Life–when it’s not difficult and depressing–is funny. Oh, it’s not always funny, like haha funny. But it’s like interesting funny. Ideally, life allows leaps of consciousness.
Our world expands as we get older.
(Like, for example, when we attempt to type “consciousness” but instead we type “consiousness,” we suddenly realize we stink at spelling. Or typing. Or both.)
But for another example, when my husband was diagnosed with heart disease a few years ago, we began exploring the science behind diet and health. We discovered the link between eating plants and heart health. We started a vegan diet.
As our world expanded, we discovered a vegan diet is a lot more interesting than we thought, a lot more interesting than eating meat and cheese.
Beyond contributing to heart health, we learned it was powerful against other “diseases of affluence,” including cancer, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
It’s a lot more colorful.
It’s often a lot cheaper.
It’s much better for the environment.
Beyond THAT, though, as I began following other vegans on social media, I learned true veganism goes well beyond diet, but also to our clothes and our shoes and the bags we carry. I realized I have a closet full of leather and down and wool. I never thought about it before.
I didn’t think about the animals raised for these purposes. I never thought about their treatment. I never thought about the working conditions of the people who made these clothes and shoes and bags in factories around the world. I’m still learning.
This all brings me to a wonderful person and blogger, Carmen Coburn, whose blog, Fashionable Over 50 (Fashion with Compassion), originally caught my eye, because I’m over 50. Would I like to be fashionable? Yes, I would! (Maybe someday). In any case, beautiful Carmen is the real deal. She is a true vegan. Oh, she’s many other things too, a dance instructor, a certified fitness instructor, a mother, a wife and an activist. She’s 63 years old. Here she is in pink, holding the sign:
Here she is in her recent blog post called The Telephone City. Her sandals are non-leather and her purse is fabric. She shows us we can be fashionable without cruelty:
I had the pleasure of interviewing her by email! I enjoy getting to know more about her. Here is our interview:
When did you become vegan and what prompted your change?
I became vegan about 12 years ago at age 52. My daughter Jean inspired and informed me. She gave me the book Diet for a New America by John Robbins.
Describe your transition. Did you go cold turkey or did you take it gradually? Did you find a vegan lifestyle more or less expensive, more or less difficult to find food in the grocery store or at restaurants?
As a child, I would not eat meat and there was nothing my mother could do to make me eat animals. Being vegetarian, it seemed a natural transition once I knew the facts. My only regret is that I didn’t find out sooner that dairy and eggs are the same as meat in many ways.
I don’t find it more expensive, if anything it’s less. Thankfully, we live in a big enough city that gives us ample plant-based foods. We don’t eat out often but when we do, we can always find vegetarian food on the menu and politely ask them to hold the mayo, hold the cheese etc. More and more places are aware that there are vegan customers. When we travel we love to eat at vegan restaurants.
I’m a Two-Step Vegan:
1. After reading the book Diet for a New America and watching videos of the horror of the dairy industry, I was shocked because I had a “the fantasy-farm-syndrome” (apparently, some vegetarians have this condition), which creates an illusion in our minds that cows are happy in a meadow all day and come home in the evening to enjoy being milked, and that hens are happily forging in a yard and sleep peacefully in a cozy henhouse at night while they lay little eggs for us.
2. I gave up eggs, it happened like this: I still ate eggs because my young son had a rescued hen and we ate her eggs. We don’t have our sweet little hen anymore and since then I don’t eat eggs and the thought of eating them actually disgusts me now. My tastebuds and mentality have changed.
There is more to this story about the hen and Carmen’s son. I took excerpts from that story, which originally appeared on the blog, Honk If You’re Vegan.
…my young son was raising a rescued hen. An acquaintance, who is a chicken farmer, offered to sell us feed in bulk. We dropped by the farm and I had a look inside.
To my horror, what I saw was not the worst part – the stench burnt my eyes and I could hardly breathe (my husband walked in and immediately had to leave; it was wicked!). Those poor chickens remain in abominable conditions for their entire lives until they are ‘spent’ (one to two years). There are several hens crammed into each filthy cage with their beaks chopped off, feathers missing and so little space that they are unable to spread their wings. What’s more is that they never even get to walk on the ground.
I witnessed an SUV pull up and some people got out to buy some spent hens. They grabbed them by their legs and mercilessly stuffed them into crates. I’m sure those hens endured more suffering without food or water during transport and then, of course, they were slaughtered. That’s the thanks these little hens get for having laid eggs in these deplorable, painful conditions. This cannot be justified by any means.
For me it was like a dog-lover walking into a puppy mill. I love all animals and cannot contribute to this cruelty. As a vegetarian, I thought eating eggs, and enjoying ice cream and yogurt didn’t hurt animals. However, dairy cows and egg-laying hens have it worse than their “beef” and “poultry” cousins. They have short, miserable lives and end up being slaughtered in the end. I really wish vegetarians, who are vegetarian for the sake of animals, knew this. Almost everyone I talk to asks me, “What’s wrong with eating eggs and dairy since it doesn’t hurt animals.” Well the truth is that it does!!
How about vegan fashion? I think I read your daughter has a good eye for finding vegan fashion. What are some useful resources (either online or in your town and travels)?
Fashion with compassion is something I am passionate about: for people and animals. Again, my inspiration (both in starting a fashion blog and caring about cruelty-free clothes) came from [my daughter] Jean. She just [THIS WEEK] opened an eco boutique…for women and men in Seattle called Drizzle and Shine.
Please visit her Facebook Page: Drizzle and Shine
When traveling we always check out vegan stores, thanks to the Internet, it’s so easy to find them. When shopping, I check labels and try to buy Canadian, U.S. or from companies that I know have ethical working conditions for their employees. Thrifting is also great.
Sadly, my mother wore fur coats, but I always remember how sad I felt, knowing it was an animal who had to die. My father (a hunter at the time) promised me a fur coat when I was 16, but I told him that I didn’t want one. I have never worn fur, yet I wore leather and somehow didn’t make the connection.
Once again, it was Jean who showed me the cruelty of the whole leather industry, that it is not a byproduct of eating animals, but rather a co-product and causes much harm to the environment and the people who work in these factories. Now wearing leather is like wearing the skin of an animal. Umm … actually, that’s exactly what it is–skin without the fur.
A horrific video of leather from China, shows dogs are used. (warning! very graphic)
Do you think your vegan diet helps your activity level?
Definitely! I have so much energy, I dance several hours a day, I go for walks and bike rides with my grandson. I can climb 7 flights of stairs (with suitcases) and not be out of breath.
My age is no secret, in fact, it is evidence of life at it’s best, proof that a vegan life-style helps us to feel our best and look our best. Of course, this does not mean just cutting out meat, dairy and eggs, but rather we need to eat a variety of healthy food: vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, seeds. There are unhealthy vegans, to be sure.
Do you have any advice for women (like me) and aging well? I’m 51 years old, and I’m all ears 🙂 You are a true inspiration to me!
You are beautiful my dear Susan! The best advice I can offer is found on this post I wrote. You may take excerpts from it if you wish. My skin has improved since I cut out dairy.
Here are excerpts:
From Carmen’s post titled Seven Secrets:
- A healthy plant-based lifestyle. This is # 1 because what we eat will affect our health and appearance. A plant-based life-style is beneficial for our skin, eyes and hair.
- Keeping active. I get plenty of exercise dancing every day and I lift weights for my arms, just to keep toned. I also enjoy walking and biking. I’m a certified fitness instructor.
- Staying out of the sun. I’m a shade-seeker. I wear a hat if I’m in the sunshine for more than 15 minutes.
- No smoking. Smoking is not only unhealthy for our lungs but also damaging for our heart and SKIN.
- Beauty sleep. I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, they don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing.
- I have never washed my face with soap: just water and a face cloth.
- But what cream or lotion do I use? This is the question I am asked. I am a third generation user of NIVEA. My mom (and dad) used NIVEA and I grew up with NIVEA. I even bought a blue VW Beetle in 2000 which I call Nivea Blue.
And now, readers, I am going to send you to Carmen’s blog so you can see her standing in front of her “Nivea Blue” Beetle. Explore her blog! Expand your world view. I’m off to hunt for cruelty-free sandals. I’m not sure what I’m doing! But I’ll give it a try.
I’ll sign off as Carmen always does.