Friday, September 26, 2008

Random Fridays: It's Cold (Wrap Yourself In Anything But Wool)

* Jezebel's list of 75 Books Every Woman Should Read is oh so awesome. Today would be a great day to curl up with one of the books because it is rainy and gray where I am. My favorite book on the list? I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. You can listen to a reading of the short story "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson (the short story collection of the same name was listed first by Jezebel) on this episode of Vegetarian Food for Thought.

* The latest episode of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Vegetarian Food for Thought, "The Shearing of Sheep," is one of my favorites. If you don't know how wool is produced and the many other ways in which sheep are used the world over, this is a great place to start.

* Since this seems to be a very literary post today, I'd like to recommend another favorite episode, a reading of the short story "A Mother's Tale." I cried when I first heard it.

* The last few times I walked into Book Trader in Philadelphia, I kept looking at Three Black Skirts by Anna Johnson. It's one of those hot-pink books marketed towards women that tells you how to do everything (as Brian said while he read it over my shoulder, "Who sits down to write a book telling people how to do every single thing in the world?" But he was riveted and we're going to fix his running toilet because of it). The tone, however, was cheekier and smarter than your average chick lit self-help selection. I never bought it, though, because I have too many books. Just last week, I came across a copy of it at my library, borrowed it, and devoured the book in a weekend. It was uplifiting, informative, funny, sweet and told me why cotton-blend cardigans are best, how to hang a heavy picture (nail it to the stud), fix a running toilet, and host an unfussy dinner party. I read about why Eloise, Moomintroll, and Horton are better than Prozac. She loves yoga and you know I'm all about that lately. It just generally comforted me during a weekend when I was still feeling raw and shaky from the loss of Luckie and the end of a friendship.

* I was hungry for more Anna Johnson. Luckily, a few months ago she released The Yummy Mummy Manifesto. Okay, it sounds like some horrific guide to losing 30 pounds 2 days after you've given birth and, also, I am not pregnant but I ordered it anyway because, from the looks of the reviews I've read, this is not some brainless, shaming tome. It's a fun celebration of being a creative mom. I'll need it someday.

* Why not add a final Food for Thought shout-out in honor of mothers. This one is on motherhood and animals, specifically cow mothers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Help Save Bitch

Bitch is one of the best magazines ever. I've been a reader for many years and would hate to see the newstand become bleaker than it already is (check out the latest issue of Bitch to read a critique about a Cosmo article on "5 ways to tell he's a rapist." Now do you see why we need Bitch?) One of the highlights of my trip to Portland was visiting the Bitch offices during last Thursdays on Alberta Ave. I just poked my head around and grabbed some crackers and berries but I felt giddy inside. I finally got to see where all the crackling, bright, incisive coverage is born (oh, you don't believe I went to Portland because I didn't post about it, now do you? So if no one blogs about it, it didn't happen, right? Go look at my Flickr page for pictures of food I meant to blog about)

Send a few bucks Bitch's way. Buy the latest issue and subscribe. Sky, I'm talking to you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Luckie 1994-2008

On Sunday morning and on what would have been my grandmother's 92nd birthday, Luckie died. I found him dead on the kitchen floor. I think he choked after vomiting. I wasn't with him. No one was. He died alone. I feel terrible for this. I hope he did not suffer for long and that he wasn't scared. Of course, I will never know. I just know that he isn't suffering now.

After fighting arthritis, a thyroid tumor, seizures, and the undignified maladies of old age, Luckie probably succumbed to a relatively new problem for us, a paralyzed vocal cord. This is what made him gag after drinking water and made him pant and lose 10 pounds in one month. This is what he died from. I didn't see it coming.

Even in his last weeks, as he lost weight and became a picky eater, he still followed us from room to room, still enjoyed his dinner of turkey or ground beef with rice and veggies. On his last night, he picked up a bone that had been lying on the floor untouched for at least a week. I thought he was unable to eat bones anymore but he picked it up and chewed it slowly. I was so happy to see him do something he had once enjoyed so much but had to give up. Then I became concerned that he might choke so I left him with the few small pieces he broke off and threw out the large part. He didn't try to take it from me, as he would have when he was younger (when he was younger, he never would have let me near his bone, period). He gave in and slowly chewed on the small bits before leaving them behind for his water. Maybe he knew that he was going to die and he just wanted one last bone.

I feel lost, guilty, bereft, and sad. I ache and miss him. On Wednesday, my mother and I will watch him be cremated and then we will take his ashes home. On the drive up to the pet cemetery on Sunday, we carefully wrapped Luckie up before placing him on the back of the pick-up truck. I drove in front with Brian while my mother, stepfather, and Luckie followed in the truck. We had our hazard lights on because we were driving slowly but we also inadvertently gave Luckie a final procession.

Luckie was in my life for half of my life. I haven't known an adulthood without him and with him gone, I finally feel as though my childhood is completely over. I remember a time when Luckie was my only true friend. I remember our walks in the woods, the one time when I sat crying on a rock and was lonely, except he was there. He was there when I cried, there when I giggled, was so ecstatic to walk with me and catch balls I threw, and he seemed to forgive me when I was too busy with my own life and took for granted that he would always be around.

Taking care of Luckie has been such a focus for me in the last few months that last night I felt like howling as I laid in bed and knew there was no one to check on at 2 in the morning anymore. The house is so empty. We've left his last bit of water in his bowl but many signs of him are gone. Even most of the dog hair is cleaned up. As I pulled into my driveway last night, I still looked for his head to pop up in the window.

Losing him, even in just a day, has shown me who the truly compassionate people in my life are. A yoga teacher I've only spoken to once and arranged to meet with privately today sent a kind email expressing her sympathy after I called to cancel our meeting. Johanna of Vegans of Color, who I have only met once and only know through a blog, immediately sent her sympathies. Sky, who lives across the country, called within minutes of me sending her an email about Luckie's passing. Two friends who I see or speak to just a few times a year sounded truly concerned and hurt when I spoke with them. Then another friend, who I have known for over 15 years ignored my calls, didn't listen to my sobbing message, and then feigned ignorance when I finally spoke to them and could not even muster up an, "I'm sorry," when I confronted them on their unavailability and duplicity. I am raw and angry and have felt conflicted about this friend for a very long time and now all ambivalence has come into crystal clear focus. This person is not a friend and I don't want them in my life. Losing Luckie has made many things clear: who does and doesn't love me, what my next moves will be. Everything is now apparent after being in limbo for so long.

Brian. Oh my god, what would I do without him. He was with me when I found Luckie. He cleaned up after Luckie while I paced around the house sobbing and sounding insane. He helped us take Luckie to the pet cemetery. He cried for Luckie and held me. Having Brian in my life also has made it clear to me that relationships and friendships I once mistook for love, attachment and passion were nothing more than toxic wastes of time. I'm grateful that I have Brian. I am not alone anymore and even when I sometimes feel lonely, he still loves me.

Luckie most of all always showed me pure, unfettered, unconditional love and affection. I will miss his sweetness, his intuition, his intelligence, his sense of humor and mischief, and his valiant spirit. He outlived most retrievers by two years and he left still being able to eat and walk and hobble from room to room to be with his loved ones. He still gave kisses and never became despondent even after his walks stopped and his world got so much smaller. I love and miss him so much and thank him for being one of my greatest teachers.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Today's Lunch: The Good News & The Bad News

I went out to lunch with some colleagues today at a very nice, spacious restaurant not far from my job. I wasn't able to check out the menu beforehand so I was a little worried about finding something to eat. I was, however, relieved to find that I could easily order a decent salad by requesting that mine come sans animal parts. I wasn't hungry for much more than a salad anyway.

Good news: Without any prompting, the waiter told our table that the mushroom soup contained chicken broth and cream and added, "Just want to let you know in case that's a problem for anyone." Wow. That was refreshing. The pureed garbanzo bean soup with croutons and balsamic glaze sounded promising but he said--again, without any prompting--it contained cream. How great that the waitstaff didn't just assume everyone eats animal-based broth. Also, the foccacia was delicious.

Bad news: I ordered a salad with wontons, oranges, avocado and ginger dressing without chicken. When my salad came, there was a huge hunk of chicken leg and thigh sitting next to it. Not those innocuous-seeming hunks of chicken breast that are so ubiquitous on restaurant salads--a big, old piece of chicken. Anyways, I quickly said, "Oh, no chicken," and they took it back with no problem and gave me my salad on a new plate.

I came out as a vegan to one of my co-workers when he asked if I was vegan. I hate talking about it even though I know it's part of being a "good" vegan. It's just, well, I like to eat in peace. Nothing gets my back up like people dissecting what goes into my mouth. I'd much rather blog and blab when there's no food around.

My First Post at Vegans of Color

I'm a contributor at Vegans of Color and put up my first post today. It's just a news link but please go ahead and take a look. VoC and all of the contributors always hit the nail on the head and the blog has become a daily and beloved read of mine. I'm really excited about being a part of this community.

Jivamukti Yoga and Veganism

In light of what I posted on Thursday, the Hip Tranquil Chick podcast episode I'm listening to now is perfect because it's a wonderful marriage between yoga and veganism. It's an interview with Sharon Gannon, co-creator of the Jivamukti method of yoga. This method "emphasizes vinyasa, scriptural study, devotion, prayer, music, chanting and meditation as well as animal rights, veganism, environmentalism and political activism."

I'm listening to it now and can't wait to read more about this method and go to yoga tonight. I am feeling very tightly wound and anxious today so I really need it. Last night, I had an upsetting conversation with Brian. My chest felt like it was balled up into tiny knots, which is how I normally feel, and I didn't know what to do with that feeling. Not just in that moment but with the rest of my life. Worrying into the future is always a surefire way to get nice and calm so instead I rolled out my mat while Luckie was sitting outside in the yard and did some heart openers: warrior poses, dolphin pose instead of downward dog because of my messed-up wrists (my yoga teacher says dolphin is actually harder but tell that to my dysfunctional wrists), child's pose, bridge pose, cobra and final relaxation. And it's crazy, but I did feel my chest unwind. I felt relaxed. I went to sleep without having to turn on the TV first.

For more information:
Scroll down to January 13, 2008 for the Hip Tranquil Chick shownotes on this episode
Jivamukti Yoga School

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


A few weeks ago, I had a craving for salmon teriyaki, a meal I occassionally enjoyed buying from a restaurant around my job. I didn't give into this craving but for a few moments throughout the day, I thought, "Hmmm, salmon sounds really good right now." I knew I wasn't going to eat it but I kept thinking about it.

Since then, every once in a while, the thought pops into my head, "I wonder if I'll ever eat meat again," or "Cheese. It does taste good." I don't do anything with the thoughts. I just notice them. They go away. I'm vegan now and, unless I'm at a nonvegan restaurant (like I think I may have to go to tomorrow for work and the damn place doesn't even have a web listing on a search engine, let alone a web site for me to peruse), I do not find it in the least bit difficult to be vegan. Still, 27-plus years of eating animals and their by-products can still be slightly formidable in the face of just months of vegetarianism and veganism.

In the last week or so, I've been obsessively listening to the Hip Tranquil Chick podcast and loving it. Totally getting my yoga on, journaling, really focusing on me, so much so that I did yoga poses while Brian painted inside my mother's house (I did help, too; I just took some yoga breaks!). This is in contrast to what I've been focusing on in the past year, which has mainly been Brian and veganism. At work, I usually listened to Food for Thought, Vegan Freak Radio, Animal Voices, and others. I spent a majority of my waking hours thinking about animals and food. I'm not saying getting into yoga and other subjects is making me want to eat salmon. Yoga has that whole ahimsa thing going for it, so delving into yoga only strengthens my commitment to veganism. What I am saying is, I took a little break from Hip Tranquil Chick today and listened to the latest Vegan Freak and Food for Thought episodes. I saw the picture in the upper left hand corner of this post with the shownotes for the latest Animal Voices episode on Farm Sanctuary's pig rescue and almost started crying. I knew the answer to the question, "I wonder if I'll ever eat meat again?" No. I won't eat animals again. Not as long as my eyes, ears, head, and heart are open. Since veganism is still new to me and still something I don't automatically share with people, I still need to do work to reinforce my dedication to and practice of it.