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 Migraine War


Imagine this nut is your head. And this vice . . . is a migraine.

According to, “In the U.S., more than 37 million people suffer from migraines. Some migraine studies estimate that 13 percent of adults in the U.S. population have migraines, and 2-3 million migraine suffers are chronic. Almost 5 million in the U.S. experience at least one migraine attack per month, while more than 11 million people blame migraines for causing moderate to severe disability.”

I have been battling migraines since my early twenties. Unfortunately, as I get older, my migraines have gotten more frequent and more debilitating. In fact, today, I had one while on vacation with my family and had to be left behind in a darkened hotel room with ear plugs in place and a sign on the door, no housekeeping please. It’s not the first time I’ve missed out on something with the kids because, “Mommy has a headache today,” and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

“Take some Excedrin and get back to business.” If only it were that simple. If you get migraines or know someone who does, you understand that over-the-counter pain relievers do not even make a dent in the pain. Sometimes Hydrocodone can knock me out long enough for the migraine to pass, and a couple times a shot of morphine at the ER has done the trick.

Preventive medicine has had mixed results. For a while I was taking Topimax (normally prescribed for folks who suffer from seizures) . It worked at keeping the migraines at bay, but the side effects were miserable: kidney stones and liver cysts, hallucinations, tingling hands and feet, and horrific brain fog. They don’t call it “Dopimax” for nothing. When I first started taking it, I snapped out of one stupor to find I’d been brushing my teeth for twenty minutes. Despite my uber-white smile, I decided to trade out the Topimax for rational thought.

These days I’ve been managing with daily high doses of magnesium and Vitamin D and Imitrex shots and pills. It works. But only if those shots and pills are timed just right. If I don’t catch the migraine when it first starts, I just end up with the dizzy, racing-heart side effects of the medication on top of the migraine pain.

A strategy that has been semi-successful is the headache diary. It’s been helpful to keep a log of the things that I’ve eaten and the things I’ve done on the days preceding and during a migraine. The result? A crazy-long list of headache triggers, which I share with you now in no particular order:

Dehydration, Aspartame, Sucralose, Alcohol (especially wine and beer), Flashing lights, Wearing 3D glasses, Monosodium Glutamate, More than 26 mg of caffeine in 24 hours, Grape juice, Monthly hormone fluctuations, the Summer Solstice, the Winter Solstice, Cigarette smoke, Staying out in the hot sun for 5+ hours at temps greater than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, Sinus infections, Mold, Not eating for 10+ hours, Stress lasting multiple consecutive days, Vigorous workouts, Pinching neck nerves, Lima beans.

OK, lima beans don’t trigger my migraines. I just hate their nastiness and avoid them at all costs.

So, some of these triggers are completely within my control and I successfully avoid them. And others, not so much. As an Earthling, it’s a bit difficult to avoid the solstices.

If you have a migraine sufferer in your life you can help by listening and avoiding insensitive comments such as, “It’s just a headache” or “Get some sunshine and fresh air” or “Reduce the stress in your life” or “have you tried XYZ? It worked for a friend of mine”.  Because a migraine is not just a headache, and going outside can often be a trigger or exacerbate the pain, and even a stress-free, meditation-filled, yoga lover will still suffer from migraines, and chances are, the person has been afflicted with migraines for decades and has tried everything. Every. Thing.

Hypnosis. Been there. Acupuncture. Done that. Biofeedback. Yep. Drugs. Tends to be the first recommendation from the medical professionals, so, yes. And too many other “remedies” to mention.

The best thing I’ve done recently for myself is find a doctor who specializes in migraine treatment. It’s nice to have a physician who speaks the language of migraines. It’s nice to have a physician who doesn’t look at me like I’m a nut when I tell him I can’t drive underneath the canopy of a tree-line road while the sun is shining. “Perfectly understandable,” he says. “I bet you can’t watch the new Transformers movie in IMAX 3D either.”

Photo © Robert Faric