Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Mary Lou" - My first movie review!

Our friend Jessie invited us to see an Israeli movie titled "Mary Lou". It was in Hebrew with English subtitles, a movie about a young Israeli gay man finding his place in the world and dealing with the loss of his mother who left his family when he was younger.

Think about a gay, Israeli, "Mama Mia" and that gives you a glimpse of what you'll enjoy.

As I am always honest in my blogs, it is important to know that I am in no way a professional movie critic. And this is the first time I have promoted a movie with my blog. Yet here I am, having enjoyed a film that I want to share with all of you.

Growing up gay, coming out, dealing with family and friends, falling in love (at times with people who have no interest in being with a man), are all topics covered in "Mary Lou". And all experiences I have had in my life.

Svika Pick is an Israeli pop star form the 70's and 80's. The film centers around his music which I thoroughly enjoyed.

“Courage is sometimes no more than an outburst of great despair.” This is one of my favorite quotes from the film's lead character, Meir. He's not the greatest person as he is filled with faults. Just like me. And his character definitely changes throughout the film. I think he becomes a better person.

I would give this film a for sure two thumbs up. In my way of rating films I would also simply say to go see it if you ever have the opportunity. Even if you don't like subtitles like Mike, and he loved "Mary Lou".

And to give you fair warning, there are indeed dark parts. That's part of growing up gay, coming out, and surrounding yourself with people who, like you, try their best to make it on a daily basis. Not all of us make it. Yet many of those who do keep on going, and keep on trying to become better people.

I laughed. I got teary-eyed. I was empathetic. I experienced a whole new world and at the same time felt a lot in common with many of the characters.

If you get to see "Mary Lou" I would love to hear what you thought!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 25, 2011

No gifts, thank you

It's black Friday. I am still full from the incredible vegan feast prepared by my husband yesterday, and decided to head out to grab a coffee, write, and correspond with all of the wonderful folks who have commented on past blog posts.

I don't plan on doing any shopping today. The few gifts I purchase these days will most likely come from a local shop.

As for me, please don't buy me a gift. Don't get me wrong, I love receiving gifts. The cute grin on Mike's face while I'm opening a gift from him is priceless.

The warm feeling I feel in my heart when a friend or family member makes a financial donation to a non-profit catapults me to gratitude and joy. For many years now I have asked my parents to not buy us gifts, and to instead make a donation to their local HIV/AIDS group or animal shelter. The beauty of my family is that they have done this, and local groups in Bay City, Michigan and White Lake, Michigan have benefited form the donations.

Mike and I have everything we need, and then some. With all of the causes we support, we are thrilled when we get a thank you card from a non-profit saying that a gift was made in our name. It's an amazing feeling to know that our friends and family have contributed to making the world a better place for all living beings. From animal shelters around the country, to small HIV/AIDS agencies, national gay rights groups and animal rights groups, our friends and families have supported them financially and at the same time completely loved and honored Mike and I by granting our simple request.

A $25 gift can make a wonderful difference. Locally or nationally, groups working in the trenches every day need financial support.

So join us! Imagine the impact we can make when asking to not receive a gift!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beyond grateful!

After blogging about Thanksgiving Day and then about giving to charities, I thought it would be appropriate to write about how I am just filled with gratitude.

I write this blog with a heavy heart, as Mike and I prepare to make end of life decisions for our 18 year old companion dog Shadow.

And yet that's a huge part of what I am truly grateful for, my family.

I have no clue what I have ever done to deserve the life I have or the family I have.

Mike is truly the love of my life. Being married to him is such an amazing gift. And the family we have created, with Rock, Miguel, Suga, Shadow, and Monty, is just so big and wonderful and loving that I can't help to be grateful for it every day.

And beyond our home we have wonderful family as well as our incredible family of choice, many of whom will be sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table with us this week.

I am grateful for all those who on a daily basis act to make the world a better place for all living beings. Even when it is not easy. Or popular. Or safe. These people are my heroes.

I am grateful to be sober. That's a whole other blog post!

I am grateful for my community, for all those who love and support me, who teach me, who walk this amazing path with me.

I am grateful to have an incredible job that I love.

There is so much more, but I imagine you get the idea.

Yet before I finish, I have to mention that I am beyond grateful for all of those folks who take time to read this blog and for those who write such beautiful things to me about the blog. Yesterday we got a note that said that we are such an inspiration. Wow.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Give to those who are making change

My day job is as a fundraiser. I was born to fundraise. I love it. This month I have been working on my yearend campaign, asking people to consider making a financial gift before the end of the year.

As you know, there are hundreds of amazing groups out there making a difference for animals, for the poor, for those persecuted, for the environment, etc.

They ALL rely on people like us to continue their amazing work.

It isn't cheap to do an undercover investigation.

Or to run a soup kitchen.

Or to feed hundreds of animals in a sanctuary or shelter.

You get the idea.

Organizations all over will be sending our year end appeals asking for a donation. Every bit helps, believe me.

Will you join Mike and I in helping these great organizations by sending them or check or going to their website and making an online donation?

There are a lot to choose from, both nationally and in your own area. Check them out. Talk about it as a family. If you have any questions about how your money will spent, give the organization a call.

You can make a difference.

Thanks for reading. And we would love to know who you are donating to! In future posts we will highlight some of the groups we'll be donating to. If you have a Facebook account, you can click to our account from our main page here to see a list of groups we have donated to.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I love Thanksgiving

No, Thanksgiving is not indicative of slaughter or genocide to me. I have never lost sight that in the US 45 million turkeys will be slaughtered for Thanksgiving just as I never lose sight of that on a daily basis millions of animals suffer in labs and factory farms, etc.

I have simply redefined what Thanksgiving Day is.

Thanksgiving Day is my husband's favorite holiday and it has become our favorite holiday as a couple. He loves to cook and we love to fill our home with family and friends and many times show off how delicious a vegan Thanksgiving meal is. Mike is one of the best cooks I know so it's easy for him. One year we had 26 people for Thanksgiving dinner and had it in the back yard, one long table.

Mike and I have an incredible life. We have so much. And Thanksgiving Day is another day for us to remember that and, even though we try to do it every day, be hugely grateful for all we have.

It's also a chance for us to remind people why we are vegan, and why veganism is the perfect way to live if one loves and/or cares about animals.

It's also a chance to say thank you to our family of choice, those dear friends of ours whom we love and who are like family to us.

So Thanksgiving Day can be about great vegan food, celebrating family and family of choice, and simply looking around the table and feeling oh so grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you our readers. We totally appreciate the fact that you read our blog and support us as a gay married couple and as two vegans trying to make the world a better place for all living beings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Veterans Day? Really?

I am a veteran.

It's that time of year again. The annual Veteran's Day parade in Denver. Lots of commercials thanking our veterans and inviting them in for a special deal.

Meanwhile, the reality of how veterans are treated and what some of their lives look like is heartbreaking. Join our military, go to war, leave your family, experience unreal horrors, come back, and good luck. Have a nice day. Thank you very much.

Did you know that on average, 18 veterans a day commit suicide? This number doesn't include active duty personnel who commit suicide. That is a whole other blog post.

Did you know that one in four homeless people are veterans? It is estimated that on any given night there are 131,000 homeless veterans on the streets.

In Colorado, the unemployment rate for veterans is 10%, much higher than for other people. Imagine coming back from Afghanistan, having the same level of education you had when leaving high school, having some type of trauma, and then being on a job search.

In many communities, those that want to help have taken the situation into their own hands. At Stand downs across the country thousands of vets are served meals, given free health care, accepted into drug or alcohol rehabs, given help with a job search, and told that someone cares about them.

"Stand down" is a military term for a temporary halt in an offensive. There was a recent Stand down in Denver. Hundreds of vets were served.

Listen to any politician and you will hear wonderful things about veterans. Many of their actions are nothing close. As more and more folks return from war and leave the military, the situation seems to get worse. All of this talk of budget cutting and nobody wants to talk about how that affects our veterans. It is complete BS.

There are many ways that we can help our veterans. You can look in your own community for a local group. One of my favorites is the Wounded Warrior Project which serves veterans and active duty folks. Those returning from war wounded (in any way) have an even tougher time adjusting. You can also see if there is a Stand down in your community. There are 60 nationwide. I assure you that once you volunteer at one of these you will change some one's life (perhaps even your own).

So you get the idea. Regardless of where you stand on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of whether or not you know a veteran, and regardless of what your political belief is, our veterans need help.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to know more about the Wounded Warrior Project you can click below.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Too many dead protesters in Syria

I started my path fighting to make the world a better place while spending a year in Colombia as an exchange student at age 16. My life was forever changed and I returned to the US intent on delving into human rights.

I watched with excitement as I saw protests all over the world in support of protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

I continue to be horrified, sickened, and disgusted as I read the daily death counts in Syria. Depending on who you believe, more than 2,000 have been killed, tortured, jailed or disappeared solely for protesting against the government. As you may know, almost always these protests have been peaceful.

As these beautiful people continue to be massacred, I wanted to take a few minutes and spread the word to please remember these folks. Please talk about them, write about them, blog about them. As an activist and one who has protested since I was 16, one should be able to protest without being shot, tortured, or threatened.

Will you stand with me in solidarity with the brave protesters in Syria? They continue, against all odds, to protest and to make their peaceful argument for freedom.

If you are interested in keeping up with what is going on in Syria, from an activist's viewpoint, you can follow this guy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/MalathAumran There are also several Facebook pages written by those who are part of the protest movement.

Thanks so much for reading! I continue to be so grateful for everyone's support!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Change the world. Share vegan goodies.

I have seen it many times.

Give this a try, it's a homemade cinnamon roll.

Wow, this is the best thing I have ever had. Do you have the recipe?

There is a preconceived notion out there to what vegan food is, or better said, what it tastes like. Mike and I have once again been reminded that when people try vegan food, snacks, milks, etc., their minds open up a little more to veganism.

This reminder came this past Friday when Mike and our friend Ann passed out vegan treats and tastes at a health fair at one of Mike's schools. The folks who run the health fair know Mike is vegan and invited him to have a table. Mike contacted the fine folks at Veg Fund and got funding for treats, and the entire day was a huge success.

Hundreds of students tried something knowingly vegan for the first time. Most of them came back for seconds. Mike and Ann were thrilled as many students told them that they couldn't wait to have this drink or that sample in their own home.

These types of things totally excite me and I just had to share the story.

I love bringing vegan treats to the office. We love having diner parties and being the only vegans in the room. People who love food will inevitably love vegan food.

Now I'm hungry so I'm headed to the kitchen.

By the way, Veg Fund is a non-profit and depends on donations from fine folks like yourselves. They then give grants to groups who are passing out vegan food samples. It's a huge win for us and the animals. Check them out at http://vegfund.org/

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ricky Martin came out.

NOTE: This is a personal post. It's not about my veganism or politics. It's about a superstar coming out. And my reaction to his coming out. If you are drawn to read only my posts about veganism, please check the next blog post.

I realize that to most of you this is not news. Ricky Martin publicly came out last year, and for many of his fans (like me) it was not a surprise.

I remember the night like it was yesterday. The Pepsi Center in Denver, November of 1999, great seats that I paid a fortune for, and Ricky Martin.

About half way through the concert all of the lights went out. A single beam of light from above the stage was directed at a single seat in the middle of the stage. Out walks Ricky, in a white t-shirt, jeans, no shoes, with his guitar. For the next 15 minutes he belted out an acoustic version of "Vuelve" and I was awestruck.

I have been a fan of Ricky since his days in Menudo. I got into Menudo while living in Colombia my junior year of high school. I realize it was never popular to say that one likes Menudo, and I don't think I ever have until now. Of course now I don't care what others think about me (unless I'm being a dick).

I will never forget the night I saw Ricky Martin sing "Vuelve" (by the way, one of my all-time favorite songs).

When Ricky came out, and wrote a book about his life and being gay, I wasn't surprised. I was excited. What surprised me was the huge judgment that came from many in the white, gay, male community about his coming out and the fact that it took so long. Some of the hateful notes I read on gay blogs and gay news sites turned my stomach.

I was sad and embarrassed. How can so many gay people be so judgmental.

I was naive. Everybody has an opinion. And many have no problem standing in judgment of others.

I love Ricky. He came out at the perfect time for him and his family. And his concert ticket sales are better than ever.

Thanks for reading. I love all of our readers, just as you are!