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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Gay Pride Month: How to Participate

Gay Pride Month is celebrated each year in June to to recognize the impact that Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender individuals have had on local, state, national, and international history and community.  It is also a perfect opportunity for Straight and cisgender individuals to show their support (or make it clear that they are an "ally") to the LGBT movement.

I am an Ally, loud and proud.  I support my fellow human's rights to love who they love, determine their own gender, and break down stereotypes.  I believe that the right to love is not only a civil right, but a human right.  

A Brief History of LGBT Month...
Originally, Gay Pride Day was celebrated on the last Sunday of June,but as support grew for the movement and as more cities, local municipalities, and activist groups created events commemorating the day it spread to encompass the entire month of June.   Now, Gay Pride Month events attract millions to cities like Los Angles, New York and Washington DC.

But why June and why Pride Month? On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run gay bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York and acted as the catalyst for the beginning the LGBT Movement.  In the 1950s and 60s police raids on gay bars were frequent, but something happened at the Stonewall Inn that hadn't happened elsewhere: police failed to contain the the crowd and quickly lost control which incited a riot.  Over the course of the coming days more riots and protest erupted and activists were able to organize into groups, making being arrested for being openly gay less likely.

The following year, Gay Pride marches in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago commemorated the riots starting the annual tradition of protesting, marching, and rallying on the anniversary of June 28th.  

It wasn't until June 1st, 2014 that Gay Pride Month got a huge political push with backing from President Obama.  On that day, President Obama called on Americans to eliminate prejudice “everywhere it exists,” declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.  

As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect – our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well”

Now, just 3 years later, Gay Pride Month is celebrated almost world wide with marches in Israel, Madrid, Poland, Chile, Germany, Amsterdam and even events in Cuba are being held to support the LGBT community.  

Unfortunately, Homophobia and Transphobia are still present, even as close as our own back yards. There are currently over 70 countries that criminalize same sex relationships and homosexuality remains punishable by death in a handful of nations.  

How Can You Show Your Support?
We must each do our part, this month and every month, to show our support for the LGBT movement.  Here is a list of things you can do:

1. Call, email and write to your local, state, and national representatives to tell them about your support for the LGBT community and legislation supporting their equality.

2. Teach Your Children Equality.  The most important thing we can do is to teach our children how to love, respect, and admire diversity.

3. Support advocacy groups by sharing their links, joining their groups, and giving your support. Here are just a few you should check out: It Gets BetterOutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense NetworkHuman Rights CampaignNoH8GLAAD

4. Speak Out! when you see LGBT getting bullied, berated, or harassed.  Step in and step up when you see someone who needs your help.

5. Wear your Rainbow.  Something as simple as wearing LGBT support colors (the rainbow) is enough to show those around you that you support the LGBT movement and to start a conversation with others.

6.  Start a Conversation.  One of the best ways you can advocate for your LGBT friends and family is to be vocal.  Talk to the people in your local churches, schools, governments, and communities about your passion for equality.

7. VOTE!!  The biggest way your voice will be heard is if you vote for issues you believe in, vote for candidates who support LGBT rights, and vote in EVERY election.

8. Sign Petitions.  A great way to get involved is to put your name on paper (or online).  This will add you to lists of people who get informed when new information is available about legislation.  Here are just a few of the many sites you can visit to find active petitions: GoPetition.comMoveOn.OrgPolitical.comCare2Petitions

9. Amplify LGBT Voices.  When you see an inspirational story, powerful statement, or well-written statement by an LGBT person, share it on social media, email it to your friends, and spread it in any way that you can.  By spreading their voices we help give them greater power.

10. Be Confrontational, Not Complacent. I don't typically advice people to be confrontational, it's just not who I am... but in this case we need to be in people's faces about the injustices of inequality.  We need to look homophobia and Transphobia in the eyes and tell it to listen to us.  We need to be loud and proud together.

Where Can YOU Find Events?
If your local to DC and want to learn more about Gay Pride Month, check out the Library Of Congress events here

If your looking for a list of international events, check out Wikipedia's list here

In Illinois?  Check this out

A South Carolinian?  Look at more here

If your in Chicago, check out this event

Or check out this list of events

While we have recently seen the legalization of gay marriage in the United States, we must not turn our backs on the struggles still faced by the LGBT community because of prejudice and hate.  As we remember those who died in Orlando at the Pulse Club a year ago, let us continue to fight along side our LGBT brothers, sisters, family, and friends to increase awareness and show the world that America is Love, America is Equality, and American is Freedom to be who we each are as individuals and as a united whole.

How are you showing your support this month? Please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts and comments below.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Rolling Thunder: Memorial Day and How It Should Be Done

I had the privileged to spend Memorial Day Weekend with my husband's extended family, many of whom are serving or have served in the military.  It was a truly moving and humbling experience.  THIS is how everyone should spend Memorial Day.

You see, I live in a city that has three motorcycle "weeks" per year.  These are weeks when motorcycle enthusiasts all come down to our humble beach city and participate in rides, check out the latest in motorcycle bling, and experience the camaraderie that you can only experience with fellow riders.   I expected Rolling Thunder to be very similar to those weeks, which I had experienced many times before.  I was very wrong.

I'm not a rider.  I think motorcycles are beautiful pieces of machinery and in their own way have an elegance hidden beneath their loud reverberating exteriors.  There is a sleekness about them.  I'm partial to the older classic beach style bikes with the pastel colors, chrome details, brown leather saddlebags, and fewer add-ons.  My husband has a classic styled motorcycle with custom paint, custom seats, and a handful of other custom details that I wont pretend to know anything about.  I also appreciate the thrill that motorcycles give their rider and I understand the status "symbol" that a nice motorcycle is.  After-all, a nice motorcycle often costs more than a nice car after all the add-ons and custom details.

So, you see, I thought that Rolling Thunder would be another "let me show off my bike" events.  It was far FAR from that.

What is Rolling Thunder?
Rolling Thunder is an advocacy group that works towards full accountability for Prisoner of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) service members in all U.S. Wars.  They do this mostly through education, outreach, funding, and publicity of the issues.

It was conceived as a response to concerns about Missing in Action and Prisoners of War in the Vietnam war who were largely neglected and forgotten by our government and people.  At the time that Rolling Thunder was conceived there were believed to be as many as 10,000 Missing in Action or Prisoners of War still in Vietnam, but the reports of their status were ignored by media and dismissed by intelligence.  Rolling Thunder has worked on many pieces of legislation that help and protect veterans and active duty service members including the Missing Service Personnel Act of 1997, the Bring Them Home Alive Act of 2000 and the Persian Gulf War POW/MIA Accountability Act enacted in 2002.  Rolling Thunder works to be the voice of those who cannot speak.

Every year for as far as anyone can remember, this man has spent the Ride for Freedom
inside this cage to help raise awareness for POW and MIA issues.
Rolling Thunder Charities is the non-profit group that most of Rolling Thunder's money channels through.  Rolling Thunder Charities helps provide funding to ease the hardships of the lives of veterans and service people. The is soley dedicated to:
 • Providing financial support to our troops, disabled veterans and their families when they are in need of help
• Providing financial support to a host of veterans advocacy groups to help homeless and impoverished veterans
• Sponsoring Friday Night Dinners for wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Hospital
Read more here: Rolling Thunder Charities

Rolling Thunder began a campaign called Ride for Freedom (also called Run to the Wall) in 1987.  This gathering brings in roughly 1 million riders and participants each Memorial Day weekend to Washington D.C.  The riders gather throughout the weekend to hear speakers, discuss issues, and work together to bring about awareness of the group's mission.  The event is concluded by the Run to the Wall where riders gather in the Pentagon parking lots then precisely at noon begin traveling on a pre-determined, closed loop, that crosses Memorial Bridge and concludes at the Vietnam Memorial.  Riders then park their bikes along pre-determined routes and begin the on-foot journey through the various memorials in the heart of D.C. paying their respects at each of the memorials and remembering those who have been lost in service.

Panorama view of just one of the parking lots at the Pentagon where riders waited to begin the Ride for Freedom

Why Rolling Thunder?
While I was at the event I couldn't help but feel the power of the rumble behind the roughly 1 million motorcycles participating in the event.  There is no other word to describe it than a ROLLING THUNDER that you can feel deep in your chest.  A Rolling Thunder that you can hear coming for miles.  A Rolling Thunder that doesn't stop for hours (I heard the reverberating of engines from roughly noon till 5pm).  So, why Rolling Thunder and why the Ride for Freedom?  What is the story behind the event and what is the symbolism?  I knew that there had to be a reason beyond the stereotypical connection between motorcycles and military, but what I discovered was far more touching that I expected.

Rolling Thunder was an aerial bombardment campaign that ran from 2 March 1965 until 2 November 1968 during the Vietnam War.  The campaign largely began as a psychological persuasion meant to intimidate the opposition during the war.  While the success of the campaign is disputable (due to a number of issues), the power of Operation Rolling Thunder is undeniable.  With a sustained bombing of roughly 3 years, witnesses claim that the sound of aircraft continual presence is describable by no other words than a constant "Rolling Thunder".  

It was this presence that the founders of Rolling Thunder wanted to emulate through the use of motorcycles.  Rolling Thunder's Ride for Freedom would emulate the constant reverberating thunder experienced by the Vietnam veterans (and the presumed POW and MIA soldiers still unaccounted for).  It would be presence that couldn't be ignored.  The Rolling Thunder of motorcycles would say "We are here" and "We will not forget".  A truly powerful message that is so very closely linked to the inspiration for the creation of the group.

You can read more here: Operation Rolling Thunder

The Real POW and MIA Issues...
Rolling Thunder has faced many criticisms in the past due to the controversial nature of their mission.  Officially, according to the United States Government, the POWs and MIA service members who spurred the creation of the group did not exist.  The U.S. Government never accepted nor substantiated the reports of many of the roughly 10,000 service members who were reported MIA or POW.  In other words, critics of the group largely claim that their is no fact to substantiate the groups main mission (to raise awareness about those who are POW or MIA).

There are also adversaries of Rolling Thunder that criticize the groups' Ride for Freedom each Memorial Day weekend in Washington D.C. claiming that the event is disruptive and counter productive.  This is largely because they lack the understanding of the importance of the event and the symbolic meaning of Rolling Thunder.  A little research would go a long way in helping these nay-sayers understand why roughly a million motorcycles gather for such an event and why the sound and reverberation are important to the event.

The fact remains, regardless of the status of those potential POWs and MIAs from the Vietnam War, the U.S. is continually involved in foreign conflicts where service members may go Missing in Action and may become Prisoners of War.  Thanks to the efforts of this group and many others the public knowledge of POW and MIA issues has increased, the funding for support of military families has increased, and legislation has passed to help protect our service people.

For more information about current MIA and POW statistics please see the following websites:
POW List (does not include Iraq and Afghanistan statistics)
National Archives Military Records
National Archives Other War Records
POW/MIA in the Iraq and Afghani Wars
Black POWs in Vietnam

What Memorial Day is All About...
Over the years Memorial Day has changed.  It's become a long weekend that our kids get out of school.  A long weekend where we don't have to go to work on Monday.  A long weekend... It's become a chance to take a vacation because the weekend is one day longer than usual.  It's become a chance to spend the weekend relaxing while off work.  It's become a weekend of Memorial Day Sales.  We can shop at our favorite stores and get good discounts then go home and cook out while drinking, watching the kids play, and laugh with our friends, neighbors, and family.  This is NOT what Memorial Day is about.  Our view of Memorial Day has gotten warped and twisted and we have forgotten what we are SUPPOSED to be doing on Memorial Day.  We have forgotten the people Memorial Day is meant for.

Memorial Day isn't Veterans Day.  I think that this is an important distinction.  Officially, Veterans Day is the day we honor military veterans (that is, people who have served in the US Military).  It coincides with other events internationally that also commemorate and honor service members.  This is the day that we make it known how much we appreciate our current and past military veterans.  We tell them "Thank You For Your Service".  We offer them our support by going to parades, changing our Facebook pictures, offering words of gratitude, and making sure that we display our appreciation in every way possible.  On Veterans Day we honor ALL MILITARY SERVICE.  Those that serve, those that have served, those that will serve, those that have died or been injured, those that have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedoms.

Memorial Day is the day that we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  The day we honor those that didn't make it back home.  The day we mourn their loss.  The day that we thank them and their families for giving their all.  The day we honor the lives of those that died protecting our freedoms.

On our walk of the memorials after the Ride for Freedom we took some time at the
WWII Memorial to think about those who had been lost.

There are 4,048 gold stars; each one represents 100 American military deaths in WWII.

I think  it's safe to say that the vast majority of Americans have completely forgotten WHO Memorial Day is about.  I don't think that ANYONE can claim that shopping sales honors those who are supposed to be memorialized on Memorial Day.  Can Memorial Day be a celebration?  Sure.  Let's celebrate the lives of our fallen service men and women.  Let's celebrate the freedoms that they died protecting.  Let's celebrate being American.  But lets do it under the understanding that those freedoms didn't come free.  Let's remember that there are families who mourn the loss of a father, brother, mother, sister, daughter, son, grand child... everyday, and not one day a year.  Let's not only enjoy our family cook-outs and Memorial Day parades, but let's take a moment (or more) and DO SOMETHING to show our appreciation for those who have been lost.


Have you participated in Rolling Thunder?  How did you commemorate the lives of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day? Please share your RESPECTFUL comments below.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

PCParent Teen and Pre-Teen Reading List: June

Best in Teen and Young Adult
This month, in honor of summer starting for all of our children, I am focusing on books for your teenagers!  If your teenager is anything like mine, they will spend the summer laying beside the pool posting selfies on Instagram and SnapChat), going to summer sports conditioning (for next year's sports seasons), watching Netflix, and reading like a fiend.  My teenager just DEVOURS books all summer long.  She can sit and read a 400-500 page book in two days.  She wasn't always a book worm, but a super special teacher in 4th grade introduced her to a series that rocked her little world.  She's had her nose in a book since then.

Each year when summer starts we make a list of the books she likes so that she can easily move from one book to the next.  The list is normally 20-30 books long and includes 4 or 5 series and a handful of individual books.  I order her books on Amazon.com and get them delivered straight to our house, then she keeps the stockpile in her room so that when she's done with one she can move right into the next.  If you find that your teen (who typically likes reading) is having a hard time staying interested in reading, I have also compiled a list to help you encourage them to read.  

*Every Book on the following lists comes HIGHLY recommended by my Teen*

Tips for Keeping Your Teen in A Book All Summer:

1. Keep Books On Hand.  When my teen is engrossed in a book I find that she has a small window of interest after she's finished reading it and when she needs to start the next book.  If she waits too long to start the next book she will get involved in other things (like a Neflix series binge).  That's why I ALWAYS have the next book in a series and/or another new book ready for when she finishes.  Considering she can devour a good book in a matter of days, I find it's best to order entire series at a time or order 5-10 books at a time.  This way we don't have to wait for Amazon's free shipping window of 5-7 days for a new book to arrive AND I'm able to meet the $25 minimum for free shipping on books.

2. Go to Your local Library.  There is nothing quite as inspiring for your reader than to be able to browse the shelves to find their next big read.  Our local library has summer reading programs and clubs that also encourage engagement.  My kids visit the library weekly for their summer programs, so the library is always on our to-do list.

3. Remind Them to Bring a Book When You Go Places.  For some reason, book never seems to make the list of "things to bring" when my teen is walking out the door.  Oddly, she always remembers the iPod.  Whether your headed to the pool, beach, park, or grocery store, make sure they bring a book.  A few minutes reading in the car or sitting pool-side may be all they need to get enthralled in the story.

4. Encourage Pre-Bed Time Reading.  When did teens stop having bed times?  When did sleeping for all hours of the day and staying up until 3am become normal for teens?  I'm sorry, all my teen's friends might be able to do that, but not in my house.  We have a 10:30 lights out policy here (which means my teen is up by 10am to engage in whatever the family is doing that day) and from 10pm on we have a Zero-Screen rule.  That means that tablets, cell phones, iPods and TVs get turned off and it's time to settle down.  Sometimes my teen protests this rule, sometimes we give 15-20 minute extensions, but in general we find this rule to be very beneficial. And this is backed up by the experts who suggest that screen time before bed isn't good for sleep.  So instill a teenager bed time and encourage them to read before bed.

5.  Give them Chores and tell them they can't watch Neflix until the chores are done.  Bear with me on this one, it makes since if you think about it.  If your teen is like mine, they will do anything to avoid chores.  We have found that in her procrastination to get chores done she will come up with all kinds of things to do instead.  This is the perfect opportunity for them to pick up a book to avoid their chores.  Just remember that this will eventually backfire if they decide that they don't need Netflix anymore.  You may need to be creative to get them to actually complete their chores (our rule is "get it done by bedtime or no screens the next day).  

6.  Consider an E-Reader.  Each of my children has a Kindle Fire, but none of them like to read on it.  My teen says that she just can't look at it for that long (which is odd because she watches Netflix on it for hours) and she prefers the feel of the paper book in her hand (the feel of the binding, the sound of turning pages.... I can see the appeal because I feel the same way).  If you think that your teen would read well on an E-Reader then consider Amazon's Kindle Fire.

Pre-Teen Summer Reading List: 
When my daughter was a pre-teen she was very interested in animal series books and was just starting to get into science fiction/fantasy.  She enjoyed the adventure of the unknown  and the fantasy of unique lives and ways of living.  This list reflects those interests.

The Fire-Us Series by Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher

This series is high in action and adventure.  After a terrible plague kills off all the adults of the world these young pre-teens and teens are forced to learn how to survive on their own.  We were lucky to find these books on withdrawl in our local library so we got them for a great price.  Make sure to check around your local re-sale stores because these are an older series.  Fire-Us is geared towards both male and female pre-teens.

The Roald Dahl Collection

Who doesn't LOVE Roald Dahl?!  I read these to my daughter when she was very little.  There was something about the silly stories and odd illustrations that really captured her interest (and mine too!).  When she got a little older she wanted to read them herself.  I recommend getting the entire box set (only $50 for all 15 books) because it comes out more economical than purchasing them separately, and this is really a collection that should be in every child's home library.  As an added bonus, you can watch the movies based off the books with your pre-teen after they've read the books!

The Warriors Series by Erin Hunter

This series inspired almost 2 years of reading for my daughter and it was literally the series that pulled her into "Book Worm" status.  These stories about a kingdom of cats are filled with adventure and mystery.  Erin Hunter is spectacular of weaving together intricate stories of mythical worlds.  The really great news is, if your pre-teen loves this series there are like a billion more Erin Hunter series that follow the Warrior Cats (and she even has a series about dogs called Survivors and bears called Seekers too!!) that will surely keep your child engrossed for a very long time.  My daughter owns and cherishes EVERY SINGLE one of Erin Hunter's books.  They were the first books that started her personal library.  This series is geared to both girls and guys.

The Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot

This series follows the adventures and life of Princess Mia and her journey from being a regular American girl to being a Genovian Princess.  This book series also has a handful of movies featuring Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway which make great mother-daughter movie nights.  Buy each book individually in the U.S. print version, or buy them as a set in U.K. print version.

Teen Summer Reading List:
My teen is really into supernatural science fiction.  There is something about vampires, witches, demons, and the complexities of dark stories that really entrall her.  She also enjoys a good teenage romance, so when she can find the two weaved together she is even more engrossed.  Fantasy and the complexities of royalties (prince/princess, queen/king, kingdom/subjects) also excite her.  You will find that this list reflects those interests.

My teen's top pick is The Mortal Instruments Series By Cassandra Clare

Not only is this the series that inspired the hit CW show (which I'm sure your teen has heard of or watches fanatically) but the first book was also made into a movie.  A science fiction and mythical book about demons, fallen angels, and those that protect us mere mortals (called Shadow Hunters), this novel is filled with teen romance, family drama, and the supernatural that most teens are obsessed with.   I highly recomend getting the entire series as a set because it will not only save you money (it's 6 books for $45 which makes it only about $7.50 per book AND it comes with free shipping) but it will also ensure that your teen has immediate access to the next in the series when they need it.  This series is good for both teen girls and guys.

The Selection Series by Keira Cass

This one is truly special to my daughter partly because the author lives very near to us and even graduated from the same high school that my daughter will attend next year.  A book filled with teen romance, this story deals in royalty and heredity.  If your teen likes the Bachelor (or similar shows) then this is the book series for them.  Unfortunately, the series of 5 isn't available in it's entirety yet, but you can buy the first 3 in a box set for roughly $19 and then purchase the newest two books separately (The Heir (The Selection) and The Crown (The Selection)).  This series is more geared towards young female readers.

The Immortal Beloved Series by Cate Tiernan

This trilogy is the latest series of books that my daughter read.  Another series with supernatural characters, this series deals with teen romance and the struggle to know oneself.  Buy all three on Amazon for roughly $20.  This series is geared towards young female readers.

The Morganville Vampires Series by Rachel Caine

This series deals with something every teenager can relate to: School.  But this time there is an interesting twist, it's a school for vampires.  The story lines in each of these books deal with teen romance, mystery, epic supernatural battles, and the struggle to fit in.  We found the first Morganville Vampire book in a local discount store for $3 and after my teen read it in one evening (not even putting it down for dinner) we decided she needed the other 14 in the series.  She was engrossed in each of the books and read them all in 2 weeks!  This series is geared towards young female readers.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

If your teen is looking for non-vampire and more on the fantasy spectrum, then this is the series for them.  Each of the stand alone books in the series revisits a classic fairy tale and twists them into dark and mysterious plots.  If your teen likes the show Once Upon A Time or was eager to see the new Beauty and the Beast film, then this is the series for them.  This series is geared towards young female readers.

The Fifth Wave Trilogy by Rick Yancey

The Fifth Wave was one of the books my teen read in her Summer Book-to-Movie Club (a club our Library runs each summer where teens read a book and then watch the movie together and compare them).  She enjoyed the first one so much that she immediately read the next two.  The story is about the invasion of Earth by an alien civilization.  They are incredibly action packed and keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.  It is cheaper to buy these books individually instead of in a set, but make sure to order all three to save on shipping!  These books are geared towards teen girls and guys.

What books does your Pre-Teen or Teen adore?  What are your suggestions for getting your Teen or Pre-Teen into reading?  Please share your RESPECTFUL comments and ideas below.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Guest Post: Why Vegan

The following is a Guest Post by Ashley K.  
Wife, mother of four, and author of 
You can follow and like her Facebook page here.

Everything the world had to offer me I indulged in. Ice Cream, runny egg sandwiches smothered in cheese, a juicy steak, and the all American favorite, grilling hot dogs, burgers, and chicken on a beautiful summer evening. Where these foods came from or the process of how they got to my grocery store never occurred to me. And why would it? Meat, chicken, fish and dairy will always be available to us. Forever, right?

When I started questioning everything we are told, and doing an insane amount of research, it hit me how wrong I was. How wrong we all are. The very people who tell us what food groups to eat the most of, are only doing so in the interest of their own wallet. And we are single-handedly destroying our planet. 91% of Amazon destruction is due to agricultural farming according to The World Bank. 91%. Cows produce 150 Billion gallons of methane per day, and just so you know, methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2. All those cows need to drink water and do you know how much? 34-76 gallons of water are used annually due to animal agriculture.  Even if we eliminate fossil fuels, we will exceed the 565 gigatonnes CO2E limit by 2030 just from raising livestock. (Cowspiracy.com)

Breeding and raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, planes, and trains and any other means of transportation combined. Cows release about 120kg of methane each year. The effects on the climate from Methane is a whopping 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. And guess how many cows there are worldwide? 1.5 billion! For comparison, there are about 7 billion humans in the entire world. 805 million of those people are chronically hungry. If we stopped agricultural farming, we could feed every single starving person in the entire world. Well, you ask, what if all beef were grass fed? If all beef were grass fed we would need 3.7 billion acres of land. The U.S only has 1.9 billion. This still doesn’t eliminate the water usage and carbon footprint they leave behind.

According to onegreenplanet.org, we use 56 million acres of land for animal agriculture and only 4 million for growing produce. 70% of grain is fed to farm animals instead of people. The world’s cows eat enough food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people. Yup. That’s more than every single person on earth. What’s worse, we use 4,200 gallons of water a day to support a meat eater’s diet. In one year, that’s 1,533,000 gallons of water. A plant based diet only uses 300 gallons per day, only 109,500 gallons per year. One hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce. You could take showers every single day for two months. Or how about this: 5% of water used in the United States is from private homes, 55% is for animal agriculture.

To put things into perspective for you, one acre of land can produce 250lbs of beef. Think that’s a lot, huh? That same one acre of land can produce 50,000lbs of tomatoes or 53,000lbs of potatoes. And uses less of our freshwater supply. If we continue eating an animal based diet, we will eventually deplete our natural resources. Watching Cowspiracy on Netflix gave me a huge wake- up call and realization. Consuming an animal based diet is killing our planet.

The widespread animal cruelty, living conditions, and inhumane treatment of the animals we breed to consume is what initially grabbed my attention. I watched the documentary 'Earthlings', followed by the documentary ‘Lucent’. It was incredibly difficult to watch, I had to stop every ten minutes to take some deep breaths. I worked in a hospital for six years and would not be considered someone who has a weak stomach, but watching these documentaries almost makes me sick. It made me wonder, if people had to watch the animals being slaughtered before eating them, would they still eat it? Or what if they had to do it themselves?

This alone was enough for me to easily give up consuming any animal, but I am an emotionally driven person who had a massive emotional response to seeing something so horrific. Once I calmed down, I went in search of more factual reasoning to support my decision.

Let’s start with dairy. A cow won’t produce milk unless she has a baby calf. Most cows are artificially inseminated, purposefully kept pregnant to maintain milk supply in addition to given hormones. Once she gives birth, the calf is taken away from her within 48 hours so her milk can be pumped for humans instead of given to her baby. Because of how long they are hooked up to pumps, they often get mastitis and infections. Most dairy cows don’t live longer than four years, while cows in general live up to 15 years. They are then slaughtered and their meat is given to fast food restaurants. What becomes of her baby? If it is male, he is sold and used for veal. He is usually kept in a small pen, without sunlight and restricted movement to keep the meat tender. He is fed a liquid diet and slaughtered within four months. Female cow? The same horrible torture her mother endured. Let’s think about this for a minute. Dog milk goes to baby dogs, cat’s milk goes to baby cats, rat milk goes to baby rat’s but cow’s milk goes to baby humans? What?

As a breastfeeding mother, this information hit home. What if I was artificially inseminated against my will? Then after giving birth, my baby was taken from me and sold to be slaughtered. Meanwhile, I was hooked up to pumps and given hormones and antibiotics so I could produce 20,000 pounds of milk a year for another species. Then, ten months later, the process happened all over again and again and again until I died. All the while enduring cramped, horrific living conditions, bleeding nipples, and infection. All of that on top of the emotional stress of losing my baby.

We often get sucked into terms like ‘free range’ when shopping for eggs. But what does that actually mean? The picture below shows “free range chickens”.

“Hens on large-scale commercial cage-free farms are not kept in cages as the birds on standard egg factory farms are, but the difference usually stops there. Most still have their sensitive beaks cut off with a hot blade and are crammed together in filthy sheds. They never go outside, breathe fresh air, feel the sun on their backs, or do anything else that is natural or important to them.

They suffer from the same lung lesions and ammonia burns as hens in cages, as well as breast blisters from sitting on urine- and feces-covered floors. Male chicks are often ground up alive or left to suffocate because they don’t lay eggs and are considered too small a breed to be profitably used for meat.  While free-range and organic egg farms are technically supposed to give birds outdoor access, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided that “they may be temporarily confined” for “reasons of health, safety, the animal’s stage of production or to protect soil or water quality.” Many free-range egg farms take full advantage of this loophole by almost never allowing the birds outside” (PETA website).  Chickens are also really smart little things. They can recognize up to 100 faces, sleep, dream, and even purr like a kitten when rubbed.

While this isn’t the case for ALL farms, but the majority, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we were not meant to consume dairy. All the components in milk are meant to grow a baby cow, not baby humans. 75% of people are lactose intolerant. In fact, consuming too much dairy can increase your risk for heart disease. It is also the hardest for our bodies to digest and has a very strong link to cancer and disease. Eating eggs every day puts you at an increased risk for heart disease and increasing your blood cholesterol levels. Dairy also makes you age faster. Consuming seeds, nuts, beans, fruits and veggies are a much source of protein and vitamins. Consuming dairy has also been found to be the leading cause of breast cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and colon cancer. In fact, switching to a plant based diet can actually prevent cancer and in some cases reverse heart disease without medication.

What about fish? Do Vegans eat fish? No they don’t. Tons of unintended species are caught in fishing nets and die. They are known as bycatch. Hundreds of thousands marine turtles are among these victims. These beautiful creatures have been around for 100 million years and now six out of seven are on the Endangered and Critically Endangered species list. Simply from us fishing. In fact, it has been predicted that if we keep consuming fish at the rate we are today, we will have fishless ocean by 2048. Reading this made me realize how much something like that would affect my children, and their children. 

According to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), for every one pound of intended species of fish caught, there are five pounds of unintended species caught and disguarded. From Pelagic long line fishing in the Pacific Ocean alone, 4.4 million non-targeted fish are caught and killed. 3.3 million are sharks. I could dedicate an entire separate blog to this very complex issue because there is so much information.90-100 million tonnes of fish are pulled from the oceans every single year. ¾ of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted and animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean dead zones. If the Ocean’s die, we die. These issues are reversible if we could all stop consuming animals and eat a plant based diet. (Empty Oceans)

I can’t change the world, but the world is changing anyway and at some point we won’t have a choice anymore. We can’t ever have too much love and compassion and no matter what your driver is for choosing a plant based diet; emotional, health, or environmental, significantly reducing your meat and dairy intake goes a very long way.

Are you going Vegan?  Please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts and comments below.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Civility in Choppy Political Waters

I've written about learning to get along politically before (see Right Wing, Left Wing: Learning to Get Along) and while that post rings true, I felt the need to expand on it further and offer some specific examples of ways we can make purposeful decisions to get along with out friends across the political aisle.  I was inspired by an article in O Magazine in April called The Lost Art of Civility and the call for readers to "put your best foot forward this summer."

The article reminds us al what our parents and teachers taught us when we were little.  The one rule that was written on posters in our classrooms and the one rule we all associated with one regal color.  Yes, I'm talking about the Golden Rule.  The rule of etiquette that was to govern our lives and our interactions.  The rule that taught us

Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated 

This rule taught us that above all we were to be kind and courteous to those we interacted with.  It taught a generation to consider the feelings of others as part of our own.  It taught us that our actions didn't just impact others but that it would come impact us also.  It taught us to see ourselves in others.

The large implications for this rule is that it raised a generation that has largely been able to see through differences and find commonalities a between us.  It raised a generation that connected those commonalities and called for equality.  It raised the small Generation of Inbetweens (that were born after Generation X and before Millennials) that have been able to step back and say 

This Isn't How We Want To Be Treated, 
So Why Are THEY Being Treated This Way? 

It raised a generation that isn't afraid to 

But something has happened to this generation.  We have lost sight of our civility.  We have lost our ability to treat others the way we want to be treated.  Our parents have forgotten the rule they taught us.  We have forgotten to teach our Millennial siblings, coworkers, and children the rule that we were taught.  In our fight for equality we have forgotten to treat others the way we want to be treated.  

I believe we not only need to get back to this civility, but we HAVE to get back to treating each other with respect.  We have to get back to treating others the way we want to be treated.  How can we get back to this civility?  How can we work towards treating each other with dignity and respect, regardless of our differences in opinion and belief?  How can we set the Golden Rule example that we were taught so many years ago?  Here is a list of things each of us can do:

Ways We Can Be Civil...

1. Follow Conversation Etiquette.  
       - Listen politely                                     
       - Never interrupt
       - Maintain consistent tone and volume appropriate to the situation
       - Don't repeat points you've already made
       - No name calling 
2. Be Aware of your Body.
       - Maintain muted gestures (there is no need for arm flailing, fist air punching, pointing, etc)
       - Maintain Eye Contact
       - Keep you hands to yourself

3. Wait before you respond.   If we each just took a moment and thought about our responses before spurting them out we would have much more intelligent conversations.  We also need to wait to consider the implications for what we are saying and how they might be perceived. 

4. Put yourself in the other person's shoes.  If we all did this we wouldn't have the political turmoil we currently have because everyone would recognize each persons individual circumstance and understand why they feel the way they do.

5. Consider the Ripple Effect.  All actions (whether spoken or physical) cause a ripple.  If you treat someone poorly they will in turn treat someone else poorly.  Do you want your ripple to be positive or negative?  

6. Look for Goodness.  The "other side" isn't ALL BAD. Each side has moments of greatness that can benefit us all.  We just need to find that goodness and connect with it. 

7.  Act as though a child is watching.  If we all try to maintain behavior that we would want our children to imitate then we would surely be more civil to each other.

8. Continually Evolve.  It's ok to be open to new thoughts and ideas.  When you are talking to a person of differing political opinion keep yourself open to what they are saying.  This works for both sides.

9.  Know when to Speak Out.  A huge part of civility is knowing what's appropriate to the situation.  If your attending a Rally, March, or political action meeting these might be the times to speak passionately and with emotion.  Everyday conversations should be treated differently.  

10.  Maintain focus on Facts.  It's easy to skew opinion.  Its easy to get wrapped up in emotion.  Maintain your focus on the facts when discussing politics.  

This is not a suggestion to return to emotion-free delicateness where people are devoid of opinions.  This is a plea to treat each other with grace and dignity.  This is a plea to be Politically Correct in the way you speak and act around those that you disagree with.  Do you have any other suggestions for how we can go back to treating each other as we want to be treated?  Please share your RESPECTFUL thoughts and opinions below.