Saturday, September 2, 2017

Food For Thought

"If nothing matters, there's nothing to save."
~Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

I have never been so happy to come to the end of a book as I am with Eating Animals. This book was recommended to me by a friend in Amsterdam who has kept to a diet most of his life as a pescetarian with fish being the only animals he would eat. After reading the above book he has also given up on fish (which I wish he would have done eight years ago before he convinced me to try a raw herring. It is NOT like sushi).

Saying this book was a challenge is putting it mildly. There were times when I physically had to stop for awhile.

I had stopped eating beef as a child after a girl scout trip to a slaughterhouse. I'm not sure what badge that was for but seeing cows hung by their feet bleeding out certainly turned my taste buds. I stopped eating pigs when I learned that pigs are smarter and more sensitive than dogs. If I was against eating dog why should I be for eating pigs?

Vegetarianism for many is one of those things they can dabble with now and then. Unlike religion where you don't hear people say, "I'll be Jewish this month but next month I think I'll try being a Baptist" many do dietary flips in a lifespan.

I have been guilty of this "meat fluid" diet. I was vegetarian in high school and college. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my first son that I began to eat meat again. Then, years later when I was going through my divorce it seemed like the perfect time to regain my veg status. And over the last eight years, I've gone in and out with my convictions.

My choice at times to not eat meat was never a matter of how they were treated but that I couldn't look in the soft eyes of my horse and know that cows have the same soft expression or that a pig would be able to follow directions better than my dog (not a great comparison if you knew my dog).

I was under the assumption that animals in factory farms were killed humanely. I was blissfully unaware of the horrific lives and deaths they are subjected to. I didn't realize that words like cage free don't necessarily mean better lives, just no wire involved. I was shocked to hear that Kosher also does not guarantee a humane killing. Words like free range, grass fed or even organic can be as real as canned unicorn.

The United States is woefully full of factory farms where animals die prolonged, horrifying deaths. Think of your beloved pet, after not being successfully knocked unconscious, skinned and gutted alive. Welcome to the nightmare.

Factory farming of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and even fish incorporates the most extreme abuse of life you could ever imagine. As a bonus, factory farming is, by far, the leading cause of global warming.

I know a brief blog won't change anyone's mind. We like to live in the dark about where our food is from. But if I can challenge just a few people to read Eating Animals, watch Meet Your Meat, or explore smaller farms that can prove their livestock not only lives a good life but also receives a good death I will have done something.

"Choosing leaf over flesh, factory farm or family farm does not in itself change the world, but teaching ourselves, our children, our local communities, and our nation to choose conscience over ease can."
~Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals


Monday, August 21, 2017

Not A Party Issue

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me."
~Martin Niemoller

Nazis. Not something I ever imagined could still be a thing in 2017. People with flags, armbands, torches, and salutes using their freedom of speech to promote hate towards anyone not white, straight and Christian.

What I'm truly shocked about is that Nazis have somehow become a party issue. There seems to be this idea that if you speak out against the Nazis you are somehow not supporting the president. They are quick to mention ANTIFA which, if you research, has no connection with a party affiliate and are in their own right a promoter of violence over peace, but fail to be angry or vocal about a group who worships the biggest psychopath in human history (I could be wrong about this fact but I'm going with my gut here).

Having just returned from Berlin I was quite disturbed to go through a timeline display and see the chilling resemblance between the early stages of the Third Reich and what has been occurring over the last six months. If you truly research early events you will see what I mean.

And then there is the statue debate. Having lived in Gettysburg I do see the importance of some such relics. But I've found it very interesting that most of the Confederate statues were erected during two time periods. The first in the 20's during the rise of the KKK and the second during the civil rights movement in the 50's and 60's. These were not there to preserve history, they were created to promote the Confederate ideas of putting African Americans "in their place."

Some of these statues stand in predominantly black communities where the person it represents never even set foot near that area. Yes, we need to stop whitewashing history. Yes, we need to stop romanticizing the part of our history that tried to divide it just to keep owning other people. Yes, we need to learn from our mistakes.

We need a stronger voice against those waving a Confederate flag or a Nazi one. Whether right or left winged we should all be able to agree on two simple issue.

1) Nazi ideals should have no place in our country.

2) The South lost the war and they were fighting, yes, for States Rights which was mainly the right to own people. Worshipping the flag and the cause includes a belief that they were fighting for something good.

I had hoped that this issue of all issues would be what party lines would agree on. That the hate-filled rising groups of protesters, whether it be Nazi extremists or anti-fascist organizations, that hate and violence are not the answer. We should be coming together to say we have zero tolerance for any of it.

I beg you, whether Democrat, Socialist, Libertarian, or Republican, make your voice heard that this is not okay. And if you are a white, straight Christian make your voice twice as loud. And if none of this bothers you there may be a tiki torch with your name on it.

They came for our immigrants, they came for our Muslims, they are trying to come for anyone who is not like them. Who will have a voice when they come for you?

"If they take down statues how will I ever write another history term paper?"
~Lily being Lily (My snarky daughter-shocking-I know)


Monday, July 31, 2017

A Perfect Life


"Comparison is the death of joy."
~Mark Twain

How often do you compare yourself to others? That person has a better car, a bigger house, a nicer spouse, a better body, a great job. I wish my kids were like that. He/she always has their shit together and never feels like I do.

I just finished reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. One of the worst things we can do is compare ourselves to others.  Especially in a social media society where posts consist of our great accomplishments.

We share our kid's shining moments, not that we can't get the right depression med combination, that they just told us they hate us, or that they may fail out of school.

We share our great vacation destinations, not that you may have fought the entire time or the weather sucked all but one day so you took 200 pictures in 12 hours.

We brag about our promotions but fail to express how the stress has you on anti-anxiety medication and the people you work with are all basically assholes.

We talk about the great workout we had but fail to mention our addiction to McDonald's or ice cream or wine.

And we no longer have real conversations to learn the truth. We meet people immediately hiding our own insecurities if we feel they are better in some way.

Recently a friend stated that he becomes very quiet on social media when things are shitty. That's a normal response. Another person came forth to say her life is falling apart and she can't keep up with everyone else's perfect life. But things are never what they seem. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain making you look all powerful when really you are bumbling through as much as anyone. We all may be feeling stupid, dealing with heartbreak, afraid or missing someone terribly.

I wish that all of the great posts came with small disclaimers. I'm to blame as much as anyone. Right at this moment, I have shitty things going on but none of them are devastating.  I have had enough devastating over my life to know that it's coming. So maybe that's why we get so excited to post the good stuff. Conflict, loss, pain, and sadness are all certainties of living. None of us will get out of it unscathed.

So don't look at everyone's "perfect life" and wonder where you went wrong. We have a limited amount of time and therefore a limited amount of f*cks to give when it comes to our happiness.

One of the greatest things we can do right now in a divided society that often seems so angry is to reach out when you know someone is having a tough time. A text, a call, a card or a visit can mean the world to another person. I know, personally, having to deal with some pretty heavy stuff with my middle son the words of a friend who dealt with something far worse gave me focus and strength. I will always be grateful for that.

So choose your f*cks carefully.  Don't waste them on jealousy or bitterness. The world may seem upside down right now with our government in shambles and our president deciding to hate and ban and grandstand at every turn. But we can still be good to each other.

"Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what's truly fuckworthy."
~Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.







Friday, June 23, 2017

Rainbow Connection

"Each one of us has a chance to be a rainbow in somebody's cloud."
~Maya Angelou

Rainbows. From what I've heard no two people see the exact same rainbow. And even our right eye versus left eye takes in a different image. So what better metaphor for people?

Two people can see the same third person in very different ways. They could be seen as a threat, a danger, different, beautiful, friendly, familiar, ugly, funny or worthless. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could rid ourselves of old biases and see everyone as a person of great value until they show us otherwise? Let's face it, there is evil, hateful people of every race, religion, and cultural status.  But what if we never judged by just a skin color, tattoo, piercing, religious garb, disability, or profession? What if we assumed everyone is unicorn level awesome? If they open their mouths and turn out to be hateful trolls that would most likely eat a unicorn then, by all means, feel free to walk away and search for more rainbows and unicorns.

Last night I was surrounded by six of my favorite rainbows. As we talked for three hours we once again discovered that every one of us had a battle we were fighting and by sharing our strategies, battle scars, tears, and laughter at least for an evening made the battle seem less daunting.

We as a society get so wrapped up in our own schedules and problems we forget to ask for rainbows let alone be one for each other. But what an amazing and beautiful thing happens when we do. It's as precious as gold.

Kermit the Frog said it best, "Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me."



***And don't forget to celebrate the rainbow that is Pride Week!






Sunday, May 28, 2017

Goodbye Old Friend

" Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too hard to read."
~Groucho Marx

This week we said goodbye to Cassie. She was otherwise known as Larry and/or the cockashit.

I found Cassie about a year after my childhood dog finally had to pass at age 17 (about two years longer than I should have made her suffer). My then husband had said no more dogs. But I found Cassie in the newspaper under puppies for sale. A farm in Lititz (yes, maybe a puppy mill disguise) had three female cockapoos. There was a black, a tan and a black and white.

I came with my newly one year old and five-year-old. The tan puppy was terrified of the kids but the black and white one followed them around like crazy. Sold.

That afternoon when Drew got off of the bus we were in the yard and let the puppy run to him. He remembers that as a pretty great day. Ethan named her Cassie after a dragon in a PBS cartoon. This was the third choice after I said no to Sinky and Hermione. He was five.

She was a strange dog. She was a runner if you let her get out. She had a small bladder so four to five hours were max before an accident. She was completely devoted to me. When my ex-husband and I were headed for divorce I either slept on the couch (mostly) or occasionally in one of my kid's rooms if they were at a friend's house. She would insist on being on the couch with me, in the crook of my legs, instead of the king size bed upstairs. In my house on my own, she would scratch the hell out of any door if she thought I was on the other side. She was special.

When Dan came along she was another challenge. He had never had a dog so it took some time but she immediately took to him. I had always referred to her as the cockashit since she had very little bladder control. Dan began to call her Larry on occasion because she would sometimes pee with one leg up and had a tendency to hump small children when the mood hit her.

For twelve years I heard that she was the healthiest dog for her age. And then it all went south. She became deaf and her eyesight diminished. She had small growths all over her body. She had trouble walking up and down the steps, could no longer jump and only on rare occasions would even go for a walk. And the bladder surprisingly became so bad she had to wear dog diapers with a human Depends inserted. She would pee every hour or two.

Tests showed that she did have some internal breakdown but we decided not to do extensive exploration with her age and decline. So we came to the family decision that it was time to let her go. Having waited way too long to make that decision with my last dog we felt it was better to do such a thing before she was clearly suffering.

A Lap of Love vet came to the house and we all gathered around Cassie's bed. It was peaceful, sweet and sad.

At night I wake up missing the lump by my feet. During the day a fleeting thought of "I have to take the dog out" is quickly realized as unnecessary.  I would often joke that her parents had to be related as the explanation of her lack of intelligence. But what she lacked in brains she made up with sweetness, devotion, and endless energy in her younger days.

You weren't always a good dog but you were our dog and we loved you.

R.I.P. Cassie

"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
~Will Rogers

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Grateful and Thoughtful

"To live, to truly live, one must consider each and every thing a blessing."
~Kamand Kojouri

All of you who read my blog are in a lucky state to have first world problems. I've even, lately, heard complaining about what would be considered Gold Status First World Problems.

I get it. We all need our moment to complain. I am an expert at times (just ask my husband). That is usually the best moment to take a step back and count your blessings followed by investigating ways to help those less fortunate than you.

A gratitude journal is one way to continue to spin the positive in your life. Every day write down anywhere from one to one hundred ways you were thankful, happy or successful. Every day take a moment to celebrate what you have and who you are.

I saw a Word Porn today that was just a paragraph of the best things the author has in her life she can celebrate. I encourage you to do the same.

And to be fair....

My family laughing together, a great round of jumps on a horse, my cat Fred on my lap, days the dog does not pee in the house,  hugs from my kids, my husband's love, vegetables from my garden, kindergartners, the sweetness of my four hooved baby, my deck over the summer, traveling to new and familiar places, the ocean, friends, my mom and dad, music, a great book, good comedy.

A first world list. I could have said a roof, food, shoes, fresh water, education, freedom of religion or sexual preference, basic human rights.

So have your bitch sessions. We all need them for our own therapy. But recognize how lucky you are. Fight the good fight against those who deserve our voice. And if you are one of those, speak louder than anyone. Relish the wonders we have today and help, fight for, speak for, donate to those who do not deserve to be denied what we enjoy.

Be grateful, be thoughtful, be kind.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Seize the Day

"Believe it or not,  each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die."
~Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

The clock is ticking. We have 24 hours in a day 365 days a year. For how many years none of us know. Carpe Diem right?

Last night my sweet husband told me that he wants to do that more often, seize the day. That used to be our relationship I have constant Facebook memories of our crazy long distance romance. I would travel to Amsterdam a couple of times a year. He would travel to Lancaster. And once a year we would meet somewhere, Australia and Iceland to name two.  At that time I shared custody of three kids and he had minimal expenses.

Things change.

Now married with stresses of house repairs (money pit), jobs, an aging pet and full-time parenting changes your freedom, both emotionally and financially.

But I married someone who understands that we only have 365 days a year. So let's take our daughter to see dead president's houses (she's an amazing 14-year-old) and get her to Germany this summer combined with a reunion with Amsterdam. She's a straight A student that does her own laundry, packs her own lunches, and cooks dinner once a week because she wants to. She is a way better person than I ever was (sorry mom).

We all have dreams and goals that we hope to accomplish. Our conversation motivates me to keep working on my dream of getting my book published. It motivated me to finally jump a jump that intimidated me on my young horse. I finally did it and it was beautiful. I could have done it awhile ago.

Our fears, insecurities (I suck, this sucks, I should give up, I will ruin this horse, child, career, relationship.....), often stops us from going that extra step. We don't push forward, take a leap, expose ourselves as the amazing individuals all of us are.

So this Earth Day, what are you pushing aside? What amazing talent, dream, or wish have you buried because you are afraid, insecure, or simply don't believe it's possible? What could you do to change your health, life, the world?

In the musical Hamilton, he asks, "What is a legacy? It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see."

True. But others will see.

So what will be your legacy?

"There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
~James Truslow Adams