Old Friends Die Hard

Love never dies… and neither does a great friendship.

*****

My childhood best friend (who was my best friend for 18 years) has been dead almost as long as he was alive. Mike (yep–same name and our birthdays were less than a day apart), was the reason I wanted to find my way in the world and be something more than the people I saw around me. His intelligence and wit shined.

He was the first leader I ever knew. People were drawn to him and wanted to follow him anywhere. Little did I know I would be dispensing advice he gave me when we were barely out of our teens, more than two decades later.

While sitting with a friend who is single and was lamenting about not having found a good partner yet, I quipped, “Being single: greatest days, worst nights.” My friend said, “Right. Your friend Mike told you that, right?” He had never met Mike. Nicole never met Mike but knows him as if he is an old high-school buddy who has just moved away but we still chat over the phone. In other words, although Mike has been gone for more time than we knew each other, he is still an active participant in my life.

You probably have a friend like this (living or passed) and may not even realize their impact in your life.

People come and go in our lives every day, most of them disappearing into obscurity. The best people, though, they are like Mike.

Truly best friends are immortal. They live with you forever.

 

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How To Torment Vegans

Today’s Lesson: With friends like these…

*****

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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5 Super-Easy Ways to Be Vegan

Eat the Rainbow, by Markus Spiske / raumrot.com / CC-BY

Today’s Lesson: Changing your life is scary, but your life is truly a matter of life or death. Making your life better does not have to be all or nothing and it does not have to happen all at once. Just take one step. Then another. Stumble. Try again. Remember, that worked for learning how to walk…

*****

Friends and family often come to me for advice on how to be more vegan or adopt a more vegan-friendly diet. The question has come up lately–“How do you do it?”, which means, “How can I do it?”

Usually someone is asking for advice on eating a plant-based diet to enjoy some of the many health benefits I have experienced being vegan (needing less sleep, thinking faster, losing weight, having more energy, lowering risk of diseases, etc.).

I think better health is a fine reason to go vegan. I hope that also leads to more people thinking about a better system of care-taking for the world’s other inhabitants. It would be pretty cool, I think, to have as many cow friends as people friends, or deer friends that have become dear friends. I remember the thrill of learning our cows and pigs had names when I was a kid, and then the horror of learning we were going to eat them. That was long before I would become vegan but it stuck with me.

The mistake most people make when considering being vegan (or vegan-ish)  is thinking it is an “all or nothing” game, that it is going to be a drastic and miserable life change. It can be, but it does not have to be. I see all change in life (positive or negative) as simply a system of habits. Eating one bad meal won’t kill you. Eating one good meal won’t heal you. It is the habitual practice of one or the other that will lead you to your results (good or bad).

I have five tips to offer that will help you on your way to taking the first step (which you will practice, and stumble, and practice again–remember, it worked for walking–it works for eating). I want to note, however, these are not necessarily healthy tips. These are to help you take the first step. I am not going with full-on tofu love and crazy-sounding ingredients (except one) to make you vegan like a pro just yet. This is for those of you who do not live in vegan meccas or even really have an idea where to start. These tips are training wheels to get you moving the right direction. That being said (and apologies for the long intro), here are 5 Super-Easy Ways to be Vegan (or more vegan-ish):

1. A vegan meal is just a regular meal with one or two things traded out. It’s not all tofu, tempeh, and seitan with Nori salad. Check this out.

Non-vegan plate: steak, mashed potatoes, and a side of corn.

Vegan plate: baked potato with broccoli and McCormick Bac’n Bits (the original–they have always been vegan!), corn, and a side of asparagus (or just an extra helping of corn).

Non-vegan plate: burger with beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard. Crinkle-cut french fries. Pepsi (because Coke sucks).

Vegan plate:  burger with Portobello mushroom cap patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard. Crinkle-cut french fries. Pepsi (because Coke still sucks). To note, the buns probably are not vegan, but just worry about the basics for now.

2. Replace meat with potatoes. Potatoes are hearty and filling like meat. If you feel like Spaghetti Marinara is not real spaghetti because you need meat sauce and meat balls, then chop up some potatoes, pan-fry or roast them, and then toss them into the sauce. Add a few other veggies too, like, zucchini, mushrooms, and green pepper. Or make gnocchi instead of spaghetti. (If you have never had gnocchi, they are like ravioli but made with potatoes and super-easy to make from scratch–just search online). With all the other flavors and hearty starches, you will never notice the meat missing.

3. Replace butter with olive oil. Many top chefs already do this and the idea has been advocated on America’s Test Kitchen. Olive Oil is heart-healthy and delicious. In fact, it is not actually oil like other refined oils (including vegetable and corn oil). To make olive oil, you crush olives. That’s it. Olive “oil” is really just olive “juice”. It can replace butter on anything. Try a little olive oil instead of butter on toast (it’s awesome!). Use it on popcorn, mashed potatoes, literally anywhere you would use butter.

If a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, just use 3 tablespoons of olive oil. There are many kinds and flavors of olive oil. Find the one you like best. Most grocery stores charge outrageously high prices for olive oil and I have no idea why. You can find absurdly cheap prices if you have a Mediterranean grocery store or deli nearby (Italian deli or Arabic grocery store, for example).  If nothing else, even Amazon.com has better prices than most grocery stores, including shipping.

4. Replace cheese with Nutritional Yeast. This is the one weird-sounding ingredient that is an absolute must in our house. Nutritional Yeast is a flaky, yellow powder that adds a tart, cheesy flavor to anything. You can sprinkle it on macaroni and stir it in with olive oil for a light, zesty mac and cheese flavor. Use it on soups, salads, pretty much anything. If you can not find nutritional yeast at your local grocery store, order it online for a pretty good bulk price. In my experience, no specific brand is better than any other so just go with the cheapest (although you might prefer flakes over powder, but they taste the same).

5. Replace dairy milk with any other milk. In most local grocery stores, you can now have an abundance of non-dairy milks, either in the health food aisle or in the refrigerator section. This was tough for me, at first, because I used to drink cow’s milk with every meal. Now, this is one of my favorite parts of being vegan. There is a type of milk for every meal!

The choices are amazing. The biggest part of this tip is to try them all until you find a few that you love. You have lots of milk choices here and they are all healthier than normal cow’s milk (which was made for baby cows, not baby humans): Soy, Oat, Almond, Coconut, Almond-Coconut Blend, Hemp, Flax, Rice, etc. They are all great. My personal preference is unsweetened Almond-Coconut for cereal, Soy for coffee/lattes, Oat for drinking with dinner or just as a treat. Think of them as flavorings for whatever you are eating.

Also, you might find you like a particular brand of milk over another. They are not all created the same, so take your time trying different types of each milk. There is definitely something for everyone.

If you live where there are no store-bought options or if the alternative milks are still outrageously priced, consider buying a milk powder from Amazon or other online retailer (there is soy, almond, rice, etc…). The powders can be mixed with water and you get a lot more for your money, but in my opinion, they are not as tasty (you have to get the water to powder ratio just right!). Nonetheless, they are often a better value than what you will find in the store.

Bonus Tip: The more colors, the more nutrients. Since this applies across the board, I am not considering it one of the 5 tips. Both non-vegans and vegans have heard this advice: “Eat the rainbow,” which basically means the more colors your meal has, the healthier it is likely to be. The reason is the colors of fruits and vegetables is determined by the amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients within them (their only ingredients).

A dark, leafy lettuce, for example, will likely have more vitamins than a lightly colored leafy lettuce (it will also have a stronger taste). Have fun with colorful meals. Try to have at least 5 colors in each meal: white potatoes, red tomatoes, green broccoli, yellow corn, and orange pepper, for example, could make an interesting veggie soup! Purple shredded cabbage, brown mushrooms, tan chickpeas, dark green spinach, and blueberries might make a great salad!

 

There you have it. Some super easy starter-tricks to start adopting a healthier, closer-to-vegan lifestyle. You can worry about getting good and reading ingredient labels later. You don’t have to fall in love with tofu to start (or ever). Just focus on the big three for now: meat, dairy, and cheese (I know “cheese” is dairy but a lot of people do not–it really is practically its own food group).

In the future, I will share a few super-easy vegan recipes I use for every day meals, and I mean SUPER-easy. I am the laziest cook in the world because I am busy and I need meals that are even easier than ordering from Chipotle! I’ll share a few that work for me and maybe they will help you, too.

Feel free to toss questions my way via your social media of choice (I’m “Michael Salamey” everywhere) and share with your friends–having a supporter can help you go a long way. Plus, questions help me create new blog posts without having to come up with ideas myself!

Good luck on your journey to better living.

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How Do People Know You?

Today’s Lesson: Know who your strangers are.

*****

I have been blogging a long time (about ten years) so it is no surprise that I my blog has an audience, despite doing virtually no promotion for it, other than sharing on social media when a new post goes up.

Other than my friends sharing posts they like, I have no idea how people find any of my articles amid the deluge of information on the internet. Incidentally, I do not think any other bloggers know where their audience comes from, either. Even those who do a lot of shameless promoting or advertising are usually just shooting in the dark and hoping something hits.

What is interesting to me, though, is where most of my audience comes from. Every day I post, I share it on Facebook and I can see when some people “Like” it, or comment, etc. WordPress (my platform of choice) and Google Analytics offers cool statistics, too, like how many times a particular post has been viewed and from what country the click originated (Brazil loves me for some reason–I’ll have to visit one day!). Sometimes (not very often to be honest) someone will +1 my post on Google or “favorite” it on Twitter.

Oddly, though, most people who like my blog do not come from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. They come from Tumblr, where I do almost zero interacting. My posts automatically connect to my Tumblr blog, which I set up a year ago and have not looked at except in passing since. If you are looking to start your own blog or want to share quirky thoughts, art, or quotes, Tumblr might be a good place to start.

 

I am glad to have an audience. It’s cool that people like what I am doing and occasionally share it. It is even cooler, though, to learn how strangers learn about you and how far your life actually extends.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Never Enough Time [141014]

“If you can not imagine how you would make an hour of time each day for meditation, then you are going way too fast.” –Peter Diamandis

 

The founder of X-prize, a very busy guy, said that on The Tim Ferris podcast and I have been thinking about it since I heard it.

You could replace the word “meditation” with “exercise”, “writing”, “family”, or anything else. The point, I think, is that if we believe we are so busy we can not prioritize things that are very important to our well-being, then we are doing it wrong.

I struggle with this because, of course, I would love to devote an hour a day to meditation, an hour to yoga, an hour to studying and practicing martial arts, an hour to reading fiction, an hour to reading about leadership, an hour to listening to music, an hour to socializing, an hour to writing, an hour more of sleep, etc… I think you see where I am heading.

I do not have a firm solution here, but I think the lesson is… our time is limited and we have to decide what things are most important and valuable to spend it on (instead of waste it on). If an hour of yoga is more important to you than an hour at the bar, then it might mean you do not sacrifice your mental and physical health for drinks with your friends (and maybe you have the wrong friends). Or, if time with hanging out with friends is more important than being up to date on your favorite show, then maybe you give up that show and enjoy hearing them tell you about it over drinks.

Time is like money, in that you have a finite amount of it and have to decide what is most important to spend it on. You can earn a little more by being healthful, mindful, and a little lucky. Unfortunately, though, you can’t save it and you can’t take it with you when you go.

 

Either way, we can probably be better at choosing how we spend our time while we are here.

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: Super Fly [140930]

 

The fly escaped again! This was my fifth attempt to set this dumb creature free and it avoided my help every time.

 

This house fly has been hanging out on my screen for more than a week. It never leaves but it continually tries to get out, except it only tries to exit via the screen. Not so bright.

 

I know it’s brain is smaller than mine but I have to wonder how many times I have used the same strategy in life. There have been times when I have been trapped by my own bad decisions and kept trying the only answer I thought was available. My friends and family probably saw obvious solutions but I was determined to do it my way, even to my detriment.

 

This has been mostly true in relationships (where everybody saw the train coming except me) but I have certainly been stupidly stubborn in other areas.

 

Sometimes you should reconsider the guidance of others if you keep trying the same solution to the same problem and getting nowhere. If everyone keeps telling you to use the door but you are insistent on trying to climb out the window and keep getting thwarted by the screen… maybe just try the handle once.

 

Incidentally, I finally caught the fly and set it free outside. I think it is now sitting on the screen outside trying to get back in. Some flies just don’t learn…

 


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Today’s Lesson: United We Stand [140922]

It is amazing what two people can accomplish together. I have had many victories this year… both career successes and many personal successes. I was reflecting on the year so far today, and I realized all the biggest wins in my life (this year and throughout my life) have been with the support and partnership of someone else.

 

Some random successes that popped into my head were when I was younger and writing lyrics for local singers. That success came because a coworker read my poetry and demanded I take it to her producer friend. It was a great partnership but I would never have gone down that path without her.

 

Achieving my black belt–especially when it became a personally difficult choice–came because my long-time friend and teacher, Shihan (Master) Peterson, was behind me the whole way, telling me I could do more than I ever thought I could, and then showing me it was true! Moving to Grand Rapids on the tail of a failed career, divorce, and financial ruin could never have happened without the loving support of my brother, Milo. He quite literally dropped everything to make sure I had what I needed to succeed.

 

It is hard to imagine how I would have succeeded in many areas without someone else there to hold me up, hold me accountable, or sometimes just help me hold it together. All my successes happened with partners. On the other hand, all my biggest failures happened alone (divorce, trying to go into business for myself by myself, bankruptcy… all the bad stuff was with the help of me, myself, and I).

 

Looking at whatever you are trying to accomplish right now, pause and make sure you have a partner. In a world as complex and chaotic as ours is, you can probably find a way to go it alone, but I can tell you unequivocally it is easier, and more fun, to have a partner in crime.

 

(But, of course, don’t actually commit crimes. Hopefully both you and your partner are not that dumb…)

 

 

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Today’s Lesson: Roam If You Want To [140912]

Nicole and I were chatting about how long we have lived in certain places and came across an interesting fact:

On average, Nicole stays in the same place (home or apartment) for about 2 years. For me, it averages about 4 years.

 

Maybe not so interesting on the surface, but I am in my early forties so that is quite a bit of moving and it has had both positive and negative outcomes. The good part is I have a broad range of experiences to learn from and share. I have met people from many walks of life and have access to a level of learning I would never have achieved without travel. The not-so-good part is I have had a lot of fleeting friendships with a lot of people and moving so much has more or less trained me not to get too close to people emotionally. I am always available to friends and family wherever they are but I am not very good at proactively reaching out and keeping in touch with them (partly because I do not have long-standing roots anywhere–part of my family lives in Michigan, part in Texas, part in California, part in Canada, part overseas–my family lives all over, too!).

 

Overall, I think experiencing new cultures, scenery, and architectures is a great benefit worth undertaking but it is also good to always have at least one companion or friend that really knows you–sometimes a place to call “home” does not have to be geographic. It is just someone you love and you can share that anywhere, not just in your current town.

 

The world is REALLY big. There is no reason to spend your life in one tiny corner of it.

 


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