What Vegans Really Eat

I saw a post with this title floating around Pinterest, so I clicked on it out of curiosity. I’m (practically) a vegan, not by choice, but because my body won’t process (most) animal proteins. When I eat meat, dairy, or eggs, I’m left in pain and with … digestive repercussions. So my diet is plant based with some occasional fish which, strangely, my body can handle.

I’m always interested in what other vegans eat, usually finding that their diets are full of things I’m not interested in, like meat substitutes and scrambled tofu. This sample diet was, unfortunately, no exception. Her breakfasts were scrambled tofu with spinach and garlic or breakfast burritos with scrambled tofu. Lunch and supper featured seitan. Those just aren’t my things.

So for all the vegans who might eat simpler diets, I thought I’d post what I ate last week. It’s not very exciting, but not challenging to make and approved by the omnivores in my house. Enjoy.

Breakfast (each day with a small glass of orange juice, one cup black coffee, and water)

Monday: Chocolate Overnight Oatmeal Smoothie (I used this vegan Nibmore Drinking Chocolate for the cocoa powder.)

Tuesday: Grits (Quaker instant, plain), with whole wheat toast with Earth Balance (vegan) Buttery Spread (Note: many of Quaker’s instant flavors, including bacon, are vegetarian, if not vegan.)

Wednesday: Two slices of whole wheat toast, one with Earth Balance spread, one with peanut butter

Thursday: I was on the go, so I had pita chips and a banana in the car with a grande Starbucks soy latte and a handful of mixed nuts (I keep a canister in the car)

Friday: Grits and toast (I really like grits)

Saturday: Toast and peanut butter

Lunch – I won’t go day by day here. This week, I ate either leftovers or hummus with pita chips every day. I’m on a hummus kick lately and these are the two I ate this week:

Everything Bagel Hummus and Spinach Artichoke Hummus

I did not eat lunch on Thursday, when I got shot up with Toradol and went to bed!

Supper

Monday: Vegetable soup, crusty bread (I recently started making homemade vegetable stock, which is so much easier than it sounds. As I cut veggies all the time, I throw the ends of the onions, peppers, garlic, celery, etc., the carrot peelings, the mushroom stems into a gallon freezer bag which I keep in the freezer. Once it’s full, I put it in a large stock pot with about 9 cups water and salt and pepper it, throw in a bay leaf, and let boil. Then I reduce the heat, cover it, and let it cook for about an hour. Finally, I strain it through a fine mesh strainer and I have a ton of broth, which I freeze until I need it. Easy, healthy, and a good reuse for those veggies.)

Tuesday: Broccoli Curry Udon (This girl wrote my first vegan cookbook, Veganomicon, and I still use it. Her blog is awesome.)

Wednesday: Roasted broccoli and carrots, smashed potatoes, crusty bread

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: A handful of Five Guys fries (ordered in for the fam from GrubSouth), hummus and pita chips. Not my healthiest night!

Snacks

Lately, I’ve been snacking on that hummus a lot. I’ve admittedly been eating too many pita chips! It would be healthier to eat it with veggies, but …. I almost always have a handful or two of nuts during the day sometime. I’ll pick up a banana or some celery and peanut butter.

So … nothing hard. And each day, combining nuts and beans and milks, I get that pesky protein folks are always worried about. I didn’t go into this week expecting to write about it, so I didn’t make a big stir fry with fried tofu (which I do love and make often) or lots of other healthy, veggie and legume filled meals. So a simple week, not really paying attention, and still fulfilling what I need and not getting bored. Being vegan just isn’t as hard and complicated as folks make it seem.

Migraines, pt. 2

So yesterday I ended a four day migraine. Over the last couple of years, I’ve mainly gotten away with one day migraines that I could sleep off overnight. This last one, though, was a doozy that clung to me from day to day to day to day.

Yesterday, I wandered into my neurologist’s office, just a floor up from my psychiatrist’s office where I had an already scheduled appointment. I expected to leave a message for the nurse, further expecting that she would return my call and then order up a steroid pack for me. I had exhausted my other options: Fioricet, Cataflam, Midrin, and Lortab.

To my great delight, I discovered that my neuro has opened a migraine clinic! Within ten minutes, I was in a dark room talking to a nurse practitioner and ten minutes after that, I had my hip out getting an injection of Toradol and steroids. Had I had someone to drive me home, they would have given me some nice fat sedating meds, too. Alas, that wasn’t the case. But with the Toradol, I got to come home with an eased head and room to sleep off the migraine. Last night, I was pain free for the first time in days.

The next issue to address is why I have a constant low grade headache. As soon as the drugstore can get it filled, I’ll go on a med we haven’t tried yet, Calan. I’ve also determined I need to be more intentional with my diet. I’m not drinking enough water and too much booze when dehydration is killer for migraines. Chocolate is out, including the oatmeal chocolate smoothie I had for breakfast, as nourishing as it was. I eat a plant based diet, which is good, but I need to eat more constantly, making sure that I keep my blood sugar steady. I also need to make sure I’m getting enough sleep, a constant challenge for bipolar me.

So mainly good news: new migraine clinic, new med, a refocusing on lifestyle. First world solutions I’m lucky to have.

Migraines

There are some things I’ve inherited from my Mom that I so appreciate. Socially, she instilled in me her social graces, her sense of gratitude, her kindness (which I execute when my bipolar doesn’t make me a bitch), and her tolerance. Intellectually, she instilled her love for reading and learning. And genetically, I scored her beautiful blue eyes and the widow’s peak I love.

On the flip, I got her migraines. I’ve had many recently, I think due to weather and I have one as I type this. I heard a migraineur, as we’re called, on the radio once say that we can experience pain no one else can imagine and still function. I’m not sure that isn’t some hyperbole as I think sufferers of back pain could be right there, but I get her meaning. Right now, my face is burning, I feel like someone is driving daggers into the back of my head, and the front of my head feels as if there’s an open wound and someone is rubbing gravel into it. At least that’s the best way I can describe the pain to you.

I’m on daily medication, Topamax, to try and manage my migraines. My doctor recently tried to put me on an extended release version of this med, called Qudexy, but my insurance company, TriCare, declined to cooperate. When I get a migraine, I have several options to manage it. A medication called Fioricet, which I took first thing this morning, normally dulls the pain so I can function. If I need a stronger medication, I take an old school med, which is almost impossible to find anymore, called Midrin. Imitrex is a more popular option, but it makes me feel like I can’t breathe so I obviously stay clear and another popular option, Maxalt, doesn’t work for me.

When the migraine is unmanageable; when it makes me crawl to bathroom throwing up; when it takes my sight, actually blinding me; I go to the ER. ER docs are used to migraineurs. I get a good combo of Toradol, a pain med, and Compazine, a nausea med, some IV fluids, and sleep it off. I have both Toradol and Compazine at home, but the IV administration is better.

I’ve had MRIs to try and find out why I have frequent and tenacious migraines and the answer, as it is for so many migraineurs is, “no idea.” There is some evidence that bipolar folks have migraine disease. Why? Your guess is a good as mine.

When my Mom was about my age, she had terrible migraines. She even went to Duke University to participate in a study. Nothing came of it. I remember riding with her in the back of the car, taking her to the ER while she threw up. After menopause, her migraines virtually went away and now, in her 70’s, she has none. I can only hope that I’ll inherit that tendency, as well.

Avocado Boy

There’s a boy who’s stolen my heart. They (We) call him “Avocado Boy.” Here he is:

I love this kid. When have you seen something sweeter? My kids are pretty good at pretending they like the weird thing their Lola gave them for Christmas. But this kid … this kid … he’s awesome.

Because I love him so much, my beautiful, wonderful, creative children gave me the best Christmas present ever: an avocado. I laughed until I cried. Sometimes, this life brings me more joy than I can stand.

Nobody Brings Casseroles

Recently, another friend got in touch because she heard of Mom’s diagnosis. She was telling me that a friend of her Mother’s recently died with Alzheimer’s, but that no one really knew what was going on until the woman was too lost within herself to visit effectively.

When my Aunt Jane was diagnosed, I didn’t stay away on purpose, at least not at first. Her disease progressed rapidly, though, and she was dead three and half years after a diagnosis of frontal lobe dementia. My Dad kept me abreast of her decline and I realized fairly early on that the chances that she wouldn’t recognize me were pretty high and that wasn’t a reality I was prepared for. Not visiting her was a shitty thing to do, to her and myself and, especially, her family. But as we’ve learned, I don’t always make the right decisions, more frequently the selfish ones.

I think I’m learning, though, that dementia and, especially, Alzheimer’s (the word seeming to make all things worse) make selfish normal. People hear of Mom’s diagnosis and call me, not Mom, because it’s easier and they’re afraid of how they might find her. Mom doesn’t want anyone to know because of pride, which is a selfish emotion. So in the end, she is more alone. No one visits, no one offers help, no one brings casseroles.

Slowly, people will, of course, find out. Alzheimer’s is too big a secret to contain. But I suspect by that point, she will be past the need for casseroles and into the need for Mom-sitting. She will need less conversation and more listening, more simple companionship. And that’s a shame. Because now is the time when people could wring out their last memories of her. Now is the time for coffee and shopping, for singing with her at church, for a glass of wine in the afternoon, even if a little guidance is required. Now is the time to say, “Hey, I know your mind isn’t what it used to be, but that’s ok, I’m here and I’ll continue to be.” She won’t remember that for long, not when you’re bringing casseroles to her husband for a little respite care. I just wish that everyone, perhaps Mom especially, could put aside selfish long enough to make room for gratitude and love and friendship and all the good we could be doing now to give us things to hold onto later.

Loss

I was watching a Sports Center Special this morning and heard this question: “What would you do in the last hour of your life?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently. One might think my focus would be my Mom as Alzheimer’s very slowly takes her. But it’s much more mundane than that. I’ve been thinking about our cat, Cas, and how my daughter, who is in loving obsession with her, will handle it when Cas inevitably dies.

I know, I know: don’t borrow trouble. I’m a worrier, a condition would could via psychology be traced back to events in my life, but which is more likely a property of personality. I was reticent to get a pet. I remember how painful the death of my childhood pet was and wanted to protect my kids, my overly sensitive Sweet Girl especially, from that eventuality. But here we are, in a place where she is so completely attached that I fear Cas’ death will overwhelm her.

At this point, I think my Mom might die before Cas. Strangely, this doesn’t worry me as much, perhaps because we have time to prepare. Perhaps because she will go so slowly and in such a painful way, for us anyway, that we will be relieved when she goes.

Or perhaps it’s because Cas’ death is smaller, more manageable. Her death will happen, be managed, and pass. Whereas Mom’s death will linger, for the rest of our lives. I remember where I was when my Father told me that our cat died, but the aftermath is lost. The aftermath of my Grandmother’s loss still lingers. And that’s the difference.

The question this morning struck me: “What would you do in the last hour of your life?” If given a choice, I’d be with my kids, doing anything they wanted. Unfortunately, we usually don’t get to know that it’s the last hour of our lives. We may know with Cas, but we may not with Mom. In either case, I’m not sure it will matter. Their losses will be deeply felt, possibly with relief, in both the short term and the long. And whether in the longest hours or the last of my life, I will be there for my children, helping them through.

Context

As per tradition, my brother-in-law, Debate Dude, and his partner, Tea Dude, are here for Christmas with my Mother-in-law, Purple Lady. As should be obvious, Debate Dude and Tea Dude are gay.

Little Dude, who, as discussed before, is the most moral, ethical, and accepting person I’ve ever known, had a weird conversation with Debate Dude, which I only caught second hand. Apparently, Little Dude asked Debate Dude if he could call him “Gay Boy.” Debate Dude’s response was, as you might imagine, not positive. Debate Dude then said something along the lines of, “Sure, if I can call you ‘Fidget’.” Little Dude, believing in all things fair and having a sense that in family, love trumps all things so “Fidget” wouldn’t be mean, agreed, blowing Debate Dude’s plan to teach him a lesson.

I fear much of this was my fault, in an indirect way. In our house, we are so open about things which others find offensive, and please hear me loud and clear when I scream that homosexuality should never be offensive to anyone even though assholes find it so, that I think Little Dude assumed he could go anywhere and say anything to his Uncle(s). He didn’t imagine that Debate Dude would compare “Gay Boy” to the “N Word”. Here, at home, I call my bipolar self batshit crazy all the time. We talk about being godless heathens in our atheism. I will absolutely grant that we never make fun of Little Dude’s Tourette’s, but we do play with his ADHD, his sister’s social anxiety, Big Dude’s anger issues. I’ve always felt that getting these things out on the table at home, in an environment of love and acceptance, provides a sort of armor against a world that can be merciless. We are not hateful with each other, we are loving and kind and teasing in the way that only cohesive and healthy families can be.

So when Little Dude hit Debate Dude with “Gay Boy,” he didn’t mean to be nasty with a vile slur. Debate Dude doesn’t understand our little family’s circle of trust and Little Dude didn’t understand Debate Dude’s complicated history and present life. Context, as they say, is everything.