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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on the lifting up of Pride. The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

Happy Pride

This is what I used to say every June to our legion of friends, old and new, when we were in every New York Pride Parade for years.

The New York Pride events were, of course, cancelled this year. Pride usually draws a large amount of people from all over the country.  It’s estimated that two million people have attended New York Pride each year in recent years.

My partner, Barbara, and I weren’t planning on going this year and we haven’t been to Pride for years. Although we would like to go again and see our friends in Brooklyn who we stay with. Even so, even with all the tragedy going on around us, I was momentarily taken aback a few months ago when I heard Pride was cancelled.

Pride is that much a part of me.

The LGBTQ community has earned Pride.  But I do not think that having pride should be limited to one group of people.  Everybody should be proud of themselves.  As the late, great, writer Toni Morrison said, “You are your own best thing.”

She was speaking, of course, about true pride, or self-love or empowerment – whatever you want to call it. This kind of feeling good about yourself, does not rest upon feeling negatively about another group.  That’s not pride. Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing far too much of it and it’s heartbreaking – to say the least.  One could argue that hatred of others begins with self-hate.

Pride was born in the protests of the Stonewall Inn, which became a week-long riot in 1969. The people with the least to lose – those who couldn’t pass in straight society, the butch lesbians and the drag queens – exploded one night during yet another police raid on a gay bar. Raids were customary then. Gay people were routinely carted off to jail, their names were published in the newspapers. They lost their jobs – and often their families.

Ten years later, there was another riot, after the assassination of Harvey Milk, a small business owner and politician in San Francisco. The man who assassinated him, a former firefighter, got off lightly on a charge of manslaughter and used what has since come to be called “the twinkie defense” – meaning that his legal team used the excuse that he ate too much junk food which led to his criminal behavior. After this sentencing, a peaceful candlelight vigil turned into a riot outside San Francisco’s city hall which involved setting buildings and police cars on fire.

 

lesbian statue of libertyA few years after Harvey Milk was assassinated, I attended the premier screening of the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (the first movie) at the Roxy on Sansom Street. I was young then, in my early twenties, and recently out as a lesbian. I still remember sitting in the dark theater and listening to the crying of those around me – mostly gay men.

Both riots – and there were others too – were before my time, but they are part of my history.

My partner and myself have lived in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia for a long time. We’ve had our problems with homophobia – even here in liberal Mt. Airy – but for the most part we have been met with acceptance. And that’s the way it should be. Of course, we should have equality. All people should have equality. This acceptance, no doubt, is why I sometimes take LGBTQ rights for granted.

These days, I’m probably more excited about going to a plant-based diet (which I did last fall for health reasons).  When I found out that this diet has a favorable effect on the planet, I was even more jazzed.

I’ve long been in favor of cultivating the earth — not just because it is the right thing, but because it is interesting. I’m a second-generation organic gardener, and I like bees. And I like planting bee balm and lavender and other plants that bees like.

But what I’m really excited about in going to a plant-based diet is feeling like I have a new lease on life. And I’m excited to be part of a global community.

There was a time when I felt the same way about coming out as a lesbian. Coming out in the early 1980s, meant that I didn’t have to erase myself and it meant that I had a tribe.

Recently, when reading a quote by the important gay writer Steve Abbott, I became very excited. The quote is about intersectionality and was made far before that term was commonly used. Steve died in 1992 of complications due to AIDS when he was forty-eight.

In his ahead of his time essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda. This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

As I read Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend and published recently, I was reminded that we all have our stories and that we were all forged in fire.

In 1992, I was at a writing program in Boulder Colorado, when I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott.  He was at the program but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS. Nearly thirty years later, a review copy of his book showed up in my mailbox. I did not know it was being published and I had not requested it.

To me, this was one more experience that proves that the universe works in mysterious ways.

I became Unitarian Universalist later in life – after fifty – when I found a religion that agreed with me. In particular, the Seventh Principle rings true:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

We are all connected.

 

 

–Namaste–

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.
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I try to avoid absorbing too much news. However, I have Windows 10 ( I’m on the computer a lot) so I always get the headlines. Yesterday, I got snagged and was ready to read another story about how awful things are when I came across an item under the heading of “good news” about a farm sanctuary tour for kids. I clicked on the link, began watching and was immediate flooded with good vibrations. I especially loved the donkeys and found out later that this sanctuary — Pasado’s Safe Haven in Washington State — was named for a donkey. We are living in dismal but changing times. But that fact that this sanctuary exists and is doing the essential work of rescuing the farm animals — the fact that farm animal sanctuaries are in existence all over the world — is good news!

Pasado’s Safe Haven Virtual Sanctuary Tour: Kids Edition!

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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I took part in the 9th Annual Food Revolution Summit this year for the first time. I was delighted to be in the company of 300,000 plus people worldwide who either are on a plant-based diet already or who are considering it.

I listened to every speaker and learned a lot. I’ve been on a totally plant-based diet since last fall when my acupuncturist suggested it for health reasons. I had surgery for a rather large kidney stone last year. I came home from the hospital with a bad bladder infection that sent me back to the hospital. It was really an ordeal.THEY Scottie

I was never much of a meat eater, so I gave up dairy and fish last fall. Within a month, I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Six months later, I have regained my energy and take an hour long walk everyday. I also do my yoga practice in the house on most days.

In this pandemic, it’s very important to be as healthy as you can. So I learned a lot of good information about food and supplements (like the importance of vitamins B and D) that I am using to tweak my diet.

One of my favorite speakers was Asha Akhtar, MD, whose interview was titled “Why Loving Animals Is Good for Your Health.” I’ve long been an animal lover — and have loved domestic companion animals and cows and pigs, in particular. Even so, the medical research on the value of having animals in your life (research that is largely ignored by the medical system) is staggering.

The interviewer mentioned that cruelty against domestic animals is illegal in most states but that cruelty against animals raised for “food” is legal.

This is certainly something to think about.

 

To read or see a YouTube video about my plant-based journey which led to my novel Cinnamon, a dairy cow’s (and her farmer’s) path to freedom,click here.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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One of the ways, I’ve been coping with this pandemic is by turning off the news at night.  Most of it is clearly designed to induce anxiety and it is working.  Anxiety is bad for the immune system and for the overall state of wellness.

However, I came across this segment with Jane Goodall being interviewed by Anderson Cooper.  I liked them both before and, of course, I knew about Jane Goodall’s work.  But after watching this, I became a big fan. It gave me hope. I hope it gives you hope.  Here is the link to the entire segment.  

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/03/19/coronavirus-jane-goodall-acfc-full-episode-vpx.cnn

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

THEY Scottie

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I have been rather amazed at the resilience of people in my many communities — particularly in my queer community. Perhaps it is because we have been through this before.  The AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s left its devastating mark on entire communities; it was global; and we were at first not sure how it was spread. It’s important to remember that queer people fell in love and partnered in that era — including my partner and myself.

One of the ways that my partner and I are getting through this crisis is by staying connected to our faith based community. Kudos to our minister Reverend McKinley Sims (Kin) who went immediately to a digital format.  The Unitarian Univeralist Church of the Restoration (in Philadelphia) already had a live-streaming platform which has been strengthened and the minister also did the service via Zoom so we could hear people’s joys and concerns. Kin gave a rousing sermon and opened with a pre-recorded rendition of “I just want to celebrate another day of living.” Hope was inspired. I’m sure that was intended.  There was also excellent live music, with the musicians maintaining the new social distance in the church that was empty of the congregation.

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photo by Gloria Rohlfs

 

Another way that I am dealing with this period is by understanding the scientific history of this pandemic. Plant Based News just posted an excellent video (which you can see on YouTube). It featured a 2015 talk by Dr. Greger who is an important author, plant-based diet advocate and a physician with a background in infectious disease. His talk was spell-binding. Not only did he predict the current pandemic, but he connected the history of infectious diseases to the history of the domestication of animals for human consumption. In particular, he connects the spread of influenzas to the factory farming of chickens. I took away that if the Corona Virus hadn’t spread from wet markets in a region in China that it would have spread a different way. It still might. It’s up to us to change and stop providing a market for diseased chicken — or any chicken.

 

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of International Pig Day.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” – Wilbur, the pig, talking about Charlotte, the spider, in Charlotte’s Web, the classic by E.B. White.

I was very excited when I learned that today is national pig day. National Pig Day was started in Texas – in fact it was started by Reverend McKinley’s art teacher, Ellen Stanley. Now it is an international holiday to honor the uniqueness of the pig.

I’ve always been drawn to pigs. Perhaps, it is their innate intelligence made obvious to me at a young age when I read Charlotte’s Web.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that it was so easy for me to move to a plant-based diet last fall which I did for health reasons. This means that I only eat plants and cut out all animal products.

My partner Barbara and I had been moving toward a plant-based diet for several years prior to this because of compassion for the animals and concerns for our own now and future health.

So, when I started seeing an acupuncturist and she emailed me a link to a YouTube video of a physician talking about how a low-protein plant-based diet is the best way to avoid kidney stones, I was right there. The universe must have heard me, because the minute I gave up dairy, the muse descended in the form of a talking dairy cow.

For two and a half months, I wrote — almost without stopping — a novel titled Cinnamon: a dairy cow’s path (and her farmer’s) to freedom. And while I am still in the revision mode, this is the fastest I ever wrote the first draft of a novel. The larger arc of this pro-cow, pro-farmer novel is about the possibility of change.

Call it quantum physics or magic, everything around me seemed to line up for the writing. We had been visiting the cows, the pigs, the sheep and their offspring, the lambs, at Saul agricultural high school on nearby Henry Avenue for several years.  I never anticipated, however, that I would be writing a novel with a talking dairy cow as a narrator. The other narrator is a female dairy farmer.  The farmer and the cow, who she named Cinnamon, become friends which leads to a happy ending – something that is happening all over the world.

The writing of this novel was very intense. I knew that the dairy cows didn’t have an easy time of it – to say the least.  But I learned so much that I went through a period of consciousness raising. In spiritual terms, I began to see the beingness of the farm animals reflected back to me.  I could especially see this in their eyes.

I did write a novel – meaning it is fiction, which loosely interpreted means I made things up. But my farmer narrator, like me, has health issues that lead her to a plant-based diet.  Also, like me, she is lucky enough to have a partner who loves to cook for her. Like me, she starts to get better. And in the meantime, she becomes more connected to the farm animals. Like others who went to a plant-based diet, I became more compassionate – and that compassion extends to the animals, to myself and to the world.

I was delighted to learn that the Unitarian Universalist Association has an Animal Ministry. You may have seen the ad in UU World with a plate at the top with two eggs for eyes and a turned down piece of bacon under that – making a frowny face. A quote on the ad reads, “The United Nations says that a global shift to a plant-based diet is crucial to save the planet and to feed the growing population.” The website quotes the prominent Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh who has said, “Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

This quote from Tich Nhat Hanh bears repeating:

“Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

As my acupuncturist says, “By moving to a plant-based diet you are improving your health, helping the animals, and the planet as well. It seems like a no brainer.”

I would agree. We have plenty of prominent activists who espouse plant-based diets. These include noted activist Greta Thunberg and actor/activist Leonardo di Caprio. And we have the actor Joaquin Phoenix who, in his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, talked about how we have descended into an egocentric world view and about the fact that everything is connected – including human rights, animal rights, and the future of the planet.

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If you are interested in learning more, I recommend Plant Based News which has videos on You Tube — many of them featuring the noted cardiologist Dr. Neal Barnard.

In my novel, the dairy farmer feels very guilty that she sold her pig – who at the time was the size of a small adult human. She sold the pig to pay taxes on the land, which has been in her family for generations. Eventually, when she figures out that she can do things differently – by creating a farm animal sanctuary on her land where her animals can live out their natural lives – she adopts a new pig and names him Wilbur.

Like any writer, I did my research. Pigs and their lineages can be very complex. But here’s some interesting and fun facts that I learned about pigs: Farm animal pigs are direct descendants of wild boars which I understand can be very dangerous.  A boar is an uncastrated male domestic pig, but a boar can also mean a wild pig of any gender.

Pigs are known to be very intelligent. They are considered the fifth most intelligent animal in the world. Some say they are even more intelligent than dogs.

So, in this season of Lent, whether you identify as a Christian or not, consider being kind to your arteries as well as to pigs, by giving up pig products for a while – and see how you feel.

In doing so, you might reflect on the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle:.Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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Happy Thanks Living!

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