About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome Back, Mommy

So...last week I took a "Momcation".  I went away for a WHOLE WEEK without my kids or husband.  To pay credit where credit is due:  my husband did (as I expected) a great job with the kids and even planted about a dozen new plants in the yard while I was gone.  I thought I was going to be missed, but when I asked my youngest if he had missed me, he said, "No, I had the crazy flower".  The crazy flower is a *sprinkler*. 

OK...good to know.

I went to sunny Southern California to hang with two girlfriends; it's been a seriously rainy spring in Oregon (even by Oregon standards) and I needed to get outta here IN A MAJOR WAY.  I can only take so much rain.  (In true Murphy's Law form, the sun came out the day I left and has remained....summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest.)

I LOVE Southern California.  I hate the traffic, but love pretty much everything else. I could happily live there.  At least at the beach.  (To be fair, I was never very far from the beach the whole time I was there.)  One friend lives in Carlsbad and well, what's not to love about Carlsbad, Encinitas, and Oceanside?  Cute little beach towns with cute little restaurants, nice piers, a relaxed attitude and surfers everywhere.  The other friend lives in Pasadena; I didn't go that far north (in fact, I never went more north than San Clemente), but she graciously drove down to hang with us in Carlsbad and San Clemente.

I took a surfing lesson while I was there (in La Jolla, with the lovely Surf Divas) and went kayaking.  When my grandchildren ask one day how often and how well I used to surf, I will, like all good grandparents, lie. 

I will say "all the time" and "very well".

Kayaking was more successful, though my friend and I agree that two control freaks should not be in the same kayak.  We both wanted to steer.  One control freak per kayak only.

We also went cheese-tasting in San Clemente at The Cellar (I didn't actually eat the cheese, but dined instead on wonderful almonds and figs).  I did taste one cheese-stuffed pepper, which was marvelously good and reminded me why giving up cheese is so damned hard.  My friend also ate crepes at a creperie in the same town (I had tea). She is a real foodie, though (obviously) not vegan.  I watched as she went practically orgasmic over her cheese, wine and crepes.  She claims that she loves cheese so much she'd have sex with it were that possible.  If that's not a statement that attests to how much people are attached to certain foods, I don't know what is.  And I *know* she is not alone in her love of cheese.  It's the hardest thing to give up being vegan.  Even Daiya, the most acceptable vegan cheese out there, doesn't stand a taste test against real gourmet cheeses.

I had thought, given what I see on the internet, that finding vegan food would be easier in Carlsbad and surrounding areas than it is in Oregon.  Not. True.  It *can* be found, for sure, but it's about equally likely there as here that you'll walk into a restaurant and be unable to find even one item that is animal products-free.  That surprised me.  Fortunately, when we ate out (we often ate in), restaurants accommodated me without any problems. 

My week away was a treat and I think should be required for Moms.  We NEED to get away.  Minimum once a year for a whole week.

I thought I'd come back with a cheery attitude and be totally into the Mom thing again.  Suffice to say that kids' squabbling and messes bother me just as much now as they did before I left.  Perhaps a week isn't enough to totally charge one's batteries after 13.5 years of parenting.

Still, I'm not complaining, only reporting.

I've been back 24 hours now and have had to clean up poo on the carpet (an accident nobody will claim, but which has only one likely suspect); I've had to wash my mattress because somebody came into my bed at night and had an accident (that one cannot be denied).  I've also had, curiously, to fish toys out of the toilet that NOBODY knows how they got there (again, only one likely suspect).

In other words, welcome back Mommy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


A number of months ago, when I wrote a  post about how overwhelming it is to attempt veganism and to avoid foods now known to be problematic (i.e, all stuff with high fructose corn syrup) one of my friends commented (privately, I believe), that I should be careful, or I'd end up an alien in my own world.  (I was proposing giving up ALL products with high fructose corn syrup, all peanut butter and all products with GMO ingredients, AND being vegan and buying exclusively organic.)  At the time, I thought that comment was a bit dramatic, but now I'm not so sure.  He may be right; trying to do all these things will box me into a lonely, limited corner.  I suspect it's a huge reason why more people don't attempt veganism, or at least don't attempt it consistently. 

The ONLY vegans I know are you guys here on the internet.  I have no "real-life" vegan friends.  I find myself frequently in situations where I have to make non-vegan choices.  For instance, when shopping for sports equipment for my kids, I'm constantly confronted with leather.  Should I not let them play?  That choice seems ridiculous.  Should I just search higher and lower for the elusive non-leather baseball and soccer stuff?  I've tried the latter and had mixed results, both in terms of quality of items and in terms of ease of finding them.  One kid ended up with leather shoes because, after going to four stores, nobody had a non-leather baseball shoe in his size.  Maybe there's actually a hidden group of vegan parents of baseball players buying out all the shoes for 10-year-old boys.  I dunno.  I certainly haven't met them.  I suspect there's just a lot of 10-year-old boys playing baseball. :)

The latest alienating -- literally -- experience is the struggle I'm having over WHY to be vegan, and to what extent.  The most vocal (and academic) vegans emphasize that there is no sufficient reason to justify continuing disparate treatment of non-human animals (Thank you, Tim, for your words).  We don't *need* to eat them; we can get what we need from non-animal foods.  Despite that we know they suffer pain and know they're alive, we continue, as a society to treat them as objects -- as if they existed purely for us (for food, for clothing and for entertainment).  We know that over centuries we've bred them such that they meet OUR needs but would not exist in nature as they are (many domesticated animals no longer know how to breed and suffer horrible physical oddities because, for instance, we've raised them to have more meat than they "should" have or to produce more milk than they would need to have for their own young).

Despite the vast evidence -- philosophical, scientific and logical -- that one can present for WHY animals should no longer be treated as they have been, most people find it "extreme" to suggest that the reason to eat a plant-based diet is NOT just for us (it's better for the environment and our health), but that it is better AND MORE ETHICAL for the ANIMALS.  As soon as I even suggest that I'm starting to think that way, I feel as if my friend's warning has come to pass -- I'm an alien in my own world.  I'm an extremist and a weirdo.

The pull of cultural and religious and social norms is amazingly strong and those are the only arguments, really, that people can use to justify their continuing to eat meat and dairy.  And those norms are, as all cultural and religious and social norms are, relative -- they are not simply "right" or "wrong" but instead are what we are used to.

And the more I think about WHY people do what they do, the more I think -- even as a sociologist -- that simply doing what we're used to doing is not a sufficient reason to continue to do so.

But I still feel like an alien.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Just How Compassionate Are "We," Really? The Brooke-and-Fur Controversy

Two vastly different types of "vegan" news were all over the internet yesterday.  One, Psychology Today wrote about a study claiming to find proof that vegetarians and vegans are more compassionate than omnivores; more areas of their brains (compared to omnivores' brains) appear to react (MRI tests) to images of both animal and human suffering.  You can find the article at the link above. Predictably, vegans and vegetarians and organizations like PETA "tweeted" and "shared" this information widely, as proof that "we" are better than all you "stupid" omnivores and, of course, didn't we know that all along?

And the wording of their tweets and shares was about that compassionate, by the way, as were the comments that followed said tweets and Facebook posts.

Alongside that information was the tidbit of news that Brooke Shields was quoted as saying,   "Wearing fur may be associated with something grandmotherish. Something you wear when you visit the opera, or if you are a rock star and wears it inside out. But I will advocate that both my generation and the younger generation can wear fur".  This was EVERYWHERE yesterday, but if you want evidence, go to PETAthe original article, twitter (just search for her), or ecorazzi.com

Now, I *totally* disagree with Brooke Shields' choice to wear fur.  TOTALLY.  (Read my review on the fur trade documentary Skin Trade if you don't believe me.) But if we vegans and vegetarians are so compassionate -- so evolved in our empathetic responses to people and animals -- should "we" be expressing our disgust at Brooke's choices with the following words?  (There were, of course, plenty of people who did NOT use these types of words, but the following posts are but a brief selection of the harsh and cruel words aimed at Brooke yesterday on the internet; I have left all spelling and grammar and punctuation errors as they were originally written.)


Brooke shields, this is why you're some dumb ass jobless fucked up bitch! (Twitter)

What an asshole. (Twitter)

I didn't dream about anally electrocuting animals on fur farms, but apparently Brooke Shields did. (PETA writer)

Brooke Shields is SCUM. Seriously, this fading siren is resorting to animal abuse to stay in the limelight. Pathetic! (comment on the PETA blog)

I hope you never have a peaceful nights sleep again you washed up old fur hag. (another comment on the PETA blog)

I would like to see her skinned alive and be worn all the time. (yet another comment on the PETA blog)

She need an electrical prod shoved up her ass!! (comment left on PETA's Facebook page)

She could make a fur coat with her eye brows although she doesn't need one with all the fat in her ass she can keep warm. (another comment from PETA's Facebook page)

When Brooke Shields dies and meets her maker, all those little animals will be standing there watching, as she falls down to HELL!  (ditto)

I could go on and on, but you get the picture:  those supporting animal rights and theoretically *so* much more compassionate than omnivores (who are assumed *not* to support animal rights) are hellishly rude and anything but compassionate in their treatment of Brooke Shields, who last I thought about it, is just another human being like the rest of us.  Flawed.  Capable of making some BIG mistakes.  Unfortunately, when she makes them, everybody knows about it. 

I'm SO glad I'm not famous.

My own tweet "to" Brooke (I actually hope for her sake she's NOT reading the crap posted on Twitter) was the following:  "You have disappointed me. Fur? Really? I *know* you can live without it and still look SMASHING. Watch Skin Trade."

I believe it is possible to raise awareness of atrocities such as those repeatedly seen in the fur industry without resorting to foul language or criticism of a person's career, physical attributes, intelligence, or age.  Granted, maybe all the above comments come from meat-eaters; I don't actually *know* for sure, but judging on the organizations they purport to support, it is a safe guess that quite a few of them put themselves out there both as animal advocates and as vegetarians, maybe even vegans. 

If "we" want people to believe that one of the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet is increased compassion and less violence, we need to make sure that our words toward fellow human beings reflect those values. 

Even if our brains (rather predictably, given our philosophical commitments) fire up "more" than omnivores' brains when shown images of cruelty, we undermine the claim that we're so "nice" if we talk about people with so little regard for their personhood

I hope Brooke changes her mind.  And I hope if she does, people quietly applaud her and let her do so with grace, rather than with shaming criticism.