Paw Prints Forever on My Heart, RIP Sebastian and Daisy

A photo of my Sebastian (grey and white) with Bonkers. I used to love waking up in the morning and seeing that he had joined the family on the bed overnight.

Last month, I really cursed out this town. I know I wrote a comical post about how I live in a small town, but this one night, it really pissed me off. My Sebastian died. He was the youngest of all my cats, and the one I worried least about, health-wise, other than the fact that he was overweight. (He’d been homeless at one time and that fear of where and when his next meal would come, seemed to always be with him.)  I cursed this town because the only fully staffed emergency vet care is through the sanctuary but they have been short staffed, and even if they weren’t, the policy is that sanctuary animals get preference over employees’ animals for medical care. I understand this, as there are over 1700 animals at the sanctuary and they are the clinic’s first priority. There is a local vet and they have been amazing with the care of my Bonkers, simply amazing. But there are only two of them, and well, they have to go home sometime, so the closest 24 hour emergency animal clinic is in St. George, which is about 75-80 miles away.  While I understand all of this logically, when you are holding an unresponsive animal in your arms, all logic goes out the window.  Read more

Settling In, and Coming to Terms with My New Life

Um, yeah... The Grand Canyon is 78 miles from where i live.
Um, yeah… The Grand Canyon is 78 miles from where i live.

So I’ve just started my third week at my new job. I have to say, it’s some weird feelings that I go through sometimes.  A little bit of shock and disbelief.  Happiness. Some scared moments when I think ” how am I gonna do this on this new salary?”  The excitement of seeing new and amazingly beautiful places, the feel of trying out some new hiking shoes, meeting the ladies who work out in the morning at my gym and realizing, wow, they lift heavier than me!  (I still need to find my local “tribe” but I’m working on it.)  It’s just very hard to put into words. I mean, I went from living in a studio that cost me $1100/month in rent to an RV lot that costs $215 plus an RV payment of $82. How does this reconcile in your head?? Ever??

Another shot from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  i can go as often as I like!!!
Another shot from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. i can go as often as I like!!!

I got my first paycheck yesterday. Only for one week of work because of the way the pay periods fall. Needless to say, it’s less than I have ever earned.  I think, like, EVER. Yesterday, at work, as usual, I found myself cleaning a bunny’s butt. Yes, I have a law degree and a masters in library science, and there I was, pulling poop out of a bunny’s butt. (Have you ever heard someone make that statement before?? If so, WHO was it, and HOW can I meet them??!!) And then later on, I found myself cleaning the bathroom. It’s one of our weekly chores to do – no maid service for us. Again, I was wondering, um, is this really my life??!! (Not in a bad way, mind you. Just….it’s….. how do I put this? Surreal? After all this time and planning and thinking of making such huge changes, I’ve actually DONE it.)   But you know what? It’s all good. I knew coming out here my life was going to change in every aspect possible. And I take a look at my surroundings every day, even just the drive to work, and I cannot honestly believe such beauty exists. But don’t take my word for it. Just take a look at some of my pics. That is all.

This is from my walk the other day. Yes, my walk!!
This is from my walk the other day. Yes, my walk!!
A larger shot of the image that is my header on the blog now.
A larger shot of the image that is my header on the blog now.

A good friend of mine said he hoped I would still continue blogging after moving out here, as he said I had inspired him. (He’s even going meatless some days of the week and considering changing to vegetarian!!) Oh hell yeah, I’m going to keep blogging! (I wasn’t so sure about the inspiring part – I just write what makes me feel good to write and on topics that I think resonate with some folks.)

So yes, folks, I will keep talking about getting out of debt (just a different kind now) and chasing simple dreams, and all that good stuff. Please stay with me! Thank you for reading!

I’m Alive!!!

Hey everyone, I didn’t forget this blog exists. It’s just been a completely crazy past month or so, and once I explain it, I think you’ll agree.

Hm….so I went to Utah for a two week working interview with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I had been asked to come out for such an interview by three departments but I chose to work with bunnies for my two weeks. And good news, I was offered a job last week and gave my notice at my job this week! So in August, guess what I’m doing?? That’s right, driving to Utah with my five cats and my dog!! Woohoo!!! (Does anyone have any sedatives they can give me to take for myself during that drive??) I kid, I kid, it won’t be me that is sedated, if anyone, but the cats, who will otherwise probably drive me insane with non stop crying.

Also, during those two weeks, Bonkers, my elder statesman cat, got sick and was taken to the vet by some amazing ladies on three different occasions, and had surgery last week. I had to take him back to the animal hospital this past Saturday to have a drain removed, and then, guess what? His wound got infected! Oh, did I forget to mention his procedure was for an anal abscess, and that’s like the worst possible area of your body to have to deal with bacteria while healing!  So two nights ago, I took him to the animal hospital again. Yes, the bills have been hefty, to the tune of probably about 5K when tomorrow is all said and done, but I love the little guy to death.

This weekend,I’m going car shopping!! And slowly giving away all of my furniture! The cedar chest and dresser have already been spoken for, and another friend is taking the loveseat, couch and probably a bookcase.  And I’ve offered my bed to a couple who currently live in a furnished apartment but who fear that their landlord may be removing the furniture in a few months! I’m loving getting rid of stuff, it’s so liberating. People do not exaggerate when they talk about how good it makes you feel.

AND, my author has come back with some extra questions for me to work on in flushing out new details for the book.

OH, and I almost forgot! I bought an RV!! I rented a space in a mobile rv park in town about a 12 minute drive from my new job, and it just got delivered to the spot yesterday! It’s a 1999 Fleetwood Prowler 5th wheel – 30 1/2 feet long, and it has two slides. Laminate flooring made to look like wood on the inside and pretty much my color scheme but with wood colored cabinets rather than the white ones I would have preferred. (You can’t have everything you want.)

So, pics will be coming! I just wanted to let you know I’m here and good but going a bit insane with so much to deal with all at the same time.

Oh, and did I forget to mention – my best friend had her baby last weekend and my mom is getting married a week from tomorrow??? (THUS necessitating the need to have a car after this weekend!)

I will share more soon!

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If you think you can’t, you won’t. So, just do it.

That's me in the grey t-shirt. Wow, I'm short. But I'm surrounded by some amazing people at the MA Humane Lobby Day.
That’s me in the grey t-shirt. Wow, I’m short. But I’m surrounded by some amazing people at the MA Humane Lobby Day.

When people ask me why I’m vegan, one of the main reasons I give is because I don’t want to play any role, no matter how small, in the suffering of living, feeling, and loving creatures. Inevitably, some people say something like “well, they’re still going to continue making beef for us to eat, you know?” Or “chickens are still going to continue laying eggs, so what are you stopping, really?” Um, a lot. And I’m sure it means a lot to every animal that doesn’t have to die just so I can eat it.

Here’s the thing. One person can make a difference. The guy who made the Cowspiracy movie – from his own research, he went vegan and thereby saved (and continues to save) some animals from being sent to slaughter as he’s not consuming them anymore. And by making the movie, he changed my mind into becoming a vegan. And I’m sure he’s changed more minds than just mine. So, he did do something.

During my medical leave, I finished reading a book by Gene Baur called Farm Sanctuary. Again, a man who started small, but who has changed many, many lives, both human and animal, over the past thirty years. It really inspired me to want to do more. So I reached out to them after reviewing their website. I saw that their pages on pending state and federal legislation were from the last congressional and legislative sessions. I asked if I could help them update that information, since I’ve got the skills to look up that sort of thing. They graciously took me up on my offer.

So, as they suggested, I reviewed the information on a few of the major animal welfare organizations and then did some additional searches on my own, for federal legislation. And I found out this week that the information I sent to them was used to update a newsletter being sent out to about 100,000 members and it would even highlight an act that they didn’t know about before I found it, called the SAFE Act. SAFE stands for Safeguard American Foods Act, and if passed, this bill would prevent health hazards posed by consuming horses raised in the U.S., by prohibiting, via interstate or foreign commerce, the sale of horses to be be used for human consumption. I feel good, knowing my efforts made a difference to them, and I hope, down the line, to the people reading their newsletter. (And I hope it will make a huge difference to the lives of horses in this country also.)

So, YES, people, you can do something. The only way to ensure your failure at making a difference is to sit there and bemoan how little you can do, and not even try.  I refuse to do that anymore, especially after having read Best Friends: The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Sanctuary.   They saved the lives of so many animals who had been abused, or neglected, or just dropped without any emotional thought on the part of their “owners.”  As I was reading through it (in just two days’ time), I just kept thinking to myself, I would LOVE to work there and help the animals!! Imagine being around a lot of other people who feel the same way about animals as I do. Plus, it sounds simply gorgeous, as I know many parts of the southwestern United States are. (FYI, in their recent edition of Best Friends Magazine, they discuss how important it is to contact your state legislatures about animal welfare issues.  See page 16.)

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the MA Humane Lobby Day.  One of the speakers talked about a bill that had been introduced this session called “A Bill to Protect Puppies and Kittens.”  Think of that title. As she said (and I paraphrase), “who in their right mind can vote against a bill that aims to protect puppies and kittens??”” Well played, ma’am, well played. 🙂

And if you still think that you can’t do something, well, look at what the power of people in some of our state legislatures can do. Don’t take my word for it – check out this clip of John Oliver from his show Last Week Tonight.

And finally, I’ll point you back to a post I wrote last year about a movie called Opening Our Eyes.  It’s about what individuals have done in various parts of the world and how their efforts have changed the lives of so many over time.  You just have to MAKE the decision that, YES, YOU CAN make a difference in this world. Things may seem depressing some days – I’m not immune to it. Some days, after seeing the news, I wonder “what in the hell is wrong with this world??!!” But then, I think, if we all just give up, then it will all go to hell. So, we can’t let that happen. Don’t let other people’s fears project onto you and keep you from doing something. I’m not.  It’s why I am willing to take the steps I’m taking to change the course of my life and make the world a better place for animals. Because every little bit helps. (And if ever I forget that or doubt myself, I look around at my furballs and know better.)

As much as I like to think I'm making a change in Osito's life, I know she's making a HUGE difference in my life.
As much as I like to think I’m making a change in Osito’s life, I know she’s making a HUGE difference in my life.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone! If you’ve liked this post, please hit like or subscribe, or drop me a line below in the comments. Thanks for reading, as always!

Massachusetts Humane Lobby Day, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and decisions on dreams

I feel blessed when I see something like this.
I feel blessed when I see something like this.

Tomorrow is Massachusetts’ Humane Lobby Day. The day that a lot of animal lovers and activists descend onto the Massachusetts State House, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston is one of the organizations that will be represented. I was there last year and remember that there were some awesome speakers who totally galvanized the crowd. I remember looking around and feeling like “this is my tribe. These are a lot of people who are like me. People who love animals.”  Last year, I had taken the day off from work to go. It was really heartening to see so many others had done the same. And of course, the adoptable pets that were brought that day were super adorable. There will be more again tomorrow. If you’ve never heard of Humane Lobby Days, and might be interested in taking part in one, check out this link, because they are held all over the country.

I am planning on going tomorrow since I’ve taken it easy the past few days after my mistake of walking so many miles on Saturday. My body let me know on Sunday that it would prefer I take it a bit easier still so soon after my surgery. I should be ok to sit, stand and walk around the statehouse and talk to people. After all, walking is the best thing you can do after you have abdominal surgery like I did.

I saw my surgeon last week for a two week follow up and he said I’m doing really well. He actually thought i was healing faster than he expected so I guess that means my incision site looks good. He said that I could doing more than just walking within another ten days to two weeks, so needless to say, I’m chomping the bit to get out there and join the ranks of the runners around the reservoir! (And to my defense, he did say that he thought I could ramp up my walking a bit after I saw him. I guess I took him too much at his word.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

In other news I have decided to take a vacation trip to the southwest. I am going to volunteer with the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary while I am out there and visit Bryce National Park while I am out there.  (I have already been to Zion.) So far I have signed up for three days of volunteering with them, in various parts of the sanctuary so I get a good taste of it. I’ve found a place to stay and am just waiting for confirmation on the dates I’ve asked about, and am hoping to take little Baby O with me on the trip. The good thing about a town whose largest employer is an animal sanctuary? It’s super animal and pet friendly! If Osito doesn’t go with me, I will likely volunteer to take a shelter dog home with me for a night (the place I want to stay allows that.) Oh, and another thing? Best Friends has an on-site cafe that serves vegetarian food!!

I’ve also decided to not pursue the tiny house in North Carolina anymore. I was starting to get very stressed about how much it was going to cost between the down payment and closing costs, and wondered if I would have enough of a cash cushion to pursue my dreams there. And a small part of me felt like moving someplace south, but still on the east coast, was somehow “safe” in that it was still somewhat similar to where I am now. Yes, NC is a bit different culture wise, but it still kind of looks the same as this part of the East Coast.  And while I had met some very nice people down there, including the builder and the project manager who I have been thinking of as a friend, I was worried I might not find a lot of people who would be willing to understand my vegan lifestyle, etc.

So now it’s part of why I want to go to Best Friends. I’ve been thinking more and more that what I want to do, what my heart truly wants to do, is work at an animal sanctuary. I’m good with animals and I’m good with people, and both are really important abilities or skills to have. They have several job openings, some of which I think I’m qualified for, and they also offer internships that you can apply for (unpaid, if for five weeks.) So I’m seriously considering that route too. So wish me luck – I’m going to apply.  It’s also completely different – geography wise and more – from what I have grown up with, but it’s a topography that always makes me feel like I can just “breathe.”  I’m totally jumping outside of my comfort zone and I couldn’t be more excited! This is how you grow, right?!

I think you know something is your calling when thinking about something brings tears to your eyes but they are tears of joy. That’s how I felt tonight when I walked around the reservoir thinking about all of this, and it’s when I snapped the photo you see above. (The reservoir never fails to provide good photo opportunities.) I’ve saved my butt off for the past year and before that, paid off a lot of bills, so now I can take this leap with a bit of a cushion underneath me.

As always, thanks for reading and for your support. If you’ve liked this post, please drop me a line in the comments section, or hit like or subscribe, or share it with someone you think would like to read my drivel and musings. 🙂

Why I’ve Chosen to be Vegan

Before I get into the topic of today’s post, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who wished me luck with my surgery two weeks ago. I’m proud to say that last night, I walked a bit over three miles and I feel good today. I feel like my abs got a bit of a workout, yes, but that’s a good thing in my book.  I am utterly convinced that by being in shape before the surgery and eating a plant-based diet, I am healing by leaps and bounds every single day. I had a similar type of surgery 9 years ago, and I don’t remember feeling this good, this soon after the surgery. I also ate meat and dairy at the time and hardly ever worked out.

In case you need to see how much animals are like us, please see this video on three horses that were reunited after being separated for several years and watch their reactions.

When I mention to people that I’m vegan, there are a range of responses I get, sometimes depending on how well I know the person. “Do you eat fish, though?” is one question. “How much percentage vegan are you?” is another. “What does that mean?” is a third question. And the most commonly asked are “Why? Don’t you miss meat? or dairy?”  Now I’m not always able to express myself easily verbally, but with writing, I seem to do alright, so I thought I would write a post about it, and if I educate some folks in the reading of this, well, I will feel it has served a purpose.   Because some folks are more comfortable  and fluid when talking about this issue, I’ve included some of their videos or links in this post.

Chase Avior, What the World Needs Now (a talk on veganism) [Ladies, note that the man giving the talk is vegan. You don’t need to eat meat to have a good body. :-)]

I’m a vegan because I love animals. Plain and simple. I LOVE ANIMALS. Notice I didn’t say just domesticated animals, but “animals,” period (or “full stop” for those of you in other countries that use different terminology.) Do I occasionally miss the smell of or taste of meat? Occasionally, if it smells particularly good. But here’s the thing. It stops there. I get this image in my mind of a cow being slaughtered, or a pig being slaughtered at just 6 months of age, or a chicken being scalded alive because the assembly line just goes too fast for the slaughterhouse workers to keep up, and any kind of desire to eat that meat vanishes.   (I feel the same way with milk chocolate and cookies made with eggs, because of the reasons discussed below. And that’s saying something because I have a HUGE sweet tooth!)

I was vegetarian for about two years before making the switch. I thought to myself “well, the chickens laying the eggs aren’t being harmed, and besides it says “free range” on the label.” I also thought “well, the cow normally has to produce milk so I’m not doing anything that isn’t necessary.” That is, until I started reading up more about the dairy industry and the poultry industry. That was before I took an Intro to Animal Science class, and learned that while it used to take turkeys 25 weeks to grow to full maturity of 18 pounds, nowadays, they grow to full maturity (in the industry’s eyes) in 16 weeks and are 25 pounds.  And you know what? Cows aren’t supposed to be pregnant for the majority of their lives (and they need to be impregnated by the industry in order for them to produce milk, as the lactation is meant for baby calves. Not humans, but baby calves.)  Cows are supposed to live for 20 years, not 6 or 7.  As humans, we wouldn’t want to be taking antibiotics every day, even when we’re not sick. So why would we want to put something into our bodies that was fed antibiotics almost every day of its life? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I remember my professor stating these figures in his powerpoint lecture with what sounded like a lot of pride.  He was proud of the agribusiness industry for having been so smart and learning how to make products so much more efficiently (the amount of feed that had to be consumed per turkey to reach maturity was half of what it used to be.) The agribusiness folks had been so smart when it came to increasing the efficiency.  He said it with pride, yet I heard it with disgust. In nature, an animal doesn’t change the way it grows so rapidly over a period of 40 years. In nature, a bird doesn’t grow its breasts so large that it can’t even support its own weight and topples over and dies.

I’ve decided I just don’t want to be related in any part to misery or pain to animals. People say to me, well, just because you decide to not eat meat, doesn’t mean that the agricultural business will stop producing meat. But here’s the thing. There is one thing that came across loud and clear during my professor’s powerpoints. Consumer preference is very important to agribusiness. It is one of the main factors that determines the path of their industry.  Lamb is no longer a preferred meat source, so less lambs are produced now than before in the United States.  Imagine, then, if consumers, one by one, or group by group, started to eat less meat and animal products.  Just think about what could happen! (And if you doubt that consumer preferences make a difference over the long run, well, just read this article on McDonalds and how they are closing hundreds of stores this year, and why.)

Now, just as with everything, people try to get their message across in different ways. Below is a video shot this past weekend by a friend of mine, BSG, at an event where lambs were being shown/exhibited, and at the same time, eaten by others.  If even one person heard the message, then that’s one less person who eats meat. It’s hard to look at the live animal in front of you and then look at what you’re eating and not make the connection between the two.  My personality is more of the way that Chase Avior speaks, but everyone has their own way of dealing with issues that they believe in passionately.

If you’re more into movies or books, a few I suggest are Peaceable Kingdom: Journey Home, and Milk? (available through Amazon Prime Instant Video), or Cowspiracy.  I’m going to go see the Maple Farm Sanctuary in MA that is featured in Peaceable Kingdom, in a few weeks, and can’t wait. I’ve been told I should watch Earthlings but I have also heard that it makes Food, Inc. (I believe I saw it through Netflix) look like a Disney movie on the agriculture industry, so forewarned is fair-warned.

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Farm Sanctuary: An Inspiration

I started reading a book last week by the same title as this post, Farm Sanctuary, by Gene Baur. I left some of it to be read after my surgery as I knew I would have a lot of down time and didn’t want to take too many things of value into the hospital. So no ipad traveled to the hospital with me. It’s a book I cannot put down.

The man is impressive with how steadfast he has been in his principles, and it all started with one animals who was considered “downed” at the Lancaster Stockyards. In case you are unfamiliar with this term, it means the animals who are brought to the stockyards and are usually too sick or weak to even get out of the container they’ve been trucked in on. Sometimes it’s a day or days old calf. Sometimes it’s an animal that the food industry considers “past its prime.” Basically, ti’s an animal that no one cares about and thinks it’s too expensive to put out of its misery – you see, the farmer can get more money for an animal that is still alive (even just barely) than one that is dead. And it costs money to euthanize an animal and put it out of its misery. God forbid, right? Wouldn’t want to treat a living creature with any sense of decency…. (Yes, you can tell that that attitude really angers me.)

Gene Baur just kept at what he felt was right.  He used common sense too. He got a degree from Cornell because he knew it would give him more credibility when talking to those in the agribusiness sectors. And it did. When he realized that there was a gentleman who lived close by to their sanctuary who worked in a business that involved the killing of animals, he invited him over for a meal (meatless, of course)  and everyone treated the man with respect. That gentleman didn’t feel threatened at the meal and he saw that they weren’t all a bunch of folks who were not willing to meet someone different from themselves. The man later ended up getting rid of his business.

If you don’t want to take my word for it that he’s a pretty cool guy, then just check out this video of him being interviewed by Jon Stewart. (Hat tip to my good friend DB who alerted me to it.)

If you notice in the interview, Jon Stewart mentions that a lot of vegans can be very rough on others who don’t eat the same way they do. I feel like if I were to preach to everyone, oh you should eat this, or don’t eat this, that will just push the person to do the opposite. No one likes to be told what to do after they’ve reached the age of what, 5? But you will also notice that Gene Baur doesn’t act all sanctimonious. (And he actually makes Jon’s day when he tells him that Baco Bits are vegan!)

Gene Baur will now be one of my inspirations for following my dreams and helping out animals. If he could start with basically nothing and persevere, then I can too. I can’t wait to go back to volunteering at the animal shelter once I am allowed to lift more than 8 pounds. That’s why I hope to recover quickly. (I’d like to go back and just socialize with the animals or take care of the chickens. In fact, I think I will do that as long as the shelter staff or my fellow volunteer, Janice, is ok with it.)  There is a lot of work to be done. Like Gene, I know I can’t save them all, but to save even one nor make even one’s life better for the rest of its days on this planet is to do right. As my mom and grandma used to say to me a lot while growing up, you never know if you don’t even try. (And with that, I’m off to continue working on my research paper of how to start a farm sanctuary in NC.)

Is there something you would like to do with your life but have been afraid to take the first steps toward doing?  Has any part of this post touched you? Have you read this book by Gene Baur? (Btw, he has a new book out which I can’t wait to read – it’s called Living the Farm Sanctuary Life.)

If you have liked this post, please hit like or subscribe or drop me a line below. Thank you so much for reading.