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!


June 4, 2007

I suppose I should update

Posted in animal advocacy, big love to the blogosphere, real life, stupid me, veganism at 5:52 pm by nevavegan

I did in fact eat tons of watercress on my birthday. It was excellent. Yay watercress!

The comments that so many wonderful people have left on this blog are stirring me to further thought, and will probably come up in future entries. I’m really honored that people have chosen to share their own thoughts and stories and add to the discussion. I have a lot to say, but some of it might be a tad delayed.

One of my main thoughts is that the people who don’t want us to fight for our own rights or the rights of animals, the people who don’t feel we’re entitled to our own safety, or the sanctity of our own bodies… Those people like the idea that using violence against us will derail us. They want us to feel shut out from making a difference. They want us to suffer trauma and depression. Anything to shut us up. So, facing that, it is an incredibly powerful thing when we find ways to recover, when we find ways to use our voices. If nothing else, just being vegan and demonstrating that it is possible and healthy and fulfilling, that is a powerful example. So we need to remember the ways in which we are already doing good and honor that. And we need to take care of ourselves so that we can keep on doing those things.

One of the most frustrating aspects of all of this is realizing, after all this time, that putting myself on the line to be brutalized was one of the least effective uses of my time and my energies and my talents. I did it because I was told that it was the way to make a difference. I was told that was my role; I wasn’t given a list of choices, but simply this one choice: this is what you’re expected to do. Looking back I can’t say it was worth much. Did it reach people? Did it keep bringing the focus back to the animals, or did it put the focus on me?

Those are vital questions to me. They are questions I should have been asking then, and the very questions I must continue to ask.

In other news…

So, because my birthday cannot pass without mishap, I ended up, in dim light, stepping on the claw end of a hammer in my bare feet. The claw went up into the heel of my foot. It’s not that bad, but I can’t stand or walk on it for very long, because for one it hurts, and secondly the swelling creates a weird unbalanced sensation where it’s kind of like I’m trying to walk with a marble stuck to my heel.

But it turns out that it’s been about a decade since my last tetanus shot, which was also necessitated by injury, that time involving a rusty nail. I called the doctor and they were pretty insistent that I needed the shot, not because the risk is so great, but because tetanus is so very bad. Apparently, once you develop symptoms, even with treatment it can be fatal, so they really want me to get the shot. I thought I was probably not at risk since my foot did bleed, but they said even so, since it is a puncture (deeper than it is wide) I need a shot.

Let that be a lesson to you all, don’t postpone your vaccinations. I would probably just risk it anyway and not get the vaccination, but since this is me and it’s fairly certain I’m going to step on another hammer or back into a rusty nail protruding from a door frame, or possibly tumble down an imbankment and impale myself on some kind of landscaping implement, yeah, I probably need to keep up to date on my tetanus vaccinations. Once when I was a kid I fell out of a tree onto a barbed wire fence, an old one, and ended up stuck on it in so many places that neither I nor my brother could get me loose, so I had to hang there, upside down, while he ran home and got my dad to come lift me up off the barbs. My entire life is a three stooges movie! But I really don’t climb trees anymore, so I’m probably safe on that count.

May 29, 2007

Birthday Blues and Other Mistakes

Posted in family, philosophizin, stupid me, veganism at 3:43 pm by nevavegan

So before anything else, everyone should go check out Harold Brown’s article entitled “The Dynamic Between the Animal Industry and the Animal Movement” which appeared in this edition of UPC’s Poultry Press. Sometimes we need to just ask ourselves what we’re doing and why!

My birthday is coming up really soon and this is always a bad time of year for me. We passed the anniversary of my being attacked, and it came and went without real notice, because it’s not a day I observe. However the ghosts came too, all the nagging self-doubts that sometimes tell me I should have died years ago and it’s only some cosmic accident that I’m alive.

I don’t mean to say that in any kind of suicidal way. I’m thankful for each and every day, and all those moments of beauty that shower down on me. I just think of people I’ve known who aren’t here any longer and I miss them. And I think on my own mortality and the line between my being here and not being here seems so thin and so easy to cross over, and I boggle at the randomness of my existence.

My birthday kind of sucks because it is always the reminder that I’m a trusting moron. It might be dangerous to call myself such on my vegan blog. But actually I think in a way this makes me more right about veganism, because I recognize this tendency in myself. So I definitely did my homework on all aspects of veganism. If someone tells me something, I look it up. If I’m wondering about something, I look it up. And one source isn’t sufficient, I have to double and triple check. And I like to look at the methods and size of the actual studies, because I know not all studies are created equally.

At first I was not so open to the idea that vegetarianism and ultimately veganism might be a good idea. I thought: Why would my family feed me meat if it weren’t the right thing to do? The environmental issues were the wedge that started to separate myself from the “eating animals is right” view. Because the environment is changing, and our damage to it is snowballing. So, if things are changing, then “what’s right” might be changing too.

After years of doing this, my thinking has changed in many ways. I’ve come around to thinking that if I don’t need to eat or wear or abuse animals to ensure my survival that probably means I really shouldn’t. IE, I don’t need to hurt others, so I shouldn’t hurt others. I’ve read more and learned more. But it’s always there, the need to research and give myself a little sanity check.

But anyway, trusting moron…

See, I was born in June. My brother was born in May, on the Sunday just before Memorial Day, Memorial Day Sunday, part of the long holiday weekend. And growing up, my parents always told me that I was also born on Memorial Day Sunday, and so every year my family would observe our birthdays together, on the Sunday before Memorial Day. My mother didn’t believe in holding birthday parties for children, she didn’t let us invite our friends or anyone our own age, but we still had cake and some family there, and maybe even a gift or two. As I got older I asked why we often celebrated on my brother’s actual birthday, but never on my actual birthday. My parents told me that Memorial Day used to sometimes take place in June, but after I was born Congress passed a law to decree that Memorial Day would now always occur in May, and so it would never be on my birthday again.

So, all through school when I told people that I was born on Memorial Day Sunday and that’s why my family observed my birthday then, people would look at me like I was nuts. They’d tell me plainly, no, you were not born on Memorial Day Sunday, to which I’d happily reply that the year I was born Memorial Day really did happen in June, but then Congress passed a law… And people laughed at me, but I kept on insisting.

Fast forward to me being an adult and married and still believing this story, and my husband told me that he hated to be the one to break it to me, but this was all entirely fiction. We looked it up. No, I was not born on Memorial Day Sunday. Any law regarding Memorial Day was passed long before I was born, and even so Memorial Day had never been in June. I told my sister about this, and noted that I was a little disappointed to learn this after so many years. She passed it on to my parents. The end of the story is a rather annoyed phone call from my mother to tell me that it was no big deal and she couldn’t understand why I was being so childish as to talk to my sister about my birthday not happening when we all thought it did. Still she insisted that she always thought I was born on Memorial Day Sunday, but she’d really been in too much extreme agony risking her life giving birth to me to notice what day it was.

Which I guess I can accept for what it is. It doesn’t matter. Though I will note that my family was never confused about the birthdays of either of my siblings. I looked it up and my brother really was born on Memorial Day Sunday. The only thing that really bothered me about it was all the times I’d made an idiot out of myself insisting against all evidence and all really good arguments to the contrary that this myth was real.

If there’s any point to this story, it’s to refer back to something my therapist said: I have a gift for loving and believing in people even when they haven’t earned it. I have to be careful with my trust and my belief. And though my impulse really still is to trust and love everyone, I have to be able to look at things with a critical eye as well. I can like someone, but I don’t have to accept everything they say as gospel. If nothing else, even the best intentioned people are sometimes mistaken.

Lately in the animal rights movement I’ve noticed a tendency of those in positions of power to take any questioning as a direct insult. “Don’t you know how hard I work; don’t you know how many hours I put in for the animals?” Honestly I really do. It’s just that my loyalty isn’t to the person, it’s to the movement. I can know how absolutely sincere someone is in every possible way, and still sometimes wonder if they have all their facts straight. It’s not a desire to hurt anyone on my part; it’s a reflex now: Check the facts and then check them again. With it comes the innate distrust of anyone who demands belief without providing solid evidence or logical backup. Sorry, I can like you without following you off a cliff, and I can like you without believing you’re infallible.

Sometimes it’s not so bad to question everything. I’ve even had those moments where I go back and review the reasons I’m vegan and note how my views have changed over the year. Because it’s my compass and my road map to understand where my convictions come from. Because without questioning I’m just happily rattling off something someone else told me, and it might be that I’m saying something really silly and everyone else knows it, except me. So I have to review. I have to ask if what I’m doing is helping or hurting.

I think about the protests I went to when I was younger, organized and attended often by fairly prominent people in the movement. We were babies really, and so, so angry. The sight of a full length fur coat in a shop window, sent me to tears and then to shouts of rage. I saw the footage over again in my mind of animals in traps, and multiplied it over hundreds of times to produce that coat. And I was one of the calmer people there, really. So you can imagine those protests were a little on the frightening side. So now, years on I have to look at that and ask if that was helping or hurting. Was I indulging my emotions or was I reaching out to people and educating them on the issues. I don’t think anyone was really listening then, when our shouting reached the upper decibels.

So I have to ask myself: Is this something I really understand, or do I have to go back and do my own research and get a better grip on it? Am I acting in a way to further compassion or am I loose cannon? Am I simply repeating things that I’ve been told without any of my own knowledge?

Where does that leave us? Simply here: It’s not wrong to ask the hard questions, it’s in fact absolutely vital to our movement. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

April 12, 2007

My own pin-hole camera on the world

Posted in art, happiness, stupid me, vegan at 1:55 pm by nevavegan

It has come to my attention that a link to my blog was posted on a list of commentaries about the Marcus/Francione debate podcast. This was sort of an “uh oh” moment for me. I didn’t try to editorialize the entire debate because it seemed to me that many other people had done that sufficiently elsewhere. For what it’s worth I felt the Erik Marcus was ill-prepared for the debate, failed to respond to most of Gary Francione’s points, and I was shocked that Marcus admitted that he didn’t read Francione’s books because he “disagreed with them.” But those points were all made in many other blogs and forums, and made pretty well.

My two blog entries were just fairly personal comments regarding just one comment Gary Francione made and my response to that comment.

I sometimes think it’s relevant though in the way that for me the personal is always relevant. I think it’s worthwhile to consider how our words (not just our intentions) affect others. But sometimes I wonder if I have anything to say worth saying.

I get these days of intense self doubt sometimes. I don’t post because I don’t trust my own voice. I become so aware that I’m only seeing the world through this tiny little pin-hole of my own perception. Suddenly everything seems so much bigger than I am. I wonder if I’m even entitled to speak up.

It helps in times like these to remember that while life is tenuous, it is also forgiving. I have every right to make a complete idiot out of myself if so choose. I don’t have to be perfect every second.

The topic on the survivors forum this week was flaws: how our abusers used pointing out our flaws (real or imagined) to control or subdue us. Essentially to convince us we had no right to our own voices.

But everyone has a right to their voice. You don’t have to be clever. I hope you will be kind, but it’s actually not required, as evidenced all around us.

Now, of course you knew I’d eventually bring this back to veganism, right?

People who don’t want to hear about veganism use fault-finding as excuse to not listen, in fact to shut us down and shut out our voices. There is the nit-picking over and over on certain facts. The afore-mentioned “I knew a rude vegan” tactic, or accusing us of attacking tradition. How many times has someone accused me of not doing enough for human issues when I say I’m vegan?

But I don’t have to be right about everything, that’s the fallacy. I can be wrong about nearly everything; I can be offensive, I can be stupid, and I can still be right about veganism being the best way to try to live in this world of ours.

When someone disputes the total number of animals slaughtered in the US, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a dizzyingly large, completely incomprehensible number. Wondering if the diet of cavemen was really primarily meat doesn’t change the situation we face today.

I don’t think I’m so good with theory or philosophy. Maybe my brain just doesn’t bend that way. I tend to think in practicalities; which for me is different from utilitarianism. I’m not following the teachings of Singer. I just want to take things apart, figure out how they work, and then make them work better.

When I talk about the limits of my own perspective, there is the undercurrent where I’m always pushing for decent research. Because research could presumably help all of us get around the issue of putting too much emphasis on our personal experience. This means finding out what kinds of outreach on veganism get the most favorable results. What messages resonate with the public, what gets people thinking and more importantly acting?

Until I have the research in hand, I’m forced to just weigh stuff in my own head, against my own experience. It’s what everyone does, but of course it’s limiting.

I’m dismayed by so much I see around me, and I try to think of what I have to offer in response to it. So much of my life has been filled with people telling me I’m not good enough. That’s my fear, the thing that keeps me quiet so much of the time. Maybe I’m just a moron spouting off things that make no sense. Maybe I am just hopelessly self-indulgent and self-centered. I try to remind myself that the world is full of idiots, so maybe there isn’t that much harm in my being my own special brand of idiot.

So what do I offer up? I offer up that I’m a flawed person coming from a flawed place with a messed up background, and I’m still a vegan and I do ok with that. I offer up that I’ve been through some things and some days it seems to take tremendous energy on my part just to be normal (whatever normal means) and I still have energy to be vegan. I offer up that I care about many things, and I still care about veganism. I offer up that I’m an artist (I don’t have to be a good artist to claim that), and my art isn’t just pretty pictures, it’s a message of the joy and beauty in life and all that is good, and I still find and see those things even though I don’t eat bacon. Seriously, becoming vegan didn’t turn me into a dour humorless person. I offer up that I’ve made some mistakes and really bad decisions and after all these years I still look on becoming vegan as one of the best decisions I ever managed to make.

Yeah, it ain’t theory. I don’t know what you can do with all that. It’s what I have at the moment and it’s what I want to share.