Holistic Holiday At Sea- Review

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Wow!  I haven’t blogged in such a long time that the entire WordPress layout looks different.  Well okay, I will figure it out as I go.

David and I just returned from a week vacation called the Holistic Holiday at Sea.  I don’t remember how we learned about this cruise but I’m sure it had something to do with finding a vacation where we didn’t have to cook for ourselves or scramble around searching for vegan food.  Here is a description of the cruise from the HHS website:

“Holistic Holiday at Sea™ is a body pampering, relaxing, and educational vacation aboard the new MSC Divina, one of the world’s most luxurious ocean liners. A perfect combination of luxury, fitness, knowledge and entertainment, our 7-day holistic cruise stops at exotic ports of call and offers a wide variety of lectures, workshops, and private consultations by leading authorities in the fields of alternative health and holistic healing. All this while dining on specially prepared natural foods, swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, and lounging in saunas and Turkish baths.”

Sounds pretty great right? To be more specific about the “knowledge” portion of this, the featured speakers included Dr. Neal Barnard, T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Michael Klaper and many others. If you are not familiar with these names, these are the rock stars of plant-based nutrition–the folks who write the books, stand up in the face of traditional western medicine and research and declare that the path to good health and disease prevention and reversal is NOT pills and surgery but a shift from the Standard American Diet to a whole foods, plant-based diet. The prospect of meeting and hearing these speakers was very exciting.

I had never been on a cruise before, and frankly I never had any desire to take one.  I’m not a big sea lover, and in general I like to keep my feet on the ground.  However, the promise of hearing and meeting people I so admired combined with the not-cooking-for-a-week thing was so compelling that I decided to give it a try.  Plus, we figured it would be exciting to be among 1300 other vegans where we could speak freely and share stories over dinner. We had very high hopes for this cruise, and some of our expectations were met and others were not.  Here’s what I thought:

First, let me dispense with my view on cruising.  Since I’d never been on a cruise before, I can’t say whether my lack of enthusiasm for this sort of vacation was specific to this cruise line or ship or what, but I simply don’t like being on a cruise ship.  With over 3000 people on the cruise (HHS cruisers were not the only ones on the ship), the only time I liked being on the ship was when everyone got off to visit the ports-of-call.   While we had pretty nice weather and calm seas there was a day or two where I felt like I was in one giant airplane, listing from side to side.  Not comfortable and no way out.   We did have a balcony room which we thoroughly enjoyed and the swaying that I hated during the day I kind of enjoyed when I went to sleep.  Plus the breezes and sound of the ocean were pretty great.

Our ship, the MSC Divina seemed to have all the bells and whistles.  We were not interested in any of it.  Just really not our thing. We were more about the lectures, demonstrations, etc.  I guess there was some night life;  we were happily tucked away in our room by ten o’clock.   That being said, the service on the ship was awful.  From housekeeping to waitstaff it just wasn’t there.  And much, if not most of the service staff didn’t appear to speak English.  Not so easy to get that mini-bar restocked.

This ship stopped in St. Thomas (that gorgeous photo up top was the view from our room in port), San Juan, (Puerto Rico) and Nassau.  There were some lectures scheduled on port days but we chose to lace up our sneakers in St. Thomas and San Juan to get some outdoor exercise and explore.  San Juan was particularly lovely;  Nassau looked awful so we didn’t get off at all. We passed on excursions preferring to enjoy the ship and catch some sun when the decks were empty.  This actually worked pretty well and was relaxing.

So, in short, one cruise was enough for me.  If you like the experience of cruising, I imagine you would like this aspect of HHS well enough.

Next on to the food.  This was easily the most disappointing aspect of our trip, which is particularly unfortunate because it was one of our reasons for wanting to come on the cruise.  Admittedly we probably didn’t read this paragraph in the promotional materials well enough:

Meals will be non-dairy, vegan/natural cuisine and organic when possible. Desserts will be sugar and dairy-free and prepared by our own pastry chefs. Macrobiotic quality, organic/naturally fermented condiments such as miso, shoyu, umeboshi, and sun-dried sea salt will be used exclusively. Non-dairy and sugar-free beverages will be served.”

 

Apparently the HHS was originally a “macrobiotic” not a “vegan” cruise, but over the years the fastest growing segment of travelers has been whole foods, plant-based cruisers. While there is significant overlap in these cuisines and approaches they are not the same. I know very little about Macrobiotics and you can read about it here if you are interested in knowing more. My comments are in no way a critique of Macrobiotics but rather my simple assessment of the food on the cruise. In short, the food served in the dining room (several courses each meal) was pretty much rice or grain-based, brown or tan in color with an almost compete absence of fresh, bright vegetables or fruits. As a whole foods, plant-based person who “eats the rainbow” this was not going to work for me. After two days of this David and I discovered another buffet which had a salad bar, vegan pizza and lots of fresh fruit. We did not return to the dining room. To be fair, we were just as happy with the more casual, spacious buffet area, but we did lose out on dining with other like-minded people, although we saw plenty of HHS folks waiting for the vegan pizza.

I don’t know if the cruise organizers are married to the macrobiotic cuisine but it’s worth asking about if you think about going on this cruise.  Aside from feeling disappointed about the general quality of the food, I felt disappointed that the veg-curious folks on the cruise would associate that food with a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.  In fact,  I met as many veg-curious people as committed vegans, and none of the people I spoke to were enthusiastic about the macrobiotic food.  This felt like a huge lost opportunity to me, since many of these people who wanted to improve their health were not exposed to the glorious array of plant-based food available.  Most of us WFPB folks do not eat miso soup for breakfast.  Sigh.

OK, so now on to the good stuff.  The educational offerings on this cruise were truly superb.  I can only imagine the amount of work it takes to put a program of this magnitude together.  Each day there were numerous options at every time slot.  Here’s a look at one day’s offerings:

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We took full advantage of the lectures and each featured speaker offered many different talks.  David was actually getting continuing education credits so our focus was on those options.  Not only were the lectures inspiring, informative and entertaining, but there was ample time for Q & A and one-on-one chats with the presenters who were open to getting feedback and fielding questions about personal issues.

It’s actually hard to put into words how inspiring it is to be among doctors and other healers who value health and wellness over the status quo.  These doctors exhibit courage and commitment that I believe is very rare.  David and I had both done a ton of reading and researched about these doctors so we knew there was much to admire in the way they have fought for a medical model based on whole food plant-based nutrition and lifestyle rather than pills and surgery.  Rather than go into detail about every single talk I thought I’d focus a few of the highlights for me:

  1.  Dr. Neal Barnard’s reversal of diabetes talk.  Yes, type 2 diabetes can be reversed, contrary to what most doctors will tell you.  It is not a life sentence.  By eating a WFPB diet it can happen very fast.  You can read more about this here.
  2. Dr Michael Klaper’s “From Operating Room Table to Dining Room Table”. Dr. Klaper spoke about his own evolution which included an awakening to the violence inherent in eating animals.  He has all the western medical credentials (in spades) and as he says over and over “it’s all about the FOOD”!  He’s a marvelous human being and you can check out his website here.
  3. Dr. Michael Klaper’s bone health talk.  No, dairy is not good for bone health.  Just the opposite in fact.  And Dr. Klaper gives a scathing review of the meds for osteoporosis.  I knew about this from David who sees his dental patients’ inability to heal after taking meds like Fosamax.  It’s all about the diet and weight-bearing exercise.  If you’re still eating”dairy for calcium” I urge you to read further about this on his website or others.
  4. Dr. Thomas Campbell’s talk about his journey from co-author of the China Study to conventionally trained western doc. This was particularly interesting because Dr. Campbell went to medical school after spending four years working with his father writing The China Study.  He gives a first hand view of how difficult it is to bridge the divide between lifestyle medicine and our current system of treating symptoms with drugs and surgery.
  5. Recovery Panel.  A group of 12 people who healed their late stage disease (heart disease, cancer, auto-immune) by changing their diets shared their stories of recovery.  It can be done but it won’t happen using the current medical model.  I wish more people would consider nutrition.  Our bodies are designed to heal us if we nourish them well.

Pretty impressive, don’t you think?  The HHS folks also had a pop-up bookstore on the ship which enabled people to get the resources they need to learn even more.

So, in sum, our trip was a marvelous and inspiring educational experience.  A great number of people signed up for next year’s cruise already, but as I said, for me once was enough.  Interestingly, at one dinner we spoke with a couple who had been to Dr. John McDougall’s travel adventures.  These include trips to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Alaska.  I have my sights set on Costa Rica where we can hike in the rain forest, sit on the beach and eat bright, vibrant vegan food.  Oh, and Dr. McDougall might have a few interesting things to share as well ;).

Want to join us?  You can read about it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Veganuary”-Calling All Volunteers!

I wrote this a year ago, and my offer to provide information and support to anyone who wants to go vegan for the month of January is still open. What have you got to lose, except maybe a few pounds and a nagging feeling that your actions may not be in line with your values?! Why not make 2016 a year that is truly something special…

third act evolution

One of my favorite blogs these days is called “The Friendly Fig”.  It’s a veg-friendly site written by two young women who blog about vegan and vegetarian lifestyle issues.  While I get my recipes from other trusty “foodie” resources I enjoy their blog because they research and provide good information about cosmetics, travel and other “being in the world as a vegan” topics.  You can check out their site here.

Today, The Friendly Fig gals are promoting a new Vegan Magazine called Vegan Life and they will be on the magazine’s blogging team.  I will, of course, be subscribing.  What specifically caught my eye though was this:img_8268

Of course I was drawn in by this wonderful photo montage, but more to the point, “Veganuary” is an initiative that involves asking others to be vegan for the month of January.  Clearly there’s an attempt here to get on the “resolutions”…

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Grateful for Wellingtons

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I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.   We had a wonderful holiday.   We hosted a gathering of family, old friends, new friends and one family we had never met before–18 in all.   At our dinner there were vegans and non-vegans, and while we talked some about veganism, we ate, drank and connected around all sorts of topics.   All of our guests contributed to the Thanksgiving meal, and it was a real feast.  I am most grateful for the spirit of openness that each person brought to our home.  It was very special.

So what’s with the Wellingtons?  I wasn’t actually going to write a blog post about the Wellingtons because most people in my inner circle are probably sick to death of hearing about them.  But I decided to share about them as sort of a public service announcement to vegan Thanksgiving hosts everywhere.

Here’s the thing–when David and I decided to host a vegan Thanksgiving this year I knew that while I would certainly not miss having a dead bird on my table, I still wanted a “centerpiece” dish that would elicit the oohs and aahs usually reserved for the bird.  I like to think that I could fully enjoy the spirit of the holiday while eating just about anything, but I really wanted a dish would conjure pre-vegan Thanksgiving meals.  I don’t usually get too caught up in that kind of thing but this time I did .  Maybe it was because not everyone at the gathering was vegan. I wanted the meal to be full of traditional Thanksgiving flavors rather than “nouvelle vegan” (is that even a thing?).

As I thought about this, I remembered that my friends, Sylvia and Myo at Main Street Vegan Academy had shown me photos of their 2014 Thanksgiving and they told me about the Wellingtons–sliced seitan, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, stuffing and kale all tucked inside  beautiful puff-pastry.  A centerpiece dish for sure!  I remembered that they bought their Wellingtons frozen from Native Foods Cafe, a vegan chain located mostly on the west coast.  Unfortunately there’s no Native Foods Cafe in Arizona and they don’t ship to individuals.  Undaunted, we looked at our options.  Luckily there is a Native Foods Cafe in Palm Springs where my in-laws live so we decided to pay them a visit and pick up our Wellingtons there.  We hauled our four frozen Wellingtons and four containers of mushroom shallot gravy back to Arizona in an ice-packed cooler.

While procuring the Wellingtons took some doing, preparing them did not.  One hour in the oven and voila, the golden brown Wellingtons you see above were done. This freed me up to focus on side dishes–some I made, some I bought and some I asked others to bring.  Here’s the spread…

Cornbread stuffing from Whole Foods.  Surprisingly authentic (you know, too much salt) and delicious:

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Mac N Cheese from The Simple Veganista (always a hit):

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Freshly baked dinner rolls from Minimalist Baker (thanks Denise and George):

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Shaved brussels sprouts with nuts and cranberries and green bean/artichoke/mushroom casserole with vegan parmigiana.  A very tasty new find.  (Thanks Julia and Jeff)DSCN3192

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Mixed green salad with lemon tahini dressing (thanks Denise and George)and chopped kale salad from Oh She Glows:

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We also had mashed potatoes (think there was enough starch?) and a lovely quinoa and veggie salad (thanks Bob and Lana) but I didn’t get pictures of them.  I had completely forgotten to take pictures and found myself clicking away last minute as hungry guests were lining up at the buffet.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of dessert either–pumpkin pie, cranberry pumpkin oatmeal cookies, peanut butter chocolate cups and apple crisp.  YUM.

We  had a real Thanksgiving feast.  And the Wellingtons?  Divine.  They did not disappoint.  Maybe most people wouldn’t drive out of state to pick up their main dish but I’m so glad we did.  We had a nice visit with David’s folks in Palm Springs and we got to treat our guests to something special.

I believe a new tradition has begun.

 

 

Revisiting Esther

My daughter’s take on compassion and empathy. The messages here apply to human and non-human animals alike.

Just the One Anne

This year, maybe for the first time ever, I attended all of the High Holiday services, singing in the choir at a synagogue in the northern suburbs of Chicago. On Yom Kippur morning, the rabbi’s sermon was about how the Torah is actually a blueprint for how to live a happy Jewish life, if you’re reading carefully; the thing that stuck with me was his emphasis on making time for study, reading and reflection. A week later, at the church where I am a section leader in downtown Chicago, the scripture reading was from the book of Esther. I found myself listening to the reading and the sermon and realizing that actually, I didn’t remember much about the book of Esther. A friend at church described the reading as “the one where they hang some guy at the end.”

…do they really? Where had I been? Had I ever actually…

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On the giving of names

Beautifully stated and thought-provoking. Thank you.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Firstly, my apologies for hitting the ‘publish’ button before this post was ready and for any confusion this may have caused.

1000764_546600108729933_625046711_nToday, yet again, social media resounds with vilification of an individual who quite unashamedly killed a fellow sentient individual named Cecil. There was a time when I could never even have imagined the howls of indignation and outrage, the cursing, the contempt that such an event would precipitate. I had no idea that there was so much hate in the world. But there is. And in a culture such as ours, underpinned by inflicting violence and death on the vulnerable and helpless while we delude ourselves that we’re kind and caring, I suppose it’s hardly surprising.

I’ll get something out of the way here. I despise what this individual did. But then I despise ALL killing of those of other species for pleasure, ALL unnecessary killing. Which means that I also…

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Travel Like a (Vegan) Boss

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Greetings from Glacier National Park!

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that David and I did this exact trip a year ago, and it was so fantastic that we decided to go back for two weeks this year.  We arrived yesterday after over two full days of driving.  It felt great to get out and hike this morning, and breathtaking Avalanche Lake was our first stop.  Everything feels the same, but different.  First of all, the weather is hot, hot!  Last year we did some hiking in the snow.  This Tucson girl prefers the heat!

The biggest difference from last year to this year though is that this year we are vegans.  And as all of my vegan pals know, that can complicate things unless you plan, plan, plan!  So that’s just what we did.  From the drive to get up here to hanging out at the park to finding reasonably accommodating restaurants we are on it and I’m convinced that this will be a smashing trip.  Here’s how we’ve done it so far…

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Our general plan for driving up here was to do a short leg from Tucson to Flagstaff on Thursday night (about four hours), stay over in Flagstaff, then continue on to Park City, Utah on Friday.   Since we did this trip last year, we knew that between cities we would be treated to spectacular scenery and absolutely nothing healthy or vegan to eat.  So we took a little cooler with some cold packs for all the perishables (Trader Joe’s vegan wraps, hummus, veggies, peanut butter) and tossed the rest of the nosh in shopping bags in the back seat.  The Boy Scouts have nothing on us as you can see from our pile of provisions!  BE PREPARED!

Along with bringing our own eats, we checked out Happycow.net to see where we might be able to grab a vegan bite in Flagstaff and/or Park City.  We found a funky-looking place for breakfast in Flagstaff called the Whyld Ass Cafe (really!), and according to the info the place opened at 5:30am.  So we took a few extra minutes to find this place hoping we could get a muffin and coffee and be on our way.  I like to frequent as many vegan restaurants as I can so they stay in business. Unfortunately, when we found the place it looked closed (like for good).  Not sure if that’s the case, but there was no sign of life there.  So, we found the nearest Starbucks, got some soy lattes and made some peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast.  No problem for us but a good reminder that while Happycow is a good resource, it’s not perfect.  For me a little bag of Starbucks almonds was not going to cut it.  I was glad to have my provisions.

En route to Park City, we stopped at a highway convenience place and munched on our Trader Joe wraps in the Burger King.  I was dying to find some picnic tables or anywhere else to enjoy our lunch, but the options were non-existent.  The whole scene there was pretty depressing and an acute reminder of how important it is that we spread the word about the health benefits of plant-based eating.  At least we were able to eat our own healthy and satisfying food.  By the way, if you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s vegan wraps, you’re missing out.  There’s a great selection (falafel, unchicken, lentil and veggie) and they travel well.  These are our go-to sandwiches for travel of any kind.  Convenient, tasty and filling.

Once in Park City, we unloaded our little cooler and put everything in the hotel room fridge overnight.  This Best Western happened to have a larger than average mini-fridge with a freezer area for refreezing our cold packs.  I hadn’t asked about this in advance, but in the future I will.  It made a big difference to be able to put all our stuff in a refrigerator overnight and those teeny tiny ones don’t fit much.  In Park City, we found a place (also on Happycow) that had a decent selection of vegan options.  It was right on the main drag, and it’s called 501 Main:

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We learned a lot here, particularly that the vegan food you request might not actually be vegan.  Case in point:

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We treated ourselves to “vegan” onion slivers with our drinks.  As you can see, the chipotle dipping sauce looks a bit creamy.  We made it clear to the waiter that we wanted the vegan option.  He obviously had no idea what vegan actually is, because when David asked him what was in the sauce he said “buttermilk”.  Uh, no.  He replaced it with another fruity dressing which didn’t exactly go with fried onions.  Maybe that was the universe suggesting that I could do better than fried onions.

I ended up having vegan chili (mine is much better) and a salad (mine is much better), and David ordered one of their specials, a vegetable risotto in a potato crust (vegan option).  When the dish arrived David dug in and lifted up a fork full of stringy cheese.  Um, no again.  Apologies, apologies and the vegan version arrived:

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This was actually very tasty (Mine isn’t better because I’ve never made it!).  We enjoyed our time at 501 Main hanging at the bar and watching World Cup Soccer, but the food bit was a grind.  It was a reminder that we really need to be vigilant.

Day two of driving took us out of Utah, through Idaho and into Montana.  Lunch again was in a truck stop place, but this time we munched on homemade hummus, veggies and crackers in the McDonalds.  Interestingly, the McDonalds was pretty empty so we didn’t have to deal with as much of a sensory onslaught.  Everyone seemed to be eating at Subway.  No better, but at least we could chill in peace.

Many hours and lots of chips and mango slices later we arrived in Columbia Falls.  Because we are staying in a time-share community, we have a terrific one bedroom condo with a full kitchen and all of the amenities.  We’ve  always enjoyed vacationing this way, but it’s particularly helpful now that we’re vegan.  This area has no vegan restaurants, and while we can make our way through some Asian and pizza places our plan is to cook most meals ourselves.  So as soon as we got settled we ran out to the local supermarket for some staples.

We started the day today with a berry smoothie (we brought our Vitamix with us) and hit the trail.  In the afternoon we needed to go to Costco for some additional items, and we were thrilled to find a Natural Grocer across the street.  TOTAL SCORE!  If you don’t have Natural Grocer near you, it is a store of all organic products including produce.  The selection of vegan products is excellent.  I’m now certain that we will have all we need for these two weeks.

I’m sure that my desire to cook will eventually start to wane, and we will venture out into Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Kalispell to see what we can find in the local restaurants.  A few places look promising, and as we make our way through the local offerings I will report back on how we’re faring.   In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a whole lot more of this:

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and this:

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The Perfect Age To Go Vegan

It seems that I went vegan at exactly the right age.  That was 54, by the way.  Did you know there is a perfect age to go vegan?  Well, I didn’t either, but apparently there is.  I know this because I’ve been told by countless people who are older than me that they are too old to go vegan.  You know, folks in their 60s, 70’s and 80’s who are, by their own admission, too set in their ways to make such a significant change.  And I’ve also been told by many younger people that they want to have their fill of all life has to offer (you know, like I did for decades) before considering limiting themselves to a vegan lifestyle.  They believe they are too young to go vegan.

Clearly, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but I’ve heard these rationalizations and justifications plenty, even among people who claim to know about the suffering of the animals, the raping of the planet and the negative impact of an omnivorous diet on our health. And each time I am faced with comments like these I have thoughts and feelings of my own that in the moment I have trouble communicating.  So I thought I’d post some of these here.

“But I’m too old…”

This really saddens me, and I don’t say that in a condescending way.  I like to believe that with age comes wisdom and I see no wisdom in these words.  While I understand that change can feel overwhelming for many people, especially as they age, I believe this attitude is limiting.  It serves neither the individual nor society.

From a health perspective, switching to a vegan diet does not guarantee you will be forever free of disease or illness, but it is well known that a plant-based diet can vastly improve health, particularly if one is suffering from one of the “diseases of affluence” like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension or cancer.   Our system of healthcare in the United States is predicated on a medical model which usually results in treating symptoms rather than finding root causes, so it doesn’t surprise me when I hear of folks spending a great deal of their time going from doctor to doctor with the hope of feeling better.  The docs may or may not be of help, but ignoring the huge role that diet plays is missing a key aspect of health and wellness.  Doctors are oftentimes woefully uninformed about nutrition, which is seldom taught in medical school, yet we (and especially seniors) have been raised to believe that the doctors have all the answers.

A well-planned plant-based diet has no “side effects” yet so many older people with health issues are loathe to even consider making the change. I don’t get this.  To me, any successful intervention that limits engagement with our broken health care system is a slam dunk both for ourselves and our debt-ridden society.  Plus, there is something so empowering about taking control of our own health.  If you haven’t seen “Forks Over Knives”, and you are of the “I’m too old” mentality, I highly recommend it.  It just might change how you view change and aging.

Regarding the animals and environment, it baffles me how someone can learn about these atrocities and decide that they’re too old or set in their ways to lead by example and do something about it. Regarding going vegan, I’ve heard from some people that they couldn’t make much of an impact, so why bother.  While I can understand the sentiment given the enormity of the animal suffering and planet devastation,  I’ve seen these same folks engage in all sorts of other philanthropic, volunteer and community-based activities  trying to make a difference in some small yet important way.  Sadly, if we don’t address this problem, the rest of the problems will start to pale in comparison, and it’s likely that I and those who are older than me will be long gone.  But what of our children and grandchildren? They are the heirs to the hubris of previous generations (including mine) and I think it’s time we take responsibility. They are watching, and something we can all do today is stop contributing to the killing and destruction and start to clean up the messes we help create.  And it can be as simple as changing what we put on our plates. Gaining wisdom and sharing that wisdom is exactly what our world needs.  I don’t think we are ever too old to live more compassionately and with greater awareness and integrity.  In fact, I’d say that’s pretty much the point of it all.

But I’m too young…

I haven’t met one vegan who doesn’t wish that he or she had woken up and made the change long ago.  This is why it can be so difficult to speak with younger people who understand and are aware of the issues with factory farming, the environment and health.  I often hear some version of  “you got to have fun and eat whatever you wanted for 50+ years, so why do I, as a twenty-something or thirty-something, have to think about this?”  It’s as though a vegan lifestyle is synonymous with deprivation and limited opportunity.  A variation on this theme is the “I’ve got a life to make happen here;  I don’t have time for this”.  “This” in this case refers to all the perceived inconveniences of making a large lifestyle change while dealing with career building and social life and fitting in.  In some cases, I would say that the perception is the reality.  Going vegan can make aspects of our lives more difficult, especially at first. What is missing though is the understanding that “this” is really where the compassion is–where the heart is.   Loving animals and eating animals is not a comfortable thing.  Neither is repressing our sense of justice and fairness.  Compassionate living is peaceful living.

That being said, I actually understand these protestations. I really do.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a senior citizen with declining health but I do remember what it was like to be 20, 30 and 40.  I remember ignoring common sense and my own health.  I remember being very me-focused and then kid-focused.  I can’t in good conscience say that if I had become aware of the plight of the animals or water scarcity or the negative health impact of Jarlsberg cheese I would have changed a thing.  I like to think that I would have, but who knows.  But I would have liked to have known what life would have felt like for me and my children if it had been infused with honesty and the joy that comes from living my values from the very beginning.  I see my stepson, Jeff (a vegan) teaching his son about the dignity of all living things, and I know that this is the path forward for all of us.

What I also know, and what these young people can’t know, is just how good it feels to be vegan.   A vegan lifestyle is about abundance, not deprivation. To joyfully play with a companion animal knowing that dinner is not a different sentient being.  To put on clothes that no animal had to die or suffer for.  To look at our own children and know that we’re doing the very best we can to ensure that they and their children will have clean air to breath and clean water to drink.  This is what a vegan lifestyle is all about.  And no steak or pizza  can possibly top that.   In addition,  I firmly believe that when we open our hearts to the animals, we open our hearts to everything, including our own potential.  All the hamster-wheeling in the world won’t help us find what we’re meant to be doing in this world, but by knowing and living our own values the answers are likely to come.  And we’re never too young to get started with that.

Bey, Bey, Please Go Away!

I took a blogging break.  It wasn’t planned.  David and I did a bit of traveling to see family, and then Anne came to Tucson for a visit. After that I just wasn’t feeling inspired to blog.  Nothing like the incessant media hype/blather about Beyonce’s “vegan diet” and her new buff body, glowing skin and vegan business to get me back to my keyboard.

If you are not someone who googles “vegan news” daily like I do you might not know that not only has Beyonce lost weight on a “vegan” diet, but she and Jay Z have teamed up with their celebrity trainer, Marco Borges, to sell pre-packaged plant-based meals mail-order style.

I first heard about this enterprise when Victoria Moran had Marco Borges on her Main Street Vegan radio show.  I love this show, and if you’re interested in listening to interviews with important and inspiring voices in the vegan world this is a great place to hang out.  You can link to the site here.  When I listen to interviews, I usually peruse Victoria’s guests’ websites at the same time.  I’ve learned so much this way and been inspired by so many people working tirelessly for animals, the environment and our health.

During the interview with Borges, it was clear that he is about health, and I have no doubt that his passion for plant-based food and exercise helps people get healthier.  That’s a good thing.  I was, however, dismayed to read this blurb on the website for his mail-order food business:

Why Plant-Based? There are many reasons to go meat-free – whether it’s to help the environment, improve your health, or other reasons.

They were working very hard here to ignore the animals.  I suppose the animals are the vague “other reasons”.  This website (you can check it out for yourself here) uses the word “vegan” liberally. To me, the word vegan is first and foremost about not using any animal products.  And there is no distinction between the animals we eat, animals we wear and animals that perform for our amusement.  I have no idea what Marco Borges thinks, but if he wants to profit from positioning himself as a vegan I wouldn’t mind knowing where he stands on the animals.

As for Beyonce, it’s all an eye-roll for me.  In a recent statement to the New York Times, she emphatically states “it’s important that you know I am NOT a vegan”(article here).  Why is that so important? Perhaps she was getting tired of all the inquiries about her fur and leather habits.  Or perhaps she’s concerned about her brand and doesn’t want to be like the “people who live in Colorado and don’t use deodorant”.  Perpetuating rather than repudiating such a silly stereotype is a lost opportunity.  I found myself wondering for the umpteenth time what, if anything, these people stand for.

Oh, right, I guess it’s the money.

It’s good to be back!

Plant Pure Nation- Let’s Go!

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For too long, the people and organizations profiting from our poor health have controlled the information given to the public. Most people have no idea of the enormous control they have over their health. The only way to reach these people in an environment controlled by special interests is through a grassroots, bottom-up approach.

The above quote is taken from the Plant Pure Nation website.

I just donated to my first ever kickstarter campaign and I was proud to do it.  The amazing folks who created this documentary are looking for additional funding to expand their film’s release in the United States.   We’ve known for a long time that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the optimal choice for good health.  The movie, “Forks Over Knives” showed how a plant-based, whole foods diet can reverse heart disease and eliminate a host of  “lifestyle” diseases that are rampant in our society.  If you haven’t seen Forks Over Knives you can download it here.

If such compelling evidence exists, why haven’t we heard about it?  Such important information should be front page news and part of every discussion with health care providers.  Yet it is not.  Plant Pure Nation addresses this extremely important issue.

I agree that a “grassroots, bottom-up approach” is the only way to make significant change. Please go to the Plant Pure Nation  website, read about their mission and consider contributing to the kickstarter campaign.  You can link to it all here.

Let’s start raising awareness together.

One problem, one solution

This important post so articulately states how I feel about veganism. I wanted to do my part to share its message. It seems it’s not uncommon to “get it” in our 50’s…

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

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One problem or many?

It is not surprising that there is so much confusion in the ‘animal rights’ movement. It is all too easy to be misled into thinking that there are lots of different problems, and a range of different courses of action that an individual can take.  It is also all too easy to consider that these different actions are optional and vary in how ‘extreme’ they are.

Well surely there are lots of different problems…? After all, there’s anti fur campaigns, anti down and feather campaigns, anti hunting protests, a wide range of ‘welfare’ campaigns against factory farming practices, campaigns in favour of organic, free range animal farming, campaigns promoting CCTV in slaughterhouses, saving dolphins, anti bullfighting, anti eating dogs and cats, anti circus, anti zoo, anti poaching campaigns in support of elephants, rhinos, snow leopards… You name it – there’s a campaign and / or a protest. So…

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