Tuesday, October 16, 2018


I think I was born hippie. Maybe it was the time (quite likely). Maybe it was the place (less likely).

When we moved here I thought I "knew" so much about race and inequality - and I was so wrong. It's much worse than I thought, and so deeply in us. We are so isolated in the north and surrounded by unrelenting whiteness, and so those of us who don't consider ourselves racist can pretend it's a thing somewhere, but after all rational people aren't like that and MOST people aren't like that. Right? And the problems in our own schools and lower income communities are simply about density and no jobs or...something. Right? Then you get here and the blinders get all ripped off - and this isn't even the deep south - and suddenly you're like "WHO ARE THESE HUMANS AND WHO THINKS LIKE THAT?" Then you dig deeper and discover the deeply entrenched social justice issues that affect everything from voting rights to schools - all aimed at keeping a group down, and keeping people riled up against one another - and...it's such a tangled mess. I'm living in a state with voting districts that are shaped like snakes and octopi. I am living in a state that's probably about to enact voter ID laws that will further marginalize the have-nots, regardless of skin color. I live in a state where a man can smoke a bowl, get out of his truck, and get killed; standing while black. I am looking to move back to a state that is deeply racist and pretends it isn't, which is super easy when your towns are 99.3% WHITE.

Then there's the planet. Poor thing. We get given this amazing gift and what do we do? Rape the ever loving crap out of it in a short-sighted gluttonous assault. We suddenly "need" meat three meals a day (not including snacks!) which is so destructive to the environment on so many levels from water use to land use for commodity feed crops that could be growing plant-based foods with 1/10th the water and land waste and we would be PERFECTLY HEALTHY - hell, we would be HEALTHIER!! But we continue to kill ourselves and the planet and the powers that be come up with new ways to compensate for those of us leaving the meat and dairy markets by touting Keto or Paleo as the new cure-all when the science clearly shows the exact opposite is true...the organism has subsisted on the planet for millennia with meat as a side dish, not a main course. And we are stuffing it with all this animal flesh and fat, while our cancer rates and heart disease rates continue to skyrocket. Sometimes in my more paranoid moments I think it's intentional - cut down on the population by killing 2/3 of us off with food. Last man standing, holding a carrot and a bunch of kale, wins.

Then there's the animals and the small humans - and I go back in my child-mind to the picture of Jesus from Sunday School, all white and blue-eyed, with his long hair and beard, surrounded by a rainbow of small children and small animals, dove of peace seated on his shoulder. "Suffer the little children to come unto me..." and "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren..." and ok yeah He didn't mention animals, but really. I have never been able to put the cow on my plate completely into a context that makes sense, and that's even harder now, having watched all these things...could we raise animals for consumption without ethical quandaries? Maybe. But that's not what we do now. What we do now are things that any ethical person, witnessing in person, would want to report to someone - immediately - to make it stop. BUT WE EAT THAT SHIT. And kids - talk about an abused group. Kids and old people - the groups we all say we care about, but never put our money where our mouths are.

And on it goes.

Trying to find "a passion" in all of this is like trying to choose which of your children to throw off the life boat first. "But I love the people and I love the planet and I love the babies and I love the animals and I love the snakes and the bugs and the birds and all the things and..." what do I do with all that?

Death and dying has been and continues to be very important to me, in the way birth is. The arrival and departure of a soul should be sacred; it should be an occasion marked not with solemnity, but with respect and awe. When we lose that we lose our humanity. Hell, we've lost our humanity.

I am not perfect. I fall, fail, make mistakes - but I keep open and willing to learn and grow and change. And I am seeking truth endlessly. I find nuggets and store them away, but hoarding does me no good - the nuggets MUST be shared. They must be spoken, they must be set free.

So what, then, is my passion, my calling, my "thing"? This has been a topic around here lately as we both wander through mid-life, coming to grips with the past, making sense of it, and moving into the future.

My kids, grown now, are still my passion - but in a different way. Now my focus needs to transition to their children. All I have learned, I can share with them. Make them all sugar free, flour free, and vegan, and get their parents breathing down my neck (insert evil laugh here). OK, maybe not - especially in a world where pizza and Pepsi are everywhere - but at least introduce them to the natural world in a way that creates awe and wonder and the reverence for all life that we lack - and if someday they chose to opt out of the animal-cruelty based food chain, then good for them. Teach them that all humans matter. Teach them that all animals matter. Teach them that THEY matter.

Outside of that, I feel like I need to find a crusade that brings all of my passion into play. Advocacy, which is ironic because that seed was first planted by the shrink last year, but I have not been able to find the path to it yet. I need....a foundation of my own, with an endless budget - I shall save the whole world! I suppose I also probably need to make enough money to feed myself, damned capitalist system. But I would so rather just give myself away to the things that ignite me. Who needs a paycheck when I am talking about restoring sanity and humanity?

For the time being, still lacking a clear direction, I want to get certified in plant-based nutrition (for which I require that green evil we all so depend on in the modern world). In my perfect world I would go back to school near-full-time, gain degrees in nursing, social justice, nutrition, education? I am not sure what best suits the rambling, incoherent path I seem to be on. Actually it isn't incoherent. I mean, at the core of all the things I am passionate about lies the same thing.

Monday, October 15, 2018

And an Update for Jacinda

Hi! We are well! This weekend we went to a Charlotte VegFest, which must be done again the next time one is near me, or maybe I will just get one up of my own, and a town called Gold Hill where it rained so much that we gave up and went to the mall, where we bought discounted organic tea from the clearance section of HomeGoods. Nothing cures dampness like retail.
At Charlotte VegFest we found:
Farmer's First Coffee Company - they aren't "just" fair trade. The coffee in this bag was grown by this farmer. He gets paid about 4x what conventional growers are paid, which allows him to pay his workers, provide healthcare for them and his own family, and send his daughter to university. If I could drink coffee like this every day, I would be very happy.
Hempe, which is tempeh made with garbanzos and hemp seeds. It was being sampled in a mock chicken salad. We came away with three boxes and a free cookbook. I have seen this at Whole Foods, but like tempeh it is a little out of the price range for proteins here. But as a splurge item, something different now and then, it can stay on the menu.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell - author of The China Study, father of Dr. Thomas Campbell MD, who is proving to be well worth his salt in the areas of nutrition and lifestyle, and my hero in many ways. At a time when the political machine was gathering steam to shove us all further and further along the path to increased animal protein consumption, this man stood with the science, and paid professionally for it I am sure. But truth is truth, and while many may run, hide, or play politics, this man has stood firm on the facts - animal products are bad for us and the earth.

Read some signage at this booth, I am not sure who's it was, but I am always game for a little buddhist thought inserted into my day. One of the reasons why it is harder and harder for me to identify as Christian is because there seems to be no built in awareness that hurting things and trashing the planet goes against the teachings of Christ, which to me seems to fundamental to the whole thing. I am discovering more and more teachers over the generations who have shared this conclusion with me. Unfortunately, they are all mostly dead. Say you are vegan or don't eat meat to the average person on the street who identifies as Christian, and you get some push back. Dare I say a lot of push back. Also hazing. And a lot of snark. SO very Christian. Jesus loves a good bully.
Found out about this potential place - Brother Wolf Animal Sanctuary near Asheville, which will be some 80+ acres of space dedicated to healing and homing animals and - at least for short visits - humans. I like to imagine a world in which we don't need a place like this.
Decals from Goods and Evil, and also a t-shirt. Decals remaining are for my car. My new/used car which replaces the one I totaled in August - and, because it is used, it gets stickered all to hell. Like my laptops have been for the last decade.
 Namaste. And I thought you would particularly enjoy the bee one.
See. My mother would be so annoyed by these. But they please me immensely.
I started making Pussyhats - late to the party, but then I haven't had the freedom to contemplate getting to a march so it wasn't like I needed them. I am making two. One for me and one for whoever comes along - could be Gene, could be you. I understand from MaryAlice that there are lots of marches and etc in the county...there are fewer here, and rarer. More in Charlotte, and always seeming to coincide with work.
And this is Gold Hill, NC. We had already visited Reed's Gold Mine, which is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. But this place had popped up as part of the NC Thread Trail system, so we wandered out - it is a short 2.2 miles, flat, along an old rail bed. Unfortunately it was 1.) Sunday - everything is closed, all the cars at the church and 2.) it was raining and I had no hat and 3.) and this was really the corker for me I think, there were a lot of gunshots. I heard a shotgun clearly, and a smaller gun in the opposite direction. All were repeated firings, but not like a shooting range. Could have been someone plinking or shooting in their own yard, or could have been someone hunting in the area. It's just not something we think about, we silly northerners, where hunting is not allowed on Sunday in many areas (like MA).  So instead we looked at locked buildings and wandered into the ones that don't have doors.

Later we came home and ended up watching a stupid sports-ball thing until midnight. Something about Kansas and the Patriots. I don't care much about football, but I can be amused by a good game. And that was a good game. Yoshi, however, was not impressed. "Just PUT ME TO BED!"
See you soon (no really). Also whatever you do, do NOT watch the movie Earthlings. It will ruin your dinner. But do watch Vegan Everyday Stories which features, among other things, an 8 year old vegan activist. Reminded me of small Talitha saying she wasn't eating meat. Wise child.


All roads lead to where you are meant to be.

Martyrdom serves neither the martyr nor the community, most especially in the form we have come to know it. Once in a while a prophet comes along who's example shines a light on the path, but by and large the average attempt at martyrdom falls remarkably flat. All that sacrifice and self-flagellation... and nothing to show for it in the end except a wounded soul.

Self-compassion is a key element of Bright Line Eating (which is going really well, by the way). We will all at some point stray from the path of dietary perfection - this weekend for example surrounded by samples of assorted vegan things, we both succumbed to "tasting" - very verboten. The key to success is not allowing that moment of less than optimal choice to dominate and overrule your desire for health and well-being. So when a Bright Line Eater falls off the wagon (so to speak) the trick is to get immediately back on - not the next day, not the next week, not on Monday, but IMMEDIATELY. The problem is that we (women a lot, and men too) will castigate, brow-beat, and generally terrorize ourselves with so much negative self-talk that we crumble and believe we are undeserving, we have failed, we cannot possibly succeed, we suck, we will be forever in a wrong-sized body, captive to our addictions and gluttony...so what to do but grab another Milky Way. BLE, when experienced with self-compassion at its core means that instead of all that you gently silence the negative self-talk, reach out with all you have, and give yourself a giant internal hug. I do this with visualization in which I see myself as a child who has made an honest mistake and feels genuinely bad for it. She does not get spanked. She gets hugged, encouraged, and loved to pieces, until we wipe our eyes and remember that we can choose better.

Self-compassion really is also at the heart of many religions, although it is veiled in allegory (and even, in some cases, illustrated by symbols - no, I am not a Mason, but I have studied with one). This means that the heart of the religion or system of belief is wrapped in - and occasionally, I would argue, obscured by - stories with political and moral nuggets buried within them. And often, I would also argue, in Christianity which is the predominate religion of the west and the one with which most of us are most familiar, we miss the actual meaning of the tale by refusing to apply cultural relativity to the words in the book. If I view the bible's teachings from a 2018 western perspective and without learning the original meaning and intent of the words, I will surely fail to understand the moral of the story. Context is everything. I am sure this happens in most religions, but I am very certain that it happens with the Christian bible - read this book for a bare surface scratching on this issue.

Although Christian systems offer up Jesus as the literal lamb of sacrifice, the idea of self-compassion lies buried in there as well. If I can't forgive myself, then all the forgiving God does is without real effect in my life. God can let me off the hook, but I can keep myself there!

But this is not what I wanted to say today. I wander so easily. I blame middle age - oh wait! No! I embrace myself for my meanderings!

Self-compassion requires self-awareness first, I believe, for how can I forgive myself and love myself and embrace myself if I have no idea what it is that brings me back, time and again, to the same failings? And denial can be so strong as to overwhelm the discovery of truth. Self-compassion must be a process.

This means - I forgive myself for killing hundreds of chickens. I forgive myself for keeping laying hens. I forgive myself for myriad other things I have done to animals over my lifespan. I do this regardless of whether or not I possessed the right knowledge at the time to make better choices. Regardless of whether I knew, in the moment, right from wrong. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I did not. But I forgive myself. Now I can embrace myself, cry a little or a lot, and move forward with renewed commitment and an open mind - learning more as I go, working on the spots where I stumble, being open to knowledge and change.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


I find the development and evolution of self to be endlessly compelling. What I have often lacked in spite of a fair dose of self-awareness is the development of true self-compassion. I like to keep myself on the coals, so to speak; to hold myself accountable for both the things I have done and the things I could have prevented, and sometimes even things that have absolutely nothing to do with me, but if I can get a creative enough angle, I can MAKE them about me. Once hung and pilloried, with the blood of martyrdom coursing down my face, I internalize my shame and keep myself humiliated; bad, wrong, failed. I am, after all, a Horrible Human Being.

Or am I?

In most (dare I say all?) religion there is an element of compensation for "sin". In Christianity in particular those sins are hung on Jesus, who takes the abuse for us and thereby allows us to live free and clear, coming forth "white as snow" or "sinless". Go, and sin no more. Some have taken this idea to it's extreme - "If Christ is in me, I cannot sin. Therefore what I do, I do without shame." This same philosophy seems to infect the minds of radical Muslims flying into certain buildings, or kidnapping and raping into subjugation young women, or blowing up perfectly nice villages. Oh wait. That was us...

But I digress.

The primary piece if information that I believe we are supposed to glean from religion or a spiritual path is really more about self-compassion. Learning to see our failings, fallings, "sins" (and those who have sinned against us); learning to accept our collective fragile humanity, and then - and this is the part where I think most of us miss the boat, let the boat go, shove the boat way, way far away - not in the sense of denial, but from the perspective of liberation - CHANGING. GROWING. LEARNING.

This weekend we went to Charlotte VegFest, which was an amazing thing for me on a lot of fronts - certainly preaching to the choir, but there's always new songs to learn. We listened to a few speakers - most notably Dr. T. Colin Campbell (swoon) about whom I will speak in a later post. But for now I want to focus on the idea of compassion, expanding on it's presentation by Shabaka Amen, who was the first speaker of the day, and who said something that stuck with me: "You cannot be passionate about animals until you are compassionate to yourself". This may not be an exact quote, but that isn't the point. The point is that unless we are able to be compassionate with ourselves - really nitty gritty down and dirty open and honest about what we are and how we could be better, we cannot be truly, deeply passionate - or compassionate - about "others" (animals, people, bugs, etc).

That thread from that morning speech bled into the rest of my day. Ronnie Tsunami mentioned, in his talk, a few documentaries that I had not seen before (and here I thought I had them all covered!). Specifically he mentioned Earthlings, which he said he got about ten minutes into before converting to veganism. After last night I know why. I don't recommend it unless you know yourself to be self-compassionate, because your complicity in what you see on the screen could have you needing therapy or possibly an inpatient stay. How bad is it? Well. It had me up for a couple of hours trying to figure out how to feed my carnivorous pets ethically. That bad.

But again, I digress.

Near the beginning of Earthlings the screen is alight with quotes, some known, some not. One that stuck with me was this:

The Stages of Knowing:
1.) mockery
2.) violent opposition
3.) acceptance

That's what I woke up with in my head today, questioning, ruminating. Where am I on that scale? Am I truly accepting? Am I externally compliant and internally mocking or opposing? Am I justifying the actions of myself and others, which I think might be in-between opposition and acceptance?

In further research this morning, I came across the work of William G. Perry, an educational psychologist who developed a detailed theory (The Perry Scheme) of intellectual and ethical development in college students, the framework fo which is a nine-step progression from dualist thinking ("right is right and wrong is wrong and that's that!") to relativist thinking ("right and wrong change with perspective and awareness") to commitment ("I believe this or that, but I am open to learning and changing as I go.")

Further (extremely) simplified, those nine stages or progressions become something, from what I have read so far, like this:

1.) The Garden of Eden:

In this phase, we believe a thing is true because we have been told that it is true. This is your basic garden variety religious or cultural education and inculcation. At times there are dualities within the scaffolds of our assorted indoctrinations, but they are usually justified or explained away by some intellectual sleight of hand. Think: "Mommy, if God said don't kill, why are we at war?". The adults fabricate some rationale, vaguely aware that they are spewing bullshit, or perhaps truly believing the righteousness of the cause, depending on where they are in their own journey of self-awareness and development. Also in this category are such nuggets as "But Pastor said..." and "The government entity knows best." The corollary from Earthlings would be mockery. I now what I know, and what you know is wrong. Idiot.

2.) Anything Goes

This phase is where I think most of us get stuck. In this phase, we are deeply - maybe unconsciously - aware that there are no right answers, that right and wrong are entirely dependent on the perspective of the individual - but in order to conceal this little fact from ourselves we engage in denials and justifications for our thoughts and behaviors that range from deeply held religious beliefs to strong secular attachments to any bloody effing thing that keeps us from looking at the thing that makes us culpable, PLEASE DEAR GOD DON'T LET ME SEE. This I think brings us - this need to keep the self unaware and "innocent" of who/whatever's blood, to justify our actions - to the point of violent opposition. We are the most adept at denial, and will use whatever skills come to hand to indulge that denial.

3.) Critical Thinking

Or, you know, acceptance. If I objectively and without rancor to self or others evaluate the facts and the sources of those facts, then I am able to approach all new information with an open mind - a mind that seeks knowledge and awareness, a mind unafraid of change and unafraid of truth. The alternative is, of course, a mind that continues to be slapped shut and rejects all new information that might result in expansion of awareness and understanding.

You cannot progress to acceptance without self-compassion.  If I am truly forgiven, if I am truly and deeply compassionate with myself, then the new information is not a threat. It is merely a window that lets more light into my world and clarifies my beliefs and awareness.

Stay tuned...