair or hopelessness at seeing/knowing what goes on in the world behind closed doors and gates is nothing compared with the amount of suffering that these beings are experiencing….
I wouldn’t say my eyes are really wide open this week, but even so, I have watched bulls being sold at a roadside who were crammed together in a panic as they were being loaded into trailers from three different ranches.  I was out running and stopped to witness what was happening.  They all turned and looked at me.  I felt helpless.  What was being done to them was legal and I couldn’t stop it at that moment.
Today I spoke with relatives who found a dead mother mouse in their garage.  Soon after, they found the babies who were so tiny they were crawling on the concrete floor to try to get to the mother.  These were nursing babies.  They put the babies on a shovel and put them in the woods.  When I said that these were babies, this relative reminded me that they are mice and not cute like chipmunks and squirrels.  I then reminded this relative that even the not-cute babies suffer and need care.http://www.abc.net.au/creaturefeatures/img/facts/mice_baby.jpg

This evening I went past a newspaper on the table and saw the story of the Minnesota Zoo killing a wolf who escaped his enclosure. 
 http://www.wolfquest.org/images/wolf_raja.jpg
There are plenty of incentives and reminders to keep speaking up for all species.  Keep your eyes open.

We have been waging a war on domestic and wild non-humans for most of history.  We do not have to.  It is not necessary for our survival to keep animals in enclosures, kill them for food, experiment on them, breed them or use them for entertainment.  We can choose a whole new path.  We can choose a path of caring and compassion for all beings. 

So, when you have those moments where you think your voice doesn’t matter or you are just feeling too sad or hopeless to continue doing outreach, remember who is counting on you.  Imagine yourself in their position.  You would never want those speaking out for you to give up because the work was too difficult or because they felt too sad thinking about you.  Do whatever it takes to keep yourself feeling healthy and strong mentally and physically. Then, take that strength out into the world and plant every seed of compassion you can.   

http://strikingattheroots.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/nikkibenoit.jpg

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Three Lucky Dogs

 http://creaturetalk.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/pig-in-livestock-truck.jpg?w=150                   http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/images/PigsinTruckTrailer-1.jpghttp://creaturetalk.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/pigs-crammed-together.jpg?w=150&h=112


One of the hardest parts of being on the road is seeing the trucks filled with imprisoned animals being transported to slaughter or feedlots.
We are driving through Michigan right now and it is 95 degrees and humid.  I want to complain about the nasty heat and my sticky skin as we travel 4 hours today.  I just got a nice cool dunk in Lake Michigan and had a beautiful fresh fruit breakfast.  I know exactly how long our trip is and that it ends at a lake where all three of us can swim.  I am drinking water the whole way.  I have endless choices for making this ride more comfortable.

A truck packed solidly with pigs passed us.  I could see their noses sticking through any hole in the transportation trailer.  I watched them panting heavily.  I can only imagine the temperature in there with bodies so crowded there is no room for them to move and no air circulation around their skin.   The stench must be intense for them.  From the location printed on the truck, it looks like they have about 15 hours to go.  They don’t know that.  They don’t get the bathroom breaks, water breaks, snacks and walks that we get when we travel even just two hours.  Their urine and feces covers the floor of the truck and must be hell for their olfactory senses that are many times more sensitive than a dog’s.  Given proper space, they will never pee or poo anywhere near where they rest or eat.  They are also as smart and sensitive as dogs and have relationships with each other and other species.  Anyone who has visited one of the sanctuaries that rescue farmed animals knows that pigs love affection, freedom to roam, a good swim on a hot day and a great meal. 

Now I want you to imagine you are a prisoner (as these pigs are) who has committed no crime (as these pigs have not commited any crime).  



One day, without any notice you are loaded with all the other prisoners into a semi trailer (or slave ship or train car).  No one tells you why you are being loaded on the truck or where you are going or how long it will take. You are crammed in so tightly that you can barely move. There are holes on the side of the truck, but you are not near any and you are having a hard time getting any fresh air.  You do not know why you are being transported and you do not know when you will arrive at the destination.  You hope you will get food and water, but you have no way of knowing that.  It is in the 90’s and humid.  3 hours into the trip you are feeling tired of standing, but you don’t want to sit down on the floor covered in urine and shit.  The heat and the smell make you feel sick.  The truck has stopped twice, and the driver has been eating, drinking and using the bathroom, but never even checks in on you and the other prisoners.  At 5 hours into the trip you are so exhausted you find that you have slid down to the floor and are covered in urine and shit, both your own and your fellow prisoners.  When the driver stops, he parks in the sun and the hot foul odors attracts flies.  You are all covered in flies, many of them biting.  Everytime the truck stops you pray the doors will open and you will get some air and maybe water and food.  But it does not happen until many stops and 15 hours later, when the doors finally open.  Many prisoners are too sick or lame to walk out of the trailer, but you and the others are forced down a ramp with electric prods.  Some are crawling and dragging their legs to try to escape the pain of the prods. You notice that a few of the prisoners have collapsed and died during the trip.  You step over them.

OK, I will stop there.  I won’t take you through the next horrific steps in the death process for animals we call food.  http://www.penmarks.com/Images/holocaust2.jpgHuman prisoners in trains.

I would love a video monitor to be installed at every meat and dairy counter in every grocery store.  These would show the background reality for the animals who were raised, trucked and slaughtered for these “foods”.  (Yes, even dairy cows are slaughtered for meat at a young age.  And yes, their young are torn away from them so that humans can have the milk meant for their young.  And yes, the male calves are slaughtered immediately or are raised for veal…so don’t give me the “I am a vegetarian and that is enough rap)http://www.freewebs.com/chickensneedlovetoo/down34.jpg 
Downed veal calf unable to walk at slaughterhouse.

So, do you think knowing the reality would change people’s choices in the grocery?  I know that many people, including me, can view the horrors and then go into denial even a day later.  But what if it was right there in front of them as they pick up that package of bacon or chunk of cheese?  Are we capable of acting on what we know?  Some humans are capable of this, but even some of the best in terms of their values being consistent with their choices are not always consistent and responsible with their spending power. 

We are still cruising down the road.  The windows are open.  Bean, our dog, has the whole back seat and a dish of tofurky slices cut into little pieces and ice water to go with it.  We get out of the truck every hour and run around and find water for her to jump into.  There is no foul odor in the truck from her not being able to get out when she needs to pee or poo…..and although she doesn’t know how long we will be driving today, she knows there will be pleasure at the end of it.  In one hour we will arrive at the place we will park for the next week or so.  When we arrive, we will step out of the truck and race to the clear cool lake only a minute from our parking place.  We are so grateful.  We are three lucky dogs.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Vegan Tzatziki Heaven

I have had too many balls in the air to blog lately.  But I am never too busy to prepare food and eat !
This is for all you Tzatziki fans who have had to live without it since you chose the vegan path....Your ship has come in!  This is as good as you remember the old dairy version!
(Tzatziki is traditionally a Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce...this vegan version creates a whole new tradition...compassionate Tzatziki)

 http://sweetandsaucy.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/cucumber_salad_w_sour_cream_and_dill_dressing.jpg
Makes about 3 1/2 cups. 
Ingredients:

-3 cups WHOLE SOY UNSWEETENED Yogurt (DO NOT try to substitute other non-dairy yogurts or any sweetened plain non-dairy yogurt.  Only Whole Soy is smooth enough and tasty enough and only unsweetened will work)
-Juice of one lemon (about 3 T)
-1 or 2garlic cloves, minced fine
-2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced (I do not seed or peel mine)
-About 1 T  salt for salting cucumbers if you choose to do that step
-2 T finely chopped fresh dill (can substitute mint leaves for a slightly different version)
-Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
 
I am including the traditional Greek steps here and then letting you know when I do it differently.  

You can peel the cucumbers (I don't), then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out seeds (I use the seeds). Discard seeds. (If you use the small seedless or European cucumbers with few seeds or you like seeds like I do, you can skip that step.) Slice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water (I don't do this step either :). Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel. 

Greek style: In food processor with steel blade, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend. (This resting time is very important.)
My version: Just slice or cube the cukes and put all the ingredients together.  

Chill.


This will keep for a few days or more in the refrigerator, but you will need to drain off any water and stir each time you use it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dove Inspiration




It all started this morning after my silent meditation.  I could hear the doves in the tree above me.  I remember bird’s songs by putting English words to what their songs sound like.  These doves were saying “I don’t know why”.  The  doves  in Arizona sang “My brother says…”  This morning I could also hear the difference in the individual birds.  Not every “I don’t know why” was the same.  It is so hard to think of another species as individuals.  Like any group that we are not familiar with…..another race, another religion, etc.  If we group them all together, it is easy to disregard them as a group and needlessly cause them suffering or kill them.  It has happened throughout history and continues today.  If Jews were seen as individuals rather than a group, the holocaust would not have happened.  If Africans had been seen as individuals rather than a group, they would not have been captured and sold into slavery.  If cows were seen as individuals, rather than a species that we are allowed to own, they would most likely not become property that we abuse and slaughter for food. 
For most people, not all, dogs and cats are our familiars.  We see them as distinct individuals and because of this, most people in this country would not eat them.
You can, more often than not, find people who are Dog Lovers and Cow Eaters, Horse Lovers and Pig Eaters, etc.  The animal lovers who actually just love the ones whom they have known as individuals or can see as individuals.  

We can easily disregard the lives of an entire species because we do not have experience or connection with an individual in that group.  And the opposite is also true:  If someone has a connected experience with an individual in a group they once disregarded, they can be changed forever. 
Think about a group of humans or non-humans that you have strong judgments about….maybe you even hate them.  Most likely you do not have a connection with an individual in that group. 
What I find surprising is that individual humans from groups that are typically oppressed as a group (because of race, sexual orientation, religion, etc) are often not open to learning about (and acting on) how their daily actions oppress others (especially other species).  Many people in typically oppressed groups do not want to hear anything about the well-being of other species we use for food, testing, entertainment, etc. 


I want to be seen as an individual.  We all do.  I do not want to be grouped together with all women, all humans, all Caucasians, all vegans, all animal rights activists, all environmentalists, all yoga practitioners, all people over 50, all RVers, all Jews, etc. I want to be seen and heard as the unique individual that I am.  All beings want this.  No one, not one being, wants to be disregarded, violently beaten or killed for no good reason.
Even the tiniest among us fights for his life.  Try to swat a fly to demonstrate this for yourself.  He will try to escape.

We all seek LIFE. 

How would our lives be different if we looked at a group of birds or cows or sheep or pigs and saw individuals rather than a species?  How would our lives be different if we looked at any group of people and saw individuals, rather than the group?


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Old Primate Super Healing!


We are Northeast of Payson AZ in the Tonto National Forest.  Parked here in a spot for the night that only has the sound of the wind in the trees.  We get to an area and clean up any trash left by other folks camping there.  Most of what we find is shotgun shells, fast food containers, cigarette packs and beer cans and broken beer bottles.  I think humans should have to carry waste bags for each other like we have to do for our dog companions in lots of places. 

Yesterday we hiked into a huge gorge in the Superstitions.  It was a no trail bushwacking hike where we mostly followed a creekbed down and had to do some bouldering along the way.  The hike was fantastic.  Blooming cactus and birds that were mostly unknown to me (both the sounds and the appearance).  The familiar little hummingbirds were tooling around and one was especially interested in buzzing us while we were sitting up on a ridge half way down to the base of the gorge.  I watched her buzz around us and then go land in a cactus.  Finally she landed in the big cholla cactus and stayed there.  It was then I noticed that she was sitting on one of those magical little hummingbird nests..... about the size of a golf ball.

On our hike back up the gorge, we were pawing our way up a huge boulder when JC offered his hand at the end of my climb to pull me up the last bit.  I was doing this whole thing in my wet Chaco sandals and one of them slipped on the rock and sent me flying into the boulder with JC still holding my arm.  So, with my bloody foot and what I could tell was a torn muscle inside my upper thigh, I hobbled my way back to our camper.  I could not lift my leg up enough to walk up the small stairs to the camper or take off my shorts without extreme pain.  I said to JC, "This is going to heal really fast because I eat healthy plant-based foods."  And lately I have been eating VERY healthy foods.  It is all I have been attracted to eating.  Mostly organic greens and other veggies and organic fruits and nuts.  So yesterday was the big body slam that made me wonder if I would have to cancel my upcoming backpacking trip and day of rock climbing with my New Mexico buddies.  When I got back to the camper yesterday, I rubbed arnica into my entire leg and took arnica tablets and Bach Rescue Remedy.
This morning I woke up feeling like someone had slammed me with a baseball bat.  But by mid-morning today I was able to lift my leg about 6 inches higher than the day before and went on a hike.  And by this evening I was able to do the camper stairs!  I can feel this thing healing like time lapse photography!  Even the bloody gash across my toe is almost totally healed.
So I wonder.....is it the healthy food?  meditating twice a day?  Yoga every other day? Or is it my attitude that assumed I was going to heal really fast?  All I know is this:  I am incredibly grateful to be 55 years old (old for a primate), slamming into a boulder with all my weight and to be hiking the next day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RVegans Stole My Blog Time!

OK, it isn't just the RVegans Facebook page that is taking my time....But, who can blame me for wanting to hike and meditate and do yoga in the mountains rather than look at a computer screen? 
You can see some beautiful photos of where we are (a blooming desert next to the mountains) if you go to:                                                       
http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#!/pages/RVegans/196082600431252


Monday, April 4, 2011

This Flag is My Flag, This Flag is Your Flag


I figure it this way:  All suffering comes from stories.  There is not one stressful or painful incident that does not have at least one believed story behind it.
I learned much of this theory from Byron Katie (http://www.thework.com/index.php) years ago and the tools she taught me continue to help me let go of fear and stress.  They also help me in being more honest with myself and others.
We are still in our solar rv spot in Arizona.  As I have said before, this place is a very diverse mix of lifestyles.  Luckily it is mostly a live and let live place.  And, luckily, we are not parked right next to each other…..we have lots of elbow room and thousands of acres of mountain/desert.  People fly American flags or Canadian flags at their camper.  We fly an Earth flag.  I never thought of a flag as being offensive.  Certainly not one that represents our HOME (Earth).
Last week one of the folks here was telling me about a couple who were here a few years ago who had a Peace flag flying at their place.  Some people complained about the Peace flag and wanted them to take it down.  It didn’t happen.  I never thought of a Peace sign or Peace flag as being offensive. The Peace flag couple had drumming circles every evening and most of the people here loved those circles and would happily attend them.  (Must have been the people who weren’t offended by the Peace flag.)  I could not imagine any of the people I know here (or anywhere) complaining about a Peace flag.   

When I told one woman here that I used to be quite a little hippie, she told me to never say that.  I asked her why.  She said, “A hippie is a very bad thing, Rae.  A very bad thing.  Just say you are an earthy person.”  I never did quite get the reasoning behind it all.  I do know that people are afraid of certain labels.  I was doing a program at a church and I was carrying my stainless steel water bottle.  A man started going off at me…accusing me of being an “environmentalist”.  I said, “Aren’t you an environmentalist?”  “No!” he shouted.  I then asked him if he cared about living in a clean environment.  He answered “yes”.  “Well”, I said calmly, “in my definition, that would make you an environmentalist, too.”  He walked out of the program.
A few days after I heard about the Peace flag incident here, I asked some folks I was hanging out with if it was true.  Turns out it is not only true, but some people don’t even think that the Canadians here should be flying their flags.  Then everyone started talking about all these flag rules that I had never heard of:  “Never fly any flag higher than the American flag.  That is disrespectful.”  “If you fly a state flag you never fly it higher than the American flag.”  “When you are in the USA, you should never fly a flag from another country.”   Everyone had rules they knew about the American flag.  I asked the most vocal person what that meant to him when he said it was disrespectful.  “Rae, you have obviously never been in the military”, was his reply.    It is true, I have never been in the military.  That is no accident.

What I found interesting is that the same person who was the most adamant about respecting the flag eats living beings everyday.  Reminds me of Gary Yourofsky’s (http://www.adaptt.org/bio.html) talk where he says that if he burned a flag or a bible people would want to have him arrested…but if he burns up a pig or a goat, people will go get some beer and be ready to party.  Cloth and paper and ink compared to a living being.  Stories.
 
We all have so many stories about how things should be or shouldn’t be.  My story that people should not abuse or needlessly kill living beings can often cause me incredible suffering and stress because I think the world should be kinder than it is..not everyone believes my kindness story.  The story that flags should be respected seems to cause people suffering because not everyone shares their story.  The story that living beings are food causes suffering to the living beings who are raised/trucked/killed and the earth and the people who consume these products that cause disease. 
Some of the stories do not cause much suffering. My story that eating lots of organic fruits and veggies is the best path for me, does not cause me any suffering.  I feel great physically and emotionally.  But even this seemingly harmless story could cause suffering.  In fact, in the past, it caused great stress to my family members and friends who wished I would just “eat normal”.  Combine my vegan story with their story that eating “normal” meant eating the products from captive or dead living beings and there was a whole lot of suffering going on.  Or, just my story alone could cause suffering or stress.  What if I think that I must eat organic vegan food and I am in a place where none is available and I am hungry?
My "wierd" food...why can't I just eat normal?
I knew a woman in the Midwest who insisted that her children never consume ANYTHING but organic food.  She was stressed every time her kids went somewhere without her.  She could not control what other people fed her children.  She stormed into my house one time and screamed at me for quite a while….accusing me of feeding her children non-organic wholewheat pasta.  She was in the midst of shouting that she could not trust me anymore when I silently went to the kitchen, took the package out of the trash and showed her it was indeed organic pasta.  About 4 years after that incident, this woman died of cancer.  I cannot prove my theory on this, but I would say that stress was part of her health issues.  She left behind three great kids and a sweet husband.
If I observe my mind through the course of a day, I can identify story after story.  Some of the stories are pretty harmless.  Some of them are strong judgments about me or others.  When I let go of these stories I can feel myself breath deeper.  I can feel the absolute freedom of not being in what can often feel like a prison of stories.  If you let go of your stories, not everyone around you will be happy with you.  That is their stories to deal with.  It is none of your business.  You are being true to yourself.  They are being true to their stories.
Can you go through this blog and pick out all the stories that cause suffering or stress?  There are so many. 
I even get to let go of the story that people should not have stories!  Because the reality is, we all do.  Examining the stories is a lifelong process. 
Byron Katie often asks, “Who would you be without your story?” 
Who would you be?  Who would I be?
"What is your story about me?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No Time To Spare Raw Potluck Hit!

Raw Potluck Recipe Gets Ooohs and Aaahs Every Time!
People cannot get enough of it.  It is the Raw Not-Chips that surprise everyone!







Not-Chips and Guacamole

Make your favorite guacamole recipe.  

For those of you who need a recipe for the guacamole, here is a yummy one.  (I do not like pre-made quacamole you can get in tubs in the store. There is nothing like FRESH avocados.)

Ingredients:
  • 4 avocados
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon
  • juice of 1/2 small lime (do not substitute bottled lemon or lime juice!)
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
Preparation:
  1. Cut avocados in half, remove seed, then scoop out fruit into a medium bowl.
  2. Mash avocados with a large utensil until they are at a slightly creamy, but still rustic consistency
  3. Chop tomatoes into small cubes
  4. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lime juice and chopped cilantro to avocados and stir well
  5. Add more salt and pepper and cayenne to taste
Now that your guacamole is made....Slice fresh uncooked organic yams or sweet potatoes.  (You can use any of the mandoline style slicers or a knife and a steady hand.
I use the Benriner slicer and adjust it to the thickness I want my yam not-chips to be.)

(I prefer to leave the skins on the slices)

Slice your yams (or sweet potatoes) just thick enough to hold up to the quacamole dipping and arrange them around the guacamole.  That is it.  Do not cook the yams.  Do not slice them too far in advance because they will dry out.  Just before serving is best. Dipping these slices of raw yam into the guacamole is crunchy perfection.  




Slowing Down and Watching the Insects



Sometimes it is hard to see what we have in common with other humans and it's even more difficult to notice what we have in common with other species.


Last week while I was at Sasha Farm to speak at their annual banquet, I got to witness something that opened my heart up even further to the non-human animals.  I woke up in the morning and the 7 rescued cows outside the window were all watching the sky.  The clouds opened up a bit and there was a small patch of sun on a little hill in the distance.  They moved toward it in unison and when they arrived at the spot, they all laid down next to each other and tipped their faces toward the sun.  Seeking comfort and not wanting to suffer is something all beings have in common.  These are fellow mammals and even then, it is difficult for most people to make the changes necessary to not exploit them and cause them needless suffering.

We are still at our solar rv spot in Arizona.  Young calves have been branded and released to graze in the public land around us.  I have heard dozens of people express sadness at how forlorn these young calves seem and how little there is for them to eat (let alone drink) in this dry sparse desert.  The same people who are expressing this kind of compassion and concern are eating beef everyday.  One 16 year old Canadian boy said to me yesterday, "I could never be vegetarian, I love that Alberta beef too much."  The same boy practically melts at the sight of a cat or dog, he loves them so much.  When I asked if he loves that taste more than he loves animals, he said "I guess so." How can we slow our lives down enough to connect with each other and other species on a deeper level?  I am so busy that I have not taken the time to connect much with this boy.  That might make a difference.


A couple here in the park who dove fully into the vegan world about a month ago, shared something with me yesterday.  When we first met J and L, we told them we were vegan.  When we left their place, J said to L, "Well, we will never be friends with them, they think they are better than us."  The reality is that whenever people learn that someone doesn't drink or eat animals products, they assume that the person is self righteous.  How can we make it any clearer?  How can we let folks know that we don't care which human is better than another....we just want people to care enough about other species that they don't torture them for entertainment, food, clothing, product testing, etc.  We do not go around thinking we are better than anyone else.  We simply want to be a voice for those without a voice in society.  I know that if I am in a hurry, I may share my choices in a less mindful way.  I need to slow down more.  And I wonder if there was anything I really could have said that would have given them a different first impression.


When I simplify life and slow down enough to watch insects, I know I am doing something right in my life.  When I slow down,  I am a better communicator and I see more of what is around me.

This true slowing down doesn't happen often enough.  You may remember in another blog I talked about the dung beetle in Florida who created a backpack out of a dry leaf so he could carry more manure.  He piled the leaf high with manure and then dug himself under the leaf and trotted off. Brilliant.


A Sonoran Tiger Beetle fell into our water bucket outside the other day.  I didn't know if he was dead or not by the time I noticed him.  I gently scooped him up and placed him on a piece of dry wood.  Then I watched the most graceful drying off dance I have ever seen.  He tipped his head from right to left slowly and dried himself with one arm and then the other.  He gently stroked each of his wings.  I couldn't stop watching this amazing dance.  Even the smallest of the creatures around us wants to survive and does not want to suffer needlessly.  Eventually, after about 15 minutes of self pampering, he flew off.  I know, I know....I said I was too busy to connect with the Canadian boy, but I made time for the beetle.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Earthquakes.....Unrelated?

Well, after publishing that last posting, JC enlightened me a bit.
I have a live in climate change expert and didn't consult him!
Apparently, earthquakes are not part of the climate change we are experiencing. 
The quirky weather patterns are in a class of their own and earthquakes are apparently just
part of life on earth.

I will watch the comments to see if this is common knowledge. 

"I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!"





“I can’t believe it!”  “I don’t understand this.”  “It makes no sense.” 
These are the types of comments I heard all week while in the Midwest for my father's surgery.  While there, one of my folk’s best friends (relatively young woman) died of heart failure, my mother’s sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and Tokyo was slammed with a historical earthquake.  The day after my father’s surgery, I offered to make a (vegan) meal for him and some other relatives and the relatives chose to bring three types of meat rather than take a chance on what I was making.

Believe it or not, all of the scenarios above are connected.
They are linked by our choices as humans and the consequences of these choices. 
Tokyo’s earthquake does make sense when you see it through the lens of cause and effect. The regularity of unusual and extreme weather is the kind of climate change we have been warned about for many years.  Climate change is not just happening to us, we are creating it. 
The diseases that are plaguing humans are, in most cases, not just happening to them.  Our culture and individual choices have created many of them. 


The choices we made and are making are showing up as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and other “epidemics”.  Our choices have brought us to the point where pharmaceuticals companies are happily marketing  to people of all ages.  Most people are choosing to take pills rather than make lifestyle changes.
The majority of people dealing with health issues, from diabetes to heart disease, cancer and strokes are, in most cases, dealing with preventable diseases.   While it is true that some people are predisposed to certain diseases, they can choose a healthy lifestyle that will increase their chances of beating the odds.  We are not trained from a young age to take responsibility for our own health. 

Animal agriculture is the number one contributor to human induced global warming.   When we make choices that contribute to our declining health or the destruction of our once healthy environment, most people hope that some expert will come along and save the day…clean up the mess that we have created.  Most people do not decide that they will look at their part in the situation and take responsibility.

In response to major environmental or health crisis , when I hear the comment “I can’t believe it!”  I think, “I totally believe it.” When I hear “It makes no sense”, I think, “It makes total sense.” 
What does not make sense to me are the times when we have the information to choose differently and do not do it. 

We humans have a hard time taking responsibility for what we have created.  One of the most mature responses to a conflict between you and another person is to admit your part in the situation and do things differently at the next opportunity.  The same is true when it comes to our response to the current environmental crisis or a personal health crisis.  The most mature response would be to admit our part and do things differently...whenever possible....beginning NOW. 

Here at our solar rv park, there are people who are starting to take responsibility for their own health by learning about healthy plant-based nutrition.  We taught a well-attended Vegan 101 class here yesterday. 

I want to be sympathetic and caring with those around me who are dealing with health issues.  And I have to admit that it is not always easy when I am standing face to face with a neighbor who recently had a stroke and he is grilling cheeseburgers or another neighbor who has heart disease but says to me: "I could never give up meat."

And, JC and I continue, as we have done for decades now. We share the information with those who are open minded and open hearted enough to hear it……we plant the seeds and hope that they find fertile ground to grow in. 

May we all find the strength to care for ourselves and the compassion to care for the earth and all life.