Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vegan MoFo is coming!

Yesterday I discovered the campaign for world domination that is Vegan MoFo—or Vegan Month of Food, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. This is like triple the fun for me: veganism, food, and a built-in blog schedule! Whoooo!

Actually, this is Vegan MoFo III, but I didn’t know about I and II. What I do know is that I am psyched to blog about food (and booze, who are we kidding) in all its delicious vegan forms for all of October. Well, all of October’s weekdays, that is. Weekends are for sleeping. And new recipes. I’m even going to attempt to jump into the discussion on the PPK—I’ve resisted because I know what a giant addiction it will become, but hey, that’s where all the vegan goodness is going down.

Buckle up, because tomorrow Vegan MoFo is coming for you! You better be hungry!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


On Sunday, Red and I were walking downtown. I wasn’t paying much attention, but he stopped me and pointed to a spot on the concrete where the sidewalk and building met. There was a pigeon. She was just sitting, huddled close to the wall.

I crouched down to get a better look at her, and she didn’t move. Her eyes looked clear, but her plumage had seen better days. She didn’t look injured, so I figured that maybe she was sick or old and had settled down to die. Why else wouldn’t she hop away from a random human? I know that city pigeons are tame, but I could have probably touched this one. I wanted to, but I didn’t think she’d appreciate it very much. I talked softly to her for a few moments. Since there was nothing I could do, Red and I kept going.

On our way back a few minutes later, she was still there. This time, she acted like she was about to get up and walk, but thought better of it and settled down on the sidewalk again. I was afraid for her, out there on the pavement with no protection. I whispered to her again, then offered a blessing.

“Should we call someone?” I asked Red.

“Like who?”

“Ummm…a wildlife rehabilitator?” I guessed.

Red didn’t think they did pigeons, and we probably wouldn’t have much luck finding help on a Sunday night for a seemingly un-distressed bird. I admitted that he was probably right, and we couldn’t just scoop her up and take her home. What would we have done with her once we got there? And wouldn’t that stress her out even more?

I was so sad to leave her, afraid that someone cruel would come along and hurt her, or that a feral cat would chance upon this easy prey. My head tells me that most likely she was ready to die and simply settled down to wait. I know I can’t save them all, but that doesn’t make it easier.

Blessed be, little friend. Safe journey.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Vegan dog love.

One of things that’s pleasantly surprised me about this whole blogging thing is how welcoming and supportive fellow bloggers have been. The Internet is a whacked-out place, sort of like Vegas on acid. Truly, weirdness abounds. And yet, I have been greeted with delicious vegan love.

< /end sappiness>

Have you experienced the canine awesomeness that is It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life? No, you say? Why not? You don’t have a dog? Who cares? Bop on over there anyway. There is witty writing, tasty dog-treat recipes (that are suitable for humans!), rad giveaways, and dog pictures. What else could you want? (Duh, there are cat pictures too.) I’ve been following Emma’s and Rowan’s exploits for a short while, and they’ve inspired me to try and veganize my own sweet pooch. I don’t know if I have the energy to bake for them as much as their mom does, though!

I’ve also been lucky enough to win a handful of animal-rights buttons! Yay! I love buttons! I’ve already started adding them to my purse. I’d tack them onto my work bag, too, but that’s getting a hole in it, so I think I’ll have to switch to a new bag soon. Everyone likes buttons. They’re portable and don’t have the scary commitment factor of, say, bumper stickers. They’re an easy way to broadcast your message without being too in-your-face about it. Of course, in-your-face buttons can certainly be had, but these are cute without being militant. For real, three have puppies on them!

Huge thanks to Molly (and Emma and Rowan!) for providing such a needed resource…and place to look at goofy dog photos. As soon as Lucy’s vegan, look for her on It’s a Vegan Dog’s World!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ramble on.

This will probably be short and nonsensical, as I’m trying to memorize the text of my friends’ wedding ceremony. It’s hard to do this quietly at work, since I can’t read it out loud, so I’ll probably resort to typing or writing it out until I can get Red to practice with me. Ahhh, takes me back to high-school theater. Only, you know, I’ll be marrying two of my friends, not fumbling my way through A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’ve also been twitchy and jumpy lately. My skin itches, and I have a hard time concentrating. It will pass soon, but it sucks to be in the middle of it.

Politely declined a piece of strawberry shortcake for a coworker’s birthday. Not as hard as declining cake made especially for me, but no one seemed to mind.

I am loving Rescue Ink’s book. Kudos again to Jill for running the contest and for keeping up with this grassroots tattoo pledge movement thing we’ve started! So far, three coworkers have come up to me asking, “Was that you in the paper?” One has asked to borrow the book when I’m finished. She’s a cat person and has opted to not get a tattoo, but is more than willing to donate when Rescue Ink comes to town. Her favorite rescue is Best Friends out in Utah, where Red and I would love to go someday.

Red and I attended an information seminar hosted by B-More Dog, a newish non-profit that has a special love for pitbulls. We learned a lot of new things about dog body language and social skills. We’re also going to try target-training Lucy—getting her to touch a hand, toy, whatever. It’s a good way to get your dog’s attention, and a neat trick to show off. The more we work with her, the better prepared she’ll be for more formal training and (fingers crossed) her CGC test.

Sweet Lucy needs a tiny bit of surgery. (Sad panda.) For the past few weeks, she’s had a callousy, scab-like bump on her elbow, and it’s not going away. It doesn’t seem to hurt her, but she’s rubbed it raw a few times and it’s in a really awkward spot. Her vet recommended that it be removed, then biopsied just in case. Since the bump is still small, probably about a half-inch in diameter, it’s better (and cheaper) to remove it now, before it gets bigger and requires more stitches. Lucy is a good patient—twice last winter she cut her paw on buried glass in the backyard, and took the repairs and pills like a champ—but is not so good at convalescing. She wants to run and play like usual, not understanding that she has to stay quiet and rest. One day last winter, I gave her a doggie pain pill in the hopes that it would zonk her out, but it did not. So far, the only thing that does the trick is full anesthesia. So we’ll have a dopey dog for one day, then a frustrated, full-of-pent-up-energy dog for the next week or so. Oh, and she won’t be allowed to lie on hard surfaces, so our house will be carpeted with blankets and cushions like the aftermath of some skanky swinger party.

Thanks to this third medical incident, Red and I are seriously considering buying her insurance. She’s only two, and if she keeps this up, either she needs to get a job or we need to get insurance to cover some of the costs. Good thing Springsteen tickets sold out before we could get them.

Coming up: The conclusion of Red’s vegan challenge, our vegan-friendly wedding reception, and the end of Yoga Month.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rescue (Ink) me….

As the lolcats would say, “I has a big mouf?” Sometimes it gets me into trouble.

In this current instance, it hasn’t. Not yet, anyway. See, my gal Jill, the pet blogger over at our local rag (ahem, esteemed and historically significant paper of record), started a contest for the best idea to get the burly, animal-loving guys of Rescue Ink to make an appearance here in Baltimore. (Full disclosure: Turns out they were here several months ago to honor the police officer who tried to save Phoenix, a pitbull girl who had been doused in lighter fluid and set on fire. Their visit was very low-key, so most people didn’t know about it, including me.) I’ve wanted a tattoo of Lucy’s pawprint for a while, so I threw that out as my idea, inviting the guys to come to town for a tattoo date. I was hoping to win a copy of their book.

“Are you really getting a tattoo of Lucy's pawprint?” Jill asked. “You HAVE to send some pictures!” I was (and am) totally serious. Serious in a fun way, that is. If going under the needle to get my sweet girl’s paw etched into my skin will garner some publicity for Baltimore’s animal-cruelty problem, I’m there. I thought it was a good idea.

So, apparently, do Jill’s other readers. Someone else offered to get inked as well. Then someone else. Over the last three days, more than 80 animal lovers have pledged to get pawprint tattoos if (when!) Rescue Ink makes an appearance in our fair(ish) city. At this, I was floored, as I imagine Jill was as she tried to keep track of the tattoo promises pouring in. I nearly passed out when she told me she was doing an actual story (with ink! on paper!) about the tattoo pledges. She called me, I tried to sound coherent as I gave her a quote, and voila, there it is on the back page of today’s Movies (?!) section. Read it!

We’re starting something here! The energy is palpable, even through the wires and tubes and magic and whatever else makes the Internet work. I’m sure Rescue Ink is busy, what with their show premiering tonight and cluing us in on their animal-rescuing, abuser-scaring adventures, but I have a tiny inkling that we might be able to pull it off. I’m thrilled I won the book (thanks, Jill!) and I want to do what I can to make sure the guys get here to autograph it personally, but it goes deeper than that. This is about my Lucy, who was thisclose to being thrown into a fighting pit and/or forced to have puppies until she could no longer walk. It’s about Phoenix, whose picture is taped to my computer and moves me to tears. It’s about the feral cats I fed last fall and winter, and the dog who trotted past us one morning but disappeared before I could grab him. The guys of Rescue Ink know what so many need to learn: that it takes real strength to show kindness and mercy to beings that are weaker than you, and to fight for their protection.

Read, watch, and repeat. And get inked, if you dare!

Photo of Phoenix courtesy of The Sun.

When vegans attack: domestic edition.

My filter failed again last night when Red told me he wasn’t going to continue to be vegan once his challenge ends on Tuesday. “You’re not?” I asked. He said (and he says it better than I can here) that he’s gonna give the vegetarian gig a shot. Now, this is a huge change from his current omni diet, and I should have been dancing on tables and covering him with kisses in my excitement. But, for whatever sorry-ass reason, all I could see was (what I perceived to be) his rejection of veganism as a lifestyle. Never mind that I too was once a loud-and-proud vegetarian, who slurped ice cream and flipped omelets and regularly deployed my friend Jess’ method for making the perfect grilled-cheese sandwich. No. I, in my myopia, was sad that three weeks of veganism had failed to convince my husband to quit animal products cold tofu.

Do you see how moronic I was being? Do you? LAME, Burnout, very lame. Y’all, what is wrong with me that I tear up over pictures of baby cows but then try to engage my husband in a philosophical argument about the supreme logic of veganism when he’s already made the major decision to go vegetarian? Vegetarians, I’m sorry. I try not to let the holier-than-thou gremlin out of her cage too often, but I was weak last night, and not as compassionate as I wanted to be. There are lots of differences between Red and me in the ways we experience food, and I failed to put myself in his place when I was huffing in frustration about how eating eggs and dairy still dooms animals to slaughter. He’s doing the best he can, and has made huge strides. I’ve told him that I don’t want him to do any of this for me, that if he does he’ll only end up resentful and hungry. He has to make these changes on his own schedule. I’m proud of him, but I sure did a shitty job of showing it last night.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Please don’t feed me that.

Warning: ungrateful wretch on the loose. If you’re not into behavioral inconsistencies and awkward social situations, hie thee to a nunnery. Or someplace cooler, like Vegan Feminist Agitator.

I love everyone who has ever offered me a tempting, lovingly made dessert. It’s always desserts, too, which is the hell of it. No one ever offers me something ultra-foul like liver and onions. But, y’all, I’m stuck between animal products and a hard place here. I love desserts, and I want to please you by enjoying the dessert you made for me. But I really don’t want to eat it if it’s made with eggs or butter.

I know this completely contradicts last week’s birthday cake rant. So? I took no vow of consistency. I’m sure I will continue to struggle with this until 1) everyone in the world becomes vegan, or 2) I magically develop the willpower to say no to dessert, no matter who made it. If, on my next birthday, my mom has not disowned me for my brattiness, I can assure you that, as I’ve been doing, I will eat a piece of whatever non-vegan dessert she makes for me. Unless, of course, she makes it vegan. Then, I will eat many pieces, and buy her a bottle of vegan wine for being the best mom on Earth.

I did it again yesterday. I was at a coffee shop with a friend, happy that they had soymilk for my coffee. “You want dessert?” she asked as she paid. I didn’t. “Well, I got a big cookie for us to share.” Sigh. It was a molasses cookie, soft and chewy with sprinkles of sugar on top. I felt trapped, and guilty for feeling that way. She bought the cookie to share with me! She paid for my coffee! So I nibbled about a quarter of it (and she wasn’t kidding—it was a big cookie). I tried to get her to eat the last quarter, but she pushed it back to me, urging me to finish it. So I ate the rest, rather than throw it away. I think that unconsciously, I figured it would look ungrateful to throw it away, too, so better to just eat the damn thing and flay myself later.

The flaying, as you see, has commenced.

I engage in all sorts of psychological gymnastics in order to eat that cookie or piece of cake or whatever. But she made it for me. It’s only one cookie. It’s not like I put eggs in it. They already think I’m weird. It’s a party. I don’t want to seem snobby or ungrateful. As Marla from Vegan Feminist Agitator pointed out, it’s rationalizations like these, good-intentioned though they are, that keep me complicit in my own uncomfortable situations. I need to commit to this as strongly as I’ve committed to other, more visible aspects of my vegan lifestyle. I need to not worry so much about offending people. Unequivocally refusing meat while tacitly accepting baked goods made with animal products only serves to reinforce the idea that eating eggs and dairy is somehow “not as bad” as eating the bodies of chickens and cows. And as we all know, that’s a damn lie. Cake just looks better, that’s all.

I think I’m making baby steps. I have a delicious-looking loaf of raisin challah bread, given as a wedding present, sitting in my freezer. “You can practically smell the eggs,” my friend Jess remarked as I scrutinized the bread, wondering what to do with it. Ordinarily, Red and I probably would have just eaten it, but we had too many wedding desserts left over, and with Red doing PCRM’s vegan kickstart, we had to lay the smack down and consign it to the freezer. Anybody want? I’ll throw in a loaf of (frozen, vegan) zucchini bread to sweeten the deal.

Photos of sinfully delicious vegan Mocha Midnight Madness Cake (top) and Coconut Cream Pie (bottom) from Brunie's Bakery. The awesomeness of Brunie's desserts cannot be overestimated.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sweet Jasmine, loved forever.

I’m typing through tears as my heart breaks over the loss of Sweet Jasmine. She wasn’t my pup, but she lived with one of the founders of Recycled Love, the rescue that brought us together with Lucy. Jasmine was a Vick dog, so terrified and scarred she had to be carried outside to pee. It’s hard to overstate how traumatized she was after her rescue, so please read this Sports Illustrated article. Jasmine’s their cover dog. You’ll understand.

Sweet, sweet girl. She and her family lived not too far from us, and I like to think we could have met her. I think Lucy may have been too rambunctious for Jasmine, who loved to snuggle with her human mom, Catalina. Still, I was happy knowing that Jasmine had a loving home, that one of my neighbors had opened her heart to one of Michael Vick’s misused, unloved dogs. In my city, so ravaged by dogfighting, Jasmine’s rehabilitation was a glimmer of hope. Jasmine was truly loved, and died suddenly last month after being hit by a car. That doesn’t make it easier. She was a young dog, and had many years of naps and treats and tummy rubs and rolls in the grass ahead of her.

Catalina, I’m sending much love to you and your family, human and canine. I can’t say or do anything to make it better, but I stand with you in your sadness. May your memories of Jasmine bring you joy, and may her legacy be one of love and compassion for all.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Puppy love.

Red and I are blessed to share our home with one of the most loving quadrupeds I’ve ever met: Lucy, the Wonder Pit. She came to us via Recycled Love, where she was being fostered by a coworker of mine. When we first met her, she bounced around excitedly, nosing my pocket for treats and tangling us up in her leash. That day, we knew she’d be ours. She was only a year old, but she had already made an incredible comeback from a nightmarish beginning.

Our sweet puppy was bred by a teenager who, ahem, sold pitbulls to his neighbors. I don’t know about you, but where we’re from, that means he was involved in dogfighting. After two of his dogs attacked a woman, the police agreed and Animal Control raided his house. One of the dogs had recently given birth, and one of her pups—tiny Lucy—had had her ears crudely cropped with kitchen shears. Seriously, that asshole kid just lopped her ears right off so that when he fought her, other dogs couldn’t grab hold of them. Because she was such a small, earless thing, the Recycled Love staff nicknamed her “Mouse.” Wee Lucy-Mouse quickly showed herself to be a resilient, happy dog, playing well with others (human and canine alike) and learning quickly. She thrived in her foster home, but no one seemed to want to adopt the black, earless pitbull.

Fortunately, as Lucy grew, her nubby little ears did too. Now, they are more like half-ears, though I still call her my Earless Wonder. Red and I do occasionally suffer bouts of ear envy when we meet pitties who have their ears intact—lovely, pointy ears that flop over just so. Lucy’s will never flop, but she loves to have them rubbed and scratched nonetheless.

Red and I talked long and hard about what it would mean to have a dog. I’d moved in less than a month before we adopted Lucy, and we were still making that transition. Plus, he’d never had a dog before. I warned him that there would be accidents. “Don’t get too attached to having a perfect carpet,” I said. True to my prediction, Lucy had an accident (two, actually) her first night with us. It was raining and she was afraid to go outside, and with all the excitement of moving to a new home, it was inevitable. Out came the paper towels and carpet cleaner.

For a while, it was like living with a little alien. “What are you?” I’d say to her during the long summer days she spent sprawled at my feet while I job-hunted. “How did you get here?” Even though my family had had dogs, everything Lucy did was endlessly fascinating because she was mine. In the mornings, I’d drink coffee and watch It’s Me or the Dog, hoping to pick up training tips. Later, we’d play marathon games of fetch—the Frisbee attempts didn’t go so well, since all she wanted to do was chew them to shreds. Lucy sailed through the first two levels of PetSmart’s obedience training, making friends and earning an honorable mention in their Halloween costume contest for her portrayal of Flavor Flav. At the same time, she also ran through the screen door in her excitement and destroyed books, pillows, and shoes if she was left alone.

She is not a fan of being crated. We tried—oh, how we tried. Her crate is large and comfortable, and we did our best to make it a safe place for her. And for a while, it worked. Then she decided that she was flat-out finished with it. She’ll go in there long enough to pull out the blankets and nest them on the floor. Now, Lucy has her own room, a development that makes me hang my head in shame. I don’t even have my own room! Lucy has a room with a luxurious futon, ceiling fan, windows, toys, and food and water. It’s doggie heaven. Yet, for a while, she even refused to go in there because she knew we’d be leaving if she did. I’ve been reduced almost to tears in frustration, trying to coax her into her room. Her nonviolent resistance could put Gandhi to shame. She had (and likely still has) classic separation anxiety, albeit at a manageable level. If she’s especially stressed, she won’t even eat the treats we give her when we close the door. Many a day I’ve come home to find her Kong, stuffed with almond butter, completely untouched. But as soon as she’s set free to overwhelm us with the sheer force of her joyous doggie love, she settles down and enjoys the treat she ignored all day. We’re home; all is well.

Red and I are committed to having Lucy be a true pitbull ambassador, a spokes-pittie who people can meet and realize that pitbulls are not killer monsters out to eat your babies. (Lucy likes babies, but only to sniff and kiss them.) She’s been featured on our newspaper’s pet blog (here and here), and we’re looking into furthering her training so that she can eventually become a therapy dog. “Aren’t you afraid to have a pitbull?” people ask, when they don’t simply look askance and cross the street. I can swear on whatever you want that I have never seen her display aggressive behavior towards another animal or person. “But she could bite,” they say. All dogs can bite. If a dog’s got teeth, she can bite. You have hands, so you could hit me. When Lucy plays too rough, we correct her. It’s what we promised to do, and we got a sweet, friendly pitbull for our trouble. “Be good—we bought you manners,” Red reminds her. When she gets into bed with us in the early mornings, it’s hard to remember what life was like without her. She’s a living example of what love and patience can accomplish. Good girl.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lost my tail again.

A wedding reception recap is coming, I promise. It really and truly is. But first, I must share this valuable lesson:

Never take a yoga class on game day.

I cannot stress this enough.

Let me back up. The reception on Saturday was wonderful, as you will learn when I can think clearly enough to write about it. Wonderful and exhausting. Afterwards, I dropped my friend Jess off at the airport, went home, and (I think) went more or less right to sleep. We may have made popcorn and watched an episode of Mad Men first. I have no idea.

By the way, I missed two days of yoga. To be fair, they were the days I sort of expected to not find time to practice, due to reception insanity. Friday, Jess and I split a bottle of wine after setting up a million tables and chairs, and I wisely decided against drunk yoga. Saturday—well, I just told you about Saturday.

On Sunday, Red and I woke up very late and slightly out of sorts from all the organizing and cleaning and family-wrangling and partying. We’d probably eaten too many vegan desserts, as well. I decided that a yoga class was the perfect thing to soothe my tired muscles and get my head back to normal. There was a community class (read: cheap) late that afternoon, and I looked forward to it all day. There was also a football game, but whatever. Traffic was fine, and I was feeling confident and peaceful.

Until the street was closed.

To be clear, I’m pretty sure that street is the only way to get to the neighborhood where the yoga studio is located. And it was closed. Because of football. Oh, I was livid. In my frustration, I misjudged which street to take next, and ended up back on the freeway. Cursing a blue streak (how yogic of me), I gauged that I had enough time to get off the freeway and try again. I did, and: FAIL. For all my efforts, there was no way into that corner of the city. It was completely walled in by asshole drivers, rabid football fans, and unsympathetic traffic cops.

I was so looking forward to class, too. I drove home, feeling like Eeyore. I told Red my tale of woe, then sulked a little. Had you been there, we probably would have had a conversation like this:

Me: I hate the fucking Ravens.
You: I can tell.
Me: I hope they lose.
You: Actually, they won.
Me: Go screw.

I tried to salvage my practice by doing a short online Yoga Journal core sequence, which fell sort of flat because I only had one block and needed two to do the arm balances. My abs were sore the next day, though, so it worked on that level.

Moral of the story: my city goes insane for football, and woe betide her who tries to pursue her own agenda on game day. Oh well, as least the Ravens didn’t sign Michael Vick.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yoga Month: Ninja Warrior edition.

I’m stunned: I’ve managed to practice yoga every day so far! I haven’t always been thrilled about it (oh, how my bed calls to me….), but I’m pleased to report that I have carved out small nuggets of yoga time from my ridiculously fractured schedule. And I think it has made a difference. I’m not calmer or anything, but I feel better knowing that I have a few minutes—maybe 10, maybe 40—of yoga to look forward to. For the most part, I’ve only been able to find time before bed. It’s funny to find myself yawning as I move through a slow Sun Salutation or try to balance in Tree Pose.

Some nights are better than others. Over the weekend, I tried a short restorative sequence that included a supported Shoulderstand with a chair. I don’t know about you, but trying to wedge a blanket under my shoulders while perching my butt on the edge of a folding chair and trying to angle my legs over its back was not restorative. Regular Shoulderstand is better.

Does this look relaxing to you? (eHow)

Another evening, I followed a TV sequence led by Sara Ivanhoe. The model (Sara? No clue) was silhouetted against the sunset, which was nice, except I couldn’t tell what she was doing. It might as well have been an audio practice! That was when I also learned that Half-Moon Pose is tougher than it looks. I ended up in a pile on the floor, wondering what had happened.

Tougher than it looks. (Yoga Journal)

Last night, I made another discovery. I was wiped out, but wanted to practice and dedicate it to a coworker who has just passed away. I never met him, but I was sad and the solemn energy around the office affected me. I tried what might be called mattress yoga—oh, that sounds dirty! Seriously, I sat in bed and went through Bound Angle Pose, Seated Forward Bend (love that nose-to-knee action!), a half-dozen rounds of Cat-Cow, Downward Dog, Child’s Pose, and Legs-Up-the-Wall. It would have been relaxing, had I thought through the logistics of mindfully dedicating my yoga practice while Ninja Warrior raged in the background.

It was totally not the husband’s fault. I was the one who decided to get my yoga on in bed, instead of the basement, which was just so far away. And when I could focus on my breath instead of the manic shrieks from the TV, I felt very centered. But I found myself peeking up from Child’s Pose to see what crackpot competitor had just faceplanted into the Lagoon of Death or fallen off the Log of Doom or whatever the hell else they do on Ninja Warrior. This then precipitated a discussion with Red about whether Ninja Warrior is actually popular in Japan, or if they just throw it together solely for export to the U.S. because we will watch anything. It was not conducive to prayers for the dead.

So, I learned something. Maybe there are people who can tune out any and all external distractions when they have to, and maybe one day I’ll be one of them. For now, though, my internal distractions are plenty, and when I practice, I need space and quiet. Namaste.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Letting my freak flag fly, version 2.0.

Oh my, I’m a grumpy burnout today. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna snap at you. Okay, I might. Sorry. But still, I’m mainlining Rob Zombie in the hopes that he will absorb some of my grouchiness.

So perhaps today is a good day to go all Vegan Freak on you. I haven’t read it, actually, because I’m waiting for the second edition to be released next month. But I’ve hung out on their website, and, if you’ll recall, I did want to comment on “Vegan Isn’t a Dirty Word.” Actually, when I posted that, I think I really meant this piece, but oh well. Read ‘em both anyway. I’m grateful for the badass work that Bob and Jenna Torres do, and I appreciate their no-bullshit approach. At the risk of sounding like Grumpy Intolerant Vegan Girl, I do sometimes wonder if my life would be easier if I had less patience with the dominant meat-centric culture. (A fallback title for this blog was, “No, I’m Not Eating That.”)

Bob makes the very excellent point that lots of people are hesitant to openly identify as vegan. I’m guilty of this myself, most often at restaurants. It was just so much easier to tell the server that I was vegetarian than to deal with the blank stare that “vegan” received. I still struggle sometimes in social situations like parties, when the choice is between eating something non-vegan (hello, pizza, mashed potatoes, and birthday cake!) or not eating at all. During dinner with Red’s family the other night, I went for the mashed potatoes, which almost certainly were dairy-fied. Had I been with a different crowd, I probably could have had a couple glasses of wine and called it dinner, but that was sadly not an option as his is a family of teetotalers.

[Full disclosure: when my mom makes me a birthday cake, I eat it. No, it’s not vegan, and no, I don’t feel guilty. When your mom bakes you a cake, you eat it and enjoy it. ]

I’m more comfortable with owning my veganism now, but it took me a couple years to get here. “Vegetarian” and “veggie” are safe, non-confrontational terms. To many people, “vegan” is synonymous with, “I’m here for your hamburger, motherfucker.” Which I am not. I would rather not touch your nasty-ass hamburger, thankyouverymuch, and I wish you wouldn’t touch it either because I know what it’s doing to your gut right now and I know what the cow that became your burger went through. But that’s neither here nor there. I came to fly my freaky vegan flag proudly once I realized that it was more a lifestyle than a diet. Calling myself a vegetarian was fine, until I kept running into people who chirped brightly, “Oh, I’m a vegetarian too! I only eat fish!” These are not my people, I thought grimly. I needed to step my game up and dissociate myself from all the half-assed vegetarians who were doing nothing but confusing everyone. As Bob puts it:

To be totally clear before I dig in here, I’m not trying to offend anyone, or hurt anyone’s feelings. I used to be an ovo-lacto vegetarian myself, and I get where many of you are coming from. Yet, being nice to you simply for the sake of being nice accomplishes nothing except protecting you from coming to terms with a set of dietary practices that still exploit and kill billions of animals annually. In other words, if I don’t say what I think, I will feel like I’m complicit in your choices, and really, the times are just too dire not to say something. So, I’m going to just be blunt, and I hope that you’ll have the patience to deal with it, and think hard about it before you blow me off, because someone being blunt with me about my so-called “animal rights” ovo-lacto vegetarianism is what got me to go vegan. It sucked in the short term, because I had a few annoying days of trying to convince myself that the logic of veganism was unsound, but I assure you, it is not.
And that’s where I am now. So yeah, I’m a vegan who fucked up and ate some mashed potatoes made with milk. Life’s full of disappointment. I’m a vegan who ate some mashed potatoes, and I will surely end up eating non-vegan birthday cake one of these days. I wish I didn’t have to make those choices, but I do. Veganism is a way of life, and yes, that involves a moral imperative to avoid animal products. But no one’s perfect. By declaring my veganism, I’m locating myself within my commitment to ahimsa (nonviolence) as clearly as I can. I make mistakes, and I own those as well. I’m showing everyone I meet that vegans are not necessarily grungy, hostile, anarchic, reeking of patchouli, or whatever flavor-of-the-week pejorative you can come up with. So no, I’m not here for your hamburger. But I’m not going to sit here quietly while you eat it, either.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vegan Challenge: Day 1!

Okay, so I actually thought about calling it V-Day, but that just makes me think of Eve Ensler and The Vagina Monologues. Which is awesome, but not what I was going for. Either way, today begins Red’s 21-day vegan kickstart challenge. He had his last supper yesterday, and woke up this morning bright-eyed and ready to tackle three weeks of blissful veganism.

I jest.

Actually, we both woke up feeling like death on a Triscuit. Our hot water heater busted over the weekend, I had a hellacious allergy attack, and we’re still frantic about our reception. So we did not wake up bright-eyed about much of anything. Still, we woke up, which means we came out ahead.

I’ve been posting on PCRM’s kickstart forum, and I’m surprised at the number of people who are all, “I want to go vegan for my health, not for any political or lifestyle reasons,” or “I’m not planning to be a vegan convert.” Oh, you’re not? Then why are you participating in a vegan kickstart? Why are you here if we can’t suck your brains and initiate you into our tofu-worshipping cuuuulllttt?! I snark, but I did try to gently suggest that even though health is a major reason people begin considering a vegan diet, they tend to learn about animal rights and environmental sustainability along the way. After all, the personal is political. It’s another example of what Red calls “falling down the rabbit hole,” but in a positive way. Besides, if it was merely for my health, I’d find it a lot easier to fall off the veggie wagon.

That said, I do feel for the people with unsupportive, meat-gobbling family members. Maybe I’m just a bitch, but if I wanted to try going vegan and my husband didn’t, he’d either be 1) cooking for himself, or 2) hungry. But I know how stressful it can be to live with people who don’t understand your choices, so I’m empathetic and hope that they can find a way to make it work. Red, however, finds himself baffled by the dozens of vegetarians doing the program. He figures that they’ve already done the heavy lifting, so kicking dairy and eggs should be a piece of (vegan) cake. I understand their desire for a supportive community to help them remain accountable, but they do seem to have the omnis outnumbered. Hopefully there won’t be a vegetarian-omni kickball game.

Triscuits are vegan. Nom nom nom.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Canada to U.S.: Our healthcare rocks.

I admit, this has nothing to do with being vegan. I wanted to post it on Thursday, because I had a four-day weekend coming up, but I was lazy. Positively slothful, I was. But this video, from US Health Crisis, is so beautiful and honest, I started to cry. Everyone deserves a safety net, and it's obscene that our country hasn't yet seen fit to provide one. I was uninsured for about a year after being laid off—for about three months in the middle there, I had insurance through my temp firm, but it was so pathetic I might as well have been uninsured. Seriously, y'all, I maxed out my benefit limit (a whopping $200) with one vaccine. So for the past year, I've been counting pennies and pills, hoping I wouldn't get really sick or injured. I called in favors from friends who worked at doctors' offices, and I begged my doctor for prescription samples. I sprained the hell out of my ankle in November, so I iced it, wrapped it up, and hobbled around until it healed. It would have been nice to have the option to have it checked out, but I didn’t want to drop a couple hundred bucks to be told that 1) it was sprained, and 2) to stay off it as much as possible. “But what if it was broken?” someone asked me. “Oh well,” I said. If I came home late from yoga, I’d find Red all wound up, afraid I’d been in an accident and we’d have to sell the house to cover our bills.

When I landed my current job, which doesn’t provide insurance, I tried to buy a policy myself. You’d think this would be easy: have money, get coverage. Basic capitalism. But alas, I have any insurance company’s favorite disqualifier: a pre-existing condition. This can be anything from migraines to freakin’ cancer, and it was enough to get me rejected by several major insurance carriers faster than you can hit “Send.” Never mind that it doesn’t affect my productivity or quality of life, that as long as I have prescription benefits, it’s completely managed. No hospital stays or expensive treatments. One pill a day. Never mind that otherwise, I’m an insurance company’s dream: a young, healthy (vegan!) female nonsmoker who can afford to pay. The last time I got that soulless letter telling me I wasn’t eligible for coverage, I lost it and, in my frustration, told Red that we should just get married already.

Three months later, we did. Not because of the insurance. We got married because we wanted to, but we got married then because we were sick to death of fucking around to make sure I had the care I needed. Neither of us could see planning a wedding for a year or more in the future while I kept fighting the system, so we got our families together and got married on a beautiful Saturday morning. Red has excellent benefits, and my coverage kicked in the day we got married. This is a rare privilege afforded to far too few Americans, and I don’t take it lightly. It’s made me realize the hypocrisy of the current healthcare system, which is set up to shift responsibility and deny care rather than provide it. It’s brought home to me the bone-deep cruelty of refusing to allow certain couples to marry while encouraging their neighbors to throw extravagant, glitter-coated weddings.

It’s why I’m adamantly in support of reforming the U.S. healthcare system. When conservatives hiss about not wanting to pay for lazy people who can’t take care of themselves, I want to introduce myself and ask, “Like me? Employed, stable, healthy, and uninsured? What do you have to offer me? Because clearly, I’m nothing but a drain on your perfect system.” I’d gladly pay more taxes for the right—not the privilege—of universal healthcare. Because one day, I want to tell my child what it used to be like. And when she asks, “Mommy, what’s a co-pay?” I’ll hug her and cry, because she’ll never know the hollow feeling of rationing out pills, hoping to make it one more day.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

YAY! Japan’s dolphins live to swim another day.

If you haven’t yet heard about the annual dolphin roundup and slaughter in Taiji, Japan, The Cove will change all that. I haven’t seen it yet because it’s in limited release, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that a theater within an hour of here picks it up. Long story short: every year, a group of about 26 Japanese fishermen drives thousands of dolphins into a small cove—a cove located in a national park—penning them in with nets. Then, they kill them, saving a few to sell to aquariums and dolphin shows. (That’s big money, by the way, and the sale of those few dolphins bankrolls the entire slaughter.) Much of the dolphin meat, mislabeled and full of mercury, goes to Japan’s school lunch program. This is government-sanctioned killing, and the majority of Japanese people don’t even know about it.

Incredibly, a group of activist-filmmakers—including Ric O’Barry, who trained Flipper and later did a 180, becoming a staunch opponent of dolphinariums—filmed the 2007 slaughter using cameras disguised as rocks and equipment secretly planted underwater. Talk about guerrilla filmmaking. The Cove was well-received at Sundance, but the best part is this: this year’s dolphin slaughter was due to begin September 1st—and it hasn’t! For anyone who doubts the power of individuals to make a difference, I proudly present this. You have power: your decisions truly matter. If you don’t want dolphins enslaved, don’t visit dolphin shows. Tell people about this, and make them realize that actions on the other side of the world spoil the oceans that we all share. And if they refuse to believe you, show them this before-and-after shot of the cove:

Whether the dolphin hunt resumes remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful. The world is watching Japan, and The Cove has made it impossible to hide.

Photo by Sea Shepherd/SaveJapanDolphins, ripped from ecorazzi.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I think I can, I think I can....

Happy National Yoga Month! I didn’t even know that there was a month dedicated to yoga, but I’m happy to be enlightened. (Buddhist joke!) I have decided, literally three minutes ago, that I will make September a true celebration by getting my yoga on every day this month. Fortunately, I practiced at home last night, so I’m already off to a good start. I was pleased with myself: I was so angry and frustrated after my last post, and I knew I needed to do something with all that energy. (My Facebook status became, "Fuck, I need some yoga," which earned me a gentle but deserved admonition to watch my language.) So, rather than bitching or (worse) taking it out on Red, I retreated to the basement and rolled out my mat. After 30 or 40 minutes of Sun Salutations and restorative poses, I felt a million times better.

I could have chosen an easier month. We’ve got the reception next weekend, and one of my dear friends is flying in to spend a couple days with us. Free time is already at a ridiculous premium. But how is that any different from usual? There will always be conflicts and obstacles; it’s up to us to decide how we engage with them. Do we bulldoze them over, or work around them? I usually try the latter, which is why I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to manage 31 days of yoga.

Actually, this couldn’t have come at a better time: today, Eco Yogini declared her Personal Practice Adventure, her commitment to practicing at home at least one day a week. I realize now that framing a goal as a challenge galvanizes me. So often I flake out of doing yoga because I think it’s somehow more “authentic” to do it in a studio, where the lighting’s perfect, the music’s ethereal, and everything smells like a head shop. (Yeah, sometimes my house smells like that too.) This is a way for me to get back to what’s real, to focus on the process instead of the product that yoga is so often treated as.

I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’ll be practicing for an hour each night. Some days, I might have the time or energy for only a few Sun Salutations and a brief Savasana. Maybe all I’ll be able to do is hold Down Dog for a few minutes before bed. It’s the intention that I’m after, the awareness that I take my yoga with me wherever I go. Anything else is just icing.

I don't think I'll ever be able to do this one. Photo ripped from

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's wrong with eggs?

Feeling pretty aggro this evening, kids. I wanted to write about this while my blood was up, but I didn't. Maybe I was afraid of offending someone. Maybe you won't watch this. But if you do, I defy you to tell me that you think eggs are part of a humane diet.

That is what you're condoning if you eat eggs. Your money sends millions of male chicks into industrial grinders. It sends their sisters to brutally short lives, crammed into cages and laying more eggs than their bodies can handle until they too are sent to slaughter. Because, yeah, where do think laying hens go when they're "spent"? Hen retirement communities? Please. The whole disgusting web is interconnected. There's no such thing as a cruelty-free animal product.

I know it's hard to kick the egg habit. Even harder still is avoiding packaged foods made with eggs. But it can be done. I usually just skip to the bottom of the ingredients list, where the allergens are disclosed. If eggs are in there, they'll be listed right alongside nuts and dairy and wheat and whatever else. Vote with your money. If it's got eggs in it, just don't buy it. You'll live, I promise.

This afternoon I received my weekly email horoscope from Rob Brezsny. I recommend him and his book Pronoia. I'm a Cancer, and yes, I can be crabby. He says:
I have tuned in to your yearning for resolution, O Seeker. I know that your heart fervently wants the riddles to run their course, the mysteries to be revealed, the uncertainties to be quelled. And I have ransacked my imagination in search of what consolation I might provide to appease your quest for neat, simple truths. But what I have concluded, O In-Between One, is that any solutions I might try to offer you would not only be fake, but also counterproductive. What you actually need, I suspect, are not answers to your urgent questions, but rather, better questions; more precisely formulated questions; more ruthlessly honest questions. Dig deeper, please. Open wider. Think fatter.
I don't have answers, and I've learned that there are no simple truths. The world is not black and white: it's tie-dyed gray. But there's one thing I can do, and I'm doing it. I'm asking the ruthlessly honest questions. Why do you let these atrocities be carried out in your name? What would you give for a world without cruelty? How far are you willing to go?

I like it raw.

Last night marked my first attempt at a raw meal. Well, that’s not technically true, because uncooked fruit and veggies are raw. Salads are raw, except if you add canned beans or something, I suppose. I digress. Last night I cowboyed up and tried something that weirded me out: raw pasta.

Raw pasta sounds pretty awful. When I was a kid, every time my mom made spaghetti I would grab a stick of uncooked pasta and nibble it little by little. I have no desire to do this now, but that’s what I think of when I hear “raw pasta.” Yet, faced with a boatload of zucchini and 30-Minute Vegan’s recipe for Raw Pasta Puttanesca, and very hungry from working out, Red and I agreed to try it.

Our first hurdle: julienning all that zucchini. Red has the mad sous-chef skillz, so it fell to him to pastafy the produce while I watched. I can safely assume that we would never have tried this if not for our newest kitchen acquisition: the Titan Peeler. You’ve seen this thing on TV, being hawked by an old British dude who shreds and slices a metric ton of vegetables with a flick of his wrist. He’s not kidding, either. When we came across the Titan at Bed Bath & Beyond (the final destination for As Seen on TV products, including the accursed Snuggie), we figured it couldn’t be too awful, and we had a gift card, so what the hell. Imagine our surprise when it actually worked! (Full disclosure: cleaning the bits of zucchini out of its little blade teeth was a pain in the ass.)

Armed with his trusty Julienne Peeler of Destiny, Red made quick work of two zucchini. It was a little tough julienning the very center as it’s got all the seeds, but he soldiered on. And when it was over, we had a lovely pile of zucchini noodles—excuse me, raw pasta—waiting to be dressed and devoured. The dressing itself was easy: a couple of diced tomatoes chilled out in a dish while I threw some basil (frozen, from my mom’s garden), garlic and kalamata olives into the chopper. (The chopper is my backup sous-chef.) We mixed all that up with some olive oil, salt, and dried Italian herbs, then let it mellow for a few minutes. The kitchen smelled like we had been carpet-bombed with garlic, but in an awesome way. We divvied up the noodles, topped them with the dressing and a few sunflower seeds, and chowed down.

First reaction to the raw pasta: weird. It was tasty, but very cold, which is not what I usually associate with noodle dishes, and wetter than I expected. It was nothing but vegetables, so of course it was wet. But more than that, it was very good. Salty and tangy, and surprisingly pasta-like. Zucchini doesn’t taste like much by itself, so it’s a good noodle stand-in. It was light but filling, and I brought what little there was left over for lunch today (along with some extra avocado-basil pasta). Red enjoyed it, though I don’t see it replacing grain pasta in our kitchen anytime soon.

I like the idea of going raw for a few weeks, just to see how I feel. I probably should have tried it a few months ago, when summer produce was booming and I could just eat watermelon all day, but oh well, I’m a busy burnout. We have a juicer that I’ve been meaning to christen, so maybe I’ll explore the exciting world of juicing. Hilarious story about how we got the juicer: Red’s parents like to give presents. It is an excellent trait to have in your in-laws and I highly recommend it. One day, Red and I were out shopping (at Costco, if you must know), and I eyed a fancy-looking juicer. We couldn’t afford it and had no room for it. No big deal. Not five minutes after we got home did his parents appear with a brand-new juicer. In the box and everything. As fate would have it, they had one lying around and thought we might like it. Two thumbs up for the in-laws!

Behold, the mighty Titan in action: