Friday, May 15, 2009


I began my life as a vegan when I started college back in 1992. Before then I was a vegetarian, a lifestyle choice I made when I was sixteen. When I was in elementary school I gave up red meat, a choice I made when I considered how pretty and soulful a cow's eyes can be.

I love animals. Always have. My affection for my own pets and the fact that I have never met an animal I didn't like (yes, even the creepy crawlies are delightful to me!)make vegetarianism/veganism an easy choice. We live near the Farm Sanctuary in Upstate New York. Occasional visits there steel my resolve and revivify my commitments. While I find it nearly impossible to avoid a food for my own sake, I find that I can easily reject the yummiest temptation when I think of the suffering I might cause another creature.

As my veganism evolved, I learned many more reasons to avoid eating animal products. Veganism is the best diet for a healthy planet. It promotes social justice. It encourages good personal health. It is difficult not to be a mindful eater when you are vegan. My veganism has been a gateway to knowledge about natural health and to a deeper appreciation of the plant world that sustains me.

My diet has recently been more complicated as I have dropped almost all wheat gluten from my diet and am now avoiding tomatoes and tomato products except those grown here in the New York with fair labor practices. I am working toward keeping my purchases local and organic. I also try to avoid foods that are over processed and over packaged. I am not perfect here but I'm working on it and enjoying the challenges in the process.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lady Days

Recently when teaching American women's history to my community college students, I was asked what women did before they invented maxi pads and tampons. It was inconceivable to most of the young women in my class that it was possible to live without plastic sanitary supplies. They expressed revulsion with their own periods and horror at the thought that women used to actually use washable supplies. Ick! They had to actually touch their own bodies and menstrual blood?!! Revolting.

I haven't used a disposable pad or tampon in many years. Instead, I choose to make my own pads out of rags. The change originated as an environmental concern with the impact of the overuse of disposable sanitary napkins and tampons. It also emerged from my feminist spirituality and my belief that increasing my awareness and comfort with my own body is an act of defiance against phallocentrism.

When I made the switch, the way I experienced my period changed. The act of washing my own pads and of hanging them up on the line to dry has become a satisfying ritual linking me to the many generations of women before me whose bodies have sustained and nurtured our species. Washing my own pads brings me in contact with the smell, the texture, the colors of my own body processes. I am more aware of my health, of my potential, of my fertility. My children, both daughter and sons, are exposed to their mother's biology. I am matter-of-fact about my period. The process is not hidden in plastic wrap and buried in the trash as a shameful secret or an embarrassing nuisance. It is fluttering on the laundry line in the yard where they play. The sight of blood does not alarm them. How could it? They know that I am happy and proud of my womanhood. I am thankful for my menstrual period. It makes me feel strong and feminine and connected to life.