JUST SAY YES

A couple months back, I saw a documentary that completely opened my eyes. And not for the reasons I thought it would. What the Health? is a documentary produced and directed by Kip Andersen. It has already created quite a stir. At least in my own immediate family.

I’ll confirm what you already know, it’s a pro-vegan “propaganda” film. Except that it’s not. I’m not here to necessarily plug the movie, or preach a vegan lifestyle. It did however inspire me to challenge myself to a 14-Day Vegan Challenge. I wasn’t surprised by the scoffs and eye rolls, but I was quite shocked about something else. And it happened every time I mentioned it to someone.

“I could NEVER do that.” This was pretty much the exact response I got when I’d mention I was “going vegan” for two weeks. Much to everyone’s credit, no one said I wouldn’t be successful, they were simply just quick to dismiss their own ability to abandon meat for a short period of time. The strange thing was I never thought I would fail, but approached the experiment for what it was worth. Mainly I did it to see what all the fuss was about. I had eaten meat and dairy all my life but was considerably impressed by the points made in the documentary.

The fact that everyone I mentioned this challenge to immediately dismissed their willpower to skip the animal products – really concerned me. And honestly not even from a health standpoint – but a mental standpoint. Are we all too stuck in routine and habit, that we can’t even attempt a change for 14 days? Especially if it might improve our health?

I’m not preaching to “go vegan” (although I have cut read meat considerably, and hope to migrate closer to the vegetarian line), but any time we throw our arms up in the air and admit defeat before even trying – we are in serious trouble.

It reminded me of adding skills to my acting resume back in Los Angeles circa 1996. I was always told by those that “knew” the industry to never admit you couldn’t perform a special skill. “Just Say Yes” was the response, no matter what they asked you. And then you figure out a way to pull it out of your ass when you get the role.

That attitude needs to be applied to everything we do. Whether it’s a silly diet challenge or a major career goal – you’ll never accomplish it when you tell yourself you can’t. Tell yourself you WILL. Just say Yes.

ALL MY CHILDREN

Today didn’t exactly turn out the way I expected. With it already being over 90 degrees before noon, I decided to head the campus gym for a swim. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do laps because the facility would have the “lazy river” and whirlpool activated for the kids. I made up my mind that I was going to just go with it for a few minutes, just enough to cool down.

A few young girls were playing on the inner tubes and splashing and basically making it impossible to really swim. Their parents were soaking their feet in the water and watching them. I won’t deny that on any given Sunday, the screaming little voices would get on my last nerve. Today something just felt different.

These children, all different colors and ages, were laughing and pushing each other around in the water completely oblivious to the insanity going on in the world right now. One of the little girls swam up to me and started a bold conversation by asking my name and where I was from. It was so cute. I asked her if she wanted me to push her into the “lazy river” while she was on her raft, kind of also looking over at her parents to get permission. They were so grateful for the break.

I quickly turned it into a game by creating the Lobster Monster. I gave her a head start and then “chased” her making lobster claws with my hands like I was going to get her. Of course, I could have at any time – but she always managed to “escape.”  It didn’t take long before I had 5 other kids wanting to play. We had the best time – and truly it was the most fun I’ve had in years. I felt like a teenager again.

Lately I’ve felt the internal clock ticking a little bit, I won’t deny it.  While I certainly don’t regret not being pressured to have kids in a situation I knew wasn’t right – I find myself wondering if I’ll ever get the opportunity. But after today I realized – they are all my children.

I get really annoyed when someone says to me “you don’t know what it’s like, you’re not a mother.” I’ll give you that much, I don’t know exactly what it’s like. But that doesn’t mean I’m not maternal, it doesn’t mean I don’t understand how important it is to be a good role model and example for children. Trust me – your kids are looking to how I act and carry myself too. They are sponges – they take it all in.

After about an hour, I was beat and pruning so decided to head to the locker. Every single kid gave me a high-five or a hug when I left and the parents were so thrilled that I wore them all out.  Sure, it’s easy for me to be the big hero of the day for an hour when it’s the parents who have the tough job. Believe me, I know that – and I don’t presume to take your place or tell you how to raise your child. But all these kids, they are mine too. They are going to be the ones running the country when I’m in adult diapers in a nursing home someday. Therefore, their lives matter to me.

I don’t know if I’ll have a biological child of my own. All I know is I feel a responsibility to help make children’s lives amazing, safe and fun – in any way I can. It doesn’t matter if it’s “my” child because they are all my children. The Lobster Monster doesn’t discriminate.

TURN AROUND

I grew up in a fairly “small town,” so my first experience with the homeless didn’t happen until my family took me and my sister to NYC for her 16th birthday.  Stepping off the elevator in Port Authority, I, a mere 11-year-old, stepped over a bum laying on the floor.  I remember my sister later giving a homeless woman a dollar – my parents objected.  Rightfully so – the homeless are “dangerous,” “on drugs,” etc. More often than not, that can be an accurate statement.

Now, at age 40, and having lived in many large cities, I’ve built up quite an immunity to seeing the less fortunate begging on the sides of highways and in the front of convenience stores.  My template response always being a polite, but firm “No, I’m sorry.”  And then I’m easily on my way without a second thought.

Then I noticed a trend quite a few years ago, a new “twist” the homeless would try to tug at people’s heart strings – having a pet with them.  Man would I fall for it, almost every single time.  So, once I managed to train myself to look away, tell myself lies in my head like, “they are faking, they actually live down the street,” I again built up that immunity.

Personally the last few days I’ve been fretting the delay of my student loan check, something I need desperately to pay rent, my car payment.  But I don’t lack food, shelter or warmth – hell even my cats eat better than most homeless I am sure.  I had to go out today though, because I needed some materials for a class starting next week.

On my way home, I saw a woman and a fairly healthy looking dog on the side of the road.  “Homeless, my dog is hungry” was the sign.  Whatever I thought, again my knee-jerk response.  When the light changed and as I neared my rental house, I thought – the least I can do is take her some dog food.  I asked my neighbor who has a few dogs if he had any handy (since my cat’s food would probably make the dog sick).  He gave me half a bag, I filled up a 2-liter bottle with water, and threw some plastic bowls into a bag to take to her.

She was grateful, very pleasant, articulate. And older woman, but probably only in her 50’s – the fact that she’s obviously lived on the streets awhile took its toll on her face.  Again we chatted for a few, I told her where the nearby churches were and suggested she try to find a place due to the impending snowstorm.  She didn’t ask me for money, she didn’t ask me for anything.  She thanked me, and I was on my way.  Again, I wasn’t really impacted, I basically felt numb.  Thinking now I can go home, and have a beer and feel good about myself.

When I drove away, I glanced back in my rearview mirror.  I saw her bend down and scoop up some of the dog food into her mouth.  She was trying to turn her back away from the traffic so no one would see her do it.  It quite literally felt like I had just been shot in the heart.  This wasn’t acceptable, I couldn’t let this woman eat dog food, I just couldn’t.

I turned into the nearby Dollar Store, and loaded up a bag with food I thought would sustain her since she’d have to carry it around.  Nuts, some granola bars, raisins, bread, and some PowerAde (vitamins).  I bought her a small fleece blanket.  When I told the cashier what I was doing and what had happened, tears started to fall down both of our cheeks, we could barely speak.

I jumped back into my car and drove back to where they had just been – but she was gone. I imagine she couldn’t have gone far, but after turning down a few roads and not seeing her, I reluctantly headed back home.

The bag is in my car now – everything is non-perishable (for the most part), so I will be keeping it so if I see another person in need, I will be ready this time.  I will now always have a bag like this in my car.

I don’t know why my Grinch heart finally grew two sizes, but it did.  If there’s ever any way, no matter how small, that I can help – I will turn around.

ART OF LETTING GO

My final article for The Leaf ended up having quite a fitting title. The lovely send-off at the bottom of my last column was a sweet surprise. I appreciated the opportunity I received to write for this magazine. There wasn’t a better way to get to know Birmingham. Best of luck to the founder and publisher of The Leaf on her next adventure!

letting-go

LIFE AFTER FACEBOOK

I had never been a real fan of social media platforms over the years.  However, like most writers must at one point tell themselves, I convinced myself it was a “necessary evil.” So a few years ago I succumbed to opening a personal FB profile as well as a Twitter account.

Although I had seen and experienced quite a lot of social faux paus via this method of staying connected – I had to admit it was the easiest way to showcase links to my articles, columns and publications over the past couple of years. If it wasn’t for FB I also probably wouldn’t have known what was going on in the lives of many of my family members. And I’m sure they would say the reverse is the same. It was nice staying in touch and getting updates, but at the same time I don’t want to hear about someone having needed a doctor’s visit on my home feed.

As the 2016 Presidential election started to near it’s end, the increase of hostility in Facebook land started to rise. It was the equivalent of sprinkling gasoline all over the floor. Then all it took was one – big – spark.

I’m a big fan of freedom of speech.  But suddenly I found myself dealing with individuals who were lacking appropriate boundaries, or intelligence in general, and things just started to get uncomfortable.

With all the added stresses in the world, I decided to take a break from “personal” FB. If someone is an actual friend – they know how to get in touch with me without a Like or an Emoji. It’s only been 24 hours, and I’m certainly more relaxed. And in the time I would have normally been trolling on FB – I wrote my first website blog entry.

So life after Facebook – so far it’s creative.