Monday, September 3, 2007

Mixed Blessings

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


VeggieGirl said...

I'm so sorry for your loss - your memories will live on forever; hold onto them.

the meals you enjoyed at Candle Cafe and while on your trip, look quite scrumptious!

how fun, that you got to visit that farm - the pigs are so cute, haha :0)

I LOVE that Thomas Edison quote.

bazu said...

Oh, VKO, thanks for sharing your story about your mom. I can't imagine the pain of losing your mom at such a young age. But as you said, she lives on in your life and in your current relationships with your family.
I'm really glad that you got to take a trip to make you feel better. Aren't farm animals the best? I'm personally obsessed with goats- they have such strange, endearing personalities. I would have been mad if I found out you guys drove all the way out to Watkins Glen and didn't come to Syracuse to visit us! Now, I really want to visit the farm sanctuary in Woodstock. What a wonderful trip.


Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

It's so hard to find the words to say about a lost loved one. Know that she's living on through your stories & memories of her & those will never go away.

The Woodstock farm sanctuary looks awesome! I'm headed to NYC in late-October & wanted to visit Farm Sanctuary, but it looks like it's a bit too far to go! eep.

The foods all look soooooo good! I can't wait to get to NYC & eat! hehe.

Emmie said...

I don't know what to say, except that your story about your mum had me in tears and I couldn't even read the rest of the blogpost, the pictures looked nice though. I'm a wee bit hormonal right now, heh.

You will never truly lose your mother, your loved ones always live on in peoples hearts.

Lots of hugs to you.

Village Vegan said...

Thank you for sharing that story about your mother-- I'm the same age now as you were then and I can't imagine how it would be to loose a mother. And I'm really glad you got to take a healing trip to Farm Sanctuary. I'm still planning to visit there some day!

R2K said...

: )

urban vegan said...

I got the chills when I read this, VKO, because we have yet another simillarity: I also lost my mom when I was 19 (to lung cancer. She was 59).

I'm so very sorry for your pain and loss, and I wish I could make it go away. Although you can't remember all the little details, I can tell you that you'll never forget your mother. It's not those details that made her--it's the bright shining light she was--and that came from inside--and that still lives, doesn't it? You can never forget that. And a part of her--the best part--also lives through you and VKO.

My dad essentially fell out of my life when my mom died (he was never close to any of us, even when Mom was alive), so I've been on my own since then. I'm older than you--and the hard point for me was realizing that I had lived longer without my mom (and dad) than I had with her. . As I get older, I look in the mirror and sometimes see my mom. (I look more like her than any of my siblings) and it comforts me in a strange way.

As for the barn party and Woodstock--what a nice
way to spend the weekend. (Fcat is a sweetie.) Those pictures are great and it warms my heart to think that all those animals will live out their lives as they should. I especially love the piggy. You can see how the critters turned your mood around. There's sadness and cruelty in the world, but yes, there are so many good people.

I also have a hard time dealing with life's inequities. There's a stray feral kitten near our apartment--it won't go near us. I, and some other unknown neightbors, are feeding it and making sure it has water in this heat. Then I return to our apt. and play with Bossa Nova. She has tons of toys, the best cat food, air conditioning. Why shouldn't she? She was once a feral kitten, and it breaks my heart to think that this could have been her--and that this little black kitten shouod also have a home.

But I think every action we do has significance.

If you ever want to talk, you have my number, girlfriend. Hang in there, VKO, and enjoy the rest of your Sunday.


Pink Theory said...

I hope I'm not overstepping any bounds by posting since I have never posted on your blog. I have, however, been a reader for awhile. Thank you so much for sharing this story and I'm incredibly sorry for your loss. {{hugs}}

The farm pics are amazing! Animals can be such a great comfort.

Neva Vegan said...

I had no idea about your mom. I'm so sorry. I'm glad you and SKO have each other. It is wonderful though that you do have the tapes, even if it is hard to face them.

What a beautiful trip to Farm Sanctuary. I've never been, but we have a nice sanctuary here that I love to visit. The pigs are so sweet and so smart. I think sanctuaries are the key to reaching people because so many people say farm animals don't have personalities or intelligence.

Theresa said...

Sorry for your loss. How unfortunate to lose a loved one like that.

Surrounding yourself with rescued farm animals looks like it was a good way to heal yourslef a bit, though.

SKO said...

You know what's weird? I just started writing my application essay on Mommy too...

The flowers are pretty, and it's so that nice that Fcat went. :D

The barn party, does look fun, I do admit...I like that one picture of that little barn cat, it's vair cute!

And Farm Sanctuary looks so cool. The pictures with you and the animals are so adorable! Dylan does look like a sweet little boy, and Judy is so beyond cute. I'm glad you're adopting them. :) We have to go when I come up.

Love you lots.

Kristen's Raw said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I love the pics of the passion is animals :) and food....which is why I'm vegan. I love high health and energy which is why I eat mostly Raw :) Put all of that together and you's Raw. Have a super day!

If you'd like to try a few great and easy Raw Vegan recipes, I have some posted on my blog, with more to come. I think you'll really like them! Cheers!

Kristen Suzanne

Vegan_Noodle said...

VKO, your mother would be so proud of who you are today. Even though you may forget details, you will always remember how special your time was together. That bond will never weaken....

Your trip to the farm sanctuary looks so heartwarming, definitely a good way to bring some peace to your heart.

Take care VKO.... you are an amazing woman!

springsandwells said...

This post brought tears to my eyes, and then a smile to my face. I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother. I almost lost my mom when I was in college, and it was a very very scary time.

It's so nice that you could heal your pain by loving the other little resilient spirits who have also recovered from traumatic events. I have been to the California Farm Sanctuary and I loved it so so much. Farm animals really do have such lovely & distinct personalities.

love & hugs to you

springsandwells said...

upon re-reading my comment... I just wanted to add that I didn't mean to imply that visiting farm sanctuary had healed all the pain of losing your mom. Only that your beaming smile shows that the critters did lift your spirits, which is wonderful.


vko said...

It's times like this when I am truly grateful for all my blog friends.

Veggie Girl- thank you and yes, the pigs made everything better.

Bazu- That trip was extremely restorative and my weekend would have been a perfect goat packed weekend for you. Of course I would have called if I was on my way-Watkins Glen & visitng Bazu go hand in hand.

Melisser- thank you and you need to let me know when you are in NYC so we can meet up!

Emmie- you are so sweet and I didn't mean to write a super sad teary post, but I totally know hormonal- everything makes me cry or makes me super bitchy when it's that time.

Village Vegan- you must make the trip to Woodstock's sanctuary. You will love it. Hope you are doing well in Germany.

R2K- always nice to have a smile, thanks.

Urban Vegan- ah my dear kindred spirit, our connection is really crazy. I have felt that too about living longer without my mother than I have with her- which is why I no longer remember her voice. I know that my family feels that I remind them of my mom. Thank you for reminding me- I also look a bit like her, but I also act a lot like her and that comforts me too. I'm sorry that your father has not been around, that's truly a shame. And that little feral appreciates the food & water and hopefully, will come around for you guys to snatch him up & get him a home. Life is a crazy thing and I am thankful for everything & everyone in it. xo

Pink Theory- thank you, you are so sweet. Please don't be silly, I am thrilled that you left a comment. I love comments from blog friends!

Neva- You are absolutely right. I am so glad that I have those tapes. I also feel like maybe if I keep watching them, it'll jog my memory of her voice. And I totally agree, I am bringing as many omnis as I can to farm sanctuaries when I can!

Theresa- it was totally healing to be with those lucky little creatures.

SKO- We are definitely going back to the sanctuary when you come back. I heart you lots & lots & lots.

Kristen- thank you!

Vegan Noodle- thank you for such sweet & inspiring words, really means a lot to me.

Springs & Wells- please don't apologize. I know exactly what you meant because the animals did help me. They brought me such joy. It was truly amazing. thank you again for you kindness.

Rage And Love said...

i am so sorry...

But she is resting in peace and looking down at you smiling at the beautiful daughter she has created that is helping the world on a daily basis.

That food looks soooooo yummy.

I was so excited to hear that you love depeche mode!!!!

I'm not going to be able to update my bloggy for a while beacause my new session at college has ya...

But check on me once and a while and I can't wait to update my fellow bloggers with much peectures of my food porn!

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

I've read this post a couple times now, and I just want you to know that it touches me. Peace.

aTxVegn said...

VKO, I reacted the same as Emmie. I was so sad for you that I could barely get thru the rest of the post. But then I saw you smiling with the animals, so I know you're doing okay. Please don't think you will ever forget your mom. I'm sure she is so proud of you.

the bulgarian said...

I am sorry that I am writing this comment here, although it is somewhat relevant to this blog and it will make some (vegan)people (possibly) angry, but I did have that conversation with your little sister about the "VKO-doesn't-buy-pearls-because-they-kill-the-oysters" dilemma, which I though was crazy and hilarious, but I think it makes you more interesting as a person- so I got over that. But as my I-am-sad-for-the-oysters emotions began to set in, SKO had to blurt out that you don't wear/buy silk simply because they kill the silkworms, at which point I regressed back to the only though..that you are crazy.
But fear not.I may never be as kindhearted to reach such lenghts as you have,but you may be happy to know that your blog has actually had some influence on me and certainly has made me a more undestanding person. I really am more accepting of vegetarians/vegans than I previously was and I (and SKO) are actually considering following (some of) your footsteps once we are in college and buy food ourselves. Sadly, for now, more chikens and pigs will have to die because I don't think our families will stop eating either animal.

laura jesser said...

Your story broke my heart... thanks for sharing, and I am glad that you have gotten through this time. Your account of the trip made me smile--I love that there are sanctuaries where these farm animals can live free of fear and cruelty. They are such sophisticated, wonderful creatures, and they deserve life as much as any other breathing thing that inhabits the earth, sea, or sky.

laura jesser said...


natalilly said...

you sure have gotten a lot of comments to this post... I will comment before I read them:

Your words brought tears to my eyes...I don't think I need to say more. But then, just when I was thinking we were moving on to a happier emotion, during your visit to the sanctuary, (I have always wanted to visit Farm Sanctuary as well), I got choked up all over again. I know it's better to focus on the positive, but when I see or hear stories of the lucky ones who get to lead the rest of their lives in peace, I can't help but think of all the rest. It's sad that even those of us who choose to use our consciousness and refrain from a lifestyle that directly contributes to the suffering of so many others, even we have to blind ourselves, I'd say 95% of the time, to the truth, because if we didn't, and thought about it ALL OF THE TIME, life would be absolute torture. The first few years I was vegan I lived that way, and didn't know how I'd make it through the rest of a lifetime. But at the same time, I absolutely HATE when I shut my mind off to it; it seems so selfish. Ok, I am rambling now... I'll just finish with saying that this totally bugs the sh*t out of me all the time:

"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."

I completely envy your access to sooooooooooo much amazing food/restaurants!!!!!!!!!!

bazu said...

Hi again, VKO! Just stopping by to see how you're doing, and to say I was thinking about you.


scottishvegan said...

VKO, I was so touched by your post. I cannot imagine at all what it would be like to lose my mum. I am glad that you could take some comfort in your trip.
The animals are all amazing…piggies are a favourite of mine! I love that pic of Judy sunning herself…she looks so contented!

Janey said...

I am so sorry for your loss and for all the painful memories you have. Thank you for sharing all those beautiful photos of the rescued farm animals, that was so touching. Thinking of you at this sad time.

dreamy said...

It must be really painful to lose a loved one at such a young age, actually I think at any age. But don't worry, this is part of life and time will heal.

I love the pics of the goats :) One of them look so silly in the pic :) Your meal look really wonderful too yum!

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