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Seriously? This is Your Thanksgiving Post? Again?

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Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are you still a vegetarian?” people ask me from time to time, which I find odd. As if I might respond: “No, actually, I used to think it was unethical to murder animals and eat their flesh, but now I think it’s OK.” So yes, I am still a vegetarian, and since this post was so popular last Thanksgiving (surprisingly), and I have several thousand more readers this year (will wonders never cease), I will re-share my thoughts for Thanksgiving Day 2013. I wish you gratitude, whatever you eat.

Enjoy:

The last time I ate meat was Thanksgiving of 1978. Once each year, I would forsake vegetarianism to make my mother happy. But after I told her I could no longer partake, she always made a huge bowl of special stuffing with no meat juices, and I would obligingly eat the whole thing. (For her sake, of course.)

I don’t think much about being a vegetarian, except around Thanksgiving. Although the day is supposed to be about gratitude, it’s really about eating a huge dead bird and a bunch of carbs. (Also, football and clipping coupons in anticipation of Friday, which is National Greed Day.)

I don’t miss meat, really, although I suppose if I knew I had only one day to live, I might make a big, fat turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce and lettuce and mayo.

Because Thanksgiving is all about food, it seems a good day to point out a few of the perks of being a vegetarian:

  • You will lose weight, unless you eat a lot of pasta, potatoes, or cheese.
  • People will serve you extra pasta and potatoes because you didn’t get “the main course.”
  • People will also serve you extra cheese because “you need your protein.”
  • You won’t have to eat Aunt Mildred’s gizzard gravy at Thanksgiving.
  • If you find yourself in a Native Alaskan village above the Arctic Circle, you will not have to eat the Caribou Head soup. They might give you an extra slice of chocolate cake instead. (Trust me on this one.)
  • Your friends will become very solicitous, especially in restaurants, where they will tell the waiter, “My friend’s a vegetarian – do you have anything she can eat?” This will be said either in a loud voice, as if they are taking command of a difficult situation, or in a lowered voice, as if they don’t want to embarrass you by sharing your condition in public.
  • You will have plenty of opportunity to practice your creativity, particularly in responding to the absurd question, “But what do you EAT?” The obvious answer is “everything you eat except the meat,” but I usually say something about foraging in the backyard for dandelions and onion grass.
  • You will quickly realize how mature you are compared to certain friends, the ones who, even after decades of knowing you, will impale a piece of dead cow on a fork and wave it in your face, saying, “Doesn’t that look good? Don’t you want some?” Usually, these flesh-wavers are men, and they are married to your best friends.
  • You will feel holier than thou most of the time, and will nod in benevolent compassion without a trace of condescension when a complete stranger on a plane feels compelled to explain why they still eat meat, or how they used to be a vegetarian but got diarrhea, or how “I want to, but with the kids and all…”

I Don’t Care What You Eat . . . Really

I think these plane strangers go into defensive mode because they fear I’m going to preach to them. But I’m not a proselytizing vegetarian. It’s not my business. People make their own choices for their own reasons.

The first time I met a vegetarian – even though she was rail thin and had a slightly greenish hue — I knew that I was one at heart. I stopped eating meat the day I moved out of my parent’s house at nineteen. I read a book called Animal Liberation, and that was it. It was an ethical thing. Fish followed meat, and by age 25, I was clean.

I’m an ovo-lacto, meaning I still eat eggs and cheese. I try to eat only organic eggs from free ranging chickens. For full health benefits, it’s best not to eat animal fats at all, but since my motivation is mostly ethical, I’m safe in my cheese addiction.

In Case you Care

If you’re one of those people who considers vegetarianism from time to time, I’ll just include a little info below for you. You can file these facts away in the crinkly recesses of your brain, and one day, who knows? You might just make the switch to other protein sources. It’s been good for my soul and my body, is all I’ll say.

If you are an avowed meat-eater, just ignore me.

If you are one of those people who waves dead flesh under your veggie friends’ noses – please stop.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

. VEGETARIAN DIETS:

  • Reduce the risk of major killers such as heart disease, stroke and cancer while cutting exposure to foodborne pathogens
  • Provide a viable answer to feeding the world’s hungry through more efficient use of grains and other crops
  • Save animals from suffering in factory-farm conditions and from the pain and terror of slaughter
  • Conserve vital but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources
  • Preserve irreplaceable ecosystems such as rainforests and other wildlife habitats
  • Decrease greenhouse gases that are accelerating global 
    warming
  • Mitigate the ever-expanding environmental pollution of 
    animal agriculture

(From the North American Vegetarian Society’s website)

And: Cutting out meat can significantly cut your risk of cancer. Cutting out other animal fats helps as well   http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/facts/meat.php

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Four Ways to Cultivate Gratitude for Thanksgiving

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A guy told me yesterday that he was jealous of me. Not in the traditional sense of the word, like he didn’t want me talking to other guys. Lord knows, I’ve had enough of that in my life.

No, this guy said he was jealous of me because I “treasure things up” in my heart. We had been at a retreat where a scripture was read about Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasuring and pondering things in her heart.

“You obviously live life in the present moment and pay attention and embrace it,” he said. “You treasure and ponder what’s happening in your life.”

Well, being the imperfect person that I am, my first response was muddied with pride, as if somehow I had something to do with this. I tried to look all humble, while thinking “Yeah, he’s right; I am pretty cool.”

Then reality tapped me on the shoulder, and I remembered that this gift of mine is truly just that — a gift. What he was talking about, though he didn’t name it, was gratitude. I’ve always had it, but I realized the extent of it a few years ago when I was getting out of the car and cracked my head on the door. It hurt like hell, and my first response – really – was to say to myself, “Thank God I have a skull.”

I was born with the gift of gratitude, which can’t help but lead to joy. Could there be a better gift?

Isn't it Good to be Alive?

Isn’t it Good to be Alive?

It’s hard for me to remember that not everyone is like this. I can be impatient with people who tend to look at the dark side or who complain about their woeful lot in life. I lack compassion in this area. I often think, “Just get over it. Why can’t you look at the bright side?” Does that sound mean-spirited? Sorry. I said I was grateful, not necessarily nice.

What Do You Bring to the Table?

Thanksgiving week is a good time to take a look at the gifts you’ve been given — not just the abundant food and roof-over-your-head type of gifts, but your inner gifts. The stuff you’re made of.

What “default traits” are you grateful for? Do you have inner gifts you were born with or that you have learned or cultivated?

I have friends who laugh easily. People naturally want to be around them. I have a friend who listens really intently. People seek her out for counsel and comfort. Another friend is endlessly curious. She reads voraciously and loves to talk about just about anything. She exudes enthusiasm and energy. I have another friend who always sees both sides of a situation. She’s the type who says, “Well, think of it this way…” and then you feel guilty for being judgmental. I think you might call that the gift of mercy. And what about the people who have the gift of hospitality? They just open their homes to you spontaneously. What a gift!

Maybe you have the gift of dignity, which I wrote about recently — we need more examples of people who value themselves and treat themselves with respect. Same with animals and the planet – do you have a respect for creation that can help others see the sacred all around them? Share that gift; the world sorely needs it!

Four Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

My gift is gratitude, so I’ll share that gift with you for Thanksgiving. Here are four things you can do to cultivate gratitude in your own life:

  • See above. What do you bring to the table? What are your inner gifts? Make a list of all the parts of your character that you like. This is your list of building materials, the things that when cultivated will help you be grateful for who you are. Reflect on these assets — treasure them in your heart.

“I’m learning to treat myself as if I am valuable. I find that when I practice long enough, I begin to believe it.” Anonymous

  • Make a nightly gratitude list. It doesn’t have to be long. Just make a list of all the things that come to mind for which you are grateful on that particular day. Smells, meals, a smile from a stranger. I’m willing to bet that if you do this every day for a week, you will be a happier person. You’ll start looking for things to be grateful for throughout the day.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart

  • If you find yourself obsessing about something negative or troublesome, as we all do from time to time, ask yourself, “how important is it?” Really. In the big scheme of things. Practice letting go of the thoughts and consciously substituting grateful and positive thoughts.

“That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” Chinese proverb

  • Are you harboring resentment? I’ve heard it said that resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Try looking at the narrative you’ve constructed about that person or situation. How might you look at it differently? Can you consider how that resentment might be an opportunity for you to grow spiritually or challenge yourself to break old assumptions or patterns? What are you learning from the situation, where is the hidden gift in the mire?

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” Richard Bach

“Nothing is either good or bad. It’s thinking that makes it so.”

William Shakespeare

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Safety First: A First Date Gone Terribly Wrong

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How did I get here, on the floor?

Who is this man

With the red face and the red eyes?

He smiles like he’s nice,

But he’s not.

He laughs like it’s fun,

But it’s not.

He pulls my clothes

And rips the buttons off my new dress,

The one with the little pink and red roses.

I felt so pretty.

Now I feel dirty

Stuck here on the floor

By the stairs.

Little Roses

Little Roses

This is my inner five-year-old’s remembrance of a first date gone very wrong, circa 1987. You tell me why I dated this guy for several months. I refer you back to my previous post on becoming a woman of dignity — this takes time.

This poem is in response to today’s WordPress Daily Prompt, “Share the story of a time you felt unsafe.”

Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Person of Dignity?

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A friend of mine used the phrase “a woman of dignity” the other day, and the words echoed inside me like the caroling of a cathedral bell tower on Christmas Eve. Now I know what they mean when they say “it rang true.”

Ringing Truth

That’s exactly what I want to be, I thought. A woman of dignity. Not a woman with dignity, as if it’s something additive —  attached from the outside or assigned by someone else. But a woman of dignity, as if it’s the very stuff she’s made of. The word connotes integrity, another character trait to which I aspire. Integrated — whole, sound, of one piece of cloth. Dignity is something woven into your being.

File:Tapestry weaving.jpg

The Latin root of dignity means worthy, proper, and fitting, and the Indo-European root would be dek – to take, accept.

I love this combination of meanings, not just for women, but for everyone. We are all worthy just by our very existence. All we need to do is take this — accept it as truth. This way of self-identifying, this state of grace, is what I would call being a Child of God and recognizing it. We should accept no less than the proper and fitting honor for that, both from the way we treat ourselves and the way others treat us. Our inner ruminations, self-talk, our motivations, our outer behavior, and the way others treat us should all be rooted in decency — also from that same dek root.

Unlearning Falsehoods

I’d venture to say that most women, in particular, have grown up thinking they are not good enough. From a million societal messages, we hear this every day and our mothers did and our grandmothers did and so on and on. Many men I know got this message from their fathers, who probably got it from theirs: “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t please him.”

Deep inside, most of us do not believe we are worthy, and we accept behavior that we don’t deserve, from ourselves and from others.

I grew up in an unhealthy environment where we all learned the various family “isms” that go along with an alcoholic home. Low self-esteem, anger, denial, anxiety, shame, lack of authenticity and trust, fear of intimacy — visit the Al-Anon family site if you’re interested in finding out more.

By the way, it’s not just alcoholism that foments these traits — a raging parent or sibling, emotionally distant or disturbed family members, drug, sex, or gambling addictions, etc. etc. And the behavior is often passed from generation to generation, so even if a particular generation does not have active addictive behaviors, they will still exhibit the behavioral and attitudinal “isms.” No offense, but I’ll bet you have some of them. You’ve got some voices in your head telling you lies.

We Get to Choose

Today, though, I get to choose. I’m no longer a trapped child, no longer a victim. I don’t have to do crazy anymore. I don’t even have to do disrespectful anymore. I can choose to walk away from people and situations that do not honor my dignity.

I can make choices that recognize and honor myself as a woman of dignity. If I recognize and treat myself that way, it’s far more likely that others will do the same. So honestly, you don’t have to become a person of dignity. You already *are* a person of dignity. Accept it and believe it. If you have to, start by “acting as if” — just act as if you’re a woman or man of dignity; own it — and see what happens.

Reach Out and Take It

This week, I’m going to talk to a lawyer about a situation that I have allowed to go on for many, many years. It’s been disrespectful and stressful and has had big ramifications in my life. I’ve decided that I deserve better. I’m not acting out of anger or revenge — that doesn’t come from dignity. I’m simply not accepting this anymore.

I am stunned that I have found the courage to do this, despite the fear of anger, retaliation, and loss of relationship. I’ve heard it said that courage is simply fear that has said its prayers. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to dial the lawyer’s number when I woke up this morning and said to myself, “I am a woman of dignity.”

So, here: I offer you dignity – reach out and take it.

Free, Public Domain Image: Military Veteran, In a Wheelchair, Shaking Hands Stock Photography

It’s Yours

Photo credits:
Bell Tower: Wikimedia Commons

Weaving hands: Wikipedia

Elderly man shaking hands: White House public domain photos; Acclaim Images

Flying Crab Apples: A Daily Prompt

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What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled? I’ve been to Uganda, and the experiences were so overwhelming that I found it hard to write about the trip. I did write this, which was published in Outside In Literary and Travel Magazine:

I saw her through the dusty window as our bus bounced along a rutted Ugandan road, headed back to Kampala. She was crouched over a muddy waterhole, rinsing clothes in the brown water. Her hair was covered with an orange head wrap, and she wore a long print skirt which was hoisted up to her knees, revealing bare feet.

I had witnessed so much, after three weeks in Africa, that I barely registered the image at the time. I’d like to say that our eyes met, but I don’t think they actually did. She just slipped inside my head and made me cry when I got back to the States and started a load of laundry.

A Blackjack Poem

Today the WordPress gods have given the prompt: Come fly with me — what’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled? So there’s my answer. Uganda. But what I’d really like us to do today is fly with the crab apples. For fun.

I told you I had joined a group called Blackjack Poets – seven syllables, three times, for a total of twenty-one. That’s the rule.

In response to today’s Daily Prompt, I offer this — how far might a crab apple go?
♦ ♦
Crab apples litter the ground,
A red carpet just waiting
To welcome the winter snow.
♦ ♦
Where will they go in springtime,
Plucked up by birds and taken
To germinate far away?
♦ ♦
In the bird’s gut, seeds may dream
of Paris or Amsterdam,
More likely, they’ll splat on cars.
♦ ♦
The Red Carpet

The Red Carpet

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/daily-prompt-travels-2/

Unspoken Words

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“SEXUAL?” Amanda’s voice holds an accusation.

“What?” Mark doesn’t look up as he taps each letter with his pencil eraser and then writes down his score.

“Oh man, way to double-score the X!” Frank shouts out, a little too obviously trying to break the tension.

“More wine?” Jan’s distraction is only slightly more subtle. “Your turn, Mandy.”

Amanda ponders her Scrabble tiles and then carefully places them down, one at time, the N above Mark’s E, the V below, followed by E and R. “Never,” she says. “That’s eight.”

Mark writes down her score and still doesn’t look up. “Eight years of wedded bliss,” he stage-whispers in Frank’s direction without a trace of bliss in his voice.

Amanda shoves her chair back with a screech and disappears into the bathroom. Everyone stares at their tiles, pretending they don’t hear the nose-blowing coming from behind the bathroom door.

AFFAIR, spells out Frank.

“Frank!” Jan smacks Frank’s arm.

“Not yet, but I should be.” Mark downs his wine like a shot of cheap whiskey. “I’ve had plenty of chances. She barely talks to me. Shit, maybe she’s having one. Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve had sex? ”

“About three months, I’d guess,” says Jan quietly.

“What — does she talk to you about it?”

“Mark . . .” Jan shakes her head. She’s been picking out tiles from the Scrabble box lid and now sets them down to spell out MISCARRIAGE.

The room is dead quiet. Only the golden retriever under the table seems to be breathing. The toilet flushes, and Jan quickly scoops the tiles back up as Amanda comes out of the bathroom.

“Oh, Jesus. Why didn’t . . .” Mark gets up and hurries toward Amanda with his arms open wide.

“I told him, Mandy. He needed to know,” says Jan.

Amanda melts into her husband’s arms, and they sway together as one, like a sail rolled protectively around a ship’s mast in a storm.

409

This story was written in response to today’s WordPress Daily Prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/daily-prompt-game/

Daily Prompt: The Perfect Game — You’re set to play poker (or Scrabble or something else . . .) with a group of four. Write a story set during this game. Or, describe the ideal match: the players, the relationships — and the hidden rivalries. Photographers, artists, poets: show us COMPETITION.

Strolling into the Future

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He’s walking fast, Starbucks coffee clutched in his right hand, rolled black umbrella in his left.  As he strides past me — confident eye contact, slight nod, no smile — I can smell the fresh scent of his morning shave and shower. His posture is erect, made more so by a tightly tied, tidy backpack. No lose straps here; he’s all business. Although he’s dressed in khakis and wearing gym shoes, everything about him says suit and tie.

I, on the other hand, am strolling. A teabag tag dangles from my dented and decidedly uncool thermos mug, and my umbrella swings in lazy circles from my wrist. I’m wearing my hiking boots because they are the only walking shoes I have that don’t hurt my feet.

He’s headed somewhere. I’m headed nowhere.

Boots on the Ground

Boots Going Nowhere

Church Lady

I spent last evening organizing greeters for my church and preparing to lead an Advent Quiet Day later in the month. I read my Bible and did my centering prayer meditation. I wrote a couple of memos for a local environmental group, had a cup of chamomile tea, and went to bed with a heating pad because I was sore from the gym after a four-month hiatus with broken ribs.

When did I become an achy, middle-aged church lady? One who strolls while others stride? Sipping chamomile instead of espresso? I used to be cool; I really did.

Way Cool

Way Cool

This transition to the other side has been gradual.

Why, just the other day I was striding the halls of Congress doing my best impersonation of a mover and a shaker. I was becoming like the young strider. Creating myself, shaping who I would be in life, looking eagerly to the future.

Unbecoming

Now, I’m unbecoming. Well, not in the traditional sense of the word. I do still shower and brush my teeth. Rather, I’m dismantling the ego-driven, competitive persona that built a successful lobbying career. I’m taking the time to heal childhood emotional wounds that have always caused me to be less than who I wanted to be. I’m stripping away the character traits that used to serve me well, but which now only make me wince.

I’m processing, reflecting, and writing. Most of these young folks don’t have time for that. They hear the call of success, whatever that might mean for them. Nothing wrong with that — it’s what they are supposed to be doing at this time in their lives.

A Call to Aging

I’m still figuring out what I’m supposed to be doing in this phase of my life. We all have unique cycles of call in our lives, right up until we breathe our final breath. Learning how to navigate aging is one of our most important calls.

Tick Tock, Tick tock

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

I’m not there yet. There’s a lot I want to do before I’m deposited in a rocker to relate and re-relate stories of my youth to a circle of what I’m certain will be enthralled children. I’m finishing up my Masters in Writing and might be doing some teaching in addition to becoming a famous author.

OK, maybe I am still shoring up my ego in some ways.

But I feel pretty good about where I am and where I’m going. I don’t think I’m going to be one of those bitter older people who resents the young. Yeah, I wish my feet and knees didn’t hurt, but I don’t begrudge the spry among us.

I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences to be back in striding mode. Even the grief, loss, and failures are golden. They help me empathize with other people who are going through those things. The Bible says you comfort the suffering with the comfort you have received from God. God has been there for me, and now I can share that comforting spirit with others, whether or not they personally believe in God. That’s a calling to aspire to.

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