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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Setting Priorities and Goals

I promise this entire post is not about food. But I have clarified a few things in my head over the past few days.

1) Watching the movie Cowspiracy really hit me hard this weekend. Until now, I’ve found it pretty easy to not eat any meat products for the past few years. Whenever I felt like “oh, that meat smells good….” I would then remind myself of why I don’t eat meat. Not because I don’t like the taste, but because I don’t want to be part of anything that involves an animal being slaughtered. But I couldn’t give up the dairy quite so easily. Maybe because I’d been brought up to drink milk as if it was water – literally, we used to go through so many gallons of milk every few days in our house. It was nothing to have a few glasses of milk at dinner time. It didn’t matter what we were eating. Spaghetti with milk? Sure! (I know, gross, right?) And it wasn’t skim milk we were drinking but the whole vitamin D milk. Yep. (Let’s not even talk about the powdered milk we drank when times were tough, money-wise. Eeww.)

Even when I was married, when I went to the store, I would buy skim milk for my husband and whole milk for myself. Eventually, he talked me into trying 2% and I noticed I didn’t have as many stomach issues as I used to have. So I slowly worked myself down to where I was drinking skim milk. And now I only use almond milk or coconut milk and I find that I don’t miss regular cow’s milk.

I believe I have mentioned I have fibroids, and that’s why I will be in surgery just three weeks from today. I didn’t realize until watching that movie over the weekend, that dairy products can contribute to fibroids. Now, while I will be having my fibroids-producing organ removed (ahem, uterus), I still want to continue not drinking cow milk. The movie showed how many acres it can take to feed a vegan per year vs. just a vegetarian. The difference was astounding – .6 acres to feed a vegan, whereas it takes 1.8 acres to feed a vegetarian. Imagine what I might be able to do with my own garden! (By the way, I love gardening, getting out there and getting my hands dirty, watching something grow from my own labor, and that tastes amazing!) So, priority #1 is to no longer bring dairy products into my home (I’m going to probably still eat the chocolate yogurt I have in my fridge until the next grocery day, just because I love chocolate and I already bought it), but after that, no dairy products enter my doorway.

2) Priority #2,  I set over the weekend was to save even more from each of my paychecks. I’ve been putting away $750 out of every paycheck since last summer. Before that, I was definitely saving but not at such a rate, as my focus had been more on paying down my private student loan, whose balance sits at $12,777.97 as of today (just checked.) As of this weekend, I decided I would start trying to save $835 from each paycheck. That may not sound like a lot more – it’s $170 but I’ve already been cutting down my expenses as much as I can. So this means really tightening the grocery budget and keeping the pet expenses in check as well. I have to admit, looking back at what I’ve spent with Chewy.com (a company I can’t recommend enough, and one, who when you call their number, you get a real live person on the other end, imagine!), I’ve been doing pretty good. I’ve been planning budgets for pet food, etc., for about $180 per month and I’ve actually spent more of an average of $130/month, so I was feeling pretty good about that. That’s just for their food and litter, pee pads for Osito, etc., no vet expenses.

My take home after savings is now about $2460 a month. I budget it like this:

  • $1050  – rent
  • $55 – internet service
  • $35 – cell (with Cricket Wireless, I get 2.5 gb of data/month, suits me just fine.)
  • $25 – electricity/gas (this goes up a bit in summer, with the AC, but not too much.)
  • $167 – private student loan
  • $538 – interest only payments on federal student loans (yep, that only keeps the loan from growing, folks)
  • $250 – food
  • $160 – zipcar (this is to get back and forth to volunteering with the livestock animals.)
  • $150 – pet food, etc. (still gonna budget higher because some months, it’s higher than others, etc.)

I totalled this up and it comes to $2430. So as you can see, I need to be frugal and keep an eye on these expenses, as there isn’t much room for error. I’m considering it practice for when my life plans change.  Not drinking coffee, and not eating a lot of processed foods should help a lot with the grocery budget. Plus, soon, I can start riding my bike more regularly and going to my local grocer guy who only takes cash for payment but offers produce at an amazing price, and always with a smile.

And yes, I do plan on including personal care items more and more into the grocery end of the budget, such as toilet paper, the occasional need to buy shampoo and conditioner, get a hair cut, etc.  I buy some things in bulk, like toilet paper, paper towels, pee pads, from amazon, so the cost is defrayed over a few months. I also don’t cut my hair that often (it’s below my shoulders) and when I do color it, it’s done at home by me. I take care of my eyebrows mainly by myself. It’s amazing what you can save when you take care of things on your own rather than paying someone else to do it. (Speaking of, after my surgery, I will continue using instacart for my groceries, but once I’m healed, it’ll be me going to my grocer guy.)

You’ll notice I don’t really have laundry expenses added into all of that. That’s because I use a Manatee portable washing machine for almost all of my laundry (blankets and towels, excepting), and a spin dryer (mine is similar to this one on amazon) and then air dry most of my laundry.I used to spend upwards of $10/week on laundry. The cost of the two portable machines has more than paid me back over the past year or so.  Here’s a video of how to use the Manatee on youtube. I just keep mine in the tub and fill it from the tub directly and then let the drain hose go right into the tub drain.

3) Priority #3  – Don’t let up on the downsizing. I need to sell my scooter which will soon be coming out of storage, and also other items in my apt that generally just take up space. I have some items from my grandmother I will likely sell – I have realized, if my apt were to catch on fire, I wouldn’t rush to save them, but I would rush to save the photos of her I have on my bedroom dresser. That tells me what truly holds meaning for me where she is concerned.

4) Priority #4 – this one is still being defined in my mind but it involves making some changes in this world, becoming more involved with causes I care about. The environment. Animals. When I watched that movie, I saw all these people who were so passionate about a particular subject.  I’m going to start researching groups in my area now and in NC and learning ways to get involved. Start reaching out to people now and learn how I can be of help. See if they need someone to help with preparing any written materials for them, on the web or in some other form of media (especially when I won’t be able to do much physically after my surgery.) So maybe it’s more like a goal right now than a priority as I need to make it clearer in my mind. I’ll keep you updated.

I’m home today trying to get rid of a very stubborn cold that came back with a vengeance this past weekend and is totally pissing me off. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and am going to ask them if I can take an antibiotic of sorts, to get rid of it. I need to be done with it for my surgery! Coughing after abdominal surgery – yeah, not something I want to do!

Anyway, sorry this post has appeared to ramble a bit, but I felt the need or urge to write today and put some of these things out there. I like the accountability aspect.

If you’ve liked this post, please hit like or subscribe or drop me a line below. And thanks, as always, 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

Things I Love

Max and Osito, two that like to be as close to me as possible at ALL times.
Max and Osito, two that like to be as close to me as possible at ALL times.

Sitting here on a Sunday night as I start to write this post. Looking around me and seeing all of my animals dozing or just about there…the bed was just freshly made with laundered sheets and two fleece blankets, so you know what kind of a magnet that’s gonna be this evening for all of the felines! (Well, and this human and of course, the dog.)

It just makes me feel content, moments like this. The heat is running (of course, it is Boston on Feb. 1st, after all, and we are expecting ….wait for it…., more snow!!!) YAYYY (yes folks, you’re not imaging it…that is sarcasm you are hearing as you read this post to yourself.)

But really, it does. I feel content because I know I’m settled in for the night, and don’t have to go out in the cold. (Gotta love having a dog that is trained to use pee pads and who hates the cold, too.) Well, at least I don’t have to go out until the morning anyway, since it’s unlikely my workplace will close.

My buddy, Ross, the pony!!
My buddy, Ross, the pony!!

Earlier today, as is my normal Sunday routine, I got up early, had my two cups of coffee and got ready to go to the shelter to take care of some animals. I was delighted to see that they had another goat that wasn’t there last week! Even the skiddish goats who came in a few weeks ago as emaciated strays seemed a bit more acclimated to us today. And at the end of my shift there, I spent some time with Fancy the horse, and Ross, the pony, outside. Ross can be a bit, how shall we say, overzealous, when food is in front of him, so it was hard holding the last carrot out of his reach so Fancy could eat it. He is such a cutie – he kept backing up or sidling up next to me to be petted and scratched, and then at one point, he got down onto the ground and rolled over on his back and kicked his legs up in the air. It made me so happy to see him so happy (and relieved from his itchy back, I’m sure.)

My cute, little HoneyBun. This is the dog's bed, but whenever the dog is close to me, she loves to spend time there. In this picture, she is kneading the blanket, happy as a cat can be.
My cute, little HoneyBun. This is the dog’s bed, but whenever the dog is close to me, she loves to spend time there. In this picture, she is kneading the blanket, happy as a cat can be.

I have come to realize that whenever I am at the shelter with those animals, I laugh. I talk to them just like I would my pets at home, always in a calming voice, and the horse and pony make me laugh. There are five goats there now, including a mama and baby girl, and the baby girl is such a nut – she has taken to jumping into the wheelbarrow while we are cleaning out her pen. Both myself and  the other volunteer this morning thought it looked super cute, but we still both shook our heads like “girlll….you are weird!!” Only for these animals would I get up so early on a Sunday and actually look forward to cleaning up after them.

That's ok, Max, you just go ahead and lie right there. It's not like I was actually reading that or anything.... :-)
That’s ok, Max, you just go ahead and lie right there. It’s not like I was actually reading that or anything…. 🙂

Other things I love? Spending time with good friends, having a good conversation and four forks to eat a piece of chocolate cake. That’s how I spent my evening last night. It was very needed – with the weather and my starting school two weeks ago, I found myself in a very down mood toward the end of the week. Seeing my best friend and two others definitely helped lift me out of a funk. And hearing that my best friend is still feeling amazing as she reaches week 17 of her pregnancy, that is just awesome in my book. She will find out what she is having in two weeks – my guess is it’s a girl. Don’t know why, but I just do. She is blond haired and blue eyed, and her husband is from the Bahamas, so you all know just how beautiful that baby will be. (I gotta admit, girls are so much more to buy stuff for, what with all the pink clothes and stuff, but …ok, I digress.)

From what I could tell, this was a minivan at one point in its life.
From what I could tell, this was a minivan at one point in its life.

Did I already mention chocolate? (Yeah, there was that bit above about the chocolate cake.) I could go on and on forever about how much I love chocolate, but I’ll stop now so I can shove a few chocolate chips into my mouth…ok, I’m back!

I am sorry for not having blogged the past few weeks but I just started school and am settling into a rhythm of handling that and working full-time. I have to admit, I am enjoying learning again. And I started auditing an animal law class last week at work – it’s so cool to be in a room with so many others that feel the same way about animals you do, and are passionate about it.

Yeah, this is NOT something that I love. Ever. Thank God it's not mine.
Yeah, this is NOT something that I love. Ever. Thank God it’s not mine.

Oh, and one last thing I love? Knowing that this is my LAST winter in the northeast. The location where I am looking to move hardly ever gets snow and as of last week, while we expected a blizzard, its weather forecast was for highs in the 50s. Enough said. I’m going, baby!

What  kinds of things do you love – what warms your heart and makes you laugh as if you don’t have a care in the world? Please drop me a line below and let me know!

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Easy Like Sunday Morning

Callie, asleep in her princess bed.
Callie, asleep in her princess bed.

For the life of me, I can’t remember who sang that song, Easy Like Sunday Morning (and maybe that’s not even the title of the song, but it’s those four words that have been running through my head today. Lionel Richie sang it, maybe?) Anyway… Read more

A New Direction

Part of my inspiration for today’s post: 

Instead of my usual thankful post to end the week, I wanted to share some information about some decisions I’ve made about my life. Whereas before I was changing my mind almost week to week, this one has stuck, and when I see videos like this, it hits me in the gut that the decision I’m making now is the right one and probably one which I’ve been drawn to my whole life, but didn’t know how to properly act on.

In case you’re a recent reader, I’ll recap briefly. A few years ago, I thought, well, since I’m so interested in fitness, why not get certified to be a professional trainer? (This idea was prompted in part by many of my friends and coworkers saying to me, “you know, you should be a trainer!”) So I took two certification tests, and also took a few specialization tests, so I could work with a few different “populations” and I got a job at a fitness club so I could see what that life is like from the other side. I really kept telling myself that that was what I meant to do, even as I started to question things as I was studying for the second (and very difficult) certification test. And it started to nag at me that I wouldn’t be able to be outside more if I became a trainer, and of all the hours I would need to spend away from my animals. Then, I thought of living in an RV and doing the travel and workamping thing to support myself, but I realized that lifestyle might not be best for my animals, and also, it would likely not end up costing me less than living in a stationary place. That, and I do like some stability in my life. (This is not to say that I won’t ever end up full time RVing, just not right now.)

Then, I thought “well, maybe I should do some sort of survival program, or even go into organic farming.” Notice, both of those kinds of paths would keep me outdoors a lot. So that seemed to be a theme. I also found that I was happiest when around my pets. Yes, it’s the unconditional love thing at work, I am sure. But it’s also that animals don’t play politics, so we understand each other just fine. Because that’s one thing I just don’t do. Play politics and say yes until I feel like a bobblehead that’s been broken. It’s just not me and I will never apologize for it.

Then there is that punched-in-the-gut feeling I get whenever I read about animals being neglected or abused, or treated like they are just a thing without feelings or souls.  It makes me ashamed for not doing more to help them on a day to day basis. So, I’ve decided I am going to go back to school for an associates degree of applied science with a concentration in veterinary technology. My plan is to go through the formal application process over the next few months with Colby Community College, based out of Kansas. Yes, they are accredited by the AVMA, or I wouldn’t even consider the program. They have been quite responsive to my questions so far. They have just recently been accredited so I am sure they want to really get the word out.

I might be thought insane to do this at age 42, and I do know now that a lot of the job is learned on-the-job but I’ve always felt better also having the book knowledge behind me. Plus, while the program I will be going to will be a distance-based program, there are lots of requirements that will have me learning on the job. An externship/internship will be required, and I’m hoping that the fact that I am going to school for it will help me find a job working for a vet in a new location. And when there is time, I also want to be more involved in animals’ rights issues.

So, since I have been out of school for a while and I didn’t have the foresight as a teenager to take more AP classes than I did, I have a lot of prerequisites to catch up on, like Biology and Chemistry, etc. I will be taking three classes in the spring semester while working, and three over the summer as well. There is also a 1-credit class called Intro to Vet Technology that I have to take, so I’m hoping to squeeze that in by August. This schedule may seem a bit aggressive, or insane, to some, but when you finally figure out what your heart desires or what you really want to do with your life, you want that life to start NOW.  There is also the incentive to start now and take as many classes as I can because my employer will pay 75% of the tuition up to 10 credits taken per semester, even if the classes are not related to my current position. This, and the fact that I will be auditing the Animal Law class in the spring means it’s going to be animals, animals, and more animals for me this coming year!!

Just an aside – do you know how weird it felt to call up my high school last week and ask for my high school transcript? Talk about transported back into the past! Seeing those classes and grades listed again, there are no words….

By the way, I usually don’t get into politics on this blog, but I just have to say, this speech did bring some tears to my eyes and a big shit-eating grin to my face last night. Whatever you think of her, Elizabeth Warren is someone who is not afraid to call Bullshit when she sees it. She is my new role model. I’m hoping her husband’s door is open on Monday morning when I go into work so that I can say a personal thank you for her bravery for naming names and taking numbers. She might be one of the most hated women in certain circles, but what’s that saying? Quiet women never changed history.  And with that, I wish you a good weekend!

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