Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Vegan Confession

Hello, my name is Debra and I am a vegan. 

That's right. Vegan. It is really no surprise to some of you I am sure. I have been slowly heading toward this lifestyle for a few years now. It is not even a big deal really, other than it is something I plan to write about here from time to time and share recipes and state of health updates when they are warranted.

In fact, a recent mini-health crisis is exactly what finally pushed me over the fence and into the land of plant power. I was having some digestive issues and found it necessary to see a western doctor as I did not know a good naturopath here in Maryborough. So, off I went and after a brief interview, I departed with the usual prescriptions for meds to "cure" my ails. I reluctantly spent the next few days downing the pills according to instructions and instead of feeling better, I began to feel worse. So, back to the doctor I go, and he takes me off those meds and gives me some different drugs. Stonger meds. Meds he usually only gives to patients for their nausea following chemotherapy. 

Things got worse. My nausea was gone, but now I was constipated. Badly constipated. OH MY GOD CONSTIPATED! Should I go to the hospital constipated?! As I lay in bed suffering and whimpering, I came across a book review for Rich Roll's new book, his follow up to Finding Ultra, titled The Plant Power Way. This is a man who was 40, fat and depressed a few years ago and is now a successful athlete, author, speaker and overall GOD of good health. His wife, Julie Piatt is his amazing counterpart and GODDESS of the green garden herself, and, the book's co-author. She is the chef in the family. I had been following this duo for some time, watching their story unfold and longing to be like them; to have that kind of dedication to my own health. Instead of skimming past the glowing review as I might have done in the past, this time I dove in. This was it. This was my turning point.

After downloading a few of their recipes, I ordered the book, and that day I became vegan. Just like that. Initially I thought maybe I would clean out the meats and cheeses from my fridge, but it really didn't matter. I did not even want them anymore. And besides, I am not the only one living in this house. Right now, I have one carnivore and one vegetarian in this house, so I was going to have to get used to the idea that I would be surrounded by foods I was no longer going to be eating, rather than use it as an excuse to stop me from eating the way I wanted to eat.

I was also inspired over the last couple of years by a restaurant called Raw Aura in Port Credit outside of Toronto. It is a raw, vegan eatery that I had enjoyed many times before I moved down under. I LOVED the food there. I never ate a bad meal there. Everything was fresh and full of flavour and beautifully presented and I always left feeling energized and well nourished. I never felt full and bloated. I never had a sugar crash two hours later. I once said, if I ever won a lottery, I would eat there three times a day. So why not eat there three times a day? In essence, it is entirely possible to eat there three times a day...only I would be making it myself at home. So, I started incorporating some of their recipes into my repertoire of daily meals. 

Google is a wonderful tool for this. I would look in my fridge and see what veggies were available on any given day and google things like "butternut squash, broccoli and cauliflower vegan recipes" and then just scroll through until I found one that sounded good and try it. I made some awesome dishes - Cauli-alfredo (no cream, no cheese, you'd never know, with quinoa pasta), Garlicky roasted Butternut Squash, Curried Coconut Soup, Creamy Cherry Tomato Sauce (cashews replacing the cream), Chick Pea Blondies, Chocolate Chia Pudding (avocadoes instead of milk) etc. I fed it to everyone in the house. They came back for seconds. No one complained, in fact, they raved. And that, I have decided is the trick. I think we all have this dread about how we will survive without cheese or meat, but the truth is, we can. Not only can we, but it can be beyond delicious. 

So, I stopped taking the meds. I am going to heal myself with food. If nothing improves in a month, I will reconsider. I had an ultrasound to rule out any sort of sinister tumour or whatever and it came back clear, as well as some blood work and other tests. I am also going to try to eliminate gluten wherever possible in case that has been a trigger for me. I am six days into my new regime and already feeling better. 

There was another inspiration leading me here as well. It could be the most important one. My brother is vegan. He chose to change his approach to food a few years ago when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He was a typical meat-eater leading up to this. After undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy, his doctors were delighted with his success in fighting off his cancer. He told them he had gone vegan and their response was - "keep it up, it's working." He allowed fish in his diet; the only animal protein he eats now. So, although this does not adhere to strict veganism, it is still a 99% vegan diet. I have decided to follow suit and allow fish from time to time as it will make life easier when dining out.

I will leave you with a link here to 5 recipes from The Plantpower Way. I made the Easy Tomato Sauce last night...left me wanting to lick the bowl! Super easy too! Go to the link and look for the pin with 5 easy recipes. Enjoy!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Thoughts on Friendship

FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another's eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.

I read this quote yesterday. It is an excerpt from a book called Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, by David Whyte. I immediately added this book to my wish list. As a woman without sisters, my girlfriends have been and always will be my "go to gals" for just about any and every step in my journey through this life, whether it be a bump in the road, a pinnacle reached or just the simple meanderings along the way that require some feedback or witnessing. 

Leaving them all behind to move to the other side of the world was only made possible by technology. Without the ability to Skype or text or email, it would have made my choice so much more difficult than it already was. What really struck me about the excerpt by David Whyte was that last sentence. 

Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.

I started to think about friendships of mine that had died over the years, versus ones that took a pause or dwindled due to distance or life changes. The friendships that pause are inevitably part of life but always remain hovering in the background. You know that all it would take is a phone call or an email to reconnect and you would catch up and despite whatever reason stands in the way of an ongoing connection, you are always there for each other. You have "tolerated" the reasons and understood why you drifted apart, yet never question the friendship.

The friendships that actually had to literally die really were due to intolerance. We have surely all experienced this. The friend who has not evolved. The friend you realized one day was racist. The friend who took advantage of you. The friend that lied to you...more than once. The day came when you could no longer tolerate their actions and it either died a slow death, or ended with a fatal blow; words that could not be taken back. Their actions were such that you were unable to show mercy. 

Put in such a way, it has given me a new perspective on two friendships that I ended over the years. I have always known that it was necessary, however it still left me with dangling threads. Threads of shared history. Threads of doubt. Was I too harsh? Was there any hope for the relationships? Could I have been more tolerant? Could I have been merciful? Or, as it stands, did I close the seam between us for the good of all concerned?

Friendships, like marriages take effort on both sides as we all know. I value my friends. I think they know I do. Just as I valued the friendships I ended for many years prior to their demise. I was witness to large chunks of their lives, as they were to  mine. The friends whose lives I witness now and who witness mine remain steady and sure with mutual give and take and ebb and flow and I guess I just want to say to all of them - thank you. 

Thank you all for your tolerance, your mercy and for everything you give me. 

Witnesses...each and everyone of us.