What would you do if you found out there was an action you could take, this very second, that would:
Improve boners circulation
Drastically cut your carbon footprint
Make me very happy?
The Game Changers, a much-anticipated documentary brought to you by some guy you might have heard of, James Cameron, masterfully illustrates just how much a plant-based diet can improve your health – and the health of the planet we share.
Starting today, you can watch this life-altering documentary on Netflix.
Someone asked me, ‘How can you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat?’ And my answer was, ‘Have you ever seen an ox eat meat?'” -Patrik Baboumian, Germany’s strongest man
I was fortunate enough to catch the world premiere of The Game Changers here in Bend, Oregon last month, along with two friends and wonderful humans who worked on the film and live locally. There isn’t a single soul to whom I wouldn’t recommend this movie. It’s entertaining, funny, and chock full of information that will change your life, and our collective future, for the better.
When I went plant-based back in 2016, not only did my health and recovery time [in athletic pursuits] improve, so did my entire outlook on life.
The three of us stared up the hill from the safety of Erin’s Jeep.
“If that Sprinter van could do it, we can do it,” Other Erin said.
Less off-road-worthy vehicles lined the road, their passengers watching to see who would tackle the beast next. On the other side of the cavernous potholes sat one of the best hikes in the area.
Erin floored it and in a matter of seconds we knew: this wasn’t happening. Other Erin hopped out of the car.
“Okay, turn your wheels this way!” she shouted, motioning with her arms. My heart raced. We were dangerously close to rolling off the edge of the road.
“Don’t worry, the trees will stop a fall,” Erin assured me.
I peered over the side of the car, clutching Uncle Jesse. I am not ready to die.
By the time Other Erin said, “Okay, your front wheel is off the ground,” I wanted to cry.
“I’m sorry, I need to get out,” I blurted and quickly grabbed Uncle Jesse’s leash, fleeing for solid ground.
As I scurried down the hill to join the other onlookers, overhearing Other Erin say, “Okay, now three wheels are off the ground,” I thought back to the weekend’s adventures. It was Monday, Labor Day, and I was certain I couldn’t have crammed anymore excitement into a three-day period.
First, there was Uncle Jesse’s inaugural 10k, after which I drank a free hard cider (because this is Oregon), promptly vomited, then hiked uphill to a picture perfect lake where a new friend floated in a unicorn raft while I watched from a hammock strung between two Ponderosa pines.
Then I picked up some Pacific Crest Trail hitchhikers who needed a lift and ran into a family whose raft tipped in the Deschutes River rapids, waiting with them until help arrived, followed by an impromptu sing-a-long at a friend’s house. That was Saturday.
Speckled between those moments were more live music, planning my first backpacking trip, skinny dipping in a lake (okay, maybe that was a spectator sport for some), and hard cider – that I did manage to keep down.
A year ago, the idea of living in a place where I could hike to a new lake every day, make instant friends, and bump into neighbors on the top of a mountain (more than once), was unfathomable.
A year ago, I hadn’t even met the friends who would help convince me to move to Bend, Oregon, sight unseen.
As I watched Steve, a stranger and Patron Saint of Pothole Navigating, climb into Erin’s Jeep and expertly back us away from certain death, I knew life had many more twists and turns in store.
A short while later, the Erins and some of my other new friends toasted on the shoreline of a beautiful, almost completely private, lake. While it wasn’t the hike we’d set out to do, we couldn’t argue against our good fortune.
“Oh nooooo,” I moaned, slapping a hand to my forehead.
“What?” my sister, Lori, asked, her knuckles bone white against the steering wheel.
“I left my phone on top of the car!”
“Stop it,” she said as we rounded another butt-clenching hairpin turn.
At the last scenic overlook, I had been so distracted by taking pictures and picking up Uncle Jesse’s poop that I’d forgotten to take my phone off the roof, where I’d placed it as I’d loaded the dog back in the car.
Lori pulled over at the next viewpoint, and by the grace of Chipmunk Gods, my rubber phone case had had enough grip that my phone had stayed in place instead of flying into the Crater Lake National Park wilderness.
“Should we check out the lodge?” Lori asked.
I nodded, my heart still racing. She and my niece were visiting me in central Oregon for the week, and we had decided to spend a day and night exploring the iconic landmark.
While they went to the bathroom near the gift shop, I inspected the Crater Lake Park brochure. The next day, I was planning to hike with Uncle Jesse while they went on a non-dog-friendly boat tour.
I was excited to possibly tackle Union Peak, the park’s toughest hike, or at least scale Mount Scott, a 4.4-mile trek with a respectable elevation gain.
I flipped to the brochure’s hiking section and my stomach dropped. Of the 16 listed trails, only three were dog-friendly. Around parking lots. Less than a mile long.
“Looks like I’ll be going to Plan B,” I said to Lori when she got back to the car.
AND I can’t get high?
With an afternoon waterfall hike now out of the question, we decided to continue driving the heart attack-inducing, 33-mile Crater Lake Rim Drive before checking into our motel, 18 miles away.
Whispering Pines Motel was the sort of place where Betsy at the front desk scolds you for even suggesting she send an “e-lectronic mail” confirmation. Betsy handed us our key, attached to a giant log…
Since it was nearing 5 o’clock, we decided to tackle dinner plans.
“Betsy said there’s a place with great pizza at Diamond Lake and we can sit outside with the dog,” Lori said. “She also told us we could come and pick out some movies on VHS. You really need to go look inside the main office, Jul.”
When we got to the pizza place, Uncle Jesse and I manned the lone picnic table in the yard while Lori went inside to order. She soon returned looking triumphant.
“Well, their pizza sauce has meat – which is so weird,” she took a breath and shot me the we’re-from-New-Jersey-and-know-our-pizza look, “but they said they could do refried beans [for you] as the sauce instead.”
“Awesome, thanks,” I replied, my vegan-beggars-can’t-be-choosers hat firmly in place.
Ten minutes later, a large man bounded down the hill holding a giant red can.
“I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about in there!” he grumbled, beginning to read the ingredients on the can. We quickly realized he was the chef. “They’re trying to give you refried beans with lard instead of this tomato sauce. Last I checked vegans don’t eat lard.”
“Wow, good looking out!” I grinned.
I assured him that he was indeed correct and deserved to win whatever episode of Vegan Kitchen Wars I had inadvertently triggered. Forty-five minutes after my sister and niece had finished their meals, my food arrived.
We spent the following hour surgically removing picnic table splinters from our hands…
…and arrived back at the motel in time to enjoy some company right outside our door…
…a refreshing shower…
…and some of that new-fangled telly-vision.
Ah, well. At least Uncle Jesse wasn’t holding a grudge.
Nevertheless, after 2+ years on the No Dating bandwagon, the temptation to peek at what was out there, 3,000 miles from the men with whom I’d repeatedly failed (please refer to links 1 to 1,373 listed above), proved too much to resist.
“All riiiiiight,” I groaned on the phone to my friend, Shawna. “I’ll try Bumble. AGAIN.”
And thus, with a trembling index finger, I downloaded a dreaded dating app on my hitherto untainted phone.
This time, though, I decided I’d cut right to the chase. “If you want to meet for coffee or beer sometime, let me know!” my initial messages read. (In the Bumble world, the women always make the first move.)
If the Bend, Oregon Bumble selection were an ocean filled with fish… No. I can’t even finish that metaphor. Because we are not talking “ocean.” We are talking lake. No. Still not right. Pond. Teeny, tiny pond.
I didn’t have a lot of time to dive in because almost as soon as I got to Oregon, I was off to Boot Camp. I returned to a message from “Dave” that made me laugh. (And if there’s one thing I promised myself, were I to ever dip a toe in the treacherous dating waters again, it was: He gots to bring it with the ha-ha’s.)
I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I scrolled through his photos again. F my life. I read his message again. I laughed again. OKAY FINE.
Two days later, I pulled into a brewery parking lot right on time and saw a guy leaning on the fence. That might be him…
I sent a text, “Just got here!”
The guy in question looked down at his phone, so I hopped out of my car and walked over with a wide smile and outstretched hand. Something immediately felt off, but I followed him inside.
“I’m excited to try this place!” I offered.
“Yeah yeah yeah, they have some good stuff! I always get the Sweet Ass.”
I snorted, spotting a sign that read, “Sweet As! Pacific Ale.”
He talked quickly and didn’t make eye contact, but offered to buy my beer. We were well within the happy hour timeframe, so I thanked him and we took our selections outside, where there was an impressively grassy outdoor area and live music revving up.
“Yeah so you just moved here, huh? Yeah?” he said as we sat down.
I eyed him closely. Coke. It’s gotta be coke. Or is he just that nervous?! The next two hours were filled with frenetic conversation, me asking question after question. He talked about his Aunt. A lot. And a former tenant of his garage apartment.
“Wow, so the guy just left after that?!” I asked.
“Let me finish the story!” he said in a tone so scathing I put a hand to my heart.
“I’m so sorry!” I gasped, completely thrown.
“No worries,” he gulped his beer and carried on.
When the two hour Suffer Fest was over, I pulled into my driveway, debating whether or not I should try to still salvage the night. Just then, someone came running up from the house next door, bouncing around the side of my car until she could give me a hug.
In between seeing fantastic local musicians, we subjected her three-legged, one-eyed dog to all kinds of unbidden “fun”…
…saw the sights…
…ate so much plant-based foodie goodness…
…and of course, went on oodles of hikes.
The best part of the Duluth Homegrown Festival -a 20 year-strong, nonprofit tradition that features local musicians performing all over town for an entire week- was the close-knit community vibe. For eight straight days, like-minded music lovers united to support their fellow Duluthians, shouting, “Happy Homegrown!” and sharing smiles at every turn.
Besides the bargain booze, highlights included:
And now I’m back in New Jersey.
I may have just signed a year-long lease on an apartment in a city 3,000 miles away that I’ve never been to.
I’m so excited to share all I’ve learned via The Vegan Dollar’s forthcoming YouTube channel, where I’ll review hacks and practical tips, and talk about the mind-blowing lessons I’ve internalized when it comes to spending, saving and turning the status quo on its ugly little head.
Do I know what I’m doing? Not really. Does it feel “too soon” to take the leap? Absolutely. Am I scared? Um, YES. Do I let those things stop me anymore?
HECK TO THE NO.
At the risk of sounding saccharine, it’s been both a bumpy and beautiful road to get to a place where I feel comfortable honoring my soul’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudging, and through The Vegan Dollar, I hope to empower others to explore and actualize their dream lives.
Starting March 13th, Uncle Jesse and I hit the open road. While there are so many exciting unknowns ahead, I DO know the coming months will include…
Anything you want to see me cover on The Vegan Dollar? What does chasing your dreams look like?
“‘Cause I don’t wanna lose you now, I’m looking right at the other half of me...”
I groaned, cursing my alarm. Wednesday. I quickly swiped my phone to silent. Even Justin Timberlake couldn’t convince me 6:15am looked good on a Wednesday.
Bleary-eyed, I got into the shower, wondering what work-appropriate pants might actually be clean and still fit. As the clock neared 7:00am, I started preparing my Commuter’s Survival Kit.
I opened the fridge and reached for the half and half, suddenly pausing.
I stood there for what felt like days, vivid scenes rushing to mind, clawing for air, demanding to know how I could have been so naive. Maybe I could just go back in time and pretend everything was “normal.” What was normal? Who was I, and why did that person suddenly feel like a stranger to the woman standing in the middle of the kitchen with a twisted expression on her face?
Just hours earlier, I had watched a documentary on Netflix about healthy eating. Or so I’d thought when I’d hit play.
Instead, I’d gotten the awakening of a lifetime. My entire worldview was upended, as if learning that everyone and everything I’d ever known had been in disguise.
Puzzle pieces I’d never known I’d failed to connect suddenly formed a gruesome picture. And I was part of causing that gore.
I poured a few tablespoons of creamer into my travel mug, throwing the remainder into the garbage.
That’s it. Never again.
At lunchtime I eyed the salad bar as though I’d never seen it before. My heart was racing. I felt scared. Alone. So if I don’t have the chicken, or the eggs, or the cheese…are those grains cooked with stock? Are there any non-dairy dressings?
I loaded a plate with greens, tofu, beans, and, Ooh! Nuts! That could work…
My internet browser exploded with new tabs. Vegan Recipes. Beginner Vegan. Why No Honey? Is Wool Vegan? Can I keep my leather hiking boots?
I felt like I was in The Matrix. Except instead of staring dreamily at Keanu Reeves, I was looking at everyone around me, wondering if I’d lost my mind. “They’re eating babies!” my new, red pill-swallowing brain shouted. “BABIES!”
It was so profoundly disconcerting that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to function normally. (As if I was playing with a full deck to begin with!)
I spent the next month combating this dis-ease by learning everything I could about veganism, wondering how long it would take until someone caught on that I was ordering avocado rolls instead of my normal salmon sashimi. I had adopted the notion that no one liked vegans, and this latest epiphany triggered teenage Jules. What if no one wants to hang out with me anymore? What if everyone thinks I’m a judge-y a*shole?
I had been a vegetarian for all of my teen years, but by 19, had succumbed to latent peer pressure and returned to the Standard American Diet. At 34, I was terrified that I’d let that happen again.
The Institute for Humane Education gave me everything I’d hoped it would and more. Because two and a half years later, I’m happy to report: My vegan flag flies loud and proud. And I promise – I’m not here to convert you.
But I am here for this:
I cannot overstate the impact going vegan has had on my life, nor the lightness of heart I feel at every meal, knowing that my decisions align with my values. The real epiphany, though? Realizing my choices matter. I matter.
And we get the opportunity to express our true, loving, compassionate selves every day, through every action we take.