Main Street Vegan Academy Re-Cap: Days 4 and 5, Goodbyes, and More Travel

March 13th, 2013 - filed under: Furthermore » Inspiration

This guy was awesome, truly.

Day 4
Saturday. Our last full day. How had it gone by so fast??

First up for the morning was Michael Parish Dudell, fresh back from . . . I don’t know, somewhere snowy! He’d finally caught a flight and was kind enough to come talk to us, even though I’m sure he was exhausted. And I’m so glad he did!

Man, this dude is inspiring. Whip-smart, young and driven, so passionate about his work, and enjoying great success because of all that. And I’m a bad blogger and I didn’t take any pictures, eep! But he gave us two presentations. The first was on Animal Use And The Environment, and what I loved most about this talk was how Michael stressed over and over the importance of *accuracy* when discussing such important issues as these. Quoting “facts” or statistics that are blown way out of proportion, exaggerated, or simply unsubstantiated, does not help make our case at all. Because we do have the numbers on our sides, and we do have the facts on our side, so there’s just no need to slip into hyperbole. That’s the way I’ve alway tried to approach things when writing here, and I was so happy to see someone with such influence promoting the same message.

And the numbers, the facts, and the figures he presented regarding animal use and environmental destruction were, of course, troubling as all get out. *sigh*

His next session was on Marketing. I hate marketing! Which is why I loved this session, because I really really need to learn. I’m so uncomfortable with self promotion and I’m skeeved by the idea of “being a brand” and I can’t stand feeling “sell-y”, but I’ve also learned after many years that I simply cannot work for free anymore. And more importantly – I shouldn’t. Because I’m worth more than that.

So this talk was very significant for me, especially when Michael opened up the floor for questions and I was able to pretty much barrage him with all my thoughts and concerns and we talked a lot about my potential future and this here little website and all that sort of stuff and WOW – valuable!

And then there was Fran.

Fran Costigan is the “queen of vegan desserts”, author of “More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts, Naturally” and the upcoming “Vegan Chocolate For Everyone” (Running Press 2013). Also, she has fabulous shoes:

But seriously, Fran is truly the best of the best, and was the perfect person to teach us The Art Of The Food Demo. Food demos are a big part of being a vegan educator and can be an important step in getting your name out there in your city. And they are intimidating! Especially for someone like me – you know, a the crippling phobia of public speaking.

Fran offered us all sorts of amazing tips and techniques she’s gathered along her many years of experience. It was delightful and once again, so very very valuable.

Fran had lunch with us, another amazing home-cooked meal of chili, chips and guacamole, and super-sized salad. After we’d eaten and re-caffeinated, Fran presented another interactive talk entitled The Sweet Dilemma. Much like earlier with Michael Dudell, I really appreciated Fran’s honest no-nonsense approach. Like she says: dessert is dessert so don’t kid yourself, it’s not healthy! She taught us all about the many natural sweeteners, their upsides and their drawbacks, but the bottom line was the same. They’re all sugar, and should all be eaten in great moderation. Hear hear!


Aaaaaand then I got totally star struck, because into the room walked two of my very, very most favorite vegans: Mariann and Jasmin from Our Hen House. I love this podcast and I love these ladies who host it! They are smart, sassy, humble, funny, and did I mention smart as hell? And of course, they provided the Animal Rights and Legal Issues portion of our education (since they are avid animal rights activists, and Mariann is a lawyer and professor of animal law).

This session was fun, and compelling, and also I am a geek. Luckily, after their talk my classmate Lynette (the other blogger, the one from Qatar, the personal stylist, and mother of two, and . . . awwww, Lynette is so awesome!) convinced me to go introduce myself and chat.

Totally flustered, like a true pro eh?

I’m so glad I met them though, and damn I need to work on my shyness! Jasmin and Mariann were awesome, and they were familiar with (and fans of!) my work, and now I’m writing a piece for Our Hen House. So let that be a lesson, friends (and self!). Kick shyness to the curb – connect!

Our final presentation of the day was a panel discussion led by three MSVA graduates who’ve set up successful coaching practices: Dianne Wenz, Alicia Leeds Meyers, and Jaime Karpovich. This panel was awesome and also ENCOURAGING, as these ladies had all taken this course and then gone back home and actually done something with it. Because it’s one thing to sign up, take a class, make plans. It’s also totally overwhelming. And it can begin to feel a little bit too overwhelming, like . . . how am I going to take all this amazing knowledge and synthesize it and make it my own and find a way to spread it through the world and also I need to make a living!? It’s scary, and that’s why this was such a great panel to include. Getting to talk to these three entrepreneurs gave us all a whole lot of hope.

Also on a personal level, I was so excited to meet Jaime! We’d been emailing back and forth for a few months and I don’t know, like I said a few posts back, it’s not often that I just *click* with people, but something clicked with Jaime and I. She is really amazing, if you haven’t seen her blog please get thee over to Save The Kales. She produces a vegan cooking show which is seriously fantastic, and also blogs about all sorts of other great stuff.

After the panel we all hopped into taxi vans – the entire class plus the three grad panelists – and caravanned over to Blossom for dinner. Um, YUM!

I sat next to Jaime at dinner (of course) and we got to chat about blogging and veganism and trying to live your dream and all that wonderful stuff. And of course because we’re bloggers, we took a pic and while we were chatting away, Jaime casually uploaded it to her Facebook. I kid you not, less than 5 minutes later, a young man walked up behind us and cleared his throat. We turned around.

Um . . . are you guys, like . . . bloggers?

Jaime and I both look at each other, “Uh, yes?

Guy holds out his phone with the picture we just took not 5 minutes ago – “Is this you?

Explosions of laughter. The guy explains: his sister back home in another state is a fan of Jaime’s, and saw that she posted a pic from Blossom. This girl knew her brother was eating there at that very moment, so she texted him the link and told him to find us. SMALL WORLD GUYS!

*not going to comment on the bags under my eyes* *not going to comment on the bags under my eyes* *not going to comment on the bags under my eyes* *soooooo tiiiiiiired*

As for the dinner itself? Holy moly . . .

I started with a green juice (apple, celery, parsley, lemon, ginger) and we split (4 ways) a bottle of wine. For my meal I got the Autumn Sweet Potato Rolls (raw – with coconut noodles, jicama, carrot, red and yellow pepper, scallion, avocado, and an almond ginger dipping sauce) and the Tofu Chopped Salad (with spiced tofu, iceberg, radicchio, watercress, carrot, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cherry tomatoes, wakame, arame, sunflower sprouts, and peanut dressing). Too stuffed for dessert!

After that we all said our goodbyes and I was back to my hotel room, where I had work to do! Lots of work, lots and lots of . . .



Finally, I remembered to photograph our breakfast. Last day, oatmeal buffet!

Day 5
Our last morning, just a half day of classes, culminating in our graduation at noon. And the first speaker up was . . . me!

That’s right, after I enrolled in the course, Victoria realized I’d written Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, and asked me to give a short talk on Coaching Pregnant Vegans. What an honor!

I was so scared, with my fear of public speaking and all. Also, I have this tendency to – in my mind – completely invalidate my own knowledge. I don’t know why, but I just convince myself that I don’t know much or my experience and wisdom isn’t valuable, or something. It’s ridiculous.

So giving this talk was a double-whammy confidence builder. One, because all eyes were on me and I was scared shitless and I ROCKED it, and two, because I realized that I really am an expert in this subject, and even though I was surrounded by incredibly smart people, I was able to teach them a lot they didn’t know. That was really empowering for me, and I’m trying to hold onto that feeling as I move forward, now.

Next up was Sharon Nazarian teaching us Social Networking As A Tool For Vegan Business And Outreach. I am such a bad blogger with my lack of pictures! But Sharon is really awesome – check out her blog Big City Vegan. She had so much to share and invited a lot of participation in the conversation, which led to some really interesting insight into how we can and should (or shouldn’t – eek privacy!) use social media in this day and age. I wish she’d had more time!

After a snack and a quick break, it was time for our final speaker. Again, no pictures (sorry!). Rynn Berry is a historian and scholar, and gave a fascinating talk entitled The History Of The Vegan, Vegetarian, And Raw Food Movement From Antiquity To The Modern Day. I loved this as our ending lecture, as it really tied everything together with a big-picture perspective. Also, I think “Berry” is maybe the best last name EVER.


And then, just like that, it was time to go. Victoria handed us our graduation certificates. Those of us who could, went out to a celebration lunch at PeaceFood Cafe. Those of us who couldn’t – like me – found ourselves in a hasty and tearful departure.

I really didn’t mean or expect to cry, but I totally did. It was all such a whirlwind, right down to the flurry of hugs at the very end. This is what I look like when Im trying to smile, but I’m actually crying:

With Lynette – saying goodbye to her is what got me crying in the first place! *saaaad*

But I had a plane to catch, and “goodbye” is part of the bargain. I hustled home to my beloved B&B, packed my bags, and hailed a cab.

Goodbye New York!

And that, I guess, was the end of that. I had a nice long flight to try and make sense of it all, but . . . yeah right. It’s been a few weeks and I’m still trying to take it all in. WHAT an experience! Life changing. Amazing.

And I just can’t wait to see what happens next!

The rest of the story:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

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  • Sonja

    it sounds like a truly groundbreaking experience! And I’m totally glad that you met so many nice people! Can’t wait what’s next for you, too! xoxo

  • Rev. Russell Elleven

    Wonderful re-cap and you did indeed ROCK your presentation!

  • Kathryn B.

    Loved it!!! And just thinking out loud…..Your a wonderful writer. You make everything fun and educational. I actually have a notebook full of your cleaning “recipes” that I use around my house. Have you ever thought about doing a Clean Vegan household book? Maybe a way for you to do what you want and make some money.

  • Deirdre

    Thanks for taking us along for the adventure! I look forward to how this all unfolds for you- please do keep us posted. Incidentally, I interviewed Victoria for my other blog- Ladies Holiday in case you’re interested (it’s Proust Style – like the back page of Vanity Fair) and Mai-ly for another publication I wrote for:

    I don’t want to be all smarmy, but when you wrote about the guy in the restaurant with the facebook link- I laughed, because all along as I’ve been reading your updates, I’ve been thinking geesh, it is a small world since I too have a connection (however small) to them and then when I read that I took it as a sign that at least in the vegan/forward thinking/blogging world it is kinda sorta small and sweet. Love that.

    Anyway- Cheers!

  • Joy

    It was fun to follow your NYC adventure.

  • Cammila

    Heee, I’m so happy you got a picture of the oatmeal buffet! So lame, but

    that is seriously enough to make me giddy with excitement. I’m so not
    surprised that parting brought a tear or two — this whole amazing
    description has kind of reminded me of summer camp. In a really awesome
    way. :)

  • Cammila

    Uh, also: I hope this wasn’t already referenced and I’m blind/dumb, but am I the only one who hears “Vegan Academy” and immediately thinks of Scott Pilgrim?

  • Joselle

    This whole series was great to read. Can’t wait to hear how you manifest this experience into something all your own. You got to meet so many amazing people in the movement! I love victoria’s booms, which i first heard about on Our Hen House!

  • Joselle

    Books not booms!

  • justmeactually

    I can’t wait to read your work on Our Hen House! I love what you have to say here on your blog and I also am a huge OHH fan so the combo should be amazing.

  • Michaela

    So glad you’re back.

  • Bella

    Hey Sayward, what a trip! It’s been really interesting to read about the course, sounds kinda heartbreaking to have to leave :(
    I am so glad you got to speak and you prove to yourself that not only can you do it, but you can do it really well and what you have to say has value.
    I recently had a similar career empowering moment like that. To realise “hey, I’m actually smart and good at what I do and people can benefit from learning from me because NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS” is a very powerful and special thing. I’m so happy for you that you got to experience that. And I think that once you have reconised that there is no turning back.- your confidence will be permanently boosted! And hooray for that!

  • Sierra Dawn

    Wowee!! What an amazing recap of a super amazing experience! I can’t wait to see what you do with all of this. Sayward, you are so inspiring, really! I admire your courage to say no to a draining 9 to 5 job and actually follow your heart. That really spoke to me. This Academy sounds so well rounded, and you got to meet so many cool people! I recently started a blog at the request of a friend who asked me for help in cleaning up her nasty, nasty eating habits. Now the wheels are turning… a vegan Academy?? Omg a vegan life coach?? Could I? Should I? What a great way to change the world!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Aw, thanks Russell! What have you been up to since you’ve been back??

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It’s amazing, “groundbreaking” is a great way of putting it!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Kathryn, that is seriously the best compliment I could ever hope to receive. Thank you! I’ve actually considered something like that – more generalized though, more like a BA coffee table type book with all the cleaning recipes and lifestyle tips and lots and lots of amazing photos. A girl can dream . . .

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Awesome you interviewed Victoria! She is so freakin’ wise. And Mai-ly too, that’s so cool. I’d love to do an interview with her (hopefully in the future . . . )

    It really is a small world. Especially in this digital age. We are ALL connected.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Joy! Glad you liked it. =)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It was totally like summer camp! Like an incredibly short and ice cold summer camp, with less making out (at least that I know of!)

  • Sayward Rebhal


  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, I was totally confused by booms. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks, should be up late March/early may!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    ME TOO! =D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    You’re so right, and that’s really how I feel. it’s like a flip has been switched and I feel so empowered. No turning back! Full steam ahead!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It is amazing to follow your dream. Also scary and HARD and oh my god girl, I can’t even tell you how poor I am. So, you know, a word of caution. BUT, I am loving this path and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. It feels right and I’ve never been happier, so it just has to be right (right??!) You only live once, you know? So LIVE!, I say. ♥

  • Beens

    Oh Sayward! I visited NYC for the first time 3 years ago, and during my first evening there, I stumbled into Cafe Blossom on Columbus very jetlagged and had a wonderful meal. I remember thinking, “Bonzai would love this place.” Even now I remember the delicious juices I sampled (which got me through a stiflingly hot NY summer!)

  • Kathryn B.

    I will defiantly be buying into that dream when it becomes a reality!!

  • Lynette Cowie

    Hey Sayward, what a super account of our shared amazing MSVA experience. You’ve included just great detail, fun sights, great memories. You’re quite simply so special and so is your blog!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Lynette! Are you going to write about MSVA on your blog as well? And Paris fashion week!

  • Rachel Jacobs

    Funny, and a little creepy, that the guy found you…but all for the love of his sister I suppose.

    I had heard, from reading Dianne Wenz’s blog, that you presented to the class.

    How Awesome!

    I can totally empathize with the fear of speaking. High Five to you though for getting through it and presenting your information. I think self-doubt is what holds us introverts back from just getting out there and standing by our information.

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