ANNOUNCEMENTS

THREE BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS:

First, I am excited to announce our new blog!

Nicole and I have been working hard on creating something together and we decided it is ready for prime time. Check out http://ACoupleVegans.com for our thoughts, help, support, and reviews about being vegan in Tampa (or anywhere, really)!

We are going to share our experience of being vegan, living a vegan lifestyle, how we eat, what foods we like, what we wear, and what we think of the local fare, plus a bunch more.

All my posts about being vegan have been migrated over there for your convenience.

Even if you are not vegan, I hope you will subscribe to A Couple Vegans because it will be full of good ideas, things to think about and talk about, rant about, or make fun of.

Second, I have added a “Donation” button to both blogs. It is crazy to think there are enough readers of my little blog in the blogverse to help support the cost of hosting, domains, writing, and web maintenance. Blogging is a labor of love with little pay (actually with zero pay over the first 10 years or so) and it is humbling and exciting to have an audience big enough and generous enough to want to support what I am doing.

I have no plans to “commercialize” my blogs by junking them up with flashing banner ads or sponsor announcements, so the “Donate” button is pretty much all I am going to offer or ask for in terms of support.

Feel free to donate as little or as much as you choose. Frankly, if every reader of this blog donated $1, I could run both blogs for 3 years (but that would not cover the time investment of writing, editing, or reviewing restaurants, so if you want to donate more, we will not be offended!).

Finally, this is only the first of three phases. MichaelSalamey.com will ultimately split into 3 separate blogs: the main one (this one), A Couple Vegans, and one I have yet to announce (I have not settled on the name but it will be coming later in the year and will be centered around leadership and vision). If all goes as planned, you might even see a book for sale by the end of the year (say what? A whole book?!? Yep–who knows? We could go totally crazy and write TWO! The internets will let you have as many as you want!).

This blog (MichaelSalamey.com) will continue to be the home for my random musings, rants, and miscellaneous stuff, but the postings will be less frequent as I build and contribute to the other blogs (lessons of the day might become lessons of the week, but I will make sure they are powerful lessons!).

So that’s it. Check out A Couple Vegans. Subscribe to it, please, to have posts delivered right to your inbox (and there might be a few extra surprises only for subscribers later this year).

If you like the content of either blog–if one of the lessons has improved your life in some way, or if being a little more vegan has made you feel a little better–please give back via the Donation button at the top.

Be sure to let us know what you think. You can, of course, catch me on your social media of choice by simply looking for me by name.

Thanks!

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Why Should I Care About Eating Animals?

There are many ways people justify eating other animals and there is much misinformation around being vegan. It is sometimes difficult to wade through the morass of harmful perceptions, but today I will try, and try to do it concisely…

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I attempt to cut through the clutter of poor thinking and challenge conventional, broadly accepted ideas (the tagline of my blog used to be “Challenge convention; transform the world”) and reveal core truths using logic and rational consideration.

One of the big arguments for not going vegan comes down to some version of, “Why should I? Meat is delicious and change is hard.” Despite the myriad benefits to having healthier bodies, let’s appeal to our brains…

The best reason I can think of to be vegan is simple and profound:

Man is king of the Animal Kingdom.

Think about that. Whether we like it or accept it, we are the default rulers of this planet. We oversee the well-being of every living thing known in the universe. That is a profound responsibility, to say the least.

So ask yourself: what type of king (or queen) do you wish to be? Do you choose at every meal to be a cruel and merciless murderer of the very beings whose safe-keeping is (literally) in your hands? Or do you choose instead to be a benevolent ruler who demonstrates mercy, peace, and kinship with your entire kingdom?

The time may come when we are no longer the kings of the animal kingdom. What type of rulers would we want to be under the rule of?

Consider that the next time you move to swat a fly, put on a fur coat, or eat a burger.

I am not religious, but if I were, I would be frightened at the prospect that my Maker created me as one of the few animals on the planet who can choose not to kill for food. Why would He do that? My cat has no choice. She must eat meat or she will die; she is a carnivore. The mighty Brontosaurus had no choice, either; if the giant dinosaur ate only meat and dairy, it would die because it was a herbivore.

Humans are one of the select few omnivores to ever exist and we are unquestionably the only omnivores who can make a conscious, philosophical (or religious) decision about how we choose to live. No other creature in all of history or in the known universe has that distinction.

That is something to think about if you believe in a god or a judgment day. If you are Christian, even more scary because one of the cardinal ten rules God left for you was “Thou shalt not kill.” There is no asterisk after the commandment. It is unequivocal. It does not read, “Thou Shalt Not Kill*  (…*except on burger night or if bugs really bother you, or when driving mindlessly, etc.)”.

As one of the only creatures with the distinction of Choice, it is important to look at the choices we make and define our moral and ethical values. Food is such a crucial part of our lives. We are our own folly if we simply choose to do what feels comfortable and seems natural. Despite how it looks from our social training, do you think it is  natural to drink the milk of an entirely different species? Do you know of any other species that drinks milk past childhood, let alone milk designed for a completely different animal? Cow’s milk is made for a baby cow, not an adult human.

Whether we acknowledge our power and influence over the world as individuals or as a Human Race, there is no denying our place at the top of the food chain. Since the choice is ours to murder our fellow animals or allow them peaceful passage through our world to live as their inhuman nature dictates, what choice will we make to design a better future?

I choose Vegan. What’s your choice?

 

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Is It Worth It?

I share a life-lesson each weekday. Today’s lesson is about weighing your options.

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Simply by choosing not to have children, Nicole and I have made the best possible choice for the environment and Earth’s future. Even if we choose never to reuse or recycle anything, we are way ahead of the curve of most families. I can basically shower an hour a day, leave lights on all night, and drive a Hummer (I don’t do any of those things) and I would still not be using near the amount of water, electricity, or carbon fuels of the average American.

Besides having no offspring, we eat locally grown food as much as possible, watch excess water use, never leave a light on if we are not in the room, we both drive a Prius and live a vegan minimalist(-ish) lifestyle. In other words, as far as environmental impact and the future of human population is concerned, we are a couple of the good guys.

We spend quite a bit of time and effort, though, recycling. Plastic, aluminum, and glass go in one bag. Paper goes in another. Trash (mainly from packaging materials from consumer products) goes in a third bag. Having three garbage cans in a small apartment kitchen is, to say the least, ugly and inconvenient. Each week, I run the bags to their respective bins and hope they are dealt with accordingly. We recently learned if a bag has a contaminant in it, in our community, the whole bag is discarded rather than the recyclables being sorted out. Pretty discouraging.

All of this brings me to the question: is it worth it for us to continue sorting our recyclables? I feel blasphemous for even suggesting someone ignore the importance of recycling. Yet, I have always been torn about whose problem it is. There are many environmentally conscious companies who use minimal packaging and earth-friendly materials. Most of my recyclables, however, are from over-packaged plastic blister packs, a never-ending stream of unwanted junk mail, and more unread warranty cards, labels, and user guides than I can count.

I did not ask for any of that material, yet it is my problem and my responsibility to ensure it all somehow has no impact on the environment. How about just not using insane packaging and sending trash in the form of commercials to my house?

If you are childless, vegan, environmentally conscious, and locally supportive, at what point is your effort to reduce your impact to the planet enough? When, if ever, do you get to kick back and say, “All right, I am doing much more than anyone is expecting of me. Maybe it’s time for others to pick up a little slack and time for me to have a little more time in my life for me.”

When does it cost more to be an unsung hero than it does to be a good person, and when does the cost outweigh the benefit? In striving for perfection, when is it okay to settle for “good enough”?

I am debating whether to throw all my trash in one bag and forget about sorting the recyclables. Maybe it is a little thing not worth this much internal debate, but you never know how far the ripples go.

 

 

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But I Only Murder Humanely

I reflect on each day to figure out what lesson life has taught me and then I share it on this blog. Here is what I thought about today…

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A local burger joint, Square 1, has a new billboard with a picture of a bespectacled smirking cow and the phrase, “humanely raised” plastered on it. This is a phrase I see often at burger bars, restaurants, and grocery stores (ironically, Square 1 offers a pretty delectable vegan patty, too).

Let’s be clear about something. There is no way to humanely raise anything with intent to murder. Being nice to someone before you kill them is not a justification for killing them. The phrase itself – “humanely raised” – is a contradiction in terms. To be “humane” requires, as a prerequisite, being “human”. Being human means being the only living being on the planet with both a conscience and the distinction of choice. We are not only the rulers of the entire Animal Kingdom but also we are the only species able to choose whether to live by murder, or thrive another way.

I do not grand-stand on my vegan soapbox often but the phrase “humanely raised” or “humanely farmed” or “humanely…” anything irks me in the worst way. If we choose not to live within a strong moral or ethical framework, that is our choice (as are the consequences of that choice), but at least let us not try to hide behind a blatantly hypocritical justification for living as a matter of our convenience.

If your character is so weak you simply can not keep yourself from murdering and eating burned animal skin and flesh, that’s your own weird problem. As an alternative, though, I recommend this: have a little self-respect. Our species can be better than a life of apologetically murdering for convenience.

Skipping a burger tonight won’t kill you.. or the cow. And that is actually being humane.

 

(And, hey, I know many people – including some of my family and friends – are going to make a crass joke here, “If God didn’t want us to eat burgers, then He wouldn’t have made them taste so good…” or some other juvenile justification, but it is not funny to me. I’ll laugh with you because I am polite and I am in the minority, but I really don’t see the humor.

Also, this is not a shot across the bow toward non-vegans. The shot across the bow was when people hypocritically started using “humanity” as an excuse for being anything but human, and directed that at vegans. Apologies for my directness. I don’t usually like to take a superior tone because I am not a perfect vegan, or a perfect person either. But I couldn’t stand by idly on this one. Rant over.)

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Why Did You Go Vegan?

It is curious what people are curious about.

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Being vegan, although becoming more and more mainstream, is still seen as weird or odd by some people.

Vegans are used to fielding inquiries and navigating polite (but usually insincere) conversations about their life choices. It is something to talk about at a party. We get it.

One question that has a tendency to rub me the wrong way, though, is the one that is asked the most: “Why did you go vegan in the first place?”

It is a legitimate question if you are close friends with a vegan and genuinely interested. I would like you to consider, however, that for most everyone else, I think it might be impolite prying.

Choosing a vegan lifestyle is almost always a moral, ethical, spiritual, or personal health choice. Morality, ethics, spirituality, and personal health are typically not topics we broach with strangers or acquaintances.

You probably do not ask people, “Why did you become Christian in the first place?” Or, “Why do you love your children?” Or, “So, why are you a Jew?” Or, “Why are you fat?”

Like nearly all vegans I know, I am happy to talk about being vegan with people who are genuinely interested or considering a lifestyle change for themselves. For people just trying to keep a conversation going or filling dead space with idle chatter… maybe just ask what kind of music I like or where I am from.

Remember, your vegan friends are still people. Being vegan is a fundamentally life-changing moral and ethical choice, not a fashion statement. If you would not want someone prying into your personal choices, consider not prying into theirs. After all, I do not know many vegans who are bold enough to start a conversation with, “So, why did you choose to murder and then eat the dead flesh of animals and wear their skin as clothes?”

 

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How To Find Out If You Are A Bully

Before you get mad about bullies, you might want to take a look in the mirror.

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Rainee (my cat) has a habit–no, a ritual–of annoying me every night between 3:00 and 4:30am. She paws my face, walks across my body, and licks my ear lobes and eyelids until I give her attention. When she uses the litter box at night, she likes to announce it to the apartment by yowling and jumping on the bed. To top it off, she consistently wakes me up a half hour before my alarm so I can feed her.

Sometimes, I just ask her to leave me alone because I am trying to sleep (and, surprisingly, sometimes she does). Sometimes, though, I react instinctively. Something furry suddenly falls on my face–I swat at it! Often, she gets pushed or kicked off the bed for pestering.

Last night was no exception. I swatted her away out of half-sleep frustration but I heard a bad landing and instantly jolted awake, worried I had hurt her. She was fine, but I was not. I realized I could have hurt her (she is an older cat) for nothing more than annoying me and wanting to play.

I grabbed her and apologized (as if she could understand me) and invited her to lay back down next to me, which she did. After thinking about it today, though, it occurred to me that animals can give us particular insight into our selves. I bullied my cat. That is a fairly petty jerk-move, even if I was half-asleep.

The way we treat others–especially those with less power in a situation–is a clear reflection of our own self-actualization or folly. In other words, the best person you are is not who you are when you are at your best. The best person you are is the best person you can be when you are at your worst.

This might be a work in progress and take some patience but I will be sure to work on how I express or (suppress) power when I have more of it than someone who can do nothing about it, human or otherwise.

I hope you will, too.

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Breakfast for Dinner?!?

Want to have more time to enjoy your evening? This is what we are doing and it is working!

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We work hard. We have hobbies. We have chores. We chase passions. We try to always improve ourselves. In short, like you, we are busy. Even though we have no TV, no video games, not even a lot of furniture (1 couch, 1 bed, 1 desk, 2 end tables, 1 dining table), we still struggle to find time just for us, just to relax each day.

I think 2 and a half hours of completely open leisure time is a good amount to have, but after work, making and eating dinner, taking out the trash, feeding the cat, getting ready for bed, prepping for tomorrow, etc… we typically have 45-minutes to an hour to do whatever we want.

If you know me, then you know I love efficiency and I am always seeking ways to do things smarter, faster, or with less effort (I like to automate tasks and create habits). Nicole and I realized dinner is a huge time-suck for us, so we are trying something new and so far, it is showing great results.

We eat cereal for dinner. 

It is not, admittedly, the best dinner but cereal–even junk food cereal–is still full of vitamins, easy to prepare, and tastes delicious. We typically avoid highly processed “food” but for a quick meal, cereal is tough to beat. We still want to be sure we are eating fresh foods and veggies, though (which we would normally have prepared for dinner), so we changed our breakfast routine, too.

Instead of cereal for breakfast, we make smoothies, but with a twist. We prepare our smoothies for the week on Sunday and freeze the ingredients in single-serve baggies (1-quart size). In each bag, we have broken or chopped 3 fruits, 3 vegetables, 3 nuts, 3 grains, and a scoop of brown rice protein powder–more than enough actual nutrition to make up for cereal dinners. In the morning, I drop a frozen bag of smoothie ingredients into the Vitamix, pour in about 3 cups of unsweetened milk of my choice (usually Flax or Almond-Coconut) and blend it up. I drink it before I head to work and it tides me over most of the morning.

The best part is, we have added around an hour to each evening, allowing us to walk, talk, watch Netflix, read, meditate, or whatever we want! Can’t beat that.

If you want to try this crazy experiment, here is what a couple of our smoothies might look like:

Always start with 1 banana and 1 carrot. It is hard to screw up the taste after that, and you get lots of great vitamins between those two alone, like Potassium, Fiber, and Vitamins A and C.

Smoothie 1 (everything chopped and placed in a 1-quart bag, to be frozen):

1 banana

1 peach

6 strawberries (whole, with greens)

1 carrot

1 handful of parsley

1 handful of spinach

A palm’s worth of sunflower seeds

A palm’s worth of raw pecans

1 teaspoon of chunky peanut butter

A palm’s worth of raw oats

A palm’s worth of chia seeds

Scoop of brown rice protein powder (or vegan protein powder of choice)

3 cups of unsweetened Flax milk (this does not go in the baggie–pour this in the blender in the morning)

 

Smoothie 2:

1 banana

1 carrot

Handful of basil

Handful of blueberries

Handful of kale

5 Mango slices (half a mango)

A palm’s worth of raw cashews

A palm’s worth of raw walnuts

A palm’s worth of flax seeds

A palm’s worth of hemp seeds

Scoop of brown rice protein powder

3 cups unsweetened Almond Coconut milk (don’t put this in the bag, obviously–pour this in the blender, in the morning)

 

Mix and match any of the ingredients. Trade spinach for a cucumber, or blueberries for beets, or parsley for cilantro. Experimenting with the flavors is half the fun. Each morning, I just grab a bag, the milk, toss it in the blender and I’m good to go. That night, a quick bowl of cereal (or sometimes, a bagel with vegan cream cheese–any quick breakfast really) will hit the spot and free up time.

Have fun with that life-hack. If you have more, comment on FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, or wherever you read this blog. Don’t forget you can subscribe to have each post delivered right to your inbox so you can archive and save it for reading later. Whatever works for you. I’m flexible.

Enjoy your breakfast dinner!

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Unexpected Benefit of Being Vegan

Vegans enjoy better customer service (for now).

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Out with our friend at a pizza place, the waitress walked up to our table and greeted us. She said, “Hi guys. Are you ready to order drinks? I’ll bring the vegan bruschetta right out…”

She recognized us from our last visit, weeks before. This was not a vegan restaurant so obviously we stood out in her mind (we were also seated at the same table as before, which probably helped). Still, it was pretty cool to be recognized and served well.

Usually, being vegan only makes you feel ostracized and singled out but occasionally it has its perks. It also makes you memorable, and if you are friendly, frequent the same places, and tip well, it can help you jump ahead in line.

#VeganWinning.

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The Joys of Being Chubby

Being overweight isn’t ALL bad.

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Even being vegan and active, I would not classify myself as a “health nut”, and like many people I struggle with weight. I usually carry an extra pesky 20-30 pounds that do no good for my physical health or self-esteem. Also, like many people, I have a mostly sedentary career and a few “sitting” hobbies, like watching movies and reading. I also delicious sweet baked goods and sweet stuff.

I mitigate my diet as much as I can without feeling deprived. For example, I rarely drink soda, I gave up my sweet, sweet welcoming morning lattes, and I don’t eat candy bars or even chew sugary gum. Plus, I am moderately active, especially on the weekends. Still, that pesky 20-30 hang around like a group of jobless, loitering high school hoodlums.

I know what to do to lose the weight but I choose not to. I do not want my life consumed by conscientiously eating small amounts of tasteless food or spending hours of my week walking in place or lifting heavy things up and putting them down over and over.

I guess, for me, having a little extra weight is not all that bad. Think about this… thanks to my being fat:

I am almost never cold. Nicole is petite and she always complains how cold it is (we live in TAMPA, FL). Even when we were inside and the temperature is set to 78 degrees, for Nicole it is sweater time. For me, it’s always shorts weather! Chubby = 1. Skinny = 0.

I can survive for days without eating. I wouldn’t want to, but I could skip a few (well, several) meals if suddenly the vegan store ran out of tofu (people think that is all vegans eat). Not only that, but I would also be bigger than all the scrawny people left and I could take their food without much effort after waiting them out a week or so. Chubby = #winning!

I am more cuddly. Because Nicole is tiny, when I wrap my arms around her, I feel bigger, stronger, and more manly than I probably am, but I also have to worry about crushing her if we are laying next to each other and I roll over. On the other hand, when Nicole cuddles with me, she knows she is safe because I provide a pillowy wall to keep her from accidentally rolling off the bed. I am fat because I care about her safety. Plus, cuddling with me is like embracing a big, warm, hairy teddy bear. Who doesn’t love teddy bears? Probably fish, but they don’t cuddle so it doesn’t matter.

 

I am still going to pursue, with mild to moderate will, eliminating the pesky 20-30 extra pounds I carry but then I will have to worry about being a shivering, starving, unsafe mangy bear.

One problem at a time, I guess.

 

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How To Torment Vegans

Today’s Lesson: With friends like these…

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10 Ways To Torture Your Vegan Friend:
1. Every time you see your vegan friend, ask how they are getting their protein.

2. Buy them Animal Crackers (animal crackers are vegan!). Whenever they eat one, look on in horror.

3. Or, open the box of Animal Crackers, bite the heads off all the crackers, re-seal the box, and then give the headless animal snacks to your vegan friend.

4. And, the next day, give your friend another box of animal crackers, only filled with the missing heads.

5. Be sure to let them know you could never go vegan, even if they have never asked you to. Like ever. It’s important to make sure they know.

6. Whenever you walk by a lawn, ask your vegan friend if he or she is hungry.

7. Ask if they were born vegan. When they say “No,” ask, “Then how did it happen–lightning?”

8. At the end of every meal, ask, “Are you going to eat the rest of that green stuff?” Followed by, “I wouldn’t either.”

9. Send them memes of bacon every chance you have. Vegans love bacon jokes.

10. Whenever you are eating a charred dead animal carcass in front of them, be sure to ask, “…But don’t you miss it?”

Have fun with your vegan friend but remember… a little goes a long way. They are already doing something weird and probably feel ostracized every time they go out to eat with non-vegan friends. Really, like every time.

Your vegan friend can laugh about being vegan but in truth, they don’t want to tell you it is a tired laugh. They do not care what you think about their being vegan (but they would maybe like you to care about learning why you are not).

Remember, it’s always fun until somebody loses their animal cracker head…

 

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