Eggs Are Not Vegetables, and other things I never thought I’d say.

 

My Stack of Vegan Cookbooks

My Stack of Vegan Cookbooks

Happy New Year! Hope you are all excited about the possibilities for 2017. A new year often comes with resolutions for life changes and I have a story to tell about my own recent life change. It wasn’t a resolution though. It was more of an in-your-face, you-better-do-something-about-this-now crisis…

November 20, 2016 I woke up around 2 AM with the most excruciating abdominal pain. A quick Google search– you know you do it too!– revealed it could be anything from a bad case of gas to appendicitis. Not one to overreact, I took some GasX. I took some Ibuprofen. I took a hot bath.

Finally I had my husband take me to the ER.

One CT Scan later the doctors discovered I had a 9mm kidney stone lodged at the opening of my ureter AND the blockage had caused my kidney to rupture. Urine was spilling into my abdomen. I was admitted immediately, pumped up with fluids and pain killers, and had surgery to insert a stent to bypass the stone so my kidney could heal. Three weeks later my kidney was recovered enough to withstand lithotripsy (a procedure where shock waves are sent through the kidney to break the stone into pieces). One week later another Xray revealed I was clear of the stone and I could finally have the 18″ stent removed.

The hospital, the doctors, the nurses, all took wonderful care of me, but the whole experience humbled me, threw me out of my life for an entire month, and truly knocked some sense into me about taking my body for granted. After talking to my urologist, two dietary changes were in order: drink 2.5-3 liters of fluid per day and eliminate animal protein from my diet. The stone analysis confirmed that my kidneys could respond positively to these changes. There are no guarantees it will eliminate stones forever, but it’s definitely worth a try.

SO I’ve been a vegan now for 45 days. Yep, that means NO meat or animal products (beef, chicken, pork, seafood, fish, eggs, or dairy). Whenever I tell someone, they mostly feel sorry for me. Or they lecture me on how I’m missing out on necessary B12, amino acids, and calcium. Really, not to worry. I’ve got these nutrients covered.

But the funny thing is, I really like the way I feel. I have sooooooo much more energy– like at least ten years younger energy. Insomnia used to be a close, personal friend of mine, but now, I sleep soooooo much better. I’ve lost a little weight (about 8 pounds). My skin is in great shape too. My migraines have reduced in frequency, duration, and intensity. And an interesting side-benefit? My vocal range has improved. I’m a liturgist at my church and sing in an ensemble there, and I have an easier time hitting both the higher and lower notes now.

Ratatouille Vegetables

Ready to make some ratatouille

It’s not always easy, this plant-based way of life. Challenges include 1) cooking for me vs cooking for everyone else, my thirteen year old often comes over to the V-side, but it’s a struggle for the rest of my family; 2) I can’t quite get the hang of tofu–every time I use it, it’s disgusting; and 3) eating out at restaurants. I went to Potbelly Sandwich Shop and ordered an all-veggie salad. It came to me with egg and cheese on it.

“I was told it would only have vegetables,” I said to the young lady at the counter.

“There’s no chicken,” she answered.

I point at the sliced hardboiled egg, “What about this?”

“That’s egg. It’s a vegetable.”

“Umm. No. Eggs are not vegetables. And neither is cheese.” Two things I’d never thought I’d say.

But then again, I never thought I’d say, “I’m a vegan.”

 

The Death of a Castle, the Birth of a Book

I was saddened to learn today that Castle Miranda (also known as Château de Noisy) in Belgium was slated to be torn down this month. Back in 2012 I stumbled across the gorgeous pictures from PROJ3CT M4YH3M of this heart-breaking, beautiful, decaying castle. The ceilings especially inspired me to put pen to paper and write the scene in my novel Glimmer of Steel where Jennica comes to terms with her fate while staring up at her bedroom’s ceiling.

Since I don’t own any of the copyrights for the images I saw back in 2012, nor have I paid for licensing rights, I have the next best thing… links to the owners’ sites so you can hop over a view them yourself.

The first link is for a website (in German) with historical photos/drawings of the Castle in its original state. http://www.lipinski.de/noisy-historical/index.php

The second link is from Ian Moone’s and PROJ3CT M4YH3M’s website page that covered their first visit to Castle Miranda in 2012: 

Urbex: Castle Miranda aka Château de Noisy Belgium – December 2012 (Part 1)

The third link is from Ian Moone’s and PROJ3CT M4YH3M’s second visit in 2014:

Urbex: Castle Miranda aka Château de Noisy Belgium – May 2014 (revisit)

So just as I’m getting ready to release Glimmer of Steel to Kindle Scout this month, and I’m looking for Castle Miranda pictures to share as an important visual inspiration for my writing, I learned the castle is being dismantled. Pascal Dermien recently photographed the start of the demolition and shared his photos on YouTube. You can see former turrets cast upon the ground, including the weather vane that used to spin atop the highest peak. Only the blogs, and photographs, memories, videos, and the occasional book will live on.

The Book That Inspired My Author Adventure

watershipdownWe all know every writer started as a reader. Recently a writer friend of mine shared that the book she read in middle school that kicked off her interest in writing for children was E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I agree that book is a serious favorite of mine too. I named my first two-wheel bike Charlotte after all. But for me, if I have to narrow down from all the books I read as a kid, (everything from To Kill A Mockingbird to Salem’s Lot) the one book that inspired me the most was Watership Down by Richard Adams.

The blurb from Sparknotes does not do this novel any favors:

Watership Down is the tale of a group of rabbits in search of a home. Fiver, a small, young rabbit, has a gift: He can tell when things are going to happen and he can sense whether they will be good or bad. Fiver foresees great danger to the rabbits’ home warren.

 

Bunny Metaphors Abound

Bunny Metaphors Abound. Photo credit Irina Blaski 2016.

The book is So. Much. More. Maybe part of my affection stems from the fact that my favorite teacher in middle school passed along her personal copy to me, encouraging me to dive deep within its pages to find the story beneath the story. Shout out to Mrs. Monroe @Summit Hill Junior High for lighting the fire within this little girl. Honestly it took her a couple weeks of pestering for me to give this book a chance just because the back cover blurb was so lame.

Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. And so began my love of reading and writing stories that are more than what they seem on the surface, stories with nuance that warrant a second, and third reading.

Richard Adams wrote Watership Down in 1972. From his Amazon Author Page:

Richard George Adams (born 9 May, 1920) is an English novelist, author of Watership Down, Shardik, Maia, The Plague Dogs, Traveller, Tales from Watership Down and many other books.

He originally began telling the story of Watership Down to his two daughters during a long car journey, and they insisted he write it down. When Watership Down was finally published, after many rejections, it sold over a million copies in record time in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Watership Down has become a modern classic and won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1972. To date it has sold over 8 million copies and been translated into many languages, including Finnish, Hebrew and Chinese.

And yes, he’s still alive and kicking at 96 years old.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Adams

Adams reads from Watership Down at a 2008 exhibition of Aldo Galli paintings, Photo Credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Adams

One of my favorite interviews with him is from The Telegraph, originally published in 2014, in which he tells us that when his publisher accepted the manuscript (after rejections from seven other publishers) “This blew a trumpet in my heart.”
Great line, right? It’s the same feeling I get when a four or five star review for any of my work hits Goodreads!
Another of my favorite Adams quotes is from an interview with Alison Flood of The Guardian just last year, where he said, “I do not believe in talking down to children. Readers like to be upset, excited and bowled over.”
Nothing wrong with a little heart-pumping excitement or a good, cleansing cry while turning the pages of a book.
Which book started your author journey? Share in the comments!