Hi, June was my third year anniversary of going vegetarian. I only started to be strictly vegan 5 days ago. I want to teach out to the community, but it worries me, because I have had bad experiences with some vegans. As a vegetarian, some told me it was good that I had made a change, and others scolded me strongly for not making a full commitment, and questioned my commitment and motives. I am almost an almost fifty, straight, white, American male, who grew up in a different time from how things are now. I graduated from a Southern Baptist Seminary, and didn't vote Democrat. I do now, and I am in a progressive, inclusive church which focuses on social justice. It had taken me a long time to get to were I am now, from where I was originally. I know scolding never worked on me at all. I can take criticism, or questions, but coming from a traditional religious background, seems having progressed away from it, I am not for black and white, cut and dry dogmas. My life is lived in shades of gray. I work as a vet tech, and I know some vegans are against having pets. I have two cats, one dog, three teens and a wife, all of who aren't vegan or vegetarian, but have supported my changing lifestyle for the years, and learned to put up with veggie crumble. I still wear leather shoes, because I am not far above the poverty line, because they haven't worn out yet, and because I am worried that expensive vegan shoes won't cut the mustard. I mostly eat a whole food diet, with cooked whole grains, beans, raw fruit and veggies and some nuts. I use salsa (fresh and jarred) in almost everything, seems I am happy with that. This has been my diet for three years, though I have still used a lot of cheese and some eggs. I used to go on cheese binges all the time. A week ago I ate an entire block of Monterey Jack at one sitting. That, plus my resting blood pressure being horrible, made me decide to just take the plunge. In five days I went from 290 lbs, with a rating blood pressure in a dangerous range, to 281 lbs (water weight loss probably) and my blood pressure, at the doctor yesterday, was 110/94 (really normal). I was at a restaurant Thursday, and all I could order was a house salad without cheese or hard boiled egg, with Italian dressing, and a plain baked potato, with ketchup. The only oil the kitchen had was canola. I made myself do it, and am glad I did. The restaurant thing will be a struggle. This is Chicagoland, the land of processed meats, and we are struggling financially. 85% my food comes from Aldis. Anyway, I am alone here. My brother and his wife and my cousin and his wife are vegan, but in California and Florida respectively. I am autistic and don't drive, so finding vegan met ups would be hard. My wife had taken me to Veggie Fest, a local festival we have hear, and it was like going home. (My wife is wonderful and has been very supportive, despite not wanting to be meat free herself.) I guess I am hoping to connect, without getting attacked for my deficiencies. Thank you for listening.