Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a recovering Jersey girl/corporate drone who now does artistic freelancing from beautiful Bend, Oregon. I’m a long-time blogger, YouTube influencer wannabe, creative writing coach, and most importantly, Uncle Jesse’s mother.
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
In May 2016, I naively hit ‘Play’ on Netflix, thinking I was about to watch a documentary detailing the merits of clean eating. Instead, my world was turned inside out and the blinders I didn’t know I was wearing flew off. After watching that fateful movie, “Forks Over Knives,” I suddenly made the connection between my every day choices and the systemic abuse of nonhuman animals and our environment. I instantly went vegan and never looked back.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
For better or worse, I was hardcore when it came to tossing out food (including the filet mignon in the freezer!), but decided it was more ethical to keep my leather staples out of a landfill –namely my hiking boots and purse– until they were unusable.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism? For example, how strict are you with your children’s veganism at school or at family gatherings?
Since it’s just Uncle Jesse and me, it’s fairly straightforward to stick to a 100% vegan diet. If I accidentally eat something non-vegan, I don’t panic, I just stop eating it! It took at least a year for some friends and family members to get used to the change, but ultimately I think they all came to respect my choices and conviction. I always go to social gatherings prepared, either by checking menus/eating ahead of time, and/or bringing vegan food to share. I love using those events to subtly advocate: let delicious, plant-based food do the talking!
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
Absolutely. There are all kinds of age-appropriate ways to teach children about the realities of factory farming, and I believe education is THE system that can change the world for the better – in every way.
What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees? Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies? Does it affect the way you treat other humans?
I am by no means a perfect vegan (and don’t believe there is such a thing) – I don’t always know if my medicine is vegan, I hold stock in index funds, and my cupboards undoubtedly contain a few questionable cleaning and beauty products. Not killing bugs and sticking to a vegan diet were the easier transitions for me, and as I learn about companies and products that don’t align with my ethics, I phase them out.
I think living as an ethical vegan seeps into every corner of a person’s life, including how we treat other humans. I feel more in tune with my heart and our interconnectedness, and that makes it easier to remember that every living being is worthy of respect.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
When I first went vegan, I thought I was failing every time I kept quiet at a social gathering. Over time, I realized that the only approach that suited both my ethics and my personality was leading by example (vs. marching down the street slapping hamburgers out of people’s hands). I play the long game and simply try to make veganism seem fun and accessible (which it is!). My goal is to dismantle the “angry vegan” stereotype and be a safe zone for non-vegans; I celebrate ALL questions and steps toward change.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I’ll be honest. I have my moments where I just can’t even. In those times, I stay quiet and try to regroup in solitude or with vegan friends. But I firmly believe the only way we can turn this ship around is to expand our circle of compassion as widely as possible. If your desire is to create a peaceful world, it’s utterly illogical to treat any group with anything less than compassion and empathy, no matter how “different” they seem.
Any recommended Vegan books?
“Eating Animals” by Jonathan Saffron Foer. The way he weaves facts into his personal journey is masterful.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
My favorite recipe site is Clean Food, Dirty Girl (named so because she likes to swear – don’t say I didn’t warn you!). Molly Patrick, the founder, focuses on the benefits of whole food, plant based living, and her affordable meal plans absolutely saved me during my initial months of being vegan.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
If you haven’t seen The Game Changers (available on Netflix and all major media outlets), drop everything and go watch it! It’s not at all graphic, and serves as the perfect entertaining-yet-educational film for vegans and non-vegans alike.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
I usually favor middle eastern/Mediterranean restaurants vs. strictly vegan restaurants (Joolz is my favorite here in Bend, OR, and Old City Grill is my favorite in back in NJ), although my neighborhood has quite a few impressive vegan joints, including Broken Angel and the new Deeply Rooted.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
So this is like asking me to pick a favorite ‘head tilt’ photo of Uncle Jesse.
At the risk of sounding Because I’m wildly self-promotional, I’d have to say my scalloped potato recipe. I make it at least once a month.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Don’t be afraid to slip up, or reach out to internet strangers (like me!) with questions. Heck, I was so nervous, I signed up for a Masters degree in Humane Education just so I’d feel like I knew what I was talking about!
Most importantly, please, please know that every time you buy a plant-based product, you’re making a difference. For the health of you and animals, and the world we share.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
I hit the jackpot. Despite being a relatively small town, there are so many plant-based clubs here in Bend that my vegan friend count is staggering! In fact, a vegan couple convinced me to move here! I think the emphasis on outdoor adventuring goes hand-in-hand with a plant-based lifestyle. Vegan or not, everyone in Bend bonds over their love of Mother Nature.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Even if you’re an introvert like me, I strongly recommend doing an internet search for a plant-based group in your area, whether it’s MeetUp, running, potlucks, book clubs, etc. If you can’t find one, start one! Or join an online group.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
As I touched on before, ABSOLUTELY. I believe (woo-woo alert) we’re all here to try to embody unconditional love. For ourselves, for each other, for non-human animals, and for our shared home.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
“Need” is a strong word, but I’d say Just egg! Thankfully, my local Whole Foods now has it regularly in stock (though it’s pricy!). The other item might be really strong, waterproof hiking boots.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
Since May 2016, there has never been a single moment when I’ve waivered in my vegan convictions; however, I certainly have faced difficult moments. Being extremely sensitive (as I believe all vegans are), I struggle in any environment that feels judgmental, condescending, angry, or mocking. I still have a very hard time navigating conversations that address only certain animal welfare issues (e.g., dog adoption) or misleading “solutions” (e.g., “humane meat”). That’s when I go back to my mantra: “Play the long game.” Change doesn’t happen overnight, but things ARE changing. For the better. As long as I focus on that and keep a sense of humor, I know I can weather any struggle.