Sunday, November 27, 2016

Don't Judge Me

"Don't judge me." Those are words that reverberate in my mind quite often, both as a reminder to not judge others and a desire to not be judged.

Everybody justs wants to be understood. We want our motives to be clear and our message to be communicated in such a way that we don't offend or hurt others. Or maybe we do hope to hit a nerve, thinking that person will get mad enough to do something about whatever it is that offends them.

I have many friends and family who simply don't get my decision to go vegan. No doubt they view my posts and my activism as a threat or condemnation for their decision not to change lifelong habits or to embrace change. I get that. But nothing could be further from the truth. I'll be the first to admit that change can be difficult, but often that which we fear is the best thing we can do for ourselves.

My decision to go vegan stems from the realization that I can do better for my health, the welfare of animals, and the environment. My motivation for sharing the things I do is quite simply that I was in the dark for most of my life, unaware of my contribution to the abuse of animals, damage to the environment, and deterioration of my physical health, all because of my dietary choices. I am a firm believer in the transforming power of truth and knowledge and I want to share the things that make life better for me with those I love.  I don't know of a single human being who wants to contribute to suffering or who wants to withhold something that could enrich and benefit the life of another.

Whether you are vegan or not you have at least one thing in your life that tugs at your heartstrings -- a passion that drives what you say, think, and do. It may be your faith or your grandchildren or your hobby. For others, it may be a cause that drives you to act on behalf of another living being, whether an unborn child, an abused animal, or a needy child in another country. Veganism just happens to be my passion.

Don't judge me for wanting something better for myself, the animals, and the planet. Don't judge my motive for sharing the knowledge I have acquired and the positive changes I have experienced as a result of this lifestyle change. My purpose is not to offend or condemn anyone, but rather to share a message of non-violence, encourage greater compassion, and provide information which will result in better health for those I love.

Because I care,

Dee Dee

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Our First Vegan Thanksgiving (Better Than I Thought It Would Be)

Gardein Holiday Roast & Gravy with sweet potato
casserole (made with vegan marshmallows), roasted
vegetables, green beans, and cranberry sauce.
What a blessing it was to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who, despite my insistence not to alter the menu to accomodate Joy's and my preferences, were open-minded and receptive to us bringing our own "turkey", along with the sides and dessert we shared. Although they cooked a turkey and ham for their guests, they prepared side dishes and appetizers with us in mind, offering fresh fruit and veggie appetizers as well as a delicious corn and bean salsa. The sides served with dinner included mashed potatoes, stuffing, and the vegan green beans and sweet potato casserole we contributed to the meal. It was basically a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

I was pleased that we were welcomed with open arms and not ridiculed or criticized for our choice of a vegan alternative to the traditional turkey and dressing. My brother-in-law and a couple of other family guests even tried a bit of the Gardein Holiday Roast and were as amazed as we were that the texture and taste were so similar to turkey. We were able to share information about things like vegan wines and how to make simple changes to recipes, such as replacing dairy and eggs with other ingredients to make the delicious "from scratch" cake we enjoyed for dessert.

Joy would agree -- our first vegan Thanksgiving was a success. Everyone enjoyed their meal -- vegans and non-vegans alike -- and we all got along despite our differences. Truly a good time and great food were had by all!

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.

My First Vegan Thanksgiving (Making the Connection)

This year I am celebrating my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. Today, as in years past, I will gather with family to visit and celebrate our blessings. There will be turkey on the menu but not on my plate. Instead I will be taking a meatless version of the classic turkey and dressing to share with the curious in my family, as well as vegan green beans, sweet potato casserole, and chocolate cake. Being vegan will not hinder my enjoyment of the traditional Thanksgiving feast. On the contrary, for the first time ever I will enjoy my dinner knowing that no animals were harmed in the making of my meal and that the food on my plate is not only delicious but actually good for me.

As I count my blessings this year I am perhaps most thankful for "making the connection." I am thankful for the documentaries my daughter shared with me that opened my eyes to the horrific animal abuse, environmental destruction, and health issues resulting from factory farming and animal agriculture.

Making the connection between the meat on our plate and the animals -- sentient, intelligent creatures who feel pain and desire to live free, just as we do -- is what separates vegans from non-vegans. Most people claim to love animals, however very few understand that abusing and slaughtering farmed animals for meat is just as unethical as torturing and eating their beloved pet cat. They would never tolerate animal abuse when it comes to their pets, yet they fail to understand that animals raised for meat are as capable of feeling pain and fear as their dear Fluffy or Fido.

Making the connection is necessary not only to fully understand the benefits of a vegan lifestyle -- better health, a cleaner environment, and a greater compassion toward all God's creatures -- but to remain motivated and committed when others around us criticize or fail to understand our choice to leave meat off our plate.

More than anything I desire to be a vegan who can help others make the connection by demonstrating with my own life a greater compassion toward ALL creatures -- human and non-human -- and by sharing my experience with grace and patience, knowing that not everyone sees things the way I do or reaches that connecting point the same way. I want to be an activist who leads assertively but gently, without criticizing or browbeating others. Never do I want my love for animals and my conviction that we can survive and fare better without consuming them to overshadow my love and compassion for humanity.

I realize that the message of veganism, much like the message of Christianity, will be offensive to those not ready to receive it. But just as I am committed to living my life as a witness to all Christ has done for me, I will purpose to show my fellow man that veganism is a compassionate lifestyle with many benefits and that animal cruelty and abuse and the resulting destruction to our health and environment were never God's design.

I am thankful for so many things this year -- improved health, a heightened awareness of our world and those who inhabit it, and a greater sense of compassion toward all living creatures -- human and non-human alike.  I am thankful for those who read our blog and share our passion.  But even more, I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference by helping others make the connection.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving,

Dee Dee

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Ripple Effect

Everyday we have a chance to make a difference.  By following our dreams, using our gifts and abilities to fulfill our purpose, and taking a stand for the things we believe in, we are able to effect change even if the odds are stacked against us.  We don't give up because we think we can't make a difference; rather we press on because we must make a difference.  Our world needs more difference makers!

As a new vegan it is interesting to see how my choice to stop consuming animal products has impacted others. I know that there are few, if any, people who have embraced the vegan lifestyle simply because of the information Joy and I have shared, or because we have chosen to live differently than most of the people we know. Yet I am convinced that we are making a difference in small ways.

Early in our journey, just a few months back, we ran into a fellow vegan at Kroger. I was wearing a vegan t-shirt that caught her eye and started a conversation. That conversation led to her telling us about a vigil the next day, which we attended even though she could not. It was the beginning of a friendship that has resulted in mutual encouragement and in expanding our knowledge of the Save Movement, vegan groups in our area, and opportunities to take a stand against cruelty and injustice to animals. The ripple effect from that random encounter has been profound.

I have received gifts from friends who have shopped for cruelty free alternatives because they know of my choice to buy products not tested on animals.  A good friend brought us a vegan meal the night we volunteered to serve at a dinner where she knew non-vegan food would be served, all because of the ripple effect of our choice to go vegan.

My point in saying this is to encourage those who have chosen this lifestyle to press on in the face of opposition and stay true to your beliefs and convictions.

Even if you are not vegan or fighting for animal rights, there is surely some area of life where you want to see change and make a difference.  You may be working for the pro-life movement or to stop sex trafficking. Perhaps you are concerned about racial discrimination, environmental issues, or eradicating world hunger. Whatever your passion is, dare to make a difference. Commit yourself to the pursuit of peace and a better world. No matter how the odds are stacked against you or how little impact you feel you can have, trust in the ripple effect and know that you are making a difference!
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, NIV).  
If ever there was a time to be a peaceful activist, it is now. Stand up for your beliefs and fight for what is right and good. Let your small acts of kindness and compassion start the ripple effect of change for a better world.

Making ripples,

Dee Dee

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Our First Vegan Vacation

To celebrate my 56th birthday (and my first birthday as a vegan), Joy and I took my husband Steve to the Outer Banks for a weekend getaway.  Gracious friends offered us their beach home, complete with a fully-furnished kitchen which came in handy for late-night snacks and quick meals.  Of course, we didn't intend to spend all our time cooking -- what's the fun of a vacation if  you don't eat out, right?

On our trip down we stopped at Hardee's, where Joy and I enjoyed a large order of fries (about the only vegan option there) as a dinnertime snack, until we could stop by a Harris Teeter to pick up a few groceries.  Steve, who is not a vegan, ordered a chicken combo and after reading the nutritional information (750 calories, 42 fat grams, and 85 grams of cholesterol, JUST in the sandwich!) vowed never again to eat a Hardee's chicken sandwich.  By comparison, the large order of fries Joy and I shared had 530 calories, 26 fat grams, and 0 grams cholesterol.  Since we shared, we each consumed half the calories and fat grams but enjoyed all of the flavor with none of the guilt.

With a kitchen at our disposal and a grocery store nearby, Joy and I took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a few items that we had not yet tried and enjoy a late supper at the beach house.  We picked up a couple of Amy's frozen entrees for our dinner the first night.  We were pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality of the Thai Pad Thai and Enchilada with Spanish Rice and Beans!  We shared the entrees and found them delicious!

The next morning, before setting out on our day-long excursion to see lighthouses and ride the ferry to Ocracoke, we fired up the Keurig, popped a can of Annie's organic cinnamon rolls in the oven, and waited eagerly as the smell of cinnamon filled the air.  The cinnamon rolls were large and made a satisfying breakfast, served with a luscious cluster of crisp and juicy red seedless grapes.

Along the way we snacked on pretzels, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks to curb our hunger until we arrived at Jason's Restaurant in Ocracoke, where we enjoyed an early dinner.  Steve ordered a pizza with sausage and cheese, but Joy and I opted for a pizza with NO cheese and loaded with veggies.  It was a great choice for us -- all of the enjoyment with none of the guilt!

Our trip to Kill Devil Hills wouldn't have been complete without a trip to Stack 'Em High.  Joy and I had so enjoyed our breakfast on our visit in 2015 that I had to take Steve there.  Instead of bacon and pancakes this trip, I opted for grits (no butter) and fresh fruit and shared an order of their famous hash browns with Steve.  In 2015, before I went vegan, I confess I enjoyed their pancakes and bacon. Joy has found a recipe for vegan pancakes that are every bit as good, if not better, than the cakes at Stack 'Em High, so we eat them often at home.  Yum!


For the last meal of our mini-vacation we stopped at Subway, where Joy and I ordered foot-long veggie delight subs on Italian bread -- totally vegan and totally delicious!  With toasted bread, NO cheese, and lots of veggies (lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, onions, olives, with a drizzle of sweet onion dressing) we left nourished and satisfied.

We discovered that with a little planning and research (we Google restaurant menus) it is possible to eat vegan while traveling and enjoy it!

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What I Have Gained By Giving Up Meat

Since making the decision to give up all meat, dairy, and eggs, I have repeatedly heard the statement, "I could never give up meat (or cheese, eggs, milk, etc.)." Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that it has been six months since I have had a hamburger, pizza with "real" cheese, or a barbecue sandwich. Yet strangely I have not missed the things I gave up because I have found so many good nutritious and surprisingly delicious alternatives that I have not felt deprived. Sure, I get the occasional craving for chocolate, but even that craving can be easily satisfied by non-dairy alternatives, such as Enjoy Life chocolate chips or Oreo cookies (yes, they are vegan).

Being a vegan has not been so much about "giving up" the things I used to love but rather embracing a new normal and finding out that there are so many things I can now enjoy without guilt. The only things I have "lost" by giving up meat/dairy/eggs are 25 excess pounds, bad cholesterol numbers, frequent headaches, chronic acid reflux, and ignorance about the adverse effects of factory farming on our bodies, our planet, and the animals who share it with us.

I have gained so much more than I have lost. I have gained an awareness of animal suffering I never knew existed and an appreciation for our environment, as well as a sense of  urgency to do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint.  In addition, I have discovered a whole new world of foods and a new way of eating that benefits not only me but the animals whose lives are saved every time I choose not to eat them.

Embracing a vegan lifestyle has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has been challenging at times but I have learned to adapt by looking for vegan options at restaurants and making a few simple changes in the recipes that I share with family and friends.  Sometimes I have had to eat before attending a gathering, but the benefits have far outweighed any inconvenience in doing so.

As we approach the holidays the one thing I wish for is that others will educate themselves (check out some of the documentaries and resources posted here), make the connection between animal abuse and meat consumption, and embrace a vegan (whole food plant-based) lifestyle.

For the animals, the environment, and better health,

Dee Dee

Copyright 2016 by Dee Dee Wike and Joy Wike. All rights reserved.