Restaurants: Please Offer more than Salad and Fries for Vegans.

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Dear Restaurants,

How hard is it to put at least one vegan option on your menu?

But it can’t be the sad, vegan, last option of a salad and fries.

Or a salmon salad without the salmon and you still charge me the same price.

I mean, you all jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon when only one percent of our population has legit celiac disease.

The are 3.2 percent of Americans who are vegan. There’s a need there.

There’s a market share to be had.

There are restaurants I no longer frequent because there are no options for me.

You don’t have to go as far as Ale Mary’s and provide an entire vegan option menu but, wow, that’d be great! I’m happy that the martini bar I love to go to in the summer to sit on their patio now offers a Beyond Burger.

All I’m asking is that you be a tad more inclusive.

It’s good for our health.

It’s good for the environment.

It’ll be good for your business.

 

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Embrace your Fury.

I woke up to this video shared by my sister this morning.

I watched, nodding the whole time. I also felt this sensation rising up my spine, snaking its way through my belly.

Tracee Ellis Ross named it for me. It was fury.

This seemingly innocuous incident of a friend of hers being physically moved out of the way by a complete stranger sparked the talk. I read some of the comments, many from men mansplaining how we, as women, shouldn’t be offended by this. That if he was physically moved by another guy he’d just suck it up and move on.

I am furious at men who think they have the right to literally move a woman out of their way rather than saying, “excuse me.”

I am furious that he treated her like she was merely an inconvenient object in his way.

I am furious that we hear stories over and over and over again through #metoo and #timesup of men putting their hands on women like its their right, for assaulting, molesting and raping women.

I am furious that we have a president who proudly declared he grabbed women by the pussy.

I am furious that yet another school shooting has occurred and the young, entitled white male targeted a girl who rejected him.

I am furious at the men who try to humiliate and shut down women who dare to raise their voices in real life and and on-line.

This seemingly innocuous anecdote of Ross’s friend being moved is at the heart of my fury. That so many (please note: I am not saying ALL) men feel it is their right to keep women “in place.”

In a place where we are not in the way.

In a place where we don’t cause any ripples.

In a place that is convenient for men.

In a place where we stay quiet and smile.

That place doesn’t exist. Not anymore. We are tearing it down by sharing our stories, naming the men who assaulted us, claiming our power.

Like Ross says,

“…the innocuous makes space for the horrific.”

Let’s continue to dismantle that place women have been boxed into for so long.

Dismantle it each time we speak up.

Each time we stand in our truth.

Each time we don’t swallow our fury and smile.

Each time we embrace the wisdom of that fury that courses through us.

Let the fury awaken us.

when women wake mountains move

Image found via Pinterest.

Things I’m Done Apologizing For.

no apologies

Image found via Pinterest.

I’m done apologizing:

  1. For my house that may never pass a white glove test. I have better things to do with my time.
  2. Before I speak up. My opinions don’t need to be prefaced by an apology.
  3. For saying no when I want to say no.
  4. For saying yes when I want to say yes.
  5. When I need help.
  6. For my political passion. If it bothers you, unfollow me.
  7. For sending food or drinks back at a restaurant.
  8. For claiming space in public whether it’s on an airplane and I actually use the armrest or just walking down the street and not contorting my body to stay out of everybody’s way.
  9. For setting boundaries.
  10. My feelings.
  11. For being my messy, beautifully imperfect self.

 

Why I Make Myself Watch “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

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When I first read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood over 20 years ago, it was a disturbing yet fascinating read. But it felt so far removed from my life.

Not so today.

I just recently caught up on the second season with my daughter who is home from college. It’s like I needed her moral and emotional support to watch.

Several friends have commented that they just can’t watch it. That it makes them literally sick to their stomach.

I get that. I have the same reaction.

So, why watch it? Why put myself through that stress?

The same reason I look at my own shadow. What I don’t acknowledge comes out in other, insidious ways.

Watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a glimpse into society’s shadow. It’s a glimpse into what happens when a group of privileged, white male religious zealots decided to impose their beliefs on a nation because they think they know what is best.

It’s chilling and hard to watch because, as a woman, I see versions of that exact thing happening today:

  • the heartbeat bill passed in Iowa
  • Pence’s bill requiring a funeral for miscarriages
  • not allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest
  • denying birth control to women
  • panels comprised only of white men making decisions about women’s health
  • anti-LGBTQ bills
  • women getting paid less than men for the same job
  • the misogynistic hatred spewed at women on-line who dare to use their voice

The list goes on and on.

It’s not merely a pro-choice versus “pro-life” debate. It’s about the subjugation of women. It’s about denying women full autonomy over their bodies and lives.

Which is exactly that happens to the women in”The Handmaid’s Tale.” They are vessels for procreation and servitude and for enacting the values imposed on society by the men in charge.

Yes, it is disturbing to watch.

Yes, it sends chills down my spine.

Yes, it makes me sick to my stomach and afraid for not only my future but that of my daughters and possible granddaughters in the future.

But burying my head in the sand is fruitless. It’s why I watch and read a wide range of news sources, to see what everyone is thinking, saying, hearing.

It’s less about “keeping my friends closer and enemies closer.” I don’t like to divide the world into such factions. But it is about keeping my self open to all viewpoints, all ways of thinking, all beliefs.

That is why I make myself watch it. Then I enjoy a nice (large) glass of wine afterward.

 

The Solace (and Necessity) of Walking.

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I’ve started walking about three to four miles several times a week.

I take my dog, a podcast and head out either through our neighborhood or to the parks nearby. Walking has become my antidote to the constant barrage of awful news. I get outside, into the real world, away from the on-line world that feels like an echo chamber of doom. I step into the sunshine, into the fresh air, see the beautiful sky, the trees and  feel a certain solace.

It reminds me that there is more going on than just what I see in the news or on-line.

So many writers are proponents of walking. Julia Cameron suggests walks as one of the tools for creative recovery.

Brenda Ueland says, “I will tell you what I have learned myself. For me, a long five or six mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day.”

In his essay “Walking” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

Listening to my podcast doesn’t leave me free from all worldly engagements but it does leave me not quite as tethered to them.

It’s not surprising that writers are especially drawn to walks. I think it provides a necessary complement to all the sitting, to the stagnation we can begin to feel in our bodies and our minds.

Walking is helpful to literal digestion but think it also helps me digest emotions, news, idea. I digest what I am reading, what I am writing.

Not only that, but walking seems to stimulate our creative juices. According to a study from Stanford University found that walking led to more creative thinking than sitting did.

If I haven’t convinced you to start a daily walking routine, maybe Austin Kleon can. I love what he says here:

“Almost every single morning, rain or shine, my wife and I load our two sons into a red double stroller (we call it The War Rig) and we take a 3-mile walk around our neighborhood. It’s often painful, sometimes sublime, but it’s always essential to our day. It’s when ideas are born, when we make plans, when we spot suburban wildlife, when we rant about politics, when we exorcise our demons.”

Exorcising my demons is exactly what it feels like. And that is both a solace and a necessity.

When I First Heard about Columbine.

never again

Image found via facebook.

There are certain events that I will always remember where I was when I heard about them.

I was on the school bus when I heard about the death of John Lennon.

I was standing in the kitchen when a friend called to tell me about the (first) plane flying into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

I was in my bedroom, packing to fly out to my sister, when a nurse called to tell me that my brother-in-law had died from his injuries sustained in the car accident.

On April 20, 1999, I was on a pay phone at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico, attending my first ever writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg.

It had taken a lot of convincing on my husband’s part to get me to go. I objected that we couldn’t afford it, that even we could afford it there were better things to spend that money on, that I couldn’t leave him with girls for a whole week, that my oldest had to go to Kindergarten Round-up. My husband  assured me that none of those excuses were actually based in reality, so I went.

Obviously, this was before cell phones, texting and FaceTime. I tried to call once a day from the pay phone. The work was intense. Because I was so secluded from the world, I dove deep into the process of writing, filling three entire notebooks in seven days.

On April 20, after I spoke with both of my daughters, my husband got back on the phone. I heard something in his voice. When I asked what was wrong, he didn’t want to tell me. He didn’t want to burden me with it, knowing that I was pretty much off the media grid and hadn’t yet heard. After some prodding he told me about the shooting at Columbine.

Even just hearing about it, without seeing the constant barrage of images on a TV, was chilling. As the news began to spread throughout the rest of the participants, a palpable heaviness descended on the repeat. That night the wind was intense at the base of the mountain. Natalie shared that Native Americans believe that wind like that is carrying spirits into the afterlife.

When I got to the airport a couple days later, the images were splashed over all the televisions. I remember watching the line of kids, hands on their heads walking out of the school and thinking it didn’t seem real. There was a subdued quality to the crowds of passengers huddle around the images.

My youngest remembers being on lockdown in kindergarten. A real lockdown, not a drill. She remembers hiding behind a desk and seeing the silhouette of a man slide past the window and she didn’t know if it was a police office or the bad guy.

Last month she ended up on lockdown again, this time up at Central Michigan University when a shooter was at -large. It turned out that he didn’t have a gun with him while on the run after shooting and killing his parents in his dorm.

But nobody knew that.

Nobody knew how bad the carnage would be.

We didn’t know because we’ve seen how bad it has been.

Over and over again.

I pray that the next life-changing event I remember will soon be the passage of sensible, national gun control.

Because we know how bad the carnage has been.

Shame on us for ever letting it happen again.

Mending the Broken World.

let your light shine

The world feels broken.

I know it’s seemed broken before. 9/11. Iraq. Vietnam. Korea. WWII. WWI. Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy Assassination. MLK Assassination. The Black Plague.

But even after 9/11, which I remember vividly, I didn’t feel this constant sense of impending doom hanging over our heads.

It’s not only the politics, although that is a huge part of it. It’s the environment, the extreme weather, the deteriorating public discourse.

I’ve marched. I’ve made calls to my representatives. I try to stay informed. I try to not let fear, anger and despair drag me under.

But it’s hard.

Here is what (usually) works for me.

~ Feel the pain, the brokenness, the anger, the fear, the despair. If I don’t feel it, it doesn’t just magically go away.

~ Write. I write into what I am feeling, what I think about what is happening. I write my own stories to immerse myself in the creation of something from nothing which is transformative.

~ I read. Writers and poets are tapped into the brokenness and hope in the world. I read their words and my soul is soothed.

~ I get out in nature. I’ve been taking long walks with my dog lately, getting out of my body and into the beautiful world.

~ I turn to my yoga practice. It unites my mind, breath and body. It grounds me. It soothes the anxiety. Whether I am with my yoga community at the studio or alone in my yoga room at home, each time I come to my mat, I am coming home to myself. Coming home to this moment.

~ I get off social media where it often feels like the end of the world is imminent and spend time with family and friends. I think of the false warning issued to the people of Hawaii when they thought a nuclear missile was headed their way. Some packed and retreated to the mountains. Some just held their loved ones closer. I don’t know what I would do. But the truth is, we don’t know what is going to happen in the next minute, next week, next month or next year. I do know that I don’t want to live my life afraid and anxious about what might happen and that’s how I’ve often felt since November.

Recently, this quote found me when I most needed it:

Brokenness of the world

These words instantly soothed my spirit. Lifted me out of the heaviness of despair and into the lightness of hope. All of these things I try to do are all about finding and stoking the light that is within me. That is within all of us.

So, yes, the world may feel broken right now. But it can be mended with intention.

My intention is to fan the flames of my inner light and share it with the world through my words, my classes, my laughter, my gratitude. My game plan is to love intentionally, extravagantly and unconditionally as often as I can.

Let that be my contribution to the brokenness of the world.

Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

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  1. Preparing for our first vegan Thanksgiving.
  2. I love having journal writing prompts at the ready.
  3. A peek into the writing mind of J.K. Rowling.
  4. “To put it another way, it took me two decades to become brave enough to be angry.” Read this piece by Lindy West.
  5. I’ve been exploring this link between voice and integrity and authenticity. Do my words come from integrity or do they add to the noise of the world? This speaks to that.

Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

  1. This whet my appetite for more international travel.
  2. Pretty sure I’ve had ALL these feelings.
  3. I love doing this kind of workout when I don’t have a lot of time.
  4. A great resource for vegan recipes. And these brownies look ah-may-zing!
  5. One of the best pieces I’ve read on the horror that descended on Charlottesville.

The Power of Art to Stay Awake.

I’ve been watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu with equal parts fascination, fear and fury.

For those who don’t know the premise, it is based on the 1985 dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. The former United States is now The Republic of Gilead. After extreme environmental devastation has left many women barren and men sterile, the new order steps in, sorting women into categories: young fertile women become Handmaids, some become Martha’s or maids, some are Aunts who are in charge of grooming the Handmaids for their new duties, while the rest are sent to work in the toxic camps where death is imminent. Cheery, so far, yes?

Handmaids are placed with a commander and his barren wife. Most of the commanders are sterile but that fact is no longer allowed in this society. (Dismissing of facts, sound familiar?) Only women are blamed for not being able to procreate. Their duty is to produce a child for the couple through The Ceremony which I find myself cringing through as I watch it.

One of the most disturbing aspects are the flashbacks which also greatly disturbed my 23-year-old daughter. In our current climate, setting the flashbacks in our time just makes the scenario seem not only possible but, at times, chillingly inevitable. Through the flashbacks we learn how women’s right were methodically stripped: firing them for their jobs, freezing their bank accounts so that only a husband or father could manage their money.

These are extreme actions that may, on the surface, feel completely unrealistic. We like to tell ourselves that would never happen here. But it already is. It comes down to how we value women and as a society we aren’t valued as much as men. We literally make less money for the same job just because are women. We are at the crux of a constant fight for control over our own bodies. We may be heading back to a time where our gender is considered a pre-existing condition and be charged more for our health insurance.

Beyond the issues of gender, another chilling scene was a brief flashback where men dressed in black with guns were throwing books and art into a fire. Why go after art? It is straight out of the dictator’s handbook. Go after the artists who use their voices to speak truth to power. Artists hold up a mirror to society—the good, the bad and the ugly. Once we see ourselves, we can’t unseen it. Therefore, it behooves a regime to not allow it to be seen or heard in the first place.

I’ve been watching as many artists struggle to find their voice in this new era of government where rights are threatened on an almost daily basis. Before the election, writer Julianna Baggott started a site inviting people to dedicate their no-Trump vote, sharing their stories about why they were not voting for him.

More than 600 American writers, including Stephen King, Dave Eggers, and Cheryl Strayed, penned an open letter against Trump.

Michael Moore reveals that he has been on a “creative tear” since last summer when he saw the inevitable train wreck coming at us. He encourages the use of satire and humor because it has been shown to get under the President’s extremely thin skin. What is a weakness in him becomes a strength for the resistance.

Many visual artists are turning to their work in this era of Trump to motivate action and educate the public on issues they are passionate about. As always, art is in the eyes of the beholder and there are consequences of expressing your views in such a public forum. For example, Ilma Gore’s painting of a nude Trump sporting a micropenis is currently on display at the Maddox gallery in London. She has been threatened not only by his lawyers but has received thousands of death and rape threats after posting the image online where it was shared over 260,000 times.

I find myself turning more to my writing than ever before. It soothes my anxiety, it helps me make sense of the chaos and it helps me discern what I think and how I feel within the chaos. Working on my novel five days week is often the one time of the day when I can block out the news and lose myself in another world. But I also find myself writing more political content in my journal, on social media and on my blog. I considered whether that would offend potential readers of my work and chose to use my voice. It is a gift I have and to not use it seems wrong. My audience is not huge but I have had people tell me over and over again how much they appreciate my words so I will keep sending them out into the world.

Ultimately, this election has been about waking up. Waking up to reality, to political action, to making myself heard whether through marches, town halls, calling and faxing my representatives or writing. Artists are awake to reality and they wake the rest of us up which is critical in these times.

I will leave you with the most chilling words from “The Handmaid’s Tale” so far:

Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Consitution, we didn’t wake up then, either. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.

~ Offred

Let’s stay awake.