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Mixed Blessings

Posted Jan 22 2009 6:46pm

I have started this post a few times now since last weekend and I can't seem to write anything, so it will just have to be what it is. It has been sixteen years since my mother has been gone, but the pain of losing her is still as real as it was that last day of August 1991. I was nineteen and SKO was a year old. My mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and succumbed two months later. Up until her sickness, my mother was happy, vibrant and strong. She was forty-one when she died and none of us were prepared, least of all me.

Time is a big piece of the healing process and for the most part, I have come to terms with her death. This year's anniversary though hit me like a ton of bricks due to my Florida trip. After Disney, SKO & I returned to Tampa where she lives with my dad, stepmom & our half-brother & sister. The night before I was to head back to NY, SKO put on some old home movies of mom & SKO as a wee baby.

SKO played the videotape. There was a woman's voice narrating. I was confused as to who was speaking. After a few seconds I realized that the woman's voice was my mother's. I felt as if I had the wind knocked out of me. The pain & shock of not recognizing my own mother's voice hurt almost as much as losing her. I had lost her again and this pain was irrevocable. My mind scrambled as I listened on and watched the tapes to try to grasp at connecting with her voice, but nothing came. As I told SKO this, she who has no memory of our mother at all said that mommy's voice sounded like a cross between grandma & auntie (my mother's sister) and that fact I did recognize and tried to take comfort in that.

I still remember one of my first thoughts upon returning home on the day she died. I realized that I could call for her and she would never again respond. One of my greatest fears was that I would slowly lose my memories of her and now here it is, I have already lost another piece of her. Her voice is gone from those memories that I grasp so tightly. It is completely and utterly devastating.

Needless to say, I was not feeling well for the holiday weekend but it really helped to go to the cemetery with my grandmother. It was Fcat's first visit and I was glad that he was there. I touched my mother's plaque and it comforted me as if I was touching her because I knew that her body was underneath. The visit to the cemetery brought me some peace. I am thankful for the close relationship that I have with my grandmother and my unique realtionship with SKO- both made closer because my mother is no longer here.

The weekend came and we had been invited to a barn party in New Jersey. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I forced myself to go and it turned out to be the best thing for me. Fcat helped turn a sad weekend into one of the best weekends I have had in a long time.

We began with a light lunch at Candle Cafe before our two hour drive to New Jersey. There was foccacia with tomato sauce, corn chowder with baked pita chips and seitan chimchurri. Delicious healing food from Candle Cafe was exactly what I needed. The last image is the yummy falafel, hummus, tabbouli plate that I got from our favorite Israeli restaurant- we had this the day after the barn party.

Fcat's friends have a lovely piece of property in Hopewell, NJ. The barn was all decked out for drinks, dinner and jam session with several musician guests. It was really fun. The couple also have some kitties and goats on their property. The cats were hard to photograph but they were truly a different breed from my urban, stay at home Booboo. These cats were country living, barn cats. They were very sweet but always on the prowl and super alert. The goats which they keep as companions and possibly for tax purposes- these "girls" as they were referred to were as sweet as can be. Wanting so much attention that one of them almost got tangled up in the fence because she wanted to be petted so badly. I had no idea that goats were such attention hounds. This was my first time- up close with goats. I think the guests were laughing at what a silly city girl I am, spending all my time with the goats. Little did I know that this would not be my only goat encounter for the weekend!
The next day was really the best day ever! We had decided to keep our rental car for one more day. I have been wanting to visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY since forever, so I thought we could make the trip- turns out that it's 5hrs from NYC. Not at all feasible since we had gotten such a late start. Then Fcat remembered that there was a closer farm sanctuary still upstate but nearby. I went online and found Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. It was an easy 2hr drive from the city and after visiting the animals, we could hang out in Woodstock. Perfect!

The farm was lovely and the animals even lovelier. Mind you, this city vegan has never visited a farm before nor have I ever come in contact with farm animals before except for the goats from the other day. So you can imagine how absolutely delighted I was. Below is an image of the sanctuary and Dylan who is the sweetest prettiest little boy and the torture device that he didn't have to experience. He was destined for the veal crate being a byproduct of the dairy industry. Every glass of milk/chunk of cheese/stick of butter has got a heaping ton of veal & torture in it, so please say no to dairy products and think of Dylan being playful, happy & getting to spend his time just being a young curious little calf.

Did I mention what a big goat weekend it turned out to be? There were goats galore at the sanctuary. Many of them rescued from backroom slaughterhouses of Brooklyn where goat is common meat in Caribbean & Muslim diets. Apparently some Muslims pick out their goats and watch them get slaughtered- I actually think that the practice at least reminds them that their meat came from a living creature versus people who gobble down their burgers and steak with no thought as to what breathing, real animal had to sacrifice it's life to become food on a plate. Perhaps if more people had to watch the slaughter, we would have many more vegans in this country.

The goats were simply divine. They loved attention.
Then there were chickens, glorious, squawking chickens & roosters. They were all so pretty with their full plumage and red combs. Sadly factory farmed chickens' combs hang over their eyes because they do not get enough vitamins for their combs to be upright. There were also the rescued broiler hens who were all so overweight that they had a hard time moving around- except when it came time to eat (which is what evil, greedy people bred them to do-eat as much as possible so that people enjoy bigger drumsticks and thighs)- boy did they hustle when it was feeding time. Apparently, these rescued broiler hens do not live very long lives because they are unnaturally overweight. On the other hand I learned that the egg laying hens live a tortured existence for two long years. Whether or not they are kept in battery cages (free range eggs are little better living in a dark barn crammed with hens where less than 50% ever get outdoors), the egg industry is as heartless as dairy & meat where debeaking without anesthesia & killing useless males is common practice. I cannot even imagine six hens crammed into each side of the battery cage- 12 hens in total, living that way for two tortured years constantly laying eggs until they die. Unbelievably sad. What I can't seem to understand is how vegetarians who understand the horror of factory farming & meat yet they cannot seem to grasp the same exact horror of dairy & egg production. Mind-boggling.

Last but not least- a parade of pigs. Peaceful, sleepy and sweet as can be. My favorite was Judy, pictured sleeping with her face in the sun and with her head on my knee for scratches & love. She was divine. I wanted to adopt her and Fcat decided that we would adopt her together. Pigs are really large animals. It's so funny to see them walking around so daintily in their high-heel like hooves.
After playing with the animals, we had worked up an appetite. Our guide at the sanctuary suggested Garden Cafe, a vegan restaurant in Woodstock. We got a great little table out in the garden and the menu was packed with delicious suggestions. There was mint iced tea and vegan ceasar salad with croutons & almonds (the key here was yummy vegenaise). Fcat had an Indian spiced chickpea & veggie enchilada. The spices were amazing and the green apple slices with garlic was especially tasty. I ordered a Caribbean rum marinaded seitan served on mashed plaintain patty with pineapple. The side vegetables went perfectly with the dish. And the kale was so flavorful that I'm mad that I forgot to ask why it was so damn good. I have to say that this restaurant has made the best vegan meal that I have ever had- every dish was packed with flavor. Fcat & I were so full from our meal- the portions were quite large (NYC prices but not NYC portions), yet I still wanted to take a peek at the dessert menu. Well thank goodness that we did that...

We had the most stupendous, mouth-watering strawberry shortcake on the face of this planet. Yes, you can image how good it was that I would resort to such a statement. The scones were fresh out of the oven and warm, topped with luscious strawberries and creamy topping. Oh and let's not forget the chocolate mint- the mint with the natural hint of chocolate was absolute perfection- so much so that I want you to see this scrumptiousness up close.
It was a perfect end to a perfect day. I end this post with pics of Joey, a goat kid who escaped from a Brooklyn slaughterhouse along his mother & father. I am grateful that there are farm sanctuaries where these beautiful creatures can live happy & free.



Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all living beings, we are all savages. - Thomas Edison

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