Gathering resources for a fresh start

It’s been a busy few weeks here, so that’s why I’ve had a short lapse in publishing–I have a new temp job after a long lapse in steady work. I enter the year grateful for this opportunity and for the fact that it’s a job helping others. I love to spread joy.

As New Year’s approaches, many people come up with resolutions. This can be good and bad. It’s not good to put too much pressure on yourself, but it can be very motivating to start positive change on a meaningful date. It’s always good to reorient your compass towards a more joyful life, so why not now? Here are some resources that you may find useful if you want to go down that path. These are specific suggestions that have helped me or people I know:

  • If you want to lose weight or eat a healthier diet. I love the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. I have followed their advice to quit sugar, lose a hundred pounds (so far), and lower my cholesterol to admirable levels. They also have a program called the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart which allows a person to try a vegan diet with guidance to see how it makes them feel. The kickstart program features lots of ethnic variations to suit all sorts of people. I’ve met Dr. Barnard in person and was able to thank him for how their advice has helped me. If this isn’t your cup of tea, many friends of mine endorse Weight Watchers as a good solution.
  • If you want to get more tidy and organized. I have been fighting a battle with this one for years–the creative spirit isn’t necessarily neat as a pin. I finally made peace with my housework in three major ways: 1) I have less things to put in their places. Zen Habits is a wonderful resources for this. If you want to get really minimal, you can emulate my friend Nick Winter who has only 99 things. 2) I found out I’m allergic to dust, and it creates asthma issues for me that make it very hard to breathe. I am now personally very motivated to keep my house dust-free. 3) I found Flylady. Stylistically this website is targeted at a person very different from myself, but the lady who runs it has great ideas to help you get clutter under control. Highly recommended, and maybe you’ll like how cute it all is. If you don’t, learn to see beyond the presentation to find the gold within.
  • If you want to stop smoking. I have never smoked, but smoking has affected my friends and family in a big way. When the tobacco settlement happened the states were required to put money into helping people to quit. No matter what state in the United States you live in, you can call 1-800-Quit-Now to get free help to quit or to contemplate quitting if you are not yet ready.

As you prepare to start the new year, don’t forget to see the old year out with a celebration. Enjoy the holidays, whatever you choose to celebrate. Merry merry merry to you all!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
270. What might you want to change in the new year? Start contemplating it now, and have a happy holiday in the meantime.

Serendipity do

This is the place where I usually put an essay, but I was planning to write it this evening, and serendipity happened. I spontaneously decided to make myself a vegan St. Patrick’s Day feast, and I posted a picture of the vegan Irish soda bread I made to Facebook. My friend Joan said it sounded yummy, so I invited her over to share. She came over and we feasted, laughed, and had fun. Sometimes it’s important to go with the flow. People are more important than deadlines.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
233. Do something spontaneous instead of something you had planned. How was it?

Don’t be alarmed

Today I’d like to talk about the word “vegan.” At the very basic level, a vegan is a person who does not consume animal products, and therefore does not eat meat, fish, dairy products, or eggs. Since I’ve been a vegetarian for a very long time, I sense that this topic may scare you. It’s as if I said I want to talk to you about the word “Christian”. You may think I plan to convert you, or that there is a nasty lecture to follow. You may think of PETA and envision some photos of eviscerated animals, but here’s the thing: I don’t care what you eat. Really. I do what I do for personal reasons, and I believe that everyone makes their own choices according to what is right for them. I’ll happily discuss the topic with someone who asks, but everyone else I leave alone. It’s the same for many religious people, too.

Vegans and vegetarians often get attacked because of the virulent proselytizers in our midst, and so many of the people I’ve met who don’t eat any meat or animal products simply say that they follow a “plant-based diet”. It sounds less threatening somehow. No one assumes that you’re nasty and intolerant. I get hostile reactions to the word, too, and for a while I used the “plant-based diet” line, but I’ve gone back to using the word “vegan”. Here’s why—if all the friendly vegans won’t use the word, a perfectly good word will be lost. Some people think there are no friendly vegans because many of us friendly folk refuse to use the word. It’s as if all the friendly religious people stopped using the words that stood for their faith traditions—these are good words, which convey complex meanings. I’m not doing this just to defend vegans, I’m doing it to defend the English language. I encourage you to do the same.

Stand up for the words that define you and your traditions. Don’t let others add meaning to them that isn’t there. As a gay person, this has special meaning to me. Others have tried to define the word “queer” or the word “lesbian” to be inherently negative. They aren’t, and I’ll proudly continue to use those words, too. Be proud to be yourself— whether vegan, omnivore, gay, straight, bi, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other designation. This is true joy.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

226. What words do you use to define yourself? What baggage do others attach to those labels? Consider what you might do to reclaim the word.