My wife’s birthday is coming up soon, and because I’m a terrible shopper (does anybody out there need a burnt orange, velour warm-up suit?) she always offers a few gift suggestions to make things easier for the both of us. Win/win…usually. This year was different. For her birthday she wants us to go vegan. My first thought was, ‘sure, I can be vegan on your birthday.’ But apparently I misheard. Not ‘be’ vegan…’go’ vegan. She wants us to start on her birthday, and then not stop. Now, I love my wife, and I’d do anything for her. But I also love cheeseburgers. And let’s be honest, my love affair with the latter began long before I ever met the former. Does that count for nothing? If one day my cheeseburger spoke up and suggested I go ‘single,’ would I be totally out of line to give it a little thought? But, all of that said, my better self won out and I told her yes. She’s easing me in with some fun sample recipes and a couple of good books on the subject, but the starting line (I almost said deadline, but that word has way too much ‘implication’ in it) is fast approaching and I’m worried I’ve bitten off more than I can chew…pun intended. Here’s what I hope. I hope I find all sorts of food that I like. I hope I see some health benefits…soon. I hope my marriage is blessed by this adventure. I hope my friends don’t laugh at me. And I hope the vegan community is gracious. I completely admire people who are passionately committed to a worthy endeavor, but I admit that I get scared when I see the outrage directed at Starbucks because of the ‘red dye from bugs’ thing, or the warning that my favorite wine may have touched an animal product during filtration. I’m not criticizing anybody who considers those major issues and targets them for change. But as I stand here, outside looking in, I hope that all-in vegans have open arms for us entry-level vegans. I hope we’ll be granted the grace of baby steps as we begin our journey. My birthday is six months away. My wife has told me that if I want, my gift can be that we return to being omnivores. I honestly hope that’s not what I’ll ask for.