Part of the Tribe

As people age, their tastes change. Much like their developing tastes for vegetables, people mature in their tastes for friends.

When you are young you are willing to overlook a character’s shortfalls just to have company. This is a perfect example of quantity of quality.

Once you hit a certain maturity, the crude jokes, beer bong records or sharing a common enemy are no longer top priorities in your friends. You try and seek out people with common interests, similar beliefs or mutual friends.

That process sounds pretty simple, right?
Now imagine you live on a teeny tiny island in the middle of the Corn Sea. You are surrounded by uncivilized natives who seem to only concern themselves with their image and showing their fake dedication to the deity. They use all of their assets to dress up in sparkly trinkets to try and raise their social standing.

The natives spend their weekends guzzling potions from the medicine man and trading their women. On Sundays they all show up at their temples to gain forgiveness for their previous day’s excursions. They take turns strutting through the lines of other natives, seeking judgement and approval on their war paint and costumes, and the size of their huts.

Their empty lives cause them to spend time tearing down the other natives, rooting for them to fail, so that they may advance in popularity.

Looks and status out rank curiosity and courage. Education takes a back burner to legacy and standing within the tribe. You cannot trust anyone, because they would gladly throw you to the wolves just to move up in the tribe.

Faced with all of this, you must make a choice. Either befriend the natives and pretend to respect their way of life just to survive or spend your time outside of the tribe in solitude.

As a child, fitting in seemed pretty easy. You just followed the mid-level native who accepted you and were just happy to be included. Now life is much more complicated. You have standards
Priorities that differ greatly from those around you.

I think my choice would be to build a boat and row away from the little island in the Corn Sea to a place where adults read books, value education and question the establishment. Where grown ups support each other, and help each other succeed. Where your costume isn’t judged by anyone. In fact, you are celebrated for your uniqueness and revered for individuality. You are praised for having a hut to house your family, instead of having your worth based on the size of your hut. Your children are accepted for being themselves, not painted up and used as status symbols.

We all know there is no Corn Sea and definitely no tiny island, but most of us have been there, and we all know the natives. Some of you are just like natives while the others are struggling to fit in. Don’t be afraid to build your boat and row to a place that makes you happy.


Summer Success

It has been a while since I have written. It isn’t that I haven’t had anything to say, it’s just exhausting saying the same things over again.

Typically in my life, some things improve while new issues arise, and that remains true for these past few months. Because of my WFPB lifestyle, my severe photosensitivity has almost vanished. I can now be exposed to sunlight without the immediate burning and blistering, accompanied by nausea and fatigue. Of course, there is always a catch…now my face erupts with an upper lip melasma, which is a brown discoloration of a particular area of skin…a very noticeable, semi-permanent lady stache. Not to sound ungrateful, but the universe has a fucked up sense of humor.

The summer has seemed to go by so quickly. The majority of my time has been spent indoors, recovering from the few events outdoors that I have been able to enjoy. My boys’ first real baseball seasons, family trips to the pool, a long overdue trip to the zoo, and thanks to my sister, in a few weeks, a 4 day trip to the beach. I am overwhelmed with joy to see my boys as they step on the beach for the first time. This will be a much needed break for the entire family.
Of course, my health is trying to prevent this trip, but I am going if I have to drag a doctor to the beach with me.
I have started getting the hang of WFPB cooking. At first I was biting off more than I could chew (pun intended) and trying to take on more complex recipes. I also had unrealistic expectations for my health and weight loss goals. I am conquering simple recipes and snacks. I have cut out bread and processed foods completely and my sweet tooth is slowly disappearing with the discovery of nice cream and baked sweet potatoes. My stomach has never felt better and my skin looks great (aside from the mustache). I know that things will continue to improve.

Lately, I have been battling orthostatic hypotension, and a bad case of plantar fasciitis. It has put a damper in my workout schedule, but I know once I can get things under control, I will be back in the gym. Next month, I will have surgery on my foot to fix the PF, so I know I will be writing up a storm while I heal. Then I plan to be back in the gym with a vengeance. Stay tuned…

Knowledge is Often Powerless

Sometimes I wish knowledge was like, The Matrix. You can choose to take one pill and live blissfully ignorant forever not knowing the dangers of life.

Instead, the veil has been lifted and I can’t un-learn the truth. I know what food I put in my body affects my health. Since I transitioned to a whole food, plant based lifestyle, my health has improved so much. I can be in the sunshine for the first time in years, without burning and becoming ill. My stomach no longer aches everyday. I don’t swell in every part of my body. I don’t have to hide inside while I suffer with constant, unbearable gas.

While that’s all amazing, I still struggle every day. I struggle as I choke down a dry baked potato while my family devours cheesy chicken pastas ice cream treats. I struggle when our cabinets are bare and I have to stay the course, instead of throwing a waffle in the toaster or slapping together a turkey sandwich, I experiment with complicated new recipes and replacements for my lifelong comfort foods. I cheerfully eat my microwaved sweet potato or slurp down my green smoothie because I know if I eat that ice cream or enjoy a bowl of mac and cheese, I will immediately feel it’s disgusting effects on my body. I will suffer from it’s poison for days.
I find it almost impossible to ignore the propaganda that still enslaves my loved ones. I want to scream from the roof tops and make them understand the truth. The sicknesses, the pain, the suffering that is caused by what we are told is healthy.
As much as I would love to continue with my rant, I haven’t written for a few weeks, so I won’t overload this post with my conspiracy theories and rambling, but I will say, please, pay attention to what you are putting in to your body. Read labels, learn the facts and if you choose the pill that brings you to truth, know that it comes with rewards as well as weight of responsibilities.

Healthy Isn’t Easy

What do you do when you have done everything right, but you only get worse?
I’ve been on my fitness journey for a year now. I started from scratch with no idea or inclination of how to workout or weight train. My trainer taught me the basics and I have spent every day teaching myself more. I read, watch videos, experiment with the weights and machines. I take low impact classes and even learned water aerobics.

I have been whole food plant based for three months. Before, my diet had slowly progressed from a processed carbohydrate filled bundle of cheese and ice cream to a semi normal, protein-rich low-fat plan. As for vegetables, legumes and whole grains, they weren’t really part of my regimen, unless they were floating in ranch dressing. I learned and research and only through guidance from great people like Pastor Karl, The Stanczyks and YouTube channels like, Eat, Move, Rest or Raw Vegan Not Gross, or Documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Eating You Alive and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I read Books like, “Goodbye Lupus,” and “How Not to Die.” There is a wealth of information and loads of resources and encouragement.
I’ve struggled through injury, weakness, sickness. I endure constant ridicule. I pass up greasy food and sweet treats when they are all around me. Still, my stomach inflates and pressure builds.

I go to the gym when I can barely walk. I take my cocktail of prescriptions, even when I know they are dangerous. I listen to my doctors, I follow instructions. I research home therapy or foods that I can incorporate to improve my health. Yet, every day something more goes wrong. With every workout, I get weaker. With every movement, something else aches and swells. I reduce my intensity and the pain is worse. I try different exercises and new muscles stiffen and bones creek. I stretch and do yoga to relieve the aches,but then the pain shoots in new directions.

Sometimes the struggle is too much. Sometimes I am too exhausted to fight. I’m too weak to prep my fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. Many times, I am far to weak to go to the gym or stretch my muscles. There are even days that my eyes are too weak to see to write.

Then I pick myself back up, I find another way, another form of therapy, an alternative to stay with my diet or a lighter form of exercise. I push on and hope for the best, because I know there is a better way to live, there will be relief someday.

None of it is easy. There are no magic potions or pills, no quick fixes, that will truly improve your health permanently. Becoming healthy is the hardest thing you will ever do, but don’t ever tell me you aren’t capable of changing your diet or starting to exercise, because if I can wake up every day and continue, what seems like a hopeless journey, you can make changes for the better.

The Chiropractor Changed My Diet

When my stomach had bloated to the size of a beach ball, and I was suffering in so much agony, that just trying to move made tears well up I my eyes, I decided I was willing to try anything to get some relief.

I was taking laxatives like candy, drinking prune juice by the gallons, cramming fiber in every way I could, but there was no relief. I came across an article about how chiropractic care could alleviate the pain and bloating from constipation. I didn’t hold out much hope. I had seen a chiropractor many times,just not for this particular ailment… What the hell, I could either give the chiropractor a chance or continue to beg my family to jump up and down on my belly to pop it like a balloon.

My first visit was very different from what I was used to. The nurse performed a battery of tests with different devices I had never seen. The doctors checked my balance, my blood oxygenation, my eye movements…I was slightly overwhelmed. They even did a couple of allergy tests. In the end, they offered some advice: Cut out processed wheat gluten, dairy and limit my corn consumption. I was horrified. Are you fucking crazy? What was I going to eat? Without a diet of bread. Pasta, oatmeal, cheese and ice cream, I would surely starve to death.

With great protest, I agreed to start slow with eliminating gluten. After one day, I could feel my stomach starting to gurgle back to life. Hmmm, I might as well eliminate dairy too. Within a week, I was going number two on command. My stomach was no longer swollen. I could bend, reach and lean comfortably without feeling like a boulder was strapped to my abdomen. Even my workouts improved. I had more agility, stamina and flexibility.

If this is how good I can feel by eliminating wheat and dairy, what else could my diet do for me?
As if by magic, I found a facebook event for a presentation on plant based dieting, scheduled for the following week. I attended the presentation and it was like that moment in the movies where the light bulb goes on in my head and the background music plays Hallelujah. Food wasn’t about stuffing yourself with sugary, greasy blobs of temporary happiness. Food is medicine. Food is fuel. It makes perfect sense. The better quality of fuel you give your machine, the better performance you will get. If you cram a bunch of synthetic crap in your machine, it will slowly break down. Almost every ailment, condition or symptom I struggled with could be helped, even cured by starting a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. I was terrified to say the least, but if I could feel better and even cure my Lupus, why not give it a shot? I have been plant based for roughly three months, and I have lost 10 more pounds and I have not felt this good in years. I wake up every day with the goal to fuel my body to get its best performance and I know I am kicking Lupus’ ass in the meantime.

Chronic disease, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, acne, eczema… Almost any chronic condition is preventable or reversible with whole food, plant based eating. It is a huge lifestyle change, but it is all worth it to get my life back.

I Should Have…

Do you ever have days where nothing seems to go right, but everything is moving so fast, you don’t have time to stop and redirect? I had one of those days yesterday, so I am going to take the opportunity to run through my day backward explaining what happened and how what I could have done things differently.

I am going to start simple. Instead of being in a rush to give my dinner order at that restaurant, I should have taken my time, ordered a baked potato and veggies, instead of that very delicious, but very gut busting waffle.

Wow! This is easy. Ok…next. Instead of a crazy, fart laden, express train to Hell, filled with screaming escaped zoo monkeys, what I should have done is say, “no!” to extra children riding in my van. Then I could have enjoyed a nice quiet ride home, from Child #1’s baseball game, while my boys watched a video and slowly drifted off to sleep, after stopping for a quaint picnic with just us.

The day sounds better already. Instead of going to the doctor, for what is clearly some form of allergy/stress related hives, I should have used that time to take my puppy dogs to the bathroom an extra time. Then I wouldn’t have come home to a kitchen lake of piss with a chain of turd islands.

My final sequence of events was where most of my mistakes happened, sending my whole day in to a shit spiral.
I could change so many things, such as instead of being poor and having no dental insurance, being forced to see the dentist at the Health Services clinic, where my only option is to extract the rotten tooth with the exposed root. I would still have my fantastic dental plan, and Dr. S. Could have fixed my tooth good as new. Then maybe I wouldn’t have had the chance to tell the dental assistant that the pictures of tooth roots on the wall looked like giant vaginas. I would have sat quietly in my chair and kept that thought to myself.
Instead of politely listening to the dentist as she, showed me pictures and spoke to me like I was an ignorant hillbilly, I would have asked her to shut her face and pull my damn tooth. Instead, I get to sit around enjoying the mind numbing pain shooting through my jaw for another week.

Last, but certainly not least, I should have used my morning quiet time a little more productively. As I sat drinking coffee, I could have done housework, planned my tasks for the day, decided on a dinner menu. Instead I sat and asked my self questions:

What is the proper etiquette for complementing a sweet mullet?
Should you say something, or just give the approving head nod?
Do you call it a mullet or is it the haircut whose name must never be spoken?
How does one ask their stylist for a mullet?
You get the point. Here’s to another productive day!

I Am Your Typical Government Handout Leach

Anyone who can say that many individuals choose to fake disabilities to sponge off of the government,have never tried to be approved for or live off of a disability payment themselves.

The lucky few who have other support needed to survive while struggling through the, average two year time frame, it takes for the application, approval and almost always the appeal process, still have nothing but hard times ahead. Once, if ever, you are approved after going through all of that. You can now look forward to approximately three months for the proper departments to release your payments.

Your monthly payment amount will be based on your income history, family size and other household income, but limited by your state’s maximum amount allowed. In short, barely enough to reach poverty levels. Then, surprise, your Medicaid and Medicare premiums will be deducted from your payment amount automatically. Add in the copayments for your doctor’s visits, prescriptions and specialist visits, you are left with a few options: Pay your bills, so your family has electricity and other necessary utilities, buy groceries so you can feed your family, or pay for a car and fuel so your family has reliable means of transportation.

I know that I am lucky to live somewhere that has disability benefits, but to constantly struggle just to provide basic needs,all while facing the stigma of being a “leech”on the American government.

I didn’t choose to get sick. I didn’t choose to need disability, and I would never purposely choose to have to eek through life with the bare minimum to provide for my family. Next time you hear someone or yourself make a comment or a joke about fat, lazy people living off of disability just to get a handout, think about what would happen to your family if you or your spouse was suddenly disabled.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Butterflies

I don’t want everyone thinking my workouts were all Rocky scenes and Katy Perry songs as I drop 100 lbs and dance off in the sunset.

I struggled ever day. My body hurt and broke down in new ways. This year alone, I had influenza A and B, strep, tonsillitis, 2 bone spurs, several tears in my cornea and countless torn muscles and sprained bones. My stomach problems were worse than ever. Some days, I had to leave the gym in the middle of a workout because I was bent over in pain. I went weeks without going, “number 2.” Working out was almost unbearable.

Some days, I ate like shit and skipped the gym, but I always went back. I was beyond intimidated by all the women in the gym. They seemed to be able to work out with a full face of makeup and smell like daisies, while I rained sweat  that soaked everything around me. I smelled like the high-school boy’s locker room and I huffed and puffed like fatty McGee walking up a flight of stairs. All of that and I still pushed myself and I still looked 9 months pregnant.

It’s All About the Trainer

My journey to health started when the sky opened and the Facebook gods brought me a local registered dietician/weight training coach. D had the pep of 10 cheerleaders and a physique that would make Hercules cry. At the time, my entire body was swollen, the pain controlled my life. D started with an overhaul on my diet. The plan was tailored to my family and my needs to decrease inflammation and increase protein.
At first, things were great. I dropped 9 pounds. My swelling was reducing more than it had in years. I wasn’t a big fan of adding more meat to my diet, to increase my protein, but I did it. The one thing that didn’t seem to be improving was my stomach pain, bloat and irregularity. Maybe working out would be the answer.
The local gym was terrifying. I had never worked out in my life. Me picking up a weight was laughable. I thought about turning around and changing my mind, but I didn’t. I had already used a month’s worth of grocery money to pay for this opportunity, so I was committed.
Every day, I dragged my young kids out of bed, set them up in a, “gym fort,” with tablets, and I gave D’s workouts my best effort. I was building endurance. I could feel myself getting stronger, but some things remained unchanged. My stomach pain was worse than ever. The swelling was uncontrollable and seemed to occur, no matter what I ate. The scale was moving, but not in the right direction. There were many times I wanted to give up. What was the point? Why work myself so hard for no results? D’s encouragement stayed strong. I could text her night or day and she would give me the confidence to not only continue with diet and exercise, she gave me the confidence to push harder and do better in life.

I decided to live

Exactly one year ago, I was spending my days crying on the couch. I barely left my house and simple activities drained me for days. I had resigned to the fact that this was my forever. Lupus would slowly take over until there was nothing left. I was going to lay on this couch until I was just a smelly stain. I would read about people improving their health through diet and exercise. Obviously, I wasn’t one of THOSE people. I had a death sentence, a debilitating disease that was only going to get worse and soon my life would be over.

I had started making plans for my funeral. I was secretly sneaking life lessons in when talking with my kids. I had plans on how to end it all, once I was only a burden to everyone around me.

One day I was having the rare occasion where I left the house to take my kids to The Amazing Pizza Machine. Of course, my boys wanted to ride go carts. Each rider had to be accompanied by an adult. I was fine with the idea. It would probably make me a little sick, but I could handle it so my boys could have fun. The young man running the ride helped me in my seat and then tried to put my seat belt on…it didn’t fit. I was horrified. Tears welled up in my eyes and streamed from my eyes as the worker attached the, “seat belt extender,” to my go cart.

After what felt like hours circling the track, the ride was over and I had decided to give life one last shot. My kids didn’t even notice, nor were they embarrassed by me. They were thrilled that they were having a blast as a family. How could I be so selfish? How could I do that to my kids. They deserve a mom who isn’t going to give up so easy…a mom who would fight against anything trying to hurt her family, not a weak ass girl who is too lazy to get off the couch. From that day on, I decided that I wasn’t going down without a fight. I would try anything to beat this disease.

I knew this would be hard and I was going to need professional help, but I was determined to do everything in my power to be healthy for my children.

to be continued…