July 31, 2007

Please read "Project for the New American Carnivore"

Posted in animal advocacy, vegan, veganism at 5:03 pm by nevavegan

James LaVeck and Jenny Stein have written a long, intelligent, well-reasoned piece regarding some changes in the animal rights movement as evidenced by the speaker list from TAFA, the conference which took place this last weekend. The essay is entitled “The Project for the New American Carnivore” and compares the domination of the movement by welfare issues to the neo-con takeover of our country’s government among other apt observations.

Please take a moment (or a little longer) and read this excellent essay.

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July 30, 2007

Dairy Farmers in the American Heartland

Posted in animal advocacy, vegan, veganism at 1:11 pm by nevavegan

I have a really good friend who often argues with me that if everyone went vegan a lot of “Americans” would be out of work. And she isn’t the only one who says this—many people believe that taking compassion into account when we fill our plates somehow means less compassion toward our human neighbors.

I for one never really bought this argument. For one thing I’ve never been so optimistic as to think that I’d start my vegan blog and then suddenly a few days later nobody would be buying cow’s milk. But I also believe that people currently employed in industries that exploit animals could slowly but surely find work in the expanding industries replacing animal exploitation. Soy milk and veggie burgers, anyone?

But yesterday the Washington Post ran an interesting article showing a little spoken of trend in animal agriculture today. The United States is actually importing people from other nations to supply us with the steady stream of animal products consumers demand. This article covered the tensions and growing pollution in one community as Dutch dairy farmers set up huge operations in the US. We also know that many people working on battery farms for eggs or in slaughterhouses are illegal immigrants.

I’m not anti-immigrant by any means, but I believe that these trends show that rather than keeping our citizens working and productive, this huge push for more and cheaper animal products is actually just increasing a demand for cheap labor and asks immigrants to do work that many citizens are no longer willing to do.

So the next time someone accusing you of trying to put American family farmers out of business just because you order a soy latte, ask them how many of their friends currently work in animal agriculture. Remind them that the mythic small family farm is just that, a myth. Remind them that to produce all these animal products they thoughtlessly gobble we’re importing people as well as animals.

Then point them to this article and show them how dairy farming rather than keeping “Americans” employed is pushing them out of their communities and polluting their water and soil. I wonder if anyone making the “jobs before animals” argument really knows much about how our animal exploiting industries operate.

July 28, 2007

Driving Sideways

Posted in animal advocacy at 1:13 pm by nevavegan

Driving sideways, taken in by the scenery, as you’re propelled along
And your companion, refuses to navigate, for fear she may be wrong.

This song always got under my skin. Aimee Mann knows how to round up all my demons and put them in a beautiful package and stick a bow on top.

The thing about driving sideways is that there are times in life where we realize there’s so much wrong, but those demons I mentioned come out in force and keep us locked into a non-productive path. Where do the demons come from? Well, let me tell you.

Growing up was hard for me, as I’ve mentioned many times. My mother liked to be right. She liked to be right so much that she couldn’t tolerate anyone telling her otherwise, so if on the rare occasion I found my voice and said something (and it was always from fear, a wrong turn is one thing, but if it looked like a wrong turn off of a cliff then I got worried) the reaction was swift and punishing. I’ll always remember the rebukes “You don’t tell ME what to do!” or “I’m not going to let some smart-mouthed little girl dictate to me!”

In retrospect I really don’t believe that I was smart-mouthed, just now and then fear helped me find my voice. I remember once I went to school and we had health class and the entire time they put up slides of dead and disabled babies saying “all of this was caused by women drinking while they were pregnant.” I went home and at 2:30 in the afternoon my pregnant mother poured herself a glass of sherry. With tears in my eyes I said that I’d just been told at school that drinking is really bad for unborn babies. She could have lied and reassured me, she could have said she’d never heard that, instead she punished me for opening my mouth.

Years and years later I ended up in a relationship with a really unpleasant guy, this time driving sideways was really about driving, among other things. But if we were in the car and I said “ok, we need to turn right at the next light” I’d get the raging response of “I’m not a moron! Shut up! I know where to turn! Stop treating me like I’m stupid.” If I thought we’d made a wrong turn it was “I know what I’m f—ing doing!” So I learned to keep my mouth shut, though happily I did finally grow a spine and get out of that horrible relationship.

Part of being an adult and trying to put past baggage where it belongs is learning that if the driver makes a wrong turn that is going to cost us an extra forty minutes of travel time, then I should probably actually say something. Good, normal, adult people don’t rage at others for saying things like that. But when you grow up with it, it can be hard to relearn.

Recently I posted to my blog and on an email list some of my concerns about some of the larger animal charities. I was turned off by certain fundraising methods and moreover concerned that as a movement we’re “driving sideways.” The response was of course swift and punishing. I’ve been told I’m too angry. I’ve been told I must be trying to work against animals and must in fact hate animals. I’ve been told I’m just trying to tear down good people who dedicate their lives to helping animals. One person went so far as to attempt to psychoanalyze me and said that I’m projecting other issues from my life onto excellent groups because I have psychological problems I’m unwilling to deal with.

I dunno. Sometimes bad fundraising tactics are just bad fundraising tactics. Sometimes if I say “hey, where is this car going?” I really mean “hey, where is this car going?”

I’m not perfect. I’ve worked on a lot of stuff. I have more to work on. I always thought maybe at least it’s an advantage that I can often identify what’s wrong and why—it’s a start at least.

I feel like I’m back in the car being told to shut up. I don’t feel like shutting up just yet. I do make an effort not to vilify individual people. I think that the people who work for and support these groups do so out of absolute sincerity. I just think that somehow group-think has from time to time maybe resulted in a couple bad decisions, a wrong turn now and then.

I look like a vegan

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:54 am by nevavegan

Not really. This is a silly post.

I painted these pins in black and silver–they look all abstract, but then you look up close and they say vegan. Seemed like a decorative thing.

July 27, 2007

Culture and Tradition Again

Posted in animal advocacy, vegan, veganism, violence at 7:16 pm by nevavegan

How many times have all of us working to help animals heard someone excuse inexcusable behavior because they feel that animal abuse is “part of their culture” or a family tradition?

I wrote about this before in Tradition Vs. Veganism, and again a couple days ago I touched on it by noting again that my family participated in cock fighting, a practice most people find abhorrent today.

Although culture and tradition provide comfort and identity to many people, they can also hold us back when we fail to ever question those traditions. Did my ancestors enjoy cock fights? Possibly, but remember this was also the era of public hangings. People would pack a picnic and go watch another human being die a slow agonizing death. This was a time when my great grandfather changed his name and purposefully covered up his origins because he thought his real name and his real ethnic identity would prevent him from running a successful business. Side shows flourished back then as people paid money to stare at and make fun of the disabled and ill. We’ve turned our backs on many of these old “traditions” so why not re-examine other traditions as well?

Most of us come from backgrounds where some traditions were beautiful and others were terrible. Though we rarely think of child abuse as “tradition” in many families it is taught, preserved, and passed down generation to generation the same as if it were a style of dress, or a way of praying. Likewise animal use and abuse can be a bad habit or a flawed belief as much as a tradition.

Would most of us go around kicking puppies simply because a family member had previously kicked puppies? Probably not. We would recognize that as a personal failing on that relative’s part. But we cling to things that are equally cruel because we attach an arbitrary meaning to them. Turkeys suffer terribly during their short lives, and are slaughtered under terrible conditions, yet we feel this is necessary so we can put the traditional turkey on the Thanksgiving Day table. We still go to the circus to watch enslaved elephants controlled through fear and pain perform for our amusement because “Dad used to take me as a kid.” What we need to recognize is that we have a lot more options and a lot more information than our ancestors had—we can still take our kids to a show, and there are lots of shows that don’t use animals; we can still eat a wonderful, delicious meal together without the turkey because we have so many other foods available now.

Another funny little note on Thanksgiving is that turkey and pumpkin are the two traditional foods that most people insist on for the holiday, citing that these were foods from the first Thanksgiving. There is some dispute about that story. But when we look at the other foods served, we see a lot of foods that would not have been present, like rolls and stuffing made with wheat flour, green bean casserole, many dishes containing sugar or cheese, and other ingredients that would not have been present at the first Thanksgiving. So the traditional foods are a little arbitrary.

So many times I’ve heard people lament the effect their traditional cooking has had on their health. A friend of mine from Jamaica said that she had gained a lot of weight and developed a pre-diabetic condition from eating her traditional “comfort foods” like meat pastries. Fearful she might lose her eyesight, she had to find ways to eat foods she had not been fed at home, like salads, for the sake of her health. But she found she could still honor her heritage with fruit, which had always been a part of her family meals, she just had to give up the breaded and fried items. She could also still enjoy traditional stews, but she decided to add veggies and leave out the fatty meat she used to enjoy. I can sympathize—my family apparently never ate a vegetable except one that was cooked in lard, so many of us had to learn new ways to look at food!

If we can give up traditional foods because our health demands it, we can also give up or adapt traditional foods because we want to be kinder to animals and the planet. After all it’s not just our own health that’s affected by what we eat. That was another reason my friend decided to change her diet. She remembered all the beautiful birds of her home in Jamaica and feared that climate change and pollution would drive them into extinction.

Another way we can view traditional cruelty and our decision to depart from it is by asking ourselves what our ancestors would have wanted. Veganism would have been an alien concept to most of them naturally, but all of them wanted a better and more peaceful life for us. In my family I’ve had an ancestor or more than one in every single US war, starting before we were even the US, with the American Revolution. My ancestor who fought in the revolution was a Quaker and thus must have had terrible reservations about going to war. But he wanted to fight that war with the hope that his children and their children could be free from war.

That’s not how it worked out sadly, but we keep in mind that our ancestors who fought wars, slaughtered animals, fought animals, or even stole for a living all wanted better for the future generations. They hardened their hearts hoping we would not have to. If we could talk to them today they probably wouldn’t totally get each and every decision we’ve made, but they would want us to live in peace and take care of the planet and each other. (We’ll forget for the moment that random ancestor who would hate you for not covering your hair in public, or the one that didn’t want you mixing with people of other religions, or the one that would say “You never been to prison? What you think you better’n’ me?” or the one who went on some murderous rampage before being shot down. We’ll just leave those disastrous chapters of family history shut for the time being.)

When we do cruel things just because our forbearers did, we are not really honoring their memories. Instead we are merely repeating their mistakes.

July 26, 2007

Taste Better: Obesity Is Contagious

Posted in news, vegan, veganism at 6:59 pm by nevavegan

A new study has come out telling us that obesity in contagious, not physically contagious, but we’re more likely to gain weight when our friends and family do. This might also tell us something about how our friends and family can discourage veganism and actually punish people for trying to change their diet and lifestyle. We’d hope veganism would be contagious, but I fear it’s more likely that the diet of the majority of the peer group would be enforced on other members of the group.

I know that when I first decided to become vegetarian my family and my friends were very opposed to the idea. They tempted me with meat based foods and also ridiculed my efforts. When I became vegan my mother went so far as to put cheese over all of the vegetables (even though I’d cleaned and cut and prepared them) so that there would be nothing I could eat as a vegan. They were certainly fighting my efforts to break away from the pack. I know other people who have similar stories of resistance from their friends and family. Other people didn’t face such blatant sabotage but found themselves feeling left out as their friends stopped inviting them places (“we were all going for ice cream and you’re vegan now”) or felt picked on as others constantly made little jokes about their diet.

When we look at all of this, no wonder people can be a little reluctant to jump on the vegan bandwagon, and no wonder so many people abandon veganism after a while.

I’m a firm believer now in speaking honestly and openly. Instead of sulking because your friend said something derogatory about veganism, maybe you should say in a nice way “you know that actually hurts my feelings. This is important to me and it hurts to think that my friends are making fun of me for it.” Or in the case of being left out of the ice cream run one could say “I’d still like the company even if I don’t eat ice cream, besides I think that place has some fruit based sorbet.” Sometimes our friends need reassurance too, that even though we’re making a major change we still do care about them.

In families control over food can become a primary battleground naturally, as food has come to represent almost everything else other than nutrition in our culture. Food represents tradition, and so efforts to change that tradition can be met with much opposition from other family members. Feeding family members and spouse foods they like represents love to many people, and so when one family member tries to change the types of food being served, it might be seen not as an effort to save animals, but as a diminishment of affection. Further the sharing of food still means companionship and it’s amazing how hurt people can get when loved ones don’t eat the same foods together.

All these are reasons why eating habits, particularly the poor ones that contribute to contagious obesity, can be so hard to break away from.

There are times where some of this can cross the line into abusive behavior though. Anyone that consistently belittles your beliefs or insults you isn’t a friend. Family should be there to support us and encourage us as we learn and grow, not to make us feel terrible for doing something we believe in.

Another reason obesity might be contagious is that people might feel better about eating foods they know are bad for them if a friend does it too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these exact words from a friend “Dessert? I really shouldn’t… Oh, are you going to have some? I’ll get some if you do.” Gobbling candy bars in the middle of the night might strike us as disordered eating, but if you’re just having a piece of cake with a friend then that’s totally normal. I’ve seen this happen with people “cheating” on veganism as well “Sue ate one of the cookies, so I just tried one too.”

The upside of this study though is that it demonstrates that having vegan friends can probably help us stay vegan, just as having healthy friends might inspire us to be a little healthier. I also always think it’s helpful to understand some of the hidden motivators behind our eating habits. I know so many people who feel like their eating controls them, not the other way around. But if they have information about the social pressures surrounding eating it might lead to more thoughtful eating. And hopefully more thoughtful eating can lead to more vegan eating. Anyway the hope would be to move from an internal dialogue that says “must eat cookie now” to one that says “I feel like I want a cookie, but that could be only because Sue is eating one. I think I’ll wait and try to make a better decision.”

July 25, 2007

Trying Again: 8 Silly Things

Posted in meme, real life, stupid me at 7:01 pm by nevavegan

Sean tells me that I did a very poor job on my eight true things meme. He says there are other aspects of my personality that are less expected than what I listed.

Around the same time it seems a lot of people were telling me I was too angry. My response was “What? Me? Angry?” So clearly the other side of my personality isn’t coming through in what I type.

So without further ado, Eight True and Truly Stupid Silly Things About Me

1. I like stupid humor. I liked “Austin Powers.” All someone has to say to me is “friggin’ sharks with laser beams on their heads” and I’m doubled over in laughter. I also really liked Dave Chapelle before he decided to quit. Not that that’s stupid humor, he’s actually wickedly funny, it’s just so inappropriate. But it’s just not something most people would expect of me.

2. I sing really badly but I like to sing to my companion animals while I do things. I usually like to take really dumb pop songs and rework the lyrics to be about my animals. As an example I might be playing with Kyra (the dog) with her rope tuggy toy and I’ll sing “Bite it Kyra, one more time!” Sometimes I sing better songs to them, for example there’s this Damien Rice song and the only part I really know is “Mmmm, mmmm, girl who does yoga, when we come over…” So when I give Kyra and Nikita their puppy massages (I really rub them down, they’re athletic dogs, so they get sore muscles like anyone) I’ll sing to them “mmmm, mmmm, dog who does yoga, time to turn over…”

Hmm, does the fact that I massage my dogs and call that “puppy massage” qualify as a whole separate silly thing?

3. Small stuff can make me really happy sometimes. The other day I took the dogs to the park and we found a few ripe wild raspberries the birds hadn’t gotten yet. It was something simple but really nice. It was like the trip to the park was already a big gift and the raspberries were the great big bow on top. We also saw a really cute green frog on that walk.

4. As a child I collected pin cushions. I had a pin cushion I made using some lace my great grandmother had hand tatted. I kept these pin cushions until one day while I was at work Kyra went on a rampage and tore apart all of my pin cushions, the handmade ones, the store-bought ones… But when I’d say that I was sad because my dog ruined my pin cushions nobody really understood. They’d say “huh? Pin cushions?” It was a tragic loss to me. Of course everyone wants to know if Kyra was ok. Of course she was, she didn’t eat any pins, just shredded the pin cushions.

5. Before I moved in with Sean I wasn’t sure I wanted to live with cats. Though I had companion cats as a child, I was afraid that Sean’s cats would bully my small rabbit Ivan. Instead it turned out to be the other way around and Ivan chased the cats and terrorized them. After moving in with Sean’s cats I came to adore cats. People often ask me with wonder “You have cats and rabbits? Don’t the cats try to eat the rabbits?” But I know the truth now.

6. I didn’t learn to drive really before I moved in with Sean. My parents never really taught me, and though I drove a couple times after I got my license, I then lived without a car and walked everywhere for about a decade. When I moved in with Sean I wound up in an area with less reliable public transportation, so Sean taught me how to drive. I’m still incredibly nervous about driving and it wears me out. I mostly only drive short distances.

7. I started eating really spicy foods pretty young and I love them to this day. I think many family members always liked spicy foods, but my grandparents were also stationed in Holland for a while where they were exposed to lots of Indonesian foods. It took me a long time to realize that not every spicy sauce or dip is called “sambal.” My grandparents still call every hot sauce “sambal” though, whether it really is sambal or it’s just chilli oil or if it’s Mexican salsa. When it comes down to spicy foods I far prefer my hot peppers freshly chopped to the kind of sour, oily, smelly stuff you get in a true sambal. My grandparents used to have their friends in Holland ship it to them because they couldn’t get it here. Also many sambals aren’t vegan or even vegetarian and may contain fermented fish or other gross stuff. Eet smakelijk!

8. I’m having so much trouble coming up with another one. This is hard. Sean thinks I need to repeat again for the record that I went naked for Peta before. So mea culpa!

July 23, 2007

Think Of The Animals We Don’t Protect

Posted in animal advocacy, family, real life, vegan at 8:23 pm by nevavegan

With all the attention on Michael Vick and his dog fighting and dog killing activities, many of us, myself included, forgot momentarily that far worse than this goes on day after day, hour after hour, year after year, on farms and in slaughterhouses all over the country.

As a nation we tend to divide ourselves into distinct categories, and choose beliefs and traditions meant to define us culturally and ethically. I wrote before that animal fighting was a tradition in my family, and in fact my great grandfather won the seed money to open his hardware store from running cock fights. His children though distanced themselves from animal fighting, preferring the image that went along with owning and store and a house, to that of the opportunistic vagabond who blew in on the west wind to gamble, sleep in gutters, and fight animals. They only touched birds who were cooked and served on plates. They didn’t gather and place bets in dark alleys. Of course they saw nothing wrong with hunting or farming though, occupations that they saw as denoting a higher social class.

I am not proud of this family history, but I find it informative. This tangible connection from me through a generation still living, to more blood thirsty traditions. Traditions that are looked down on by most of society. It’s easy to cry out against practices done by the few, conducted underground, that smack of backwardness and open cruelty. But meanwhile we don’t often question where our food comes from. We deplore obvious blood lust, but tolerate covert cruelty done for our convenience.

As horrorific as I find dog fighting and cock fighting, I have to remember that the torture behind all those neatly packaged Styrofoam trays of flesh in the grocery store is equally terrible. That the suffering of animals kept alive to produce milk and eggs, only to be killed when their production drops, is much like the suffering of dogs bred and forced to fight, and killed when they lose. Intensive confinement, painful tail and ear docking (as well as debeaking and amputation of toes), electric shocks, open wounds, all of these are found in animal agriculture. Rape racks are not an invention of dog fighting rings, they are part of animal agriculture, designed to force reproduction on animals so traumatized and deprived that they would no longer reproduce on their own. Even on small family farms, reproduction is not the choice of the farmed animals, but is carefully planned and implemented to maximize profit for the farmers.

We don’t want to legislate dog fighting to make it more humane or less lethal. Instead we want it stopped entirely. Maybe we should start thinking about other animals, equally innocent but totally unprotected, in the same terms.

July 20, 2007

Discussing Donations Again

Posted in animal advocacy, donations at 4:58 pm by nevavegan

There has been a lot of blog buzz and several recent news stories about donating to non-profits. So I’m going to revisit the topic and share some more of my thoughts. This is meant to be supplemental to my prior entry “Donations as an Investment.”

I really feel like I might be unfairly picking on The Humane Society of the United States, because they are certainly not the only organization to use the kinds of fundraising tactics I want to discuss. However, I will cite them as an example of the kinds of things that worry me.

With all the news attention on Michael Vick’s involvement in dog fighting, dog killing, and dog starving, I got an email alert from HSUS asking me to make “a special donation” to provide care to the dogs rescued from Vick’s property. The email showcased a picture of a single dog with scars and cuts on his face and nose. The photo was not really “staged,” this was in fact one of Vick’s fighting dogs. However, studies have demonstrated that people donate more when shown a picture or told a story about a single animal in need, so this appeal was cleverly designed to elicit donations.

HSUS does not have a shelter and the location of the dogs is currently unknown by the public at large. However HSUS is apparently “overseeing” the care of the dogs.

Shortly after the first email alert I got a second one from HSUS. They said that their servers had crashed due to an overwhelming response to the Vick case, but now the problem was fixed. They asked me again to make a “special donation” for the care of the dogs.

Out of curiosity I clicked on the donate link. What I found there was somewhat disappointing. In fine print at the bottom of the donation page was the standard disclaimer that my donation could be used on other programs, not just to help the dogs rescued from this dog fighting ring.

I find this deceptive because I felt the words “special donation to care for these dogs” indicated that a donation made in this way would be restricted, but instead the small print told a different story. I don’t doubt HSUS will do a great deal to help these dogs, but I also believe donations will exceed the amount needed for the day to day care. I also believe that if there is an excess of money raised in this manner it should go to the actual shelters caring for the dogs, not into HSUS’s larger budget. In other words, if more money than is needed comes in, I would prefer to see it go to improving shelter facilities to better handle future cases like this, than going in Wayne Pacelle’s salary.

But to be fair, this is not just an issue with HSUS. Nearly every organization out there sends very specific fundraisers out, talking about an individual crisis situation, and in the fine print they place a disclaimer to say that they’re under no obligation to spend the donations on that specific situation.

I’ve worked at a number of non-profits through the years, animal related and human related (Please note: I’ve never worked at HSUS and none of the stories below have anything to do with HSUS). I’ve seen things that broke my heart. I’ve seen a fundraising letter go out talking about a tragic animal crisis in another state, only to see the record-breaking donations that came in from that letter go to redecorating the office, not to helping the animals whose terrible stories were told in that letter. Those animals continued to suffer and die. I’ve seen a large donation that the donor intended for direct animal care, but failed to restrict, go into fundraising materials and new computer equipment, while direct animal care was scaled back. And all of that was made possible by the fine print.

This is why when a recent story broke in my own area about a woman who left a one million dollar bequest to the Ann Arundel SPCA I was thrilled to see that the donor knew enough to restrict her donation. She specified her funds must go to direct care for animals. No doubt her bequest will free up other funds to improve the shelter facilities and send out fundraising letters. But if you’re going to leave a bunch of money to an organization, be sure to specify its use. Otherwise, that bequest could be used for anything.

There are other things that I specifically look for when making donation decisions. I don’t really like to donate to organizations whose boards don’t meet basic standards or have only advisory powers. This one is a new one for me, but after having witnessed some bad situations, I’m starting to learn the values of boards. Organizations limit the powers of their boards to make it impossible to ever remove the founders of the organization from positions like CEO or president. While I understand the sentiment behind this, I do feel it’s bad for the animals. There could be a situation where the founder is unable to keep up with the responsibilities of running the organization, or is suffering diminished mental capacity. When a board has powers to address that, they can step in and save the organization and do what’s best for the animals. When the board has no such authority some pretty terrible situations can develop.

So in conclusion: Per the prior entry, consider your donations an investment and choose to support organizations with a clear consistent message, consider salaries and compensation when you make donations. For today’s entry, always read the fine print when making a donation, when making a large donation restrict its use to programs you approve of, and finally consider board and structure of the charity. Is this a charity with all the decision making power vested in one single person? What will happen to this charity if that person is suddenly unable to perform their duties?

Second Attempt at Eight True Things

Posted in meme, real life at 4:57 pm by nevavegan

I was tagged before by Pattrice, but I started feeling like I was revealing way too much information so I buried my response. Now I’ve been tagged again by Animal Rights Malta (how cool is that? Tagged twice). So I will try again.

I’m not going to post the rules or tag anyone else to complete this one. If you think it’s cool, by all means, consider yourself tagged. The goal is to write Eight True Things about yourself.

The stupid thing about this exercise is that I’m really not all that interesting, so I keep trying to write stuff and then thinking “gee, this is boring.” So then I delete it and sit around trying to think of something less dull.

1. I used to make and sell nativity sets. I stopped because I got so, so tired of making the same kind of thing over and over, even though I tried to make each set unique with tiny little details. Mainly the ones that sold best were the really small ones with just Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus and no animals. I liked making animals… Plus it’s hard to keep up with nativity-making when you’re working full time. I only started making nativity sets because I was making small animals and human figures and people kept asking for nativity sets.

2. As a child I cooked and baked on a real honest wood stove. It’s strange to do because you check the temperature and if it’s low you add more wood, but if it’s too hot, you adjust this gadget that lets less oxygen into the fire drawer and wait. Everything always seemed to taste great from a wood stove though and bread, cakes, and pies were always fine, though you’d think they’d mess up. We didn’t have an electric coffeemaker; we made the coffee on the wood stove too, with a percolator. It was the best coffee ever—I’d grind the beans in this silly little hand grinder and then put the percolator on top of the stove. I’ve since read that coffee made like this tastes good because all the bad stuff is extra concentrated in it.

3. Speaking of coffee I began my life long coffee habit when I was about five, maybe younger. Very early I started showing a preference for strong black coffee. I’ve quit several times in my life, a few times I’ve quit for more than a year at a stretch, but just the smell of it sparks such intense cravings in me that it’s hard to stay away from it. I guess because my mother spent several years of her childhood and teens in France she just thought all kids were supposed to drink coffee.

4. When I took sculpture classes my teacher told me that at heart I was an “object maker.” I did really well in that class and in 3-D design (2-D design was my nemesis). My sculpture teacher wanted me to pursue a Masters in sculpture, but that’s ultimately not the direction I took. I liked the class because it was the only time in my life I’ve had the space and opportunity to make sculptures that were 8 feet tall. Unfortunately they wouldn’t fit out the doors of the studio and had to be scrapped after I got my grade. Not that I had space to take home an single 8 foot tall paper mache bird, much less four of them.

5. When I talk about trying to do better for animals, ending animal enslavement, and promoting a vegan lifestyle I’m speaking out about things that for the most part I once participated in or was connected to somehow. I come from a family of hunters and farmers. As a child I went fishing. As a child I probably at some point ate almost any animal imaginable, even those animals that ordinary non-vegans would find distasteful to eat. My family had roots in animal fighting and all kinds of back-woods animal abuse. So when I speak out against this kind of stuff, I’m not speaking from an ivory tower, I’m talking about ending things I know and understand first hand.

6. My absolute favorite food in the whole world are vegan burritos with guacamole and really hot salsa. It’s almost an obsession. I am in love with the avocado, but even more in love with it when it’s mixed up with tomatoes, hot peppers, lime juice, and fresh cilantro. In fact, that’s what I’m eating tonight.

7. I lift weights but you’d never guess it from looking at me.

8. Not so much about me, but I seem to be having this problem with my internet browser lately where I can’t seem to comment on other people’s blogs or reply to comments on my own blog. Sometimes it works but other times it just keeps giving me this “security warning” that there are both secure and not secure areas on the commenting page, and then it won’t let me type. So that’s why I haven’t responded to your comments. I’m really sorry!

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