April 30, 2008

Spank-Out Day

Today is, or I guess was National Spank-Out day. I have to say, it makes me quite sad. The fact that we even need such a "national day" is disturbing to me.
We don't spank our kids. It's not something we believe in. Yes, we discipline our children, but we don't spank. We don't belittle, ridicule, talk down to, or make them feel as though they are "bad kids". Mistakes happens. Kids ARE GOING TO make mistakes. A lot of them. We embrace the mistakes as wonderful opportunities to learn. Without mistakes, you'd never learn what was right. So, nope, no spanking going on here. And quite honestly, I just don't see how it is considered an appropriate form of discipline on a legal level.
Spanking is hitting. I really don't understand why hitting children is ok, and actually even an encouraged form of child rearing, when hitting an adult is punishable by law. Where is the logic in that? When they are small, young, vulnerable, looking up to you for protection ... that's when it's ok to put the smackith down on them. Buuut, as soon as that person turns the magical age of 18, well, it's no longer ok. Put your hands on them and you'll get yourself thrown in jail.
Ok, lets back up a little bit. Spanking is hitting. Yes, I said it. Yes, I believe it. There are so many that dispute this, and I have yet to be convinced. Honestly, I just don't understand what there is to argue. I don't get it. I do understand that the word hit paints a much more negative picture then the word spank does. It's much more socially acceptable. But it is what it is, right? Taking your hand (or other object) to another person (child or not), no matter the intent, is called hitting, is it not? I ask this question whenever a spanking debate comes up, and I have yet to receive an answer/explanation that satisfies me. Anyone want to give it a shot? I'm not trying to be a smartass, lol, I am genuinely interested.
I'd go even further and call spanking abuse. I'm reminded of this news story I read a couple of years ago. A 13 year old boy had been hit (spanked for those that prefer that word) so badly, with a belt, that it caused bruising. He went to the authorities, and the father was originally convicted of abuse, but the appeals court reversed the findings. Saying something like
*spanking, even if it causes bruising, isn't child abuse. It's not called abuse unless it causes serious physical injury*
First of all, I would like to know exactly WHO determines what is and what is not serious physical injury. WAY to vague for me. Secondly, WTF?! A child seeks help, and he's pretty much told *too bad, your father can beat the living crap out of you as long as no SERIOUS physical injury occurs, and you'll just have to suck it up* Sad, sad, sad. This same father was charged and convicted with child neglect involving his other children, btw, but yea... lets overturn an abuse charge, and give him free reign, and even encouragement, to carry on the "beat down".
It's very sad to me.

Where did this whole spanking thing come from, anyway? Who made it an "acceptable" form of punishment (I wont even use the word discipline, because I don't believe it is). Why are so many people OK with this? As I said earlier, if an adult hit another adult, enough to cause serious injury or NOT, it would be called assault. Why on EARTH are people ok with lessening the laws when a child is involved? Really, shouldn't the laws be HEIGHTENED, to further protect children? After all, they are at their most defenseless and vulnerable when young, shouldn't the laws be stricter in order to protect them better? Why is it ok to bully and intimidate our own children, all in the name of "love" "teaching" "guidance" etc ... but not so much ok to do so with an adult -a person fully capable of defending themselves against such treatment.
And while I'm on this rant, can I just add that those parents that take pleasure in hitting their kids make me completely sick! You know the ones I'm talking about, don't you? The ones that joke around about it, make light of it, exchange stories with their friends about it. Yea, those ones. Seriously, is it something to be proud of? Something to brag and gloat about? I swear to heck, THAT drives me crazy. Like you REALLY have reason to brag because you can "light the ass" of your 3 year old??? Ohhhh, you're a stud now! And in the very next statement you're complaining because that very child is beating up her siblings?? UMMM - no kidding she's beating on her siblings, that's what she knows. Something doesn't go your way, or someone isn't acting the way you want them to act, you hit 'em. Right, Mom?

yes, I'm a bit irritable today. Perhaps not the best time to blog about a subject that sparks so much passion in me. Then again, perhaps it's the perfect time. Nothing but raw emotion ...

April 29, 2008

Raw Vegan Pets... Possible?

I started a thread on a raw foods forum with one thing in mind, finding tips to try and make feeding my pets raw meat easier for me to deal with... but I came away with quite a different outlook. (that's my pooch Tatum over there... cutie, isn't she?!)

Here is what I wrote in that thread ...
My family was vegan for over 8 years before becoming raw. Our veganism was first and foremost about ethical reasons (animal welfare and rights). Environmental concerns came second. And health came in last. We became raw vegan almost a year ago (wow, it's been a long time) for our health. So my point is, even before our health concerns, we were all about the animals.

Now, we have started the process of moving our dog to a raw foods diet, and have/had plans to do the same to our kitties in the coming weeks. However, a few nights ago as we were driving back home (we just went on a cross county trip - south carolina to las vegas and back again), I got a huge pit in my stomach about our decision. I am and have always been totally opposed to the idea of raising animals for food. 8 years ago I pledged to myself that I would no longer support such a cause. It disgusts me, it saddens me, it really hits me on a deep level. So how can I, in good conscience, continue to buy raw animal meat for my pets?

I'm not opposed to the eating of raw meat for carnivores (which people are not). It's not the idea of my dog eating an animal that gets me ... it is strictly the fact that the animal hanging out of my pets mouth was specifically raised for such a purpose. That's disgusting to me. Severely disgusting!

I know, I know - all of our domestic companions should have just been left as they were ... wild, and then we wouldn't have these problems. But, that's just not reality. We don't purchase from petstores. Our pooch and both cats were all stray animals that we took in to save them from the death that would have been their fate had animal control picked them up.

Has anyone else struggled with this? How did you handle it?

I would love to hear any thoughts, ideas, feelings, stories, etc on the subject ... I really am very torn over this!

As I said, my outlook on this entire thing has since changed.

My pets are not in their natural setting. They have been domesticated, and as such, no foods I could feed them would be considered "natural". Unless I turn them loose outside to hunt for their own food, and unless that hunting provided 100% of their dietary needs, nothing I could give them would be natural. The canned and packaged foods available to our pets is anything but natural! The raw meats I was buying for them were also not "natural".

At the beginning of my Vegan journey, many years ago, I did read a lot about vegan pets. I took a lot of it to heart, but at that time it was enough trying to learn about the human aspect of veganism, I just didn't have the devotion at the time to truly embrace the pet aspect.

Becoming raw has really opened up my mind even wider. I truly feel raw plant foods are what humans were meant to eat. It's our natural diet, and I love that I am no longer "forcing" myself to eat unnatural foods because of societal pressures. As such, I felt really very strongly that every living being on this earth should be granted the freedom to live in the ways they were naturally developed to live in. Which led me to seek out ways to "get over" the raw meat thing in order to provide my pets with the foods that were natural to them.

However, as stated above, I no longer feel I can provide my pets with anything remotely close to their natural diet - as they are not in their natural setting. So no matter which route I take (meat based / plant based) it is going to be unnatural.

I am not going to torture my soul with something that really isn't necessary for healthy living. I just can't do it. It was eating at me, stressing me, filling me with such guilt and disgust. I know those feeling would never go away, so I knew that in trying to keep their diet as close to natural as I could in order to maintain their health - I was risking my own health in the process (I fully believe stress and worry will kill you faster then any SAD food ever could). Aside from the emotional part of it, I also just cannot and will not get used to having raw meat in my house. The contamination issue was always right there at the forefront of my thoughts. The constant worry and scrubbing and re scrubbing that was going on was enough to drive me absolutely crazy. My natural cleaners didn't feel sufficient to me, so I was usually commercial "poison" to try and make sure I killed every last living "meat bacteria" around ... and even then I still felt unsatisfied. I just cannot live with raw meat in my house - I can't.

We're already transitioning our dog to a raw vegan diet, and she is doing beautifully on it. She loves her food. With inspiration from Ani Phyo and her gorgeous raw vegan dog, Kanga - I absolutely LOVE making my pooch her food. Dogs are easy. Natural omnivores, their bodies are fully capable of thriving on plant foods. We don't even have to supplement with them, we just have to take extra care in making sure their diet is varied - just like the rest of the family! Our cats are a bit more tricky, and we are definitely taking our time with them. Unlike dogs, they are carnivorous in nature. We will be supplementing their raw vegan diet to ensure they are getting everything their unique bodies need to thrive. We will absolutely make sure they have the taurine they need... which can and is made vegan style. Interestingly enough, in regular packaged cat foods, a taurine supplement has to be added (just like we'll have to do with raw vegan foods) - as any natural taurine is lost during the cooking process.

In an ideal world, no, this isn't what my pets would naturally gravitate towards ... but, having been domesticated, the "natural world" was taken away from them, so we are trying to make do with what we have. If my pets can be healthy, happy, thriving creatures with NO suffering involved for any other creature ... then, you know what, I'm going to take it. It's the best we can do.

April 28, 2008

Where do you get your protein?

As a vegan, I was often asked this question. Now, as a raw vegan, this question is again the basis of most arguments I receive.

My reply... "Where do you get YOUR protein"

almost always the answer is... "Meat" "You know, REAL food. Mooo"

Again, I throw a question back at them... "Ok, where does that cow get his protein"

Sometimes this is enough to stop the conversation right there, as the person can see where I'm going, but other times it takes a bit more for the light bulb to go off.

Cows get their protein from the grasses and grains they are fed, period. Cows are herbivores - they do NOT eat meat. So, it is simply baffling to me that people think they NEED meat for protein. It's so nonsensical. Why not cut out the middle man (the cow), and go straight for the grass yourself?? You clearly feel a grass fed diet is enough to give the cow the protein it needs to pass on to you when slaughtered and consumed, right? Leave the cow alone, and go straight to the source. In doing so, you will also eliminate all the chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, drugs, etc that are pumped into the animals to make them as fat as they possibly can; in the quickest and cheapest way possible. Furthermore, by getting your protein from plant sources, your body will process and absorb much more protein. When you try to get your protein from meat, you have to cook it... losing about 1/2 of the protein in the process. The rest has to be digested and assimilated by the body, which can take up to 100 hours. Think about that? A dead, rotting chunk of animal flash is left sitting INSIDE of you for up to 100 hours; while your body is put through the ringer trying to digest it. How much protein do you really think you're absorbing after all of that? A few grams, maybe. Why? What's the point? When there is an easier, healthier, and more beneficial way to get your protein ... WHY not take it?

[Protein does not create protein in the body. Amino Acids create protein in our bodies. The best sources of amino acids are leafy green vegetables]

April 25, 2008

Baby Birds

We were enjoying a wonderful warm weather day outside yesterday. It was gorgeous out there. The kids were running around, riding bikes, digging in the dirt. They have boundaries when we are outside, so they were, of course, right at the edge of that boundary up by the police sign (the bike patrol officers live just 2 building down from us, what fun for the kids). Owen comes running back from the sign as fast as his legs could carry him with this very worried look on his face....

"Mommy, Mommy. MOMMY!! I have to tell you something, it is VERY important"

"What is it sweetie"

"Those kids over there by the police sign are trying to kill those baby birds"

"What? What baby birds"

"Just come on. It's important. Hurry" (have I mentioned how MUCH I love my kiddos!!!)

So I go up there with him, and just as I'm getting closer, the two little kids he was talking about run into their house. Both Rylan and Larson start hammering on about how those kids knocked the baby birds out of their nest and were talking about stuffing them into a plastic bag so they would die.


Sure enough, there was one baby bird on the grass, right where the two kids were before running off. My boys pointed to the bird nest, and I asked if they knew if there were any other babies. They told me that the kids said they knocked three of them out of their nest, so I rummaged through the weeds right under the nest, and yep ... 2 more babies. How heartbreaking!!!

I called the wildlife center here, but it had just closed. I listened to the advice they give about baby song birds, and they said that birds don't have a very keen sense of the smell. Apparently, according to them, the whole "if the Momma bird smells human touch on the babies, she'll reject them" thing is a myth. The recording suggested putting the babies back in the nest, and watching for 2-3 hours to see if the parents would come back. They said 99% of the time the parents come back.

They were so tiny, and SO cute. Just starting to feather, cute lil beaks, big huge eyes. Well, you see the picture up there ... adorable, right?!

I do hope they are going to be ok!

We told the bike patrol officer about it so he could keep an eye on the nest (it's located RIGHT outside their front door, up in the building siding). The kids that knocked them out and tried to kill them live right next door to the officers, so he went over to have a little "chat" with them.

It makes me so sad to know there are kids capable of that level of meanness. *sigh* Their parents weren't home when it happened (about 8pm), and they still weren't there when Nick and I walked up to check the nest again at about midnight. We planned to talk to the parents about it (and hope that would do some good), but they never showed up. Very sad.

April 22, 2008

Our TEN YEAR Anniversary!!!

Yes, 10 years, can you believe it?

We decided to celebrate our huge milestone by renewing our vows. We made plans to have my Mom fly in from out of state to stay with the kids, and Nick and I made arrangements to head down to Orlando, FL. It was wonderful. We got into Orlando on the 3rd, and went to check out the park for our ceremony. We booked this quaint little "unknown" park off the beaten path in Winter Park, FL - Kraft Azalea Gardens. It was even MORE gorgeous then we were expecting. So serene and peaceful. I was completely in my element. It wasn't one of those "manicured" parks - it was nature in all it's magnificence. Big huge weeping trees, palms, birds, lizards, the lake ... PERFECT!

After actually being IN the park, I realized the dress I had bought months ago just wasn't going work for me anymore. It no longer "fit" the mood I wanted to set. So, that night we were on a quest to find something else. Nothing like last minute shopping, eh,? lol. I found exactly the type of dress I was picturing after seeing the park - perfect!!! Then we had to find Nick a new shirt to better match me. The "new look" was MUCH more suiting to our setting! I think the pictures (the ones we have so far anyway, our photographer is still working on the rest of them) say it all.

We had a wonderful Anniversary. The weather was absolutely wonderful for our vow renewal. It was a perfect day, the sun was shining, the wind was slightly blowing, the park was quiet & peaceful. The ceremony was beautiful. We wrote our own vows for each other - and those were perfect, too! Just as we started saying our vows, nature erupted, and rain started to slowly fall, a nice mist. Most people would think that a bad sign ("rain on your wedding day, tears in your marriage"), or feel flustered, or run for cover so as not to mess up the hair/dress/makeup. But Nick and I just smiled. It was as though Mother Nature was right there with us, sharing in our day, experiencing emotion, and shedding a few tears WITH us. It was a GREAT day!!!

We finished up at the park, and drove back to the condo. My wonderful friend made us a raw anniversary cake, so we recreated the "cutting of the cake" portion of our wedding. All set with our cameras self timer, we got shots of us cutting the cake and feeding each other a piece. Ahhh, good memories. Later in the evening we went out to City Walk, universals studios night life scene. Lots of fun music, restaurants, and clubs. Not really our scene, but it was a really pretty area. The lights, the water, the deco ... all very nice!

The next day was a bit rainy, so we stayed at the resort. Walked around in the rain, hung out in the hammocks, fed the ducks. It was very peaceful. Most people were locked-up inside their rooms, not wanting to get wet, so it was like we had the place to ourselves! Lovely.

The day after we went to Busch Gardens. Started out as a beautiful sunny day, but after only about 10 minutes in the park, we were met with a serious down pour ALL throughout the rest of the day. Needless to say the rides were inoperable (no roller coasters for us ), so again we just walked around in the rain. There were areas in the park where we were in ankle deep water - it was raining SOO hard! We had a fabulous time. We both love being out in the rain, so it worked for us! It was fun see all of the animals, too! We fit right in - we looked like drowned rats! lol

The day after that we swam with the manatees! Holy Man, one of THE BEST experiences of my life!!! It was absolutely amazing. We started the day with an early morning tour with a tour group. Much bigger group then we were expecting, but they did manage to find us 2 manatee. We didn't get much time with them as the HUGE group of people scared them away. But we had fun snorkeling. It's absolutely AMAZING down there!! It was a nice start to the day.
After the tour ended, Nick and I drove down the shore about 30 minutes to another springs area, rented a boat, and went out ourselves. We happened upon a group (school, herd, flock ... what are they called?? lol) of 7 of them!!!!!!!!!!! Just Nick and I in the water swimming around with SEVEN MANATEE! They are SOO cute. You can hear them munching of the grass (they are loving called sea cows, and that's the perfect name for them. They sound every bit like a cow when they are munching on their sea grass). They "squeak", much like dolphin, to communicate with each other. They are so curious and playful, rolling over to have their bellies rubbed. The cutest little whiskers. I just LOVE them!!! We were out there for several hours before they decided to swim away. Great Great GREAT memories! I wish more people could experience them the way we did. Maybe that would bring about the kind of care and awareness needed to keep these "gentle giants" from extinction!

The next night we went to Cocoa beach and swam in the ocean at sunset. I love, love, love the ocean!!! Salt water makes me happy!!! We collected sea shells in the moonlight, and then we just snuggled on the beach watching the stars for a bit.

Many more pics available at my myspace page. You can access it using the link to the right. Still don't have the pictures of the actual ceremony back yet, but I'll share them as soon as we do :-D

Happy Earth Day

We're all in this together! I hope everyone had a very enjoyable Earthday. A wonderful opportunity for those who may not be too earth friendly to really learn about the Earth, and the small things you can incorporate into your daily lives to really make a huge difference! We have only one Earth - let's show her the love, respect, and care she not only deserves, but absolutely needs to keep going. Without her, humanity is doomed. Americanforests.org is a great organization that plants a tree for every dollar donated! Become a member, donate monthly, and feel good knowing you are REALLY making a GREAT difference for our environment.

We've been doing a lot of planting around our yard. I'm so excited to report that our tiny twig of a nectarine tree is finally budding. Not just leaves, which were completely nonexistent last year, but FRUIT as well. Oh Happy Time!!! We also planted a peach tree that is yielding ONE itty bitty little peach as of now. Along with those, we also planted an apple tree in the front, and a pear tree to the side... neither are showing signs of fruit yet, but our fingers are crossed. My clementine tree from last year looks pretty pitiful. After trimming off all the dead growth, we have only a 3 inch section of live tree left. Hopefully I'll be able to nurse that baby back to health. We also have a lemon tree that didn't do anything last year, but we're hopeful this year. Aside from fruit, the tulips we planted in the fall are coming up. My gerbera daisies are back from last year! We planted some jasmine vine along the two trellis' out front. I LOVE jasmine!!! My favorite scent, it puts an instant smile on my face. And we moved our ivy vine to a different section of the house.

Ahhh, I love planting and watching things grow! It's simple amazing.

Too bad we're a military family, living in military housing, so sooner or later (more likely sooner) we'll have to leave this beautiful yard. Then we can only hope the new family that moves in will appreciate the "fruit orchard" we have going on here, lol.


Columbia to Vegas ... and back again

I've desperately been trying to get back into my blog after an emergency family situation had us driving from South Carolina to Las Vegas and back again. So many experiences and I didn't quite know where to start. I've decided that I'm just going to ramble, ramble, ramble, until I get everything out - and then we'll get back into regular bloggin' life as usual - haa.

The second week in March we got a call saying Nick grandmother was in her final days. They were taking her off of all of her medication, and it would just be a matter of days. We spent the rest of that day making arrangements, and were in our car driving to Las Vegas the next. Despite the reason for our trip , we did have a great family vacation. I love being cooped up in a car with my sweet little family of five fully experiencing the beauty of this amazing world. It was absolutely wonderful.

We did have our fair share of mishaps, lol. Battery trouble the entire way. Thank goodness for kind people offering to give us a jump time and time again. Nicks cell phone fell victim to a puddle of cucumber juice. Totally fried it. The very next day my cell phone became the target of a kombucha explosion of sorts ... remained nonworking for the next two days. We finally stopped to buy me another one (I can't stand being on the open road with no phone), and OF COURSE, later that same day my old phone miraculously started working again. Isn't that the way it always goes? So, Nick is now sporting my old cell phone, which happens to be a gorgeous shade of pink. It really brings out his cheekbones, haa!

We didn't stop to enjoy too much on our way out there. We wanted to get there as quickly as possible knowing Baba's time was very limited. We finally made it out there and immediately went up to see her. It's really very heartbreaking to see some one's body give out on them while their mind is still so strong and sharp. We had a great time visiting with her during the week we were in town. She was doing good, was eating better, getting stronger. Unfortunately, after we left, she went downhill very quickly. She was in and out of it, not coherent most of the time, not eating at all, and her internal bleeding had become really really bad. We got a call early on April 4th (our anniversary) to let us know that Baba had just passed. Very sad, but relieving as well. Knowing she is no longer in pain is quite reassuring. I can now picture her floating around this great universe with her Husband and her Daughter ... all looking down on us with love.

While in Vegas we had a great time visiting. Nick was born in Vegas and spent a good portion of his childhood there (before more a little north to Carson City). His entire family used to live there. They've spread out a bit now, but there are a few stragglers still in the area. We were able to see his sisters, aunt, uncle, cousin and her fiance. It was great catching up with everyone! We also happened upon a RAW RESTAURANT! Go Raw cafe - it was great. Soo Soo good. We ordered raw chips (flax crackers) w/salsa and guacamole, raw mexican pizza, raw enchiladas, and a raw beet burger with "fries". Yum, Yum, and more Yum!! While there we also stocked up on our flax cracker supply!!

On our way home from Vegas, we opted to try and take as much time as we could to really enjoy ourselves. We camped at Valley of Fire, right outside of Vegas. G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. Seriously, it is absolutely breathtaking out there. Fiery red sandstone mountains all around. Ahhh, pure bliss. I MISS mountains. We hiked, hiked, and hiked some more. It was so peaceful and quiet, honestly, I could have stayed there the rest of my life!! Camping is wonderful! There were areas of the park that depicted ancient indian writing. Quite fascinating to look at, for sure. One mountain in particular, Atlatl Rock, still had the original stone stairway leading up the mountain. Of course, all blocked off because of vandals, but amazing to see.

The Hoover Dam ... the kids loved it. They can't wait to visit again and take a helicopter tour. I do have to say, if we EVER make that drive again, we WILL be detouring around that Dam. Holy Man, have you heard about the Hoover Dam Bypass Project? I hadn't heard about prior to our trip. Imagine my surprise as we rounded the corner, and this MASSIVE bridge appeared. My heart sank, my mouth went dry, my breathing stopped, my hands were balled into such tight fists that I was sure my palms were bleeding from my nails. It was sickening!!! Yea, for those of you unaware of this little tidbit, I HATE BRIDGES!!!!! This bridge is supposedly going to be the highest, longest bridge in the country. HIGHEST is right, I wasn't kidding when I said massive. HUGE HUGE HUGE!!! Thank goodness the project was not yet complete, so we didn't have to go over it. Yikes!!!!

We then headed up to the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had been there before - it's beautiful. We weren't able to get the "full" experience, as we only had a few hours. We really do need atleast a few days of camping, hiking, touring, to really explore all that the canyon has to offer ... but it was a really nice little stop. We drove all along the South Rim of the canyon, stopping at every accessible spot to get out and enjoy. It's breathtaking. Our timing was a bit off for pictures. The sun was at that non-cooperative spot where it really washed out a lot of the color. A bit disappointing. But, that just means we're going to have to go back sometime in the near future :)

After the Grand Canyon, we drove through New Mexicos Painted Desert. The colors of the mountains are absolutely fascinating. They really did look "painted". I couldn't take my eyes off them. After a while the sun began to set - it was picturesque!! I wanted to pull off the road and camp right there under the huge full moon and big bright stars, but alas, we had to keep moving ...

Out there in the middle of nowhere there was a huge "Dinosaur Tracks" sign. All 3 boys are intrigued with dinos, Rylan more so then the other two, so we HAD to stop to see what it was all about. Way out on the middle of the desert there were actual Dinosaur Tracks. You could see where the ground had been washed away with erosion etc, uncovering footprints. Quite interesting. The kids got a kick out of it.

We had a lot of fun at the rest stops a long the way. Lots of running, climbing, and freeze tag. Tatum thoroughly enjoyed all of the open space. Romping, prancing, dashing, bouncing - she did it all. There are some pretty NICE rest stops out there, fully equipped with GIANT playsets. I encourage you all to go out and enjoy them!

We returned home early on Easter Sunday (which wasn't planned. We ended up driving from Oklahoma straight home. We intended to stop somewhere in Alabama Saturday night, but the motels were being quite rude, so we just kept going. Loooong, Looooong leg of the vaca). We were all tuckered out!

We created a ton of good memories racking up quite a few miles on our car :-)

MANY more pictures available for viewing on my myspace pics section. You can access my page using the link to the right (might have to scroll up a bit).