Marlee: My mom and I have always been close. She has taught me countless skills, lessons, and morals. If I had to boil it down to the most important thing she has taught me, it’s probably compassion.
Maybe it’s because we have very similar personality types – maybe it’s our companionship – or maybe it’s our common desire to break boundaries and try new things – but many of our big life decisions have been made together.
When I was 12, I remember telling my mom that I didn’t want to eat meat anymore. It wasn’t just that I didn’t enjoy the taste, I couldn’t wrap my brain around raising and killing animals for food. My family has always included dogs and cats (growing up, family friends playfully would refer to my parents’ home as “the animal house”) and I remember making the connection at 12 that farmed animals were not so different from my furry brothers and sisters. My mom not only supported my decision by acquiring vegetarian cookbooks and trying new recipes with me – she became vegetarian herself not long after.
After 12 years of vegetarianism (and several stomach wars with dairy) I had another decision to discuss with my mom. “You know, I’m thinking of becoming fully vegan,” I told her. I remember feeling so nervous that she would challenge me on this. I was prepared for the typical health concern questions and the dread of not knowing what to prepare for family gatherings.
She did challenge me in the ways I was prepared for, but what I had not prepared for that evening two years ago, was that I would be challenging her. I could see an intellectual battle taking place in her mind: a yearning to hear more about how I had come to this decision, against a fear of hearing more about how I had come to this decision. This is a fear I have seen more than once on peoples’ faces when they ask why I’m vegan. It is a fear that they might want to make changes in their own lives once they hear this new perspective. This fear, or mental discomfort, I would learn, is also known as cognitive dissonance.
My mom listened to everything I had to say. She asked thoughtful questions. She digested new information. Information that was still new to me, and had me angry and sad. It wasn’t more than two weeks later that my mom asked me to send her the films, articles, and podcasts that inspired my decision. Then, a few days later, my mom was vegan too.
When I first heard about Marlee’s decision to be vegan, I was taken aback and a bit unsure of how to react without offending her. I asked the first question people ask when they are uneducated about what it means to be vegan: “Oh no honey, really? But what will be your source of protein?”
At this time, Marlee was working for a professional theater company and became friends with a couple who were vegan, and I knew she had spent a lot of time talking with and learning from them. This is what also sparked my interest, and I felt an immediate pull in my heart to talk with her and hear about what she was learning.
We talked and cried together into the wee hours of the morning. She enlightened me on many truths about modern-day farming and the inhumane treatment of animals that are raised for food. I had been vegetarian for several years because I disagreed with killing animals for their meat. What I was clueless about was what goes on in the dairy and egg industries. After reading as much as I could, and watching heart-wrenching videos – I remember watching newborn calves being dragged from their mothers following their birth – to either be raised for their flesh if male, or used and abused for milk just like their mothers if female – it was suddenly a no-brainer for me. As we both say to people who ask why we are vegan, we can never “un-know” what we’ve learned.
During the first stages of my transitioning, I went through bouts of depression and feelings of guilt and disappointment around coming to this decision at age 52. Marlee is the one that would remind me to not dwell on the past and to focus on the positive change I was making in the world – for the animals, the planet, and my own health. I had severe joint pain in my hands for over a year, and after eliminating dairy from my diet, the pain went away. I am so grateful for my daughter’s support during that time. While there are certainly still times of darkness, and there will be as long as these practices continue, I can honestly say that becoming vegan has been one of the best decisions of my life.
We describe our veganism as a journey because that is truly what it is. It is a continuous quest and learning experience. It is not perfect – it is not without its challenges. And it goes far beyond food. While dietary choices were the springboard into this lifestyle, my mom and I are always searching for cruelty-free clothing, cosmetics, household products, furniture, jewelry, and the list goes on. Sure, it might take a bit more digging to find certain items, but the gratification from finding a 100% vegan product always trumps any extra energy we might have to put into the search.
Cooking, while it has always been one of our favorite times together, has become even more exciting and special now that it’s plant-based. Finding new recipes, playing with new ingredients, and enjoying the food together is one of the most fulfilling experiences. And when our omnivorous family members and friends enjoy our dishes as much as we do? Well, that’s just icing on the vegan cake!
The pure joy that comes from causing the least harm possible is our favorite thing about this lifestyle. To see the value in every life on earth – not just human – is an amazing, humbling, and spiritual feeling that is difficult to even put into words. My mom and I both recall a feeling of “having the blinders lifted from our eyes” after becoming vegan. Not only in that we were opening our hearts and minds to many harsh realities for the first time – but we were also opening our hearts and minds to so many other living creatures for the first time. Every living thing we saw – from trees, to insects, to birds, to fish, to the cats and dogs we lived with, to other people – all had a new glow. A place and a purpose on this planet.
When I was 12 years old, explaining to my mom why I wanted to be a vegetarian, I never could have predicted all of the learning, changing, and growing that we would do together in the coming years. And of course, the learning and changing never stops. The compassion my mom taught me as a young girl, and continues to instill in me and the world around us, is the greatest gift I could ever receive.
Guest post by Marlee and Lori Turim
My name is Marlee and I am currently pursuing a Masters of Education in Humane Education from Valparaiso University. I became vegan after 12 years of vegetarianism, and love being a part of this peaceful and powerful movement. I enjoy vegan cooking and baking, hiking, biking, traveling, and spending time with family. I currently live in Iowa with my boyfriend and our hilarious cat, Miles.
My name is Lori and I live with my husband, David and our two kitties in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I worked for several years as an educator, and now work in our family business. I love being outdoors, spending time with my family and friends, and living a vegan life.