Monday, December 31, 2012

It's December 31st - the Perfect Time for Procrastinating Do-Gooders!

Howdy folks!

It's the last day of 2012!

Finally I am getting off my procrastinating duff and making my year-end charitable gifts.

This brings me to an interesting "vegan-ish" topic.  As you might expect, being a long-time vegan or vegan-ish lady, this year I donated to vegan-oriented groups like Vegan Outreach, Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, Animal Place, and Oakland Veg Week (through Bay Area Vegetarians).

But I also donated to San Francisco Marin Food Bank, Alameda County Meals on Wheels, and SF Meals on Wheels, which provide food for the poor in our community and for senior citizens.

Initially I did not want to support the Food Bank or Meals on Wheels because then some of the money goes to support animal cruelty, through the foods that are purchased.  I looked for local charities that provide all vegan food to people in need, but I did not find any, except for this one in Canada (and I think their food might be vegetarian, not vegan).   Since this was the best I could find, I thought about simply donating to the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank instead of to my local one.  (They do take donations online.)

In the end ... after some thought, I decided I should donate to the people who are struggling in my local community.  Even though we don't have a vegan food bank here, not yet ... I feel it's important to lend these folks a helping hand right now, rather than waiting until these programs become completely veganized.

What do you think?  Should vegans donate to their local not-vegan food banks or not?

Also, how do you feel about charitable giving?

Personally I like the idea of giving to organizations that mean something to you, or to the person you are trying to get a gift for, rather than spending money on expensive gifts at Christmas time.  What makes me sad is that often times, money is spent on material things that the gift recipient doesn't even want.  The ever-present Christmas question is: "What do you get for the guy who has everything?"   Which is kind of silly, isn't it?  If the guy has everything, why worry about getting him a gift at all?  Instead, let's ask questions like: "What can we get for the people who don't have enough?"  Or, "how can we use our money to build up our community and make it a better place for everyone to live?" 

Maybe I'm too Pollyanna-ish, but this is the kind of Christmas giving I'd like to see more of.  :)  I bet "the guy who has everything" would be very touched to see that his family members made a donation in his honor to his favorite school's scholarship program or some other cause that is dear to his heart.  Then, instead of spending a whole day sitting around, opening gifts, people could create new traditions like going on a hike as a family.  After hiking to the top of the hill, everyone exchanges cards with notes explaining what charitable contributions were made in honor of this person and that person.  Or if the weather if bad outside, just stay inside for a family game night, or reading night, TV night, baking night, whatever ... and the ceremony can be exchanging cards and notes of charitable contributions.  The excitement could be, I wonder what charity Aunt Nettie thinks represents me?  Wouldn't that be fun?  What do you think?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My review of The China Study is #1 on Goodreads!

Out of 1,227 reviews for the book The China Study on goodreads, my review is #1 !
In terms of "most liked," if that counts for anything.

What do you think?

Friend me on goodreads if you want to be in touch about books!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reusable Locally Sourced Christmas Trees, and Should we boycott the Salvation Army for being Anti-Gay?

Check this out for next year's Christmas tree. Visit your local Salvation Army or community thrift store for reusable Christmas trees, without all the packaging you're stuck with if you buy one brand new.   The money you spend will go to the social programs helping people in your own community.  The trees are much cheaper than brand new so that will help your budget.  It's a win win!

If you don't have space to store the tree, why not donate back to Salvation Army in January for the tax write off?  Then buy another tree (and the decorations) from the Salvation Army Store next December.  Sure beats renting a storage space and having your poor forgotten Christmas tree show up on Storage Wars, eh?  

Enjoy the season!

And: I want to write about something related to this.

I posted this photo with a similar message on facebook earlier this week.  A dear friend of mine was brave enough to speak up and say that she refuses to support the Salvation Army because they discriminate against gays.  She said she refuses to buy popcorn from a Boy Scout for the same reason (apparently Boy Scouts are to popcorn as Girl Scouts are to cookies?).   I can understand why she would feel that way.

I think it's good for people to make political statements expressing their disapproval and to help bring about change.  I also think it's good for people to be true to themselves; if it feels icky and gross buying popcorn from a Boy Scout (kind of like buying a cupcake from a Nazi bake sale), then they shouldn't do it.  

But for me ... knowing that the Boy Scouts are MOSTLY about doing good things ... I'd rather help the little Boy Scout "make a sale" and build some confidence, so I'd probably buy some of his popcorn (if he's got any vegan popcorn; if not, I might buy the smallest amount possible and give it to my boyfriend, who isn't vegan and who would totally understand why I had bought it; that is, because I didn't want to disappoint the little kid).

And I'd rather buy eco-friendly reduce / reuse / recycle products at the Salvation Army, which is on my way home, walking home from the train station.  One time I found a nice sitting chair (a rather large one), made in the USA out of real wood, with nice and arms and soft cushions (looks to be about 40 years old) at the Salvation Army.  Of course, no wasteful packaging either!  I bought it for $20 and walked all the way home with the chair balanced on my head!    Can't get more eco-friendly than that!  Meanwhile the $20 is going toward the Salvation Army's programs to help poor people in our community.  

So ... shopping at the Salvation Army on my way home is something I feel really good about, even though they are a religious organization which probably has a lot of views that I don't agree with.  I'm guessing they are anti-women's rights and anti-gay rights, but the crux of their mission is to help the poor in the community.

Personally, I wouldn't feel right, boycotting an organization that is mostly in the business of doing good.

Here's another perspective on this issue:

I could say to people who boast about all the fun they are having eating meat, cheese, and eggs, just for social eating, not for nutrition: "How could you be so cruel and insensitive?  By your thoughtless food choices, you are responsible for heartless cruelty to hundreds of pigs, chickens, turkeys, cows, and sea creatures! I know you do good things, too, but I refuse to support you because you are responsible for so much hurt and suffering in the world."  Some vegans DO avoid close contact with meat eaters because of this; some vegans even say they could never date a meat eater.

I feel that's what my friend is doing with the Salvation Army and the Boy Scouts.   She is ignoring all the good work they do and is instead focusing on this one issue.  Not to say that there's anything wrong with it, I do applaud her for standing up and make a statement; it's just not the same decision I would make in this circumstance.

But for me, personally, just because someone thinks eating meat and dairy is 100% cool, or that being gay means there's something wrong  / deviant / criminal about you, or that women should be forced to have babies just because they got pregnant, or that all people should have unrestricted access to semi-automatic weapons and machine guns, or that global climate change is not real, I would NOT automatically write the person off as "no good" and "not worthy of my support" due of these particular beliefs.  Even though I disagree with these beliefs, and even though these beliefs are causing a huge amount of unnecessary suffering and pain in this world. 

Not when I  know that the particular person or organization is *mainly* in the business of doing good things.    If the person or organization is mainly into spreading messages of hate and discrimination (World War II Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are some examples), then yes, I would condemn them or avoid them or boycott them as appropriate, etc.  Although, honestly, who knows if I would correctly pick the good guys and the bad guys.  Probably there were people who supported the KKK or the Nazis, thinking ... "Well, yeah, they're racists  about this one issue, but they do a lot of good otherwise ... " I wouldn't doubt that the Nazis and the KKK did all sorts of "charity work" that our history books tend to forget.  Back then, people could have used my same arguments about the Salvation Army to say that we should overlook their racism and go ahead and support the KKK or the Nazis anyway.   

So, it's up for the debate.  I totally respect other people (like my dear and brave friend) who feel differently on these subjects.  If you do feel that the Salvation Army or the Boy Scouts should be boycotted, feel free to speak up and say why.  My views are not set in stone, so feel free to persuade me.  :)

Not sure if anyone is reading this, but ... comments anyone?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vegan ... ish ?

Let's have vegan brunch at 2-ish!  It means we'll plan to get together at 2 o'clock, but nobody's going to get wigged out if it's 2:05 or maybe even 2:15, right?   When you say "ish," it doesn't have to be EXACT.

That's how I like to approach veganism.  It's veganish-ism (yikes).

How about just "vegan ... ish." I like it!

I've been mostly vegetarian for more than 10 years and have considered myself vegan for more than 7 years. But in truth, I've never been 100% vegan, only vegan ... ish.

True, I shop and cook vegan and choose restaurants with vegan options, so theoretically I should always have something vegan to eat.  BUT ... I'm not always in charge of things.  (Believe it or not!!)   I tried being a strict vegan ("no animal products, no matter what"), but it didn't feel right to me.  Being very particular or picky about my food did not fit my personality, and I didn't see how it was helping the animals, to be like that.  Therefore, although I want there to be no animal products whatsoever in my food ... I'm flexible, depending on the situation.

Example: If the extended family chooses a buffet place, and it's not a veg-friendly place .... I'll put together a bright and colorful platter with all of the vegan-looking vegetables, beans, stuffing, rice, bread, etc, without asking if these items were cooked in butter or made with chicken broth.  (I DON'T get things that are clearly made with animal products, like macaroni and cheese, "vegetarian" lasagna, quiche, meat dishes, cream-based soups, etc).  In a situation like this, I have a wonderful meal, one that looks vegan (and very abundant) to the other people at the table.  Is it exactly vegan?  No, probably not.  I call it "vegan ... ish."

The above photo is from Christmas this year; brunch with the family at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco (not something we chose, as you can see from Jeff's happy expression, ha ha). I found three winners for my vegan-ish platter: the roasted vegetables (butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pearl onions, carrots, and broccolini), the cranberry cornbread stuffing, and the veggie sushi.  It was delicious!

Vegan ... ish.  I started this blog to share my adventures and philosophy and hopefully spark some healthy discussion and debate.  Meanwhile I would like to encourage people to go as vegan as they want to be, without fears of judgement from themselves or from others.  It is possible to make plant-based, earth-friendly, local, compassionate choices whenever and wherever you can, without stressing out about the times when nothing is available that lives up to your standards.

What is important, I think, is that you keep making the effort ... keep doing the best you can, and keep continuing to help others to do the same.  If everyone did that, I believe it would make a huge difference for the animals, and it would do wonders for the human spirit.

Thanks for reading and commenting.
See you again soon!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hurray! We are up and running!

Hello world!  :)

It's Christmas Day 2012, and I finally got around to starting my "Let's Go Vegan ... ish" blog.

See you again soon!