Pizza night with our amazing friends. There were meat-lovers pizzas, plant-based, no dairy pizzas, and everything in between. I’ll drink to that.
About two years ago, at the end of 17 beautiful days in Spain, when I should have been tired, though exulted over having spent so much time in the country of my birth, visiting family with dear friends and the love of my life, I sat on the rooftop at sunset in a gorgeous Airbnb in Seville, looking out over the historic barrio… sobbing. Why? After taking nearly the entire month off, I was still popping Ibuprofens like they were candy, and feeling pretty shitty. I spent the month bumming Tylenol and keeping an eye peeled for pharmacies, bowing out of day trips, because I needed time off.
Fast forward to a year later, after TWO VERY scary visit to the ER, my husband talked me into an experiment. He was alarmed by the continuing decline in my health and he wanted to go meat and dairy free for three weeks, as a test. That’s all. Just three weeks. At the end of that three weeks, we’d assess how things were going, and make a new decision about whether to continue.
Week one was—I’ll be totally honest—brutal. I spent more time in the bathroom than I care to confess. Week two wasn’t all that much easier in the bathroom, but I actually WAS feeling better, and found something pretty amazing was happening… I wasn’t in so much pain anymore. I mean, yeah, I had aches and pains, but more manageable ones, and certainly nothing that would make you dive for buckets of aspirin. Now, I’m hopeful.
Now, two years later, we’re about to take yet another trip with the same dear friends and I’m so looking forward to it, all the more so because, for the first time in almost four years, I’m not suffering debilitating pain. What that pain is/was, how I got it isn’t really the subject of this blog post, but if you ask me, I’ll be happy to tell you. However, this isn’t about that; the reason I’m writing this post is because, the one thing I didn’t expect from this experiment was that the people in our lives would have such a difficult time with our new plant-based diet. I get it, really. I do understand how it changes the dynamic, but for those in my life who are missing the me who eats meat, I have to say, without uncertainty, I DO NOT miss her. I was heartily sick of her, ready for her to get the hell out of my life, and honestly, I thought at times she was going the way of the Dodo all on her own, and taking me along with her. So, c’ya biatch, don’t let the proverbial door hit you in the bum. But, here, again, as I now close on a full year without meat and dairy (except for a short cheat-fest, during which I regressed for the sake of social convention and wholly regretted it), there are some things I really need to tell the people in my life. And I mostly need to tell you these things, because I love you, so bear with me, please, and I hope you’ll read this until the end.
The most important thing I want to say is this: I feel better. I do. And I can promise you I don’t do fads. If this experiment hadn’t been a success after three weeks, I would have stopped. That simple. I mean, I LIKED meat and LOVED cheese, and I would have been happy to go back to eating bacon, EXCEPT, I don’t want to anymore, and I have a few things I want to say to clear the air, because I think I’ve been a little passive aggressive about this subject, dancing around it when it’s probably not necessary to do so, for maybe the same reason you don’t ask me more about my plant-based life. So here goes. Among the things I want to say are these:
Even on my “tired” days, I have WAY more energy than I did before.
I am NOT lacking anything in my diet, and I know this because: a) I see a doctor regularly, and b) I am pretty attuned to my body’s needs (after so many years of intense pain, this puppy has become nearly hypochondriacal about health). But, if you need to be reassured, I’m due for a physical and blood test soon, and, my doctor, who, incidentally, gave me an enthusiastic thumb’s up over this lifestyle change, will be sure to tell me if there’s anything I’m missing.
I DO NOT miss meat, and DO NOT feel deprived.
I don’t want to eat anything cooked in chicken broth, beef broth, or lard, or anything at all that has once been inside a mammal.
This didn’t start out being a matter of animal rights. It was a matter of health, but now that I know I don’t NEED meat to get by, I can’t justify eating meat anymore. But, please know I do not hold you to my own personal code of ethics, and I am not judging your choices.
I eat fish, though rarely, and enjoy it. So I’ll keep doing this, because I feel better when I do.
Yes, I take B12 and Vitamin D, but I’m not missing out on iron, or protein. Most people don’t realize how much protein and iron there is in a well-rounded WHOLE FOODS diet.
I don’t eat much processed food. This kind of defeats the purpose, and, even though I adore bread and there’s nothing wrong with bread, I’m cutting down on my intake for the same reason: It’s processed. However, I do like it, so I’ll just eat less.
You don’t need to worry about me; I’m under the care of a doctor, and a physical therapist, and my therapist told me just today that I’ve made huge strides and to keep doing what I’m doing. Yeah me!
I USED to love cheese; I now HATE cheese. I won’t eat this substance again as long as I live. I don’t miss it, don’t want it, and when I see it, I think “pain!” (I understand how Pavlov’s dogs must have felt.)
I don’t need or want YOU to eat what I eat; I get that everyone has different health needs.
I also don’t need you to agree with me; just respect me. Please.
I don’t judge you for eating meat; I just don’t care to share it with you.
I am perfectly fine sitting at a table with you while meat and dairy are on it, but I don’t want to eat any of it, and you don’t need to feel uncomfortable because I’m not eating it. If I wanted it, I’d eat it. But I really, really don’t want it, and, again, I do not feel deprived. Nor am I judging you for eating it simply because I am not. That’d be pretty hypocritical of me since I used to eat it and love it.
Even though I was once excited to find that it was possible to eat nut-based cheese, I don’t eat cheese substitutes, because I don’t crave cheese anymore and I also don’t prefer to eat processed foods.
Again, I really, really want you to eat what YOU want to eat, and I don’t see any reason we can’t eat our own preferences under the same roof, in the same house, and at the same table.
If you invite us to dinner, I don’t care if you serve meat, just have some beans as a side for me, and I’ll be fine with that. I no longer see dining the same way, and it’s more important to me to spend time with you. Also, I’m equally uncomfortable with the idea of depriving the people I care about of the food they desire.
If I invite you for dinner, I won’t cook you any meat, nor serve dairy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not okay if YOU want to BRING a side that includes meat or cheese, or both. I’ll still tip my wine glass to a yummy meal, and I’ll ask you what you brought and how you made it. Cause. Yeah, I like seeing you enjoy things, and it doesn’t bother me that you enjoy something I don’t.
I am not vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle that encompasses more than just diet. I still have leather boots, and I’m fine with them.
My blood pressure when my doctor took it last was 117/79. Not too shabby for a 56 year old. (Yeah, 56, you can hush, now.)
I no longer take NSAIDS, that’s how much better I feel. But, yeah, I’m 56 and still have 56-year-old aches and pains.
I am NOT okay with eating food that has been cooked with animal fat of any kind, and that includes lard or butter, and I prefer not to eat food that’s been cooked in the same pan with animals. The end result is that it’s really no different, for me, than eating a slice of meat. And I will know I ate it, cause, well, keep reading and I’ll tell you why…
I don’t want to pick off the cheese, nor eat the fruit out of a pie. Very simply, if it’s been cooked together with animal fat, I don’t want it in my body, and if that seems zealous, there’s a reason for it. After a year-long experiment, I feel so much better, and I’m very protective over that feeling, and don’t want to take backward steps, not even one. I know you love me and want me to feel better, so I’m going to assume you don’t want me to eat it either.
BTW, a slip here and there is not just a slip here and there, and it’s not like, just one time I accidentally ingested something I don’t want to eat; Not only will I feel it in my bones (literally), it’ll send me back to the bathroom for way longer than I wish to spend there. That’s the ugly truth. Been there, done that. Ain’t doing it no more.
We can eat at the same restaurants; there’s almost nowhere I haven’t been able to find SOMETHING on the menu. Again, I’m less concerned with what I’m eating than I am with just spending time with you.
I’m smart, and attuned to my body, and if, at any point, this experiment ceases to work, I’ll question it, and/or stop. My experience has been the opposite: Every day, I think I can’t possibly feel better, and I feel better.
I no longer sob cause I feel awful, and I’m not scared about what the future holds.
I AM losing weight, thank you. But I am not losing it quickly, because, well, I am not depriving myself, and I still can’t get myself on the treadmill every day. I’m working on it.
Also to that last point: I eat very well–too well. Scott’s an AMAZING cook and I LOVE my meals and look forward to them, cause, really, I had no friggin idea what was possible without meat and dairy. I used to think if you took meat and dairy away, what could possibly be left? OMG, I promise you, the possibilities are endless, and more so, because I no longer take the lazy meat-and-potatoes route. Not saying you are doing that, only that I very often didn’t think beyond meat and dairy. Me. Not you. This is not about you or your choices.
Dinner is an adventure, and then I wake up feeling better than ever.
I love my plant-based meals so much that Scott and I are considering doing a cookbook. Or maybe two. Or three.
If you truly want to know the down and dirty details of why I’m doing this (health wise), I’m happy to point you to a few books, because I don’t want to come across as an evangelist.
If I come across as an evangelist, it’s because I’m truly shocked over the changes in my body and, well, I love you. And if I keep talking about it, it’s because I’m glad I can spend time with you without pain. And if I do that too much, and it sounds like preaching, just tell me you’re glad for me, and politely remind me to put a sock it, because, guess what, my sense of humor is back and I can take a joke.
That’s all. Thanks for taking a minute to read this.
I decided to go outside my review team to offer review copies for The King’s Favorite. (However, if you’re on my review team, please DO enter to win!) I’m giving away 5 copies to 5 lucky winners, to be announced on October 15, 2018. Put your name in the hat right here.
Also, I messed up this giveaway when I created so we have at least 2 more runs before all the prizes are used up, so, if you didn’t win a copy of A Perfectly Scandalous Proposal the first rounds, try again! Here’s a second giveaway on Amazon, enter here.
And, just in case you don’t want to wait for your copy of Joel Froomkin’s delicious narration, you can snag your copy here.
I thought long and hard about whether to speak up about this. I’m doing so, not so much for me, but for my fellow struggling authors. So here goes: Generally, I’m not a fan of complainers, and that includes authors who complain about people not buying their books. No One is guaranteed a sale. We bravely go where not everyone has thrived before us, in order to bring you stories we love, and that we hope you’ll love as well. In the end, you want to believe it’s the talented among us who’ll keep readers coming back. But sometimes, bad guys do win, and lately, the winners have been the stuffers (thankfully, Amazon is now going after them), who’ll throw a poorly written and edited book up for .99 cents. And, of course, they end up getting much more than that because they’ve learned to game the KU system by double-spacing books (making it look like you have more pages to read than you do) and stuffing a download with 10-plus books, thereby earning themselves considerably more than the .99 cents price, as well as KU bonuses that used to be awarded to hardworking authors. These days, the bonuses seem to be going to “the fox who’s learned to raid the hen house without getting caught.” For real authors with integrity, this is a HUGE ouch—and not only where the money is concerned. It’s demoralizing for those who work hard and play by the rules. It’s no wonder some authors are furious. (more…)
Although I try hard not to post about politics these days (more often than not, it leaves me with heart palpitations), I think it’s important that folks with hearts and minds open them up, and speak. I’ve told this story before, but I’m going to tell it again.
If you recognize the title of this post, you know these poignant words aren’t mine; they belong to Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr., one of my heroes. He also said, “In the end, we will remember, not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”; and “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Today, I thought hard about what to say. “Nothing” was on that list, since essentially, my one opinion isn’t worth all that much by itself. But I cannot be a silent friend, so here’s my story: When I was a little girl — about 6 — we lived in San Pedro California. While you’d think Southern California would be the last place you’d find racial tensions against Spanish speaking people, unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
For those of you who know me, you know I was born in Spain to a Spanish mother. I spoke Spanish only until I was 5 years old. That first year in San Pedro we spent in terror, with my father in Vietnam and my diminutive mother in charge of three children under the age of 6. Our neighbor, you see, had decided my mother was a “dirty Mexican” and this woman terrorized us mercilessly. She put non-disposable diapers down our drainpipes (disposables didn’t exist then), flooding our home and the homes of others. She called social services on my mom countless times (for what, I have no idea, but they stopped coming, because every time they came, our home was spotless and her children were happy). Her nearly adult son would stand outside our patio in the evenings, and you could see his black dirty boots beneath our curtains. He’d stand there for hours, making us afraid.
The list of perpetrations is extensive, and I went to bed every night with my mom rehearsing a list of things I should do if “someone broke in” during the night. My mother understood very little English, and I was the only one with any English words in my lexicon. So, I slept with mom in her bed, beneath a window that was barely big enough for a child to crawl through.
“If someone breaks in,” she’d say (I’m paraphrasing, because she spoke to me in Spanish), “go out the window, go to the neighbor’s house across the street. Tell her to call the police. Do you remember what I said? Tell me what you will do.”
I remember this, night after night. The fear of having my siblings and mother all depending on me — a little slip of nothing — and me not able to help them, gave me night terrors for years thereafter.
One day, out in our front yard, I watched this bruiser of a woman kick my mom in the back. Can you imagine what that felt like? The woman who is your protector against the world — your very world itself — lying on the ground at the mercy of a screaming, racist monster? At the age of six?
I know what that feels like, and 50 years later, the memory leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my gut.
Eventually, people began to see what was going on and my father called from overseas to threaten murder if the situation wasn’t rectified. My grandmother, who lived in Chicago, called the police.
The Navy shipped these people to the Philippines (fitting), but while they were packing, my mother quietly made a pot of coffee and took it next door to offer it to the neighbor. I went with her, because, of course, it was my instinct to protect her.
The woman asked, “After everything, you’re offering me coffee?” My mother answered, “You probably don’t have time to make any yourself.”
This is what I recall: the astonished look on that woman’s face. I don’t think she accepted my mom’s coffee, but I don’t remember, because that’s not what mattered most to me that day. I only remember that my tiny mother was a giant in my eyes. Even after all that woman had done to her, to us, it was her act of kindness that gave me my moral compass.
So, today, this is what I have to say: It is far braver, far more powerful to answer hate with love. If you remain silent, you are taking sides. If you cast a vote for hatred, misogyny, racism and bigotry, you are a hater, misogynist, racist and bigot. It’s that simple. This is no time for hate, my friends. This is a time for love, and Martin Luther King Jr. also reminds us this, “‘An eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” Let’s all do the right thing now. Tip the scales with love. That’s the only way we’re going to win.
Essentially, I’m about to strip down and stand naked and vulnerable in the middle of the road. But I’m going to do it anyway, because after yesterday’s news, I have something to say:
I grew up in what I believed to be a normal American military household. My father achieved the highest rank available to noncommissioned officers in the Navy. He was a Master Chief Petty Officer, a veteran who served in Vietnam, and to say he was respected by his peers is an understatement. He loved his job and only retired because of an accident that left him in a wheelchair for 6 months, never again able to scale the decks of ships. He received an honorable discharge—a release from his duties that heralded a bad era for my family.
At one point, my father was my idol. He was tall, dark and handsome, and oh, so smart. The fact that he wasn’t really a fan of MINE didn’t bother me so much as it did later. Enough to say he was the man in charge, and he ran our household under many of the same principles he’d learned in the military.
Until the age of 12, I didn’t make many close friends. We traveled a lot, but that’s the year my family settled in Charleston, South Carolina, newly arrived after a 5-year stint at a communications base in Ponce, Puerto Rico. After my father retired, he took a job locally, but still worked for the military as a civilian. My Spanish mother learned to drive. We—me and my brothers and sister—came out of our shells and began to make friends. During these years, my father received top-secret clearance for his analytics work for the military. I remember “those men” who came knocking on all our neighbors’ doors, asking questions. And for a while, we were a “normal” American family… until one day… we weren’t.
I’ll spare you dirty details, but I will say I am a survivor. I survived what turned out to be the most complicated and harrowing years of my life—hard years that shaped my adult life and gave me the aptitude to bleed for my writing in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. But, aside from telling you my father was a closet alcoholic, and extremely heavy handed, I won’t say much else, because much of our story isn’t only mine to tell. However, his fall from grace was one we ALL took with him—every member of my family. We became collateral damage in a war fought beneath our own roof.
I wasn’t always the mouthy, rebellious daughter I turned out to be. But with every smack of my father’s fist, I became that person, standing higher and stronger, fueled by righteous anger. One thing’s for sure, his military style of parenting didn’t work where I was concerned. The more he tried to beat me into submission (sometimes literally and sometimes verbally), the more I fought and railed against him.
But that part of my story isn’t unique, is it? Teenagers are defiant, infuriating beings. Whether I did, or whether I didn’t have a right to be as I was, isn’t the point I’m trying to make. The point is that life happens to us all.
One day, I was alone in my house with my dad—this man who’d achieved such high military honor. Silver haired and depressed, he sat on his bed with a gun in his hand… cleaning it. This wasn’t a gun he’d procured illegally. It was his gun. He pulled it apart, piece by piece and took his rag to every part until it shone.
I walked by his room, saw what he was doing and kept on walking, with prickles riding down my spine. I walked into my bedroom and sat on my bed, and felt so much turmoil. Why was his gun out? He certainly had all the right credentials to own one, but I hadn’t seen that gun in a while, and now, after a systemic failure of our family, I was terrified of the reason he was drawn to it. So there I sat, worrying about him, and after a while, I heard him begin to cry. All the while, he sat piecing his gun back together…
Should I leave the house? I wondered.
My relationship with him was by far the most tumultuous. As his eldest child, I bore the brunt of much of his fury. If my siblings didn’t tow the line, I was to blame. By the same token, I felt an underlying sense of respect from him, for me, although not perhaps evident in his everyday treatment of me. Responsibility kept me rooted to the spot.
That day, seated alone in his room, with his gun, he called my name, and I wanted not to answer… but I did. I stood in the door of his room, blinking away tears in my own eyes as my silver-haired father wept over his gun. Truthfully, I don’t remember what he said. His mouth was moving, but words were incomprehensible… until he lifted the gun, pointed it at me, and said, “Do you know how easy it would be for me to pull the trigger? Put an end to it all?”
But that gun was pointed at ME. My heart slammed into my ribs. I was 15.
I stood, looking into the small barrel of my father’s gun, realizing he could do exactly as he said. He wasn’t the type for idle threats. If he said something, he followed through, and he never minced words.
With that gun pointed at me across a shrinking room, I thought about what to do. Exactly where I got the strength to say or do what I did, I don’t know, except, that in many ways I am my father’s daughter. I looked at him straight in the eyes and said, “You’re not the kind of man who shoots an innocent person in the back—your own daughter. So, I’m going to walk away, and if you shoot me, you’ll have to live with that.” And that’s what I did. I turned my back on his gun and returned to my room. I sat on my bed and cried—and worried, because I half expected my father to put his gun to his head.
If you read The Girl Who Stayed, yes, I borrowed this scene for that book, and 40 years later, I sobbed as I wrote it, because that’s how deeply affected I was.
But wait? What’s this got to do with yesterday’s news? Well, we’ve had yet another shooting, but that’s not really “yesterday’s news” anymore, is it, because this is happening more and more, and becoming firmly entrenched in our daily lives. We can’t even feel comfortable going to church, a movie, school, or a concert, without fear of some crazy person pulling out his gun.
So, let me, once again, be like my father, and not mince words:
People change throughout their lives. Just because they once qualified to own and operate a gun–EVEN if they had an entire team of “men in black” checking to give them clearance–doesn’t mean they are owed that right for life.
Just because they served in the military DOES NOT mean they are owed the right to own a gun.
Guns in the home DO NOT make those who live beneath the same roof feel safe. I did NOT feel safe, and to this day, I shy away from people who feel the need to own guns. You might have the license to own one, but I have a right not to be around you, and so the next time you feel the need to open carry, think about the fact that you are hurting me, despite that you may never use your gun in my presence, because every time I see YOUR gun, I will think about the time my father nearly killed me, and if you carry it openly anyway, you’re no one I want to know.
Good men go bad. Good women go bad. Shit happens. Life gets crazy; people should have to periodically requalify to own a gun, if they must.
I’ll end this by saying I do not advocate taking away people’s guns. All we’re—me and people like me—are asking for is gun control, stricter qualifications and periodic testing to be sure mentally ill people to not have access to them, and to disallow the use of automatic weapons (why are these needed anyway? The mass extinction of human life is the only purpose these weapons have).
Eventually, I made friends with my father, but he was a sad, broken man, who, although once might have qualified to own a gun, in the end, should not have had access to one. The fact that he did not use it that day is not the bar by which this truth should be judged. By grace alone, I am not a statistic, but how many others walk in my shoes? I don’t know. But I do know this. Those who were not spared by grace are now a growing list… one I’d like to end. Come on people, let’s vote for gun control. Please.
Éliénor savait que les Vikings allaient assaillir le château de Brouillard. Ses rêves lui avaient révélé bien des morts, mais pas la sienne. Et elle l’avait aussi vu, lui, le Viking à la chevelure dorée qui la tiendrait captive...Cherchant à se venger du comte franc, Alarik s’est empar...