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!
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.
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!
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 . . .
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:
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.
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!