Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ah, Thanksgiving!

 'Tis the season to be grateful, and Crystal sure is counting her blessings:
 She's communing with her bunny friends, and overflowing with appreciation from their heart connections and extra enthusiasm for the support of her work.
And she is feeling especially blessed by YOU, dear Readers, as you follow her on her ongoing spiritual journey with her endeavors to restore our Earth and her creatures to VIBRATING Health! Thank you for your encouragement and feedback. YOUR journeys are what make hers possible...
If you live in Massachusetts and want a BIG and WILD spiritual adventure this weekend, come on over to the Natural Living Expo in Marlborough ( and check us out- Gnomestead Press at Table 51!  After you check us out, you may like to get your Akashic records checked or your bunny coat fluffed up - you should SEE who's coming together, from a wild trip into the ethers of Spirit back to the the grounded-ness of crystals!
May you and your loved ones have a joyous and nurturing season of blessedness and a new life chock-full of warming gratefulness, that tickles you from ear tips to twinkling toes.
From Crystal Bunnytail and  all of us here at the Gnomestead...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hey, Honey Bun' !!

ANNOUNCING..... (drum roll, please)... 

the publication of Honey Bun' Love, Book III in the Gentle Mountain Way Series on the continuing exploits of Crystal Bunnytail!!!  Adventurous readers, this new book is for you!!  It delves into the heart and soul of Crystal's psyche and yours, with heartfelt analysis of how we can all grow and change by aligning with Spirit.

Full disclosure: this is Sarah's wife Sherry writing, with great enthusiasm for this just-published, vividly colorful, bursting-with-joy book for adult and teen readers alike. Check it out -- you won't be disappointed.

Since the book has JUST hit the presses, our website has not yet been updated with the new arrival. Readers who want to get it hot-off-the-press may go directly to to buy Honey Bun' Love. And don't be shy about adding a review if you wish!

Sarah's proud wife, Sherry
October 2014, from the Gnomestead

Sunday, July 27, 2014

New Venue for Doggie Entertainment Coming Soon, near The Gnomestead!!

We have exciting news for our local Mass. MetroWest dog-loving friends! MayDog, our dog park advocacy group that has been working long and tirelessly over the past several years, has finally gotten a license agreement approved by the Maynard Board of Selectman - so the opening of the dog park now only requires willing volunteers for pre-opening cleanup and ongoing maintenance. (See for more details.)

EVERY DOG and owner (over age 9, with an adult) is welcome at the dog park, not only Maynard residents. Here is a haven for your beloved canines to romp, play, socialize and entertain themselves and each other safely off-leash.

Check out for updates on the upcoming grand opening, and to learn details of rules and regulations to keep all dogs and humans harmonious and safe.

Go, Maydog!! Thank you for all your tireless work to make our canine community happier and healthier.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Running with Spirit is Easier than Running Alone...

Running gets placed earlier in the day when temperatures rise above 80 degrees by midmorning.  So I do more of my morning thinking at this time "on the road". Unfortunately, a lot of my inspired thought passes without being written down, and it remains jewels of precious moments between me and Mother/Father God. But below, are a few that are remembered for sharing.

One day this happened:
I switched my consciousness somehow to start running from my bones instead of my muscles. What I mean is,  when I actually thought about how my long straight leg bones hold me up as I move through space, they lengthened and I felt the need to tilt my hips and straighten up a bit. I was sensing the alignment of gravity with my bones and the muscles relaxed into an easier movement.  My little aches and pains, as I had only just started warming up, utterly went away.  I was moving through space as Mother/father God intended - effortlessly.  Action without struggle or harm.

Another day, this:
I thought to myself, what do I want to feel like as I run.  So I thought, with each 4 strides: God's re-flec-tion.  And then I added Per-fect-ly for the next 3 and left 1 step before starting in again.

God's re-flec-tion
God's re-flec-tion

I went on with that for a while and again, felt no aches or pains!  I felt good, and strong, and O.K. with the world.

And then, as I was on a roll, I added a few more phrases because of other ideas I have wanted to understand and feel with more conviction in my life.  Though it left the joy of inspired ideas running through my head later, a little like poetry trying to happen. Anyway, it went something like this:

God is Love.
God is Peace,
Only God,
In Har-mo-ny,
Is judging me.

I have wanted to, more deeply, understand how be in the world without judgment.  And if I want to let go of judgment, either from judging myself or others, or feeling the sting of being judged by others, I need to know that God's perfect Love is the only one able to caste True judgment.  Because God is the only one who fully knows what's going on with me.  And, I also happen to know/believe, God does not judge with anything but Loving thoughts (a kindness I hope to emulate).  And God does not give me anything but Peaceful, Harmonious, and True understanding in Her/His perfect Love for me - as well as all other beings in creation.

And so I continue to remind myself:

Only God,
Is judging me.

...and what will I do with this golden jewel of an opportunity awaiting me here now, and with this next moment?...and this next run?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Worcester VegFest Inspires Shift in Gnomestead Press!

A huge thank-you from the bottom of our hearts to those who stopped by our table at Vegfest on Sunday, supporting our artwork and writings, and offering words of encouragement for our "connectivity" work at the intersection of the spiritual-vegan-environmental communities. Crystal Bunnytail (our vegan environmental comic character), Sarah, Sherry and the gnomes (and all the elementals) here are thrilled that our first "official" booth for our little homemade press took off so well.

We had such fun, and such a fabulous response, that you are inspiring us to take our next growth steps here at the Gnomestead! We are beginning our transition from a simple blog to an official website, where our various themes (blog, recipes, info & resources, Toad Stool Shoppe, etc.) will be more easily accessible to you. We also want to develop this space into a forum where we can invite more interactive discussion with you, our readers, about topics dear to our and your hearts: to build bridges among all the causes and values and lifestyles we believe in and link together a powerful community to advance the type of change we need in this world.

Expanding our publishing? 

Our latest booklet, Kindness Counts...on the Path to Natural Living, is produced from our home, with a new color printer and lots of enthusiastic folding and stapling. We've had some inquiries about publishing short works of other like-minded folk, and we are considering what it might look like to accept some of these proposals. We could then become more of a full-service publisher of small booklets that move our communities ahead on the path to a more just, aware and sustainable world.

Please keep in touch, and let us know what you think of these new ideas. If you want an email telling you when the website is complete, please send us an email at with the subject line "add to email list."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Finding Decent Vegan Food...

Finding Decent Vegan Food at Stores or Restaurants: Overcoming the Barriers          

                  by Sherry Jeppson Zitter

            One of our greatest challenges as new or experienced vegans can be finding nutritious and delicious foods, whether in a restaurant or at our local grocery store. What are some ways to handle these dilemmas?
            Our Vegan MetroWest Network in central Massachusetts just started a new Meet-Up event: Vegan Conversations, a monthly forum to discuss topics  related to our experience as vegans.  I sat with a dozen vegans at the first gathering listening to questions or concerns such as: "I live alone now. It's so hard to cook vegan for one person!"  "I recently became vegan for my health after being a cheeseburger addict. How do I make a decent vegi-burger? I don't want to buy processed junk food -- vegan or not!"  and "The only vegan thing on the menu was vegetables, and they came cooked in butter…I didn't want to hurt the waitress' feelings by sending them back…."
            We come to veganism from many motivations: animal rights, health, environmentalism, social justice, and more. A longterm vegan told me: "I'm not vegan for what I eat; I'm vegan for what I don't eat." For an ethical vegan whose main concern is avoiding animal products, this may be sufficient. But many of us are foodies, ethical vegans or no. And most of us care greatly about what we eat, how it tastes and how to get good nutrition to maintain our health.

Food shopping

            Buying local produce through area farmers' markets, farmsteads and CSA's* is a great way to insure higher nutritive value in our food. Produce can lose up to 80% of its vitamins on the way across the country to our store or restaurant. (*CSA'a are Community Supported Agriculture, where consumers pay upfront for a season of produce to enable farmers to buy seed and hire workers to plant)
            Although finding organic produce is not only a vegan issue, it has great implications for animals (human and non-human) and our environment. Organic CSA's such as Enterprise Farms in Whateley, MA have drop-offs in many locations from western MA to Boston, and are adding more each month. (Their winter farmshare is a loose cooperative venture of farms along the East Coast, providing scrumptious oranges from Florida and hothouse tomatoes from Pennsylvania in February, for lower prices than the supermarket.) Many areas in New England have organic farmsteads; ask at your local farmers' market.
            The local supermarket may offer hidden options. Markets compete with each other for consumer loyalty, and one priority is customer service. Although the organic produce area or the vegan grocery section may look woefully inadequate to you, you can often order items not on the shelf by talking to the head of the department. You can suggest new products that other shoppers might also want to buy, and be sure to buy a few (and ask your friends to do so) as soon as the product shows up on the shelves.
            My friend Laura noticed a vegan chocolate chip muffin when she stopped at an unfamiliar Whole Foods Market, and asked her local WF bakery manager to offer the same item. She mentioned that the same batter they use for blueberry vegan muffins (a standard offering), could be easily adapted for chocolate chips. When the new offering appeared, she made it a point to buy a few several times that week and freeze them. She then stopped to thank the bakery manager and ask how the new item was selling; he was pleased that it was doing so well. This is an example of great advocacy for ourselves and our community!
            Our local Stop and Shop produce manager has been responsive to requests for specific organic items, and usually has them in a few days. If we order a case of bananas or apples, we get a 10% discount. (A case can be split with friends or family; some apples or cold weather veggies such as carrots, potatoes, onions or turnips can be stored in a root cellar or cool basement for several weeks.) I also have requested specific grocery items from S&S, and the department manager has gotten them when they were available. I remember to close the loop by thanking him by phone if he is not around when I shop.
            When our vegan group bemoaned the fact that we had to travel almost an hour to buy nondairy ice cream, some of us wrote a petition to the town's homemade ice cream stand, asking them to provide such an option. We took the petition and some Trader Joe's chocolate coconut frozen dessert (I know non-vegan ice cream aficionados who prefer this to dairy ice cream!) to the manager, and spoke to her about the many vegans and people allergic to dairy in the area. It turned out her mom is lactose-intolerant! She was open to adding this option for next season; stay tuned.

Preparing Wholesome Food without Taking All Night

            Many of us work full-time jobs, are raising a family, and/or have many other obligations that necessitate efficient food preparation. One of my group members lamented that the gap from carnist (voluntary meat-eater) to ovo-lacto vegetarian (one who will eat eggs and dairy) is not so great, but from there to vegan is a HUGE leap, both in terms of availability at restaurants and convenience in home cooking. For the latter, some of the essential tools for yummy, healthy meals are a pressure cooker, slow cooker (aka crockpot) and freezer. (We recently bought a Fagor combination pressure cooker-slow cooker-rice cooker that is fabulous and takes the space of 3 appliances.)
            A simple way to have good food all week is to make a pot of beans and a pot of grain twice a week that can be eaten for 3 or 4 days.  All that remains is to steam vegetables (5 - 7 minutes) and add your favorite sauce or dressing and spices/condiments. I keep my cutting board and favorite chopping knife (a cleaver) next to the stove. When I get home, I begin boiling 2 inches of water in a pot while I chop carrots and leafy greens. Carrots (or thin-sliced beets, sweet potatoes, turnips,  or other root veggies) and stems go in as soon as the water begins to simmer. After 3- 5 minutes, I add the kale/collard/swiss chard/beet greens/dandelion leaves, or small broccoli or cauliflower florets, and steam another 2 minutes. (I don't use a steamer, preferring to capture the vitamins in the cooking water and pour it over the rice and beans coming from the frig to warm them up.)
            Using a pressure cooker for beans cuts cooking time incredibly, often to 25%. Adding 1 - 2 inches of kombu (a type of kelp seaweed) to beans softens them to help them digest more easily. Using a rice cooker means you can add rice (or any grain or mixture of grains) and water, plug it in and do something else for 30 - 40 minutes, arriving back in the kitchen to a sweet-smelling, steaming pot that is never overcooked.
            Various ways to prepare beans in interesting ways can be found at:
            Many wonderful one-pot meals can be made in the slow cooker, during the day or overnight. (A web search for "vegan slow-cooked meals" will yield good recipes and books.) The prototypical one is kitchari, a traditional Ayurvedic Indian dish consisting of mung beans (and/or dal, split lentils), rice, vegetables and spices. [example at] Avoid ghee (clarified butter) in recipes, and feel free to leave out hing (or asafetida, an Indian spice that makes beans more digestible) or other spices or veggies you don't have - kitchari is infinitely flexible!
            Some friends of mine pick a few easy recipes each Saturday, shop for ingredients, and cook up a large dish on Sunday to last most of the week. Some favorites that keep well, or freeze in individual or family-sized portions for later use, include vegetarian eggplant parm or lasagna, ratatouille, hearty soups and stews, or veggie and pasta salads.
            Money can be a substitute for time: to keep on the healthy end of menus, buy pre-washed and chopped veggies or salad ingredients in bags, so a salad or a stir-fry can be prepared in minutes. Westsoy makes a few flavors of seitan already in chunks or strips to throw in the pan; seitan has as much protein per ounce as steak, with no saturated fat or cholesterol. []
            There are countless wonderful websites for vegan dishes; chances are that if you do a web search for almost any dish you love, a vegan version or conversion will be found. Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds  has delicious vegan ideas for "real men."  Also check Amazon for the quick vegan recipe category; books abound with "Ten Minute Recipes" or "Quick Vegan Cooking" in the titles or descriptions. (Or check out our recipe book suggestions in the Resource section of Kindness Counts, our new plant-powered informational guide in the Shoppe on this website.)
            As you experiment, you will find a handful of favorite recipes for your family that come easily to you, and except for when you want to spaciously branch out, you may find yourself relying on them frequently. As long as you stay away from highly processed foods, you and your family will be happier and healthier the more vegan meals you consume.

Dining Out: Happy Cow or Pot Luck?

            The Happy Cow website [] is a wonderful source of vegan and vegetarian restaurants and health food stores throughout the US. It also lists more general restaurants with good vegan options. If you find a restaurant through Happy Cow, please do let the manager know that, to support this vital information source.
            But you may be with friends or family in a restaurant where waiters aren't even sure what "vegan" means. What do you do then?
            Many vegans will call ahead to a new restaurant, particularly if they will be at a business lunch or entertaining a client, or any situation where it isn't appropriate to spend time on site negotiating food choices. A small cafe in Sturbridge, Mass., the Sunburst, has been happy to stock avocados when they know we are coming, as they can add these delicacies to salad that might otherwise be boring for a vegan.
            Sometimes it pays to literally walk the waitperson through the menu, asking if various items can be made without dairy, eggs or honey. Restaurants are used to accommodating special needs and allergies, and often will willingly adapt. In fact, one vegan claims he is "allergic" to eggs, dairy products and honey to be sure the cook is careful!
            I recently met a group at a Panera Bread; when I asked the young woman at the counter which menu items were vegan, she said "none." I spent some time going over the menu with her, pointing out the vegan roasted veggie sandwich and explaining how several other choices could be easily adapted for vegans. She called over the manager, who brought the notebook of ingredients in each bread, soup, etc., and we had a good discussion about convenience for their chef along with vegan accessibility.
            If you specifically order vegetables in oil, and they come in butter, your priorities at the moment will come into play: is this a teachable moment? If so, how might you correct the situation without either the waitperson or the cook feeling shamed or defensive? Are you entertaining a business client, and decide to let it go and perhaps call the restaurant afterwards? Handling such a situation has great potential, if it the right time for you, and your pioneering will help the next vegan diner.
            When I am heading to a new restaurant, I will often grab my bag of essentials: pumpkin or sunflower seeds, an avocado, and sometimes a small jar of tahini or salad dressing. Then I can order a salad and add in some of my favorite ingredients for a hearty, satisfying salad. Or you can often ask the waitperson to add raw or roasted nuts.
            Some have found that tipping the waitperson $5 or $10 in advance creates an appreciative and helpful connection, where the server will go out of his or her way to make sure the kitchen is adapting to one's needs and requests.
            Our local Indian restaurant had vegan dishes on the menu, but I had to ask about ingredients to insure I got a strictly vegan meal. Recently, I went in and noticed the word "Vegan!" in red next to several entrees. What had made the difference? A good friend of the owner had become vegan and asked him to make the menu more vegan-friendly. I made sure to thank the manager on duty and tell him not only how much this meant to me, but that I would mention the improvement on our local vegan website, promoting his business.
            Twice a year, a local Russian Orthodox church holds a bazaar, with traditional Russian meals and baked goods offered all day. When Victoria, our vegan group organizer, found that several of the dishes were vegan (kasha varnishkas, pickled vegetables, vegetable soup, one version of the stuffed cabbage) she posted the event on our website and several of us showed up, thanking the kitchen staff for the vegan food. The next time the event occurred, the organizer contacted Victoria, asking her to post it, expanded the vegan selections and briefed all the waitstaff on which items were vegan. These small steps symbolize how aware our culture is becoming of veganism and how our choices, and those of local businesses, can have a beneficial economic impact on our communities.

Helping School Cafeterias to Improve Vegan Fare

            Ahh, the school cafeteria -- it has a captive audience, no matter what the student's diet! Yet there are practical ways we can make suggestions with the best chance of them being accepted.
            First, we need to find the right person to speak with; the cashier or server probably isn't it. Requesting a 10 - 15 minute meeting is a way to let whoever is in charge of menu planning know we respect his or her busy job and plan to be brief.
            Finding something to compliment about the current offering, however slight, is a great way to open a discussion. If absolutely nothing on the menu is vegan, one can appreciate the willingness of the menu planner to be open to new ideas. Often, a small change in the way items are cooked can be suggested to create vegan options: for example, tacos or tortillas with grated cheese and sour cream on the side, corn-on-the-cob or other veggies prepared without butter, or potatoes baked with oil.
            When I went to social work school 30 years ago, the dining room offered 2 foods for vegetarians: cottage cheese and iceberg lettuce. For vegans, one. The non-carnivorous students bought a copy of Moosewood Cookbook (vegetarian with many vegan recipes) for the head of the dining room, and presented it to her with a few strategic bookmarks, commenting on easy and popular recipes. Suddenly, homemade hummus, tabouli salad and oil-roasted vegetables began to show up with regularity. The students responded with a thank-you note signed by 30 students (some non-vegan but grateful for healthier options) and a vegan cookbook!

The Bigger Picture

            Whether eating out or in...being vegan, healthy and satisfied is not as hard as it may appear. It takes some planning and creativity, and after the initial investment, often surprisingly little time and effort. And I just love when non-vegan friends like my lasagna or muffins better than those they have come to expect!
            Every time we request vegan food at a store or restaurant, we are raising consciousness, intended or not. Each time we thank a business for providing the food we need and enjoy, we are reinforcing more of the same behaviors -- in that business and in our society in general. We each have a limited supply of energy and many competing priorities, as well as different degrees of confidence at different times. There are moments when we speak up, and moments when we don't; times we send food back and times we just don't eat it. When we can avoid pressuring or criticizing ourselves or others, but simply notice our next step, our own growth edge in this process, then we will all be working together at our own paces to move veganism forward. Whether we are here for health, the animals, the environment, or a combination of motivations, we are each a wave on this ever-growing ocean of vegan community.

Sherry Jeppson Zitter is a vegan activist and writer who, with her wife Sarah, keeps working on shrinking her global footprint in creative and zany ways. She is a singer-songwriter, an eco-biker, and a clinical social worker in Maynard MA who loves to help people free their spirits. She loves comments, challenges and feedback on her writing, and can be reached at 

Friday, April 4, 2014

"Coming Out" as Vegan to Family and Friends...

 "Coming Out" as Vegan to Family and Friends:  It's a Process, Not Just an Announcement           

         by Sherry Jeppson Zitter

"It's so hard to be vegan in this culture!" is one of the most common feelings I hear expressed by fellow vegans. 
            Many of us have sought vegan Meet-Ups or other groups as a way to find support and not feel too isolated or weird. As a clinical social worker/psychotherapist,  I've worked with vegan clients to help them combat the barriers they often feel in a non-vegan world,  the emotions that arise when around those enthusiastically eating meat,  and how to handle their own reactions. 
            Some considering a vegan lifestyle may be daunted or deterred by these many challenges.    Perhaps some of the strategies below, and those shared in response by readers, may give you hope on your own personal journey toward a more plant-based diet.
            My goal with this column is to begin a dialogue within our community,  a sharing of ideas, approaches and stories about what has worked for a variety of vegans --  as well as experiences that have not been so successful. We are a diverse bunch,  so what works for some of us will not be the right approach for others. By brainstorming together,  we may come up with a continuum of self-care and responses and learn where each of us fits best at a particular time in our vegan journey.


            Rose (not her real name) comes from a large Jewish family that loves to eat. Most of their gatherings focus around Jewish or secular holidays that serve traditional non-vegan food. Thanksgiving (centering around a dead turkey) and Passover (involving a roasted lamb shankbone) are the most challenging holiday meals for her. 
            Rose's family's reactions when she "came out" to them as vegan ranged from "Why would you want to do THAT?! Aren't you taking things a bit too far?" (her older sister) to "Honey, that's so unhealthy! How will you get enough protein?" (her mom) to mocking from her younger brother: "Oh, here comes the lofty animal hero! Look, Rose, you're too late to save this meat loaf!!"
            At first, Rose felt so isolated and judged by her family that she found herself making excuses to skip family gatherings. But she soon missed the warmth of her close-knit family and searched for ways to overcome this sudden barrier to connecting with them.


            Rose sought out resources that explained the health benefits of a vegan diet clearly and simply, and brought them with her to the next holiday. She also offered to bring a vegan dish full of protein to add to the meal, and made sure it was an old family recipe adapted with delicious vegan ingredients. She found quotes from prominent vegans who various family members would respect: Albert Schweitzer for her scientific dad, Paul McCartney for her Beatles-loving sister, and Dick Gregory for her civil rights activist mother. 
            Connecting with vegan friends before and after this event was a crucial part of Rose's strategy. She knew which of them were around over the weekend so she could text or call them for support. She tried not to expect too much change in attitudes, and resolved not to offer any of her materials unless she was asked.


            When her mother and sister separately brought up concerns for her health or welfare, Rose responded in a loving way, thanking them for caring about her and giving verbal responses about ways she manages her health well. Her explanations were brief, focusing on the specific concerns expressed, and she was careful to avoid a proselytizing tone. 
            Rose then offered written materials in a low-key way, which they each accepted. She asked if either of them had read or heard about any benefits of a vegan diet, and mentioned how heart problems (her mother's concern) and weight issues (her sister's) could often be improved just by eating a few more plant-based meals per week.  
            Her mother was still skeptical, but later raved about the vegan version of the family's chili recipe Rose had brought. Rose resolved to keep adapting superbly delicious dishes she knows are favorites with her clan. When her sister expressed more interest, she added a bit about what had brought her to this decision from an ethical and philosophical standpoint, stressing her love of animals that her sister shared.
            Her prankster brother was more challenging for Rose. When he began his perennial teasing, she took a deep breath and teased him back gently: "So are you the marathoner-wannabe  who hasn't even heard of all the Vegan Ironmen?" 
            "Really!?" he said, suddenly interested, and she texted him the link to Brendan Brazier's and Doug Graham's sites. For the next hour he was reading testimonials by vegan athletes on his phone.


            Rose realized two essential truths about family dealings for vegans:
1. I can't change their reactions, but I can change my response to their reactions; and 
2. I won't expect to change anyone's viewpoint right away; give them slow, gradual information respectfully over time. Some will adjust; others won't. She also did her research, exposed them to vegan food that was close to what they loved, not out of their experience, and lined up support before, during and after her experience. This enabled her not to get into a war of words, where there are winners and losers and where people's minds close rather than open.


            Tim's friends were laid-back, preferring pick-up games of basketball to philosophical discussions. When he encouraged trying a new restaurant after a game, rather than their standard hamburger joint, they shrugged and agreed. But once in the restaurant, several of them began reacting to the large vegetarian portion of the menu: "Sprouts?! Yea, man, I love 'em - NOT!" "Hey, this place doesn't even have a bacon cheeseburger!"  and "So Tim, where's the real food?!"
            Tim realized he had made a mistake. Since they hadn't ordered yet, he suggested they go back to their old haunt, and he ordered a salad. His friends were puzzled and he told them simply that he wasn't eating meat or cheese anymore. When they asked why, he told them that cows and chickens created global warming and used up a lot of land hungry people could use for food.
            John was amazed: "You mean you're becoming a Leftie? You really think skipping your chicken wings will save the world, huh?!" Mike wrinkled his nose: "You're getting soft - your jump shot will suffer soon. C'mon, just one bite of my burger ain't gonna hurt ya!" He led the table in a cheer of "Without meat, your meal is not complete! Yum, yum, yum!!"
            Tim tried to laugh this away, but his stomach was churning with anger and frustration. How could he possibly make his friends even begin to understand? No clever retort came to mind. After a few minutes, he managed to change the subject. Somehow, he made it through the meal and went home to think.


            Tim began to realize he would need to see his change through the eyes of his friends in order for them to understand. He printed out some stories of vegan Ironmen to bring to the next game, and a few of his friends were curious when he showed them in a casual way. He brought ripe avocados to their usual restaurant, adding one into his salad but also passing some around to the guys. After attending some vegan Meet-ups and getting support and advice, he found some jokes that poked fun of people who were too zealous about one way of eating. During the next wave of teasing, he was able to laugh at himself with them without altering his decision or his eating. Without any reaction from him, the teasing gradually diminished.
            After a few months of developing a plan, the next restaurant Tim suggested -- he had tested it first! -- had thick mouth-watering portabella burgers with "analog" Daiya soy cheese and Lightlife tempeh "Fakin' Bacon" on it.   And after one game, he invited the group back to his apartment to have snacks and watch a movie. Before the film, he showed a trailer on "The Engine 2 Diet," authored by vegan fireman and athlete Rip Esselstyn. Rip had helped a co-worker at the firehouse avoid a heart attack or stroke by lowering his dangerously high cholesterol with man-filling vegan food. He tells the story of how everyone at the station had changed to a plant-based diet, lost weight, felt stronger and healthier. 
            That night, Tim served vegan snacks from Rip's creations and got very positive, although still bantering, responses. It's a process, he kept reminding himself. When he casually offered to lend anyone Esselstyn's book, 3 guys got in line to read it.


Tim learned several crucial approaches to dealing with in-your-face friends:
1. Have patience. Ask your friends to make small steps; respecting where they are starting from and offering them ways to laugh with an open mind assists in accepting different ways of thinking. 
2. Give them knowledge that meshes with their interests and intrigues them.
3. Be able to laugh at yourself, respectfully.
4. Offer resources and yummy food they are somewhat familiar with, or mimics what they are familiar with, in laid-back ways.
5. Expect attitude change to be slow and don't push.
            Many of us live in areas where we know few other vegans. We work to find ways to get support or to feel accepted for who we are and what we believe -- as well as what we eat and do not eat. Change is slow at times, in ourselves and others; we  can find ways to deal with the "two steps forward, one step back" experiences that life presents to us with grace and courage. Our dilemmas are made so much easier through community, and we want Vegan Villager  to be a source of ideas and inspiration for all our readers.

First printed in Vegan Villager 2013:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 Tippity-Top Reasons to Be More Vegan

What would be YOUR favorite "angle(s)" be for enjoying a more plant-based way of eating?

1. Heart disease/stroke prevention: Bill Clinton, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. in The China Study, and Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD (surgeon/former Olympic rower) in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, understand the safety in going vegan. The American Journal of Epidemiology shows a 29 percent increase in mortality risk for those eating red meat.

2. For the animals: Going vegan saves an average of almost 200 animal lives per year -- and so much suffering in overcrowded spaces, standing in their own filth, merely existing rather than living until the slaughterhouse ends a miserable experience. Every vegan meal grows compassion!

3. Diabetes and cancer prevention: National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that vegan diets are best for diabetes prevention and management, also improving control of weight, glycemia, and cardiovascular risk. The National Cancer Institute & American Association of Cancer Research state that vegan diets reduce our risk of cancer, dramatically and swiftly. Fruits and veggies contain vital vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals that can protect our bodies against cancer growth.

4. For the planet: UN environmental scientists showed in 2009 that consuming livestock products account for at least 51% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions! Animal protein takes over 6 times the fossil fuel to raise than grain, and raising animals for food is creating topsoil erosion at crisis levels.

5. For overall excellent health: Numerous studies show strong links between a vegan diet and improved bone health, weight control, thyroid function, blood pressure, cholesterol, longevity, and all-around great health.

6. For social justice/world hunger and thirst: We could grow 6 - 7 times more food per acre by growing plant-based foods than raising animals. Raising beef requires 100 times more water than raising soybeans or wheat.

7. For ethical/moral considerations: Many vegans find their lifestyle aligns with and supports their values about human and non-human suffering, care of our planet, and care of our own bodies. Gandhi famously said: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." OR "You can judge the morality of a nation by the way the society treats its animals."

8. For athletic excellence:  "Many [ultra athletes] choose a plant-based diet because it allows them to most effectively train and perform…Scott Jurek is one of the most dominant ultra-marathoners to ever live…" (Matt Frazier, No Meat Athlete)

9. For lightness of being: Ellen DeGeneres and many others report that the transition to vegan food leaves them feeling lighter, with more sustained energy and a better mood.

10.For lightness of spirit: Most spiritual and religious devotees belief that a diet without animal products allows a clearer connection with Spirit or God.