Sunday, August 3, 2008
So, I've got an idea in the works. I'm not sure yet if it's going to work out, but I have decided that if it DOES work, I'm going to really pour my heart into it, to make it something special. If it DOESN'T, then I will come back here, and make this into something better than it is now. Either way, I'll post a note when that happens. In the meantime, I'm just going to work a little behind the scenes.
But before I fade away (to return in some form, at a later date)... thank you! Thank you to everyone who spent the time to read this, to everyone who encouraged me to try it in the first place, and to everyone who has left me nice comments. It really means a lot me!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I read something on a vegan blog a couple of days ago, and it has really been bothering me. It’s not something new – it’s a rather common sentiment among vegans. But it’s a part of why I almost *didn’t* become a vegan. And, at the possible expense of alienating myself from the very people that share my lifestyle, I’d like to share my feelings about this.
This particular author was commenting on people who say they are vegan except when they eat out, or when they are on vacation, etc., and how he felt that this was a bit of a cop-out. He, and other vegan writers, have said that “if you can be vegan some of the time, you can be vegan all of the time”. Sure, it’s not always convenient, but just suck it up, and do what you have to.
I have a problem with this – not with the idea of being vegan “all of the time”, but the idea that it’s “all or nothing”. This somehow implies that anyone who does “a little” is wasting their time, or isn’t good enough, or isn’t worthy.
My feeling is that every little bit counts. And I’m not just talking about being a vegan. In fact, that’s my whole point. There will always be people that do more than us, or do it better than us – doctors who save lives, teachers that inspire the children who are our future, every-day heroes that change the world.
And then there are the rest of us.
Maybe you adopted a cat or dog. Maybe you dropped some coins in the bucket for a charity. Maybe you sent someone a “Get Well” card. Maybe you were there when a family member needed you. Maybe you paid a friend a compliment. Or maybe you just gave a total stranger a smile today. A smile can work miracles. Who knows – maybe that smile was just the encouragement that person needed, to do something incredible that would change the course of history. Or maybe it just made someone feel good - a truly worthy goal, in itself.
No one is perfect. Life shouldn't be an "all or nothing" venture. Every little bit counts.
Have you given someone a smile today? :-)
Sunday, June 8, 2008
But sometimes even this vegan finds herself out-and-about, and hungry. So I thought I'd share some of my experiences. First, let me mention that vacations are a whole 'nother ballgame, and definitely deserve their own post, so that's something I will address (probably in HUGE detail, as it's one of my favorite subjects) at a later date.
Whenever I go out to run errands, I almost always take a snack bar with me. I love Clif bars, though I've cut way back, simply because they're not all that low on calories. Even if I don't need it, it's nice to know it's there. As I mentioned, I don't eat out much, and sometimes a snack bar is all it will take to tide me over until mealtime at home. But sometimes that's not an option.
For those "on the run" meals, there are actually a few fast food places that can accommodate a vegan. There's a site I found that has information about a handful of places: Vegetarian-Restaurants.net I also have a guide I bought a few years ago that lists helpful info like that. You can order it at: The Vegetarian Resource Group.
A few standby meals for me include: bagels at Panera Bread. They aren't all vegan, but a few are. You can find all the ingredients on their website at panerabread.com. Taco Bell has a couple of safe items, if you modify them (and so far, I've never encountered a problem doing that). I usually just get a bean burrito, no cheese. It's not very exciting, but with a little hot sauce, it's not too bad - it's filling, and a good source of protein. Wendy's has baked potatoes. You need to order it "plain, dry", but it will keep you from starving (salt and pepper helps). Actually, if "healthy" isn't your issue, then Wendy's fries are vegan, too. (They're actually one of the few that is.)
And then there are those occasional invitations to eat out. Those are the worst, because either I don't have any say in where we eat, which can be disastrous, or they *do* ask for my opinion, which is even worse, because I hate being a bother, and I know full well that my first choice is almost never anyone else's.
One of my tools is a little business card I carry in my wallet. I use this to give to servers and/or chefs at restaurants, whenever I get that blank stare that tells me they really don't know what a vegan is:Happily, I am using this less and less, as the word is getting out about just what we are, but it's a nice little thing to have, anyway - especially if you're too bashful to say anything.
Some restaurants are really great - they ask questions and genuinely want to accommodate you. Others aren't so great. Olive Garden falls into this second catagory. Company policy prohibits them from sharing recipes, and in turn, ingredients. Now, I don't have a problem with that, as long as they will assure me that a particular dish is actually free of everything on that little card. However, they feel the need to take this policy to the extreme, and will not "guarantee" any item on the menu as vegan. (Wouldn't you know it... my hubby's family loves this place.)
I have found, with experience, that the more ideas *I* have, the better I will eat. This has been a very hard-learned lesson for me, because I've always been the type to say "I'll have what they're having", or "whatever you have is fine", etc. This doesn't work so well as a vegan. Out of desperation, I have eaten a lot of salads "minus cheese, minus bacon bits, minus croûtons, with vinegar and oil dressing, or lemon, or no dressing" as it seemed to be safe. (For the record, Italian dressing is usually safe, but you do have to ask as some places add cheese.) I have also eaten a lot of plain, dry baked potatoes. All this, because I was too bashful to explain my situation. (Usually, the servers just assume that I'm watching my weight.)
I'm getting better, though. Most sit-down restaurants have the ability to prepare a nice plate of steamed veggies, sometimes with seasoning, if you ask. (You do have to be clear, though, about your needs, or most likely they will add butter.) Pasta is another good option. You have to make sure there's no egg in the pasta (fresh usually has eggs, dried usually does not, so in this case, the fancier restaurants are actually a worse choice). As for pasta sauce, often the tomato sauces are vegan - but you have to ask.
If I have the opportunity, I will call ahead and ask to speak with a chef. It's still difficult for me, but it's easier than speaking up when we get there. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. Most places appreciate the extra notice, so they aren't caught off guard.
The best tip I have for bashful diners, though, is SMILE. If you are nice to them, often they will be nice right back at you. Isn't it wonderful how that works?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
There are a number of reasons that people go vegan: health & diet, environmental issues, compassion for animals... My primary reason is the animals - but saving the planet and being healthier are nice little fringe benefits.
For me, veganism is a spiritual thing - I can't separate my spirituality from my veganism - it all fits together. Pocohontas explains it so well in the song "Colors of the Wind": "Ev'ry rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name." I believe that this world and everything in it are sacred, and that everyone and everything is connected. When we harm one, we harm all, and we harm ourselves. I look to do as little harm as possible - to myself, to others, to the planet in general.
I have heard the arguement that the animals were placed on this earth for us to "use". I see it a little differently, but I have a strong respect for others' beliefs. I don't claim to have all the answers. I'm just trying to live my life the best way I know how, for me. I can't make decisions for others. I respect that as serious as I am about this lifestyle, others feel as strongly about theirs. This makes me a lousy activist, which is okay. I have a lot of respect for those who do fight for the animals, and try to teach the world, but I just don't believe that path is meant for me. And yes, this actually tends to make me unpopular with other vegans. It's something I am learning to live with. When going vegan, it helps to have a thick skin (which I don't, so this is a challenge for me).
There's some question as to whether or not a vegan diet is "natural" for humans. Again, I won't argue one way or the other. What I do believe is that it is *possible* for a human to be healthy on a vegan diet (as well as a non-vegan diet). There are healthy vegans, and there are not-so-healthy non-vegans. Yes, there are a few crucial nutrients not commonly found in a vegan diet, so you do have to be careful. I did a lot of research before I made this lifestyle change - and I strongly caution anyone considering it to learn as much as they can, and speak with their doctor. I take a good vegan multi-vitamin and other suppliments every single day (B vitamins and Omega-3's are two big things to look for). I really pay attention to making sure I have a well-balanced diet, and that my body is getting what it needs.
Being vegan is very important to me. It's truly a part of who I am. I would love it if someday my life, in some way, inspired someone else to do something positive with their life. But I won't condemn anyone for living a different way. Right and wrong are rarely black-and-white - life is full of grey areas. I don't know what is right for you, only what I feel is right for me. I understand that even this next comment will offend some, but I truly believe that we each have our own path to follow, and that no one can find or choose it for another. May you find your path, and follow it with joy.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
So now I'm left wondering what I have to offer that hasn't already been done before. (If you have any ideas, please leave me a comment - I'd love to hear your thoughts! And if you have any questions, fire away. I'm certainly not an expert on the field, but I'll be happy to share my thoughts, feelings and experiences.)
One thing I haven't found (yet) is advice for the "bashful" vegan. It's certainly an extra challenge to follow this lifestyle when you're the type of person that tries to blend in and never make a scene. It's virtually impossible to go to a restaurant and "order off the menu". Or worse: to go to a friend or family member's home for a meal, and not be a difficult guest.
I suppose it's a good thing, then, that I tend to be a bit of a hermit. I virtually never eat out, except on vacations. It just so happens that my favorite place to spend vacations is also one of the best places for a vegan to fit in - Walt Disney World. That has turned out to be such a lucky coincidence!
If you're a vegan, and you're thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World, there are two things I suggest doing (besides asking me for advice, of course): check out http://allears.net/ This website has the answer to any question you ever had about Walt Disney World - including what's vegan at the parks. The second thing to do is pick up a copy of PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, by Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma (http://openmouse.com/). (Okay, so I've contributed to both, but honestly, these are wonderful resources!)
As for meals with family and friends, that's an ongoing challenge. I highly recommend that you be honest and upfront as soon as you receive an invitation. I really, REALLY, hate being rude, and that's how I feel when someone goes out of their way to prepare a nice meal for me, and I can't eat it because it's not vegan.
I have a confession to make: shortly after I went vegetarian (before vegan), I found myself inviting a cute guy to dinner. When I asked him what kind of food he liked, he described himself as a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy. Gosh, what to do? Well, beef was just out of the question - too icky for me. But I felt that I could probably make myself cook chicken just one more time (how could I disappoint him?)... so I did. And it was awful. He bravely ate it without complaining, and I bashfully confessed that I had pretty much gone vegetarian, and had apparently lost my meat-cooking skills. It was the last time I ever made that compromise for someone else. Fortunately, he came back a week later - this time with a vegetarian pizza in hand. He never let me cook for him again, but he must have found some other redeeming qualities in me - we've been married now for more than 10 years. :-)
By now, all my family and friends know that I'm a vegan. For family gatherings, I tirelessly tell them over and over not to "worry about me", and to prepare whatever it is they were going to prepare anyway. Sometimes they listen, and I just eat before the gathering (or sneak off to have a vegan energy bar in the car - never leave home without emergency vegan snacks!). Sometimes, they bravely try to prepare something I can actually eat. If they ever ask, "simple is better". If you don't know how to cook vegan, then it's best not to experiment. Vegetable soup, made with veggie stock (instead of the more common chicken stock), or spaghetti with a basic tomato sauce, are good, safe bets. But honestly, I'm perfectly happy with a simple salad (hold the croutons), or a frozen Boca burger.
In addition to the lack of "bashful" vegans, I've noticed something else, too: most vegans know how to cook. I guess this makes sense. Cooking skills would definitely come in handy when prepared vegan meals are so hard to come by. However, I have come to terms with the fact that this is never going to be my strong point. Yes, I'm a bashful vegan who can't cook. Believe me, I've tried. And I'm sure I'll continue to try in the future. But at the moment, my entire repertoire consists of fried rice made with frozen veggies, and prepackaged spaghetti with sauce from a jar. But I can nuke a mean Boca burger. Hahahaha.
Stay tuned for more adventures from the bashful Disney-obsessed vegan who can't cook...
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Vegan doesn't mean exactly the same thing to everyone, so here is my personal, brief description: I don't eat meat, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, or anything that comes from an animal. I don't wear leather, wool or silk. I try to avoid using anything that comes from an animal or is tested on an animal. However, I am not perfect. I make mistakes. To me, being a vegan means doing the best you can. It means causing as little harm as possible, while still living a (relatively) normal life. There's no such thing as a perfect vegan. (I hear there are actually some small animal-derived parts in home computers!) Each vegan has to decide where they will draw the line. I do the best I can, remember that every little bit makes a difference, and try not to beat myself up when I don't live up to my own expectations..
A lot of people think veganism is rather extreme. And, in a way, I suppose it is. It's certainly not "mainstream". It sets a person apart from the norm, and in many social situations, can cause a person to stand out. It can also make non-vegans uncomfortable - perhaps because they don't understand it, or perhaps because they feel the need to cater to the vegan's needs and don't know how.
And that is the real reason I hesitated from becoming a vegetarian, and later, a vegan. I thought about it for a LONG time before I actually took the plunge. I didn't want to stand out. I didn't want to make other people uncomfortable. And most of all, I didn't want others to feel as if they had to modify their routine to fit my needs. I was bashful LONG before I was vegan. I don't want to be special, or different, or weird. I just want to blend in.
But I also want to be happy, and I want to be true to myself. In the end, my need to go vegan outweighed my need to fit in. Now, I am 100% committed to this lifestyle. I won't make compromises to what, for me, is an ethical decision, just to make other people feel better. But I will do whatever I can not to inconvenience others, or make them uncomfortable. And that's why I don't talk about this much.
But I'm not the only vegan. And maybe I'm not the only vegan who struggles with the dilemma of fitting into a meat-eaters' world. So I am starting this blog - to share my thoughts and ideas on veganism, and everything else that makes me *me*.
Perhaps another bashful vegan can benefit from my experience. Or, perhaps a non-vegan can learn to be a little more comfortable with a vegan acquaintance, friend or family member.
If you have any questions, thoughts or ideas, please let me know. I want this to be a place where we can share ideas, and help each other.
Bright blessings to all.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
But maybe that's not the case. My life, in general, is blissfully boring, but the path I've chosen for myself is a little unusual. And maybe hearing how how I got here, and what I do next, could help someone else. And wouldn't that be an amazing thing?
So here I am... blogging. And I'll just see where it takes me...