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.

 

Things and People I Find Inspiring

I got the impression last week that this post helped some people, and just thinking about writing another one this week kept me inspired to find more to share. I just got through watching Cowspiracy so I feel like I need some inspiration too. It takes three times as many acres to feed someone like me, who is a vegetarian, as it does to feed a vegan. Another reason for me to continue transitioning to veganism.

I can’t remember the last time I had a drink of cow’s milk (I drink coconut milk or almond milk, and usually I don’t drink a glass of it but use it in recipes or to make oatmeal for breakfast.)  I haven’t had a cheese slice in probably about a month now, and have only had it in a few pieces of food like pizza. But watching that movie, well, it really makes you think about what you are putting in your body and how it can affect the planet as a whole, if we all keep on eating meat and dairy. I’m not writing any of this to force anyone else to change, but I’m going to do what I think is right for me. I don’t think I will be buying any more dairy products for my house, and right now I’m working on trying to get through all the groceries I do have.

So, anyway, for inspiration, I suggest watching that movie. You can download it for $9.95 and then watch it as many times as you like. So that’s my first suggestion.

Second, I watch a youtube channel called Preston Smiles. This is one of the first videos of his I saw. I just love how he is totally himself in these videos, especially at the end of this one.

Third, another youtube channel I like to watch is with Brittany Taylor: Simple Living and Travel. I really liked this video of hers titled Keep Being Weird.

Fourth, I have just begun reading a book by Rhonda Byrne called The Power. (She’s the same author who wrote The Secret, which I admit, I never read. Not sure why, but just didn’t.)  This link takes you to the amazon listing for it so you can take a sneak preview at it or listen to a part of the audio file.

Finally, but certainly not least, I found out about an animal sanctuary for abused or discarded farm animals called Animal PlaceIt gives me hope to know places like this exist. I’m going to see what kinds of animal sanctuaries are near me, and if I can’t find work at one, I will most certainly volunteer. I strongly believe all animals are sentient beings – they do feel things, they love things, they hurt and feel sad when separated from their loved ones.

These are just my thoughts and my views on things – you can disagree with them if you choose but if you do so in the comments, please make sure it’s done respectfully. And if you’ve liked this post, or any of it has struck a chord with you, please let me know by dropping a line in the comments, or by hitting like or subscribe. And thanks, as always, for reading.

Awakening

Four of my inspirations...Bonkers, Osito, HoneyBun, and Callie in the back.
Four of my inspirations…Bonkers, Osito, HoneyBun, and Callie in the back.

When I look back to my life almost 5 years ago, what I see in myself makes me sad. I was sleep walking through life. The only time I think I felt alive is when I was running. And that’s because I was running from a lot of problems, or maybe the better word to use is doubts. Doubts about myself. Doubts about my marriage. About whether or not I wanted to have kids. About whether what I had then was all that there is to be in life. Read more

I’m Alive!

My Max. You just wanna squeeze him in this photo, don't ya??
My Max. You just wanna squeeze him in this photo, don’t ya??

Sorry if any of you have worried about me over the past few weeks but a lot has taken place. I started school and was taking 11 credits of classes in addition to working about 42 hours per week. In short, it was too much. The five credit BIO class was killing me. It took up literally every single free moment of my time. And I found myself asking “how does my knowing about photosynthesis actually help me help animals?!” So I ended up dropping down to just 6 credits. Well, 7 credits when I start the Intro to Vet Tech class next week.

Winter scene on land I hope to soon take care of (because really, do any of us really own the land we live on?)
Winter scene on land I hope to soon take care of (because really, do any of us really own the land we live on?)

I went to North Carolina last week and think I found a place to live. And a little house in which to live. It will likely be about 396 sq feet and on a 2 acre wooded lot. Some of it will have to be cleared, of course, and I’ll either hook up to city water or dig a well (the lot is up an incline so it may be more expensive in the long run to connect to city water due to the size of the pipe, but we’ll find out about that as time goes on.  It’ll be a little bit outside of a small town outside of Charlotte, and I think it’s what I need right now. When I was down there, I went to the property one time on my own (I let the builder’s property manager know what I was doing) and just kind of wandered around a bit and listened to the breeze in the trees. A car passed, and once it was gone, I realized how quiet it was. And I thought of myself, sitting outside with Osito on my lap about a year in the future, just listening to the breeze and the birds in the trees.  It will be so different from how I live now, in a big city, in an apartment, but I think it’s just what I need.

Um....hello?
Um….hello?

Living in a smaller space will mean giving up or letting go of more stuff from my life, and it’s something I look forward to doing. Every time I let go of something else, it makes me feel lighter and freer.

I also met with two different vet offices when I was down there. One was a companion animal office in a part of town that I learned was not so great, by personal observation and by talking to a new friend (who feels like an old one, I am very glad to say.)  The other was an equine vet practice that I learned was a bit unusual due to its size and the fact that it actually had a vet tech. I guess a lot of equine vets don’t usually have their own vet techs. Usually, they rely on the horse owner and at most, have a receptionist.

<3 my Bonkers

So, my plan will be to try working with companion animals (with which I feel very comfortable right now) and volunteer with larger animals. I also found from talking to different vet techs that the hands-on experience is definitely more needed for me right now than to be taking a ton of classes through a distance-based program. I’m going to continue on with the classes I’m already taking and take a Medical Terminology class this summer, for sure. But I think the regular Bio and Chem can wait until I’m quite certain that formal schooling is the way to go and worth the small bump in pay it would give me as a result.

Just when I wondered whether I should keep my cat condo, this happened.  <3 HoneyBun!
Just when I wondered whether I should keep my cat condo, this happened.

I can’t wait for the next phase of my life to start. Until then, I’m going to save every penny I can to put down on the house and to make sure I have enough savings. I know my salary will likely be a third of what it is now and I’m preparing myself for that mentally. I may have some medical stuff coming up in the next month or so that will require me to spend some time out of work and if I do, I know it will be a good break to keep myself focused and on the positive, right track. (And who knows, maybe I will even have more time to blog?!) 🙂

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