Fated tooth

I mentioned that I was having dental surgery on Friday. There’s a story behind that surgery that connects many dots of my life. In my early 20s while a student at UMass the left side of my face became swollen and inflamed in pain. Two ER visits, a dentist visit and finally an X-ray later it was discovered that I had an infection in the root of one of my molars and required a root canal.

After graduating from college in 1996, I knew that I was going to apply to the Peace Corps. However, my stepfather passed away on December 2, 1996 and I put my Peace Corps (PC) application in a drawer because it didn’t seem right to leave my mom. Eventually she found it and told me to apply.

I sent in the application sometime in mid 1997. Applying to the PC is a long process for some of us. There is a medical exam, dental exam, lots of paperwork and an interview. I sent in all the paperwork as well as the medical and dental which included full mouth X-rays. My interview was in Boston in August 1997. By February of 1998 I was getting antsy. I wanted to move on with my life and was ready to take off for distant places whether with the PC or on my own to teach English.

In early March 1998, I called the PC headquarters in D.C. I was congratulated and told I had been invited to serve in Armenia. I told the woman  that I hadn’t received anything in the mail. She put me on hold and when she returned she seemed nervous. She explained she shouldn’t have given me that information over the phone. She also mentioned I should have received an envelope from the Dental Office. I hadn’t so she transferred me to that department. I was told that it had been sent a couple of months ago and indicated a problem with the tooth I had the root canal on a couple of years earlier.

The invitation to Armenia finally arrived. The group was scheduled to leave at the end of May 1998. I eagerly began seeking as much information about Armenia as I could including connecting with current PC volunteers in Armenia via a very bare bones newsgroup on the internet. I was really excited to go especially after communicating with people who were already there. They spent vacations traveling to Greece or interesting places within Armenia and the summers sounded beautiful.

While planning my departure to Armenia, I was also being scheduled for the dental procedure to repair the root canal. I had periodontal surgery at the beginning of April. I can’t remember how it worked exactly, but by the end of April I had been told I could not go to Armenia because I would not be dentally cleared until my mouth was completely healed. My dentist wouldn’t clear me until June. I was devastated.

The PC recruiter in D.C. assured me that once I was cleared he would work on placing me somewhere else. However, when I called him in June 1998 with the news that I was finally cleared by dental, he was dealing with 4 PC evacuations out of unstable countries. His priority was placing those PC volunteers who wanted to continue their service. In our conversation he mentioned a new PC program in Mozambique beginning in the fall of 1998. I expressed my interest and he immediately apologized saying that I wasn’t going to be on the list for the new Mozambique program.

I hung up the phone and immediately called my boss at the time. He was an African American Studies professor at UMass Amherst. He also ran a scholarship program for black students in Durban, South Africa. I had been involved in organizing his trips to and from South Africa. Together we wrote a letter to PC to explain why I thought I would be an asset in PC Mozambique.

I sent the letter and waited. I waited and waited. Finally I called and spoke to the recruiter. He told me he received the letter, but was very sorry he couldn’t invite me to serve in Mozambique. I thanked him and told him I really couldn’t let PC keep me in limbo any longer. I fibbed and said I had an opportunity to teach English in Guatemala. In all honesty I could have gotten a job in a hot minute teaching English in Guatemala as jobs were plentiful then.

That evening there when I got home there ws a voice mail from Dan, the recruiter, welcoming me into PC Mozambique. I screamed!! I knew without a doubt that this was where I was supposed to be going. Armenia never felt like a good fit, but Mozambique seemed to have everything I was hoping for in a PC experience.

My PC experience is another story for another day, but suffice it to say my time in Mozambique was life changing. I loved my life in Mozambique and not just because I met my husband there. I was truly happy and comfortable there. I met such beautiful people. The food was delicious. The weather was hot. The beaches nothing short of perfect. I ate mangos and papayas from the trees in my yard. Most importantly I learned to relax.

Prior to leaving many friends and family members “warned” me not to get married over there in Africa. I laughed. I wasn’t exactly known for dating. And who goes into the PC with a goal of getting married anyway? I certainly didn’t, but it happened. Orlando and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage this September.

Not only did Mozambique introduce me to my husband, it also gave me a dear friend. For my first year in the PC, I had a site mate. Well when you live in a small house with lots of down time and no tv you become friends really quickly. Amelia and I learned so much about each other in a short time. There was no such thing as TMI! However, when she was offered an opportunity to move to the capitol and work with the Ministry of Education after a year we both knew we were ready for an independent experience. Our friendship has stood the test of time and I cannot imagine having gone through my first year of PC without Amelia.

Upon my return to the US the pesky tooth required an updated crown. Then a couple of years ago I felt a twinge of pain in that area and the memory came flooding back. I knew it was an infection so I called the dentist. A quick X-ray confirmed it and after a short discussion with my dentist I decided to pull the tooth. I couldn’t justify anymore expensive root canals. My dentist who had nothing to do with the previous procedures showed me exactly what the problem was and admitted that the job not done properly.

In a matter of 30 barbaric seconds a dental surgeon yanked the tooth out of my thankfully numb mouth. It was horrible. I cried briefly because I couldn’t believe the manner in which it was done. I left with a wad of gauze in my mouth and a nauseous feeling in my stomach. Later on I would run my tongue over the gaping hole and feel a sense of sadness. That tooth had cost me a great deal of pain, anguish and money, but it also changed my life forever.

I was assured by my dentist that the issues did not stem from poor dental care. I refused to leave the hole as is because I didn’t want my top teeth to shift as the bottom teeth had shifted. Before I could address the missing tooth I had to straighten my teeth. A word to anyone with teens in braces…insist that they wear their retainers or get a permanent retainer placed behind the teeth. I had braces at age 10 and they were removed by age 12. I wore my retainers for a bit, but then orthodontic care fell to the wayside as did my retainers. By not continuing to wear the retainers my bottom front two teeth began to spin inwards towards each other.

I wore Invisalign from October 2013 until Friday. I now have retainers which look similar. I have to wear them as often as possible for the next 6 months and then I will go to nighttime wear only.

With Invisalign completed we could now discuss the gaping hole wear my molar once sat. I had two options – a bridge or implants. I say implants because the space is large enough to fill two teeth into it. I honestly don’t know what happened to the other tooth or if there really was another tooth. My dentist sent me for an CT scan of the head to determine if implants were a feasible option. We sat in his office and he explained that implants were possible but I would need to have a sinus lift to add more bone in which to “implant” the new teeth.

My dentist is truly enthusiastic about his profession. He admitted that he was just learning to do this procedure and offered to do it for free. I just had to pay the cost of materials. He said he would invite a more experienced colleague to assist. I had faith in his abilities so I said yes. Friday was the sinus lift and first stage of the implants. The procedure took 3 hours. I am a ridiculously good patient. I don’t flinch or whine. I am totally still. At one point I even got drowsy! It went really well, but my face is really swollen and uncomfortable.

I honestly think the worst part of the surgery was the post op instructions. Before beginning the procedure Dr. Fox told me I could do any crazy pounding exercise. I thought he was kidding because he knows I’m training for a marathon. I said, “what like a 20 mile run on Sunday.” He thought I was kidding. I reassured him I wasn’t joking and he forbade me. He and his colleague told me absolutely not, no 20 mile run. No running for at least 48 hours and then only a short run if the swelling has subsided. My eyes welled up with tears. Not only was I mentally ready for my 20 miler the weather is amazing.

At the end of the procedure he told me I should stick to a liquid (smoothies, juices, broths, pureed soups) diet for 2 weeks and then a soft/liquid diet for another 4 weeks. I have numerous sutures and the area really needs to heal without any potential trauma. I will do anything I have to in order to heal properly. This tooth has cost me more money than I care to think about.

In 6 months I will at last have the implants and this lengthy tooth saga will at hopefully be finished. When I recount the story of “the tooth” it’s difficult to be resentful of the money spent (quite possibly a down payment on a house) and the pain felt because I wouldn’t have the one thing that means more to me than anything in the entire world…Carlos.

IMG_0146
My little bug

 

IMG_0102
After tearing it up on the dance floor at his aunt’s wedding!

 

 

Healthfest Day 2 – Dr. T. Colin Campbell

I mixed up the order of the talks on day 2 of Healthfest. I actually saw Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s talk second and then Lani Muelrath’s lecture.

The Origin and Meaning of Whole

Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Dr. T. Colin Campbell

 

Dr. Campbell is best known for the book the China Study, the book he wrote with his son Thomas Campbell, after 40 years of research. Dr. Campbell is very much a college professor. There are no theatrics in his lectures, but he speaks eloquently and intellectually. This particular lecture referenced the works of a number of studies and emphasized nutrition confusion. Let’s face it there are so many conflicting reports which lead to misinformation and mistreatment of illness.

He stands behind his research and the research of others to defend his message that a whole food, plant-based diet has medicinal, healing  and preventive effects on the body.

Dr. Campbell Part 2

 

From my notes:

  • Diet, Nutrition and Cancer (1982 report by the National Academy of Sciences) – high fat diet is associated with increased susceptibility to cancer.
  • From the highly respected Cochrane Reviews published in 2008, “Beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E given singly or combined with other antioxidant supplements significantly increase mortality.” There is no evidence to support the theory that vitamin supplements work. Get vitamins by eating a varied WFPBD
  • “Long-chain and shorter chain omega-3 fats do not have a clear effect on total mortality combined cardiovascular events, or cancer.” (Hooper 2006) – study showed that supplements might actually be increasing cancer risk
  • Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, fish intake, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (Kaushik 2009) – 3 million studied, 9380 new cases of type 2 diabetes; no evidence that eating a diet higher in long chain fatty acids and fish reduces the risk for diabetes. Rather it might be concluded that it may increase the risk.

  • Supplements are a 32 billion dollar a year industry

  • The Effect of Vitamin E and Beta Carotene on the Incidence of Lung Cancer and Other Cancers in Male Smokers (NEJM 1994) – studied 29,133 male smokers 50 to 69 years of age from southwestern Finland to determine if supplementation with alpha-tocopherol (Vit E) and beta carotene would decrease risk of lung cancer since epidemiological studies have shown a diet rich in these nutrients are associated with a decreased risk in this type of cancer. After 5-8 years of dietary supplementation there was no decrease in the incidence of lung cancer. Actually the study raised the question as to whether or not the supplements have harmful effects.
  • There are 10-100 trillion cells in the body.
  • Stop Feeding Your Cancer by Dr. John Kelly – what happens in rats happens in humans

Those are just some tidbits of information. Obviously the studies I cited from Dr. Campbell’s talk are much more in depth. I looked them up and read through some of them. Whether you believe in the information or not I will tell you I do think we are being fed a line of bull from the healthcare industry in order to sell, sell, sell particularly when it comes to supplements.

It’s really difficult to know what’s true and what’s not true. However, if we look at it from a purely common sense perspective and think back to a time when people subsisted off of what was grown in the ground or raised on their land you didn’t encounter many of the illnesses that plague our society today, namely cancer, obesity and heart disease. Sure people became ill and died and those diseases existed, but not in the numbers they do today.

Healthfest Day 2 – Lani Muelrath

Before I move on to more about the conference I am going to write about my really crappy week. This week sucked. The weather was horrible and it’s really wearing me down. I had an awesome 18 mile run on Sunday and then on the fitness front it was all downhill from there. My motivation was sapped. I had none. I am going to announce something I rarely ever say…I have been tired! Actually no, I’ve been exhausted both mentally and physically. Yes, I am human!!

On the food front the week started out great. By Wednesday I needed the jaws of life to tear me away from the jar of sunbutter. Ridiculous!

Work kind of sucked too. My new job is ok. I’m learning, but there is so much to learn. Most days I feel like I’m starting over again. I’m also still working per diem at the hospital. I was told on Tuesday morning that the Wednesday night shift I picked up at the hospital was actually taken by someone else after my boss had offered it to me. OK no big deal. I could use the night’s sleep. Later on Tuesday there was a call out so I ended up working, but the last minute nature of it threw me all off the next day.

I had a work meeting out in the eastern part of the state yesterday. What should take me an hour and a half tops took me over 2 hours. Why is there rush hour traffic at almost 10am? I could never live and work out there.

Well I suppose I could wallow in my little pity party, but I won’t. It’s time to move on. The sun is coming, so “they” say. I have a 20 mile run this weekend and I’m going to kill it! I had my lemon water this morning to start the day and now I’m eating a bowl of oatmeal with a little banana and apple. I’m having dental surgery later this morning. This afternoon I’m supposed to shuttle things from Carlos’ school over to UMass where they are holding the school’s annual auction. Carlos is having a much awaited sleepover tonight with his best friend. It’s going to be a busy day, but I’m grateful to have another day to try to figure things out. I’m not perfect, but I will progress. This is just a bump in the road of the wonderful journey I’m on.


 

After the data packed lecture by Dr. Robert Ostfeld, I went to the Michelson Museum for a talk by Lani Muelrath, author of  the book, Fit QuickiesThe book describes how to “fit” fitness into your day in short targeted bursts to maximize the effectiveness and minimize the time spent working out. Lani also follows a whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD).

Her talk was entitled the Food and Fitness Connection and like the book details not only how to fit workouts into busy schedules, but also touches diet and mindset. She refers to the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle as fitness, food and mindset.

I enjoyed the lecture and the demonstration of a couple “fit quickies” at the end. Lani is energetic and passionate about what she does. She speaks from experience, having lost 50 pounds and she lives the lifestyle she preaches. She was also very approachable throughout the weekend.

Lani Muelrath
Lani Muelrath

I thought this was an interesting slide she showed at the end of the talk. Since I started this new job I find that I’m working at the computer much more. From day one I noticed areas of my back tightening up and my right shoulder felt pinched after sitting for a while. Now, most days, I stand up at my kitchen island while working. I have no more back discomfort or shoulder pain.

Evolutionary return
Evolution goes backwards

Healthfest Day 2 – Dr. Robert Ostfeld

I decided to indulge in a rare treat…a little extra sleep in the gigantic king size hotel bed. Unfortunately this meant missing the Healthfest training run at 6:30am. Instead, I enjoyed a solo run near the hotel in Marshall. There wasn’t much to see on the main road so I turned down a side street and found myself on a quiet residential dirt road. As I came up a small hill on my way back towards the main road I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise. The weather was cool, but still a welcome change from the northeast.

IMG_2079

It was really difficult to pick and choose which sessions to attend. There were typically two or three at a time with shorter fitness sessions woven into the day. It was nearly impossible for me to attend a yoga class and make it to the lectures I really wanted to see as well. I saw as much as I possibly could in the short time.

Healthfest Day 2

8:30 AM 

Your Heart on Plants 

The first session I attended was a talk by Dr. Robert Ostfeld, Director of Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. Dr. Ostfeld presented a straightforward, research based lecture. His use of case studies, anecdotes, and ease with which he spoke of the subject matter made the talk enjoyable. The fact that the content was upheld by scientific data reinforced my understanding of the positive effects of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPBD) on the heart.

Bypass surgery
Patient date proves effectiveness of plant based diet
Patient data proves effectiveness of plant based diet

The following are notes that I jotted down during the presentation:

  • Lifestyle is the cornerstone of preventive medicine
  • 65% of 12-14 year olds have early signs of heart disease
  • There are 2 heart attacks per minute in the United States
  • Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States
  • Women are 6-7 times more likely to die of a Myocardial Infarction (MI) than Breast Cancer
  • Framingham Heart Study – began in 1948 and continues to track three generations of participants in Framingham, MA to help identify the factors that contribute to heart disease
  • Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) – associated with increase in cholesterol levels in the blood. Found in meat eaters, but not present in vegans.
  • Goal of Dr. Ostfeld’s Cardiac Wellness Program is to prevent and reverse heart disease with a WFPBD
  • Case study – Female patient in her mid-60s. Status post MI (heart attack), refused surgery. Shortness of breath on minimal exertion. On cardiac medications. Started a WFPBD with no oil. In 4 months her LDL dropped 70 points and she was able to walk comfortably for 30 minutes on a treadmill. There was a strong dichotomy of opinions in her family, half of the family were in full support of the WFPBD treatment and half did not approve. Patient had to move closer to the half of the family that disapproved of the WFPBD and she returned to her previous eating habits. She quickly decompensated, had another heart attack and opted for bypass surgery.
  • HDL efflux = WFPBD makes HDL cholesterol (aka “the good cholesterol”) more efficient which can actually decrease HDL level (we are ingrained to believe that our HDL should be high and LDL low).

Dr. Ostfeld did another session later in the day called Beyond the Heart, but it conflicted with another lecture I wanted to hear. What impressed me the most about Dr. Ostfeld was the fact that he’s prescribing plant based diets to his patients and he’s monitoring real success. He also follows a WFPBD so he’s not just preaching to patients. He’s actually living the same lifestyle he promotes. His message, and really the overall theme of the conference, is that if we treat our bodies the right way we can live a long healthy life despite our genetic lot in life.

Healthfest Day 1

Friday, March 27, 2015

I drove about 45 minutes from Shreveport, LA to the small town of Marshall, TX. My hotel was practically on the highway exit to Marshall so I checked in and then set out to explore the town.

Marshall Texas Court House
Marshall, Texas Court House
Quiet street on a Friday afternoon in downtown Marshall, TX
Quiet street on a Friday afternoon in downtown Marshall, TX

There was not much happening in Marshall. I expected to see more people with the conference set to start in just a couple of hours, but the town was very quiet. I read that a few of the local restaurants were offering special vegan menus in honor of the conference so I grabbed a quick lunch at Sweet Sabine’s Restaurant. I enjoyed a veggie wrap and a delicious vegan carrot ginger muffin.

The conference opened late in the afternoon at the Marshall Conference Center. I checked in around 4:30 and made my way around the small vendor area. I watched the Vitamix guy do his thing and grabbed a sample of his green smoothie. I was mostly in awe that some of the main presenters, like Dr. T. Colin Campell (co-author of the China Study), Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete) and Christy Morgan (The Blissful Chef) and were just walking around chatting with people. I have read their books and blogs anonymously and there they were chatting with folks and posing for photos. I suddenly became very shy! I felt a little out of place wandering around by myself.

Inside the large conference room a small vegetarian chili competition was happening. I tried the three different chilis and voted for my favorite which had almond butter in it. Sounds strange, but it really was delicious.

A local fitness group did a zumba presentation while people began to fill the auditorium in preparation of the opening night of Healthiest 2015. I sat anxiously in the third row with my glasses on and notebook in hand. How badly do I want to go to college again?!! Dr. Campbell was literally about 3 feet away from me politely talking with anyone who approached him. I posted about it on Facebook and a few friends insisted I try to talk to him or at least get a selfie with him. I couldn’t do it!! Instead I took a photo of him talking to someone else. He’s 81 years old!

IMG_2076
Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Mayor Ed Smith and his wife Amanda opened the conference with a short discussion of the origins Healthfest. It began as part of the Get Healthy Marshall Texas movement which was started by the Smiths. Mayor Smith was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. After transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet the cancer was halted. Mayor Smith and his wife have encouraged and motivated their community to take charge of their health through their own enthusiasm about living a plant based lifestyle.

They introduced the keynote speaker, Rich Roll. I’ve mentioned him on the blog. I have been listening to the Rich Roll podcast for a few years now which feature a range of guests from the likes of well known health and wellness experts, bloggers, athletes and inspiring people who have overcome diversity. These people are truly living their dreams and motivating so many along the way. Rich told his story, one that I’ve heard on the podcast and read about in his book, Finding Ultra.

IMG_2075
Rich Roll

Next up was Dr. T. Colin Campbell with a discussion of his famed book, The China Study, which essentially chronicles the link between nutrition and chronic illnesses. He also touched on the subject of what many find difficult about adopting a whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD).

The Origin and Meaning of The China Study
The Origin and Meaning of The China Study

The last presenter of the night was Chef AJ. She’s a performer and is clearly at home on the stage. Her talks are informative with a heavy dose of comedic grit thrown in for texture. She’s got a witty sarcastic humor that resonates with me. She also looks amazing and attributes her svelte body to the rather rigid oil free, whole foods plant based diet she has been living for years. Her message is all about eating to the left of the red line something I will discuss in another post.

Chef AJ telling Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss
Chef AJ telling Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss

The night ended with the winner of the Chili cookoff being announced. I returned to the hotel tired, but excited for the next day of the conference. I browsed the Healthfest schedule and tried to decide which sessions I really wanted to attend the next day as so many of them overlapped or were held at the same time.

Louisiana and Texas

There is nothing I love more than exploring a new city on foot. Early this morning I went for a 6 mile run around Shreveport and over the Long-Allen Bridge into neighboring Bossier City, Louisiana. I lounged a bit before running to the store to pick up a few things. I grabbed a kale mango smoothie and hit the road for Marshall, TX and day one of Healthfest 2015.

Some photos from my run

    

On the drive I got to thinking about what possessed me to come all this way for a health conference. This weekend was all about getting out of my comfort zone in many ways. It’s not enough for me anymore to sit in the comfort of my home reading health and nutrition websites, blogs and listening to podcasts. I am passionate about nutrition and the healing potential of a plant based diet on the body. I need to be more active in pursuing my passion.

I enjoy learning and furthering my education. I was seeking an experience that would allow me the opportunity to spend time around like-minded people as well as access to those who are not just talking the talk but also walking the walk.

I don’t remember exactly how I found out about Healthfest. I believe it was on the Rich Roll podcast. Nevertheless it was a couple of years ago when I first heard about the conference and it instantly struck a chord in me. I looked it up on line and must have signed up on some sort of email list because sometime around Christmas I received an email offering a significant discount for early registration to Healthfest 2015. When I read the line up of speakers I knew I had to go…not only was Rich Roll going to be presenting, but Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Garth Davis, Chef AJ, Ellen Jaffe Jones, and Matt Frazier as well!

OK I know most people are probably reading that list and thinking Who The ?! But I knew of them all, I’ve read many of their books, visited their websites, listened to their podcasts and subscribed to their blogs or newsletters. 

Let me stop for a moment to say that although this experience was uniquely about the benefits of a whole food plant based diet, I am not here to preach. I am not judging anyone for their decision to eat meat and dairy. I plan to share my experience at the Healthfest conference as information that might be of interest to some. I find this subject matter fascinating and thought provoking. I respect you if this isn’t your cup of tea.

Before I get into the conference I want to revisit my own transition to a mostly whole foods plant based diet. I’ll get around to why I say mostly, but first I will confess that I didn’t eat a green vegetable until I was about 23 years old (I may have eaten some as a baby, but for as long as I can remember the only “vegetables” in my diet were ketchup and corn). It was rather pathetic that I didn’t even eat salad. Prior to leaving for the Peace Corps when I was 25 years old I did begin to eat a little bit of romaine lettuce and broccoli. 

My time in Mozambique transformed my taste buds in a miraculous way. I went in with a horrible diet and emerged with an expanded palate, but best of all I craved all sorts of vegetables and became a very adventurous eater. I returned to the U.S. in 2002 but it wasn’t until 2011 that I became vegetarian after a visit to Mozambique. I had been easing into vegetarianism by then, but at some point during that trip I announced out loud to my husband that I was done eating meat. I honestly have never looked back on that decision. I truly believe it was best for me and my body.

My progression to adopting a mostly plant based diet happened because of running. As I began running longer distance races I became acutely aware of how my stomach often felt “off” on race day. I had to incorporate extra time pre-race to make sure I could get it under control so I didn’t have to go to the bathroom mid-race. Somewhere in my reading I kept coming across advice to cut out dairy the week before a race. I tried it and surprise surprise no stomach irritability. I did this for a number of races before the light bulb went on that my stomach wasn’t only irritable on race day, it was like that every day! Perhaps if I stopped eating dairy I wouldn’t feel that way anymore. So I stopped and lo and behold I began feeling better. Am I lactose intolerant? I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I feel infinitely better without dairy. 

I can’t call myself vegan because I occasionally eat small amounts of cheese, milk or butter if it is mixed in something when I’m out to dinner. This is very rare, only happens out of my home and it is the extent of my dairy intake. You can follow me on My Fitness Pal if you want a glimpse into my diet. I stick as closely as I can to a whole foods plant based diet aka fruits, vegetables, whole grains and no processed food. 

I know I’m getting closer and closer to adopting a purely vegan diet. That is my choice. I do not push it onto family or friends. Orlando is vegetarian at home as I no longer cook meat per his request. He does eat meat at times when we are out to dinner or at someone’s home and he still eats dairy. He enjoys the food I cook and likes the way he feels. Interestingly he found it challenging when he recently went home to Mozambique because he insisted on eating the way he does here and he experienced a great deal of resistance from his family. He actually had to cook for himself a few times which goes against the cultural norm in his country. Ironically Mozambique is an incredibly easy place to be vegan because of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables particularly the agricultural town where his family lives.

Carlos is a picky eater, much like I was until I was in my 20s. If we let him choose his diet would consist of macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets (the frozen ones not McDonalds), cheese, and bread. I call it the white diet. Fortunately he will drink smoothies with spinach. He loves fruit. The chicken nuggets he eats most of the time are actually vegetarian. Shhh! He is transitioning to almond milk as he doesn’t drink milk anyway and only uses it in cereal. Carlos is most certainly not vegan. However, he understands what it means and I continue to encourage him to eat vegetables and more variety of foods overall.

So that turned into a very long explanation of why I decided to go to Healthfest 2015 in Marshall, Texas. I hope you’ll take the time to read about my experience. Maybe you won’t agree with the information and that’s ok. Maybe you won’t become vegan or even vegetarian and that’s ok too. Do me one favor though, read with an open mind and please feel free to ask questions if you have them.

  Healthfest Day 1 coming sometime this week!

 

North to South

This weekend I will embark on a little journey outside of my comfort zone. I have been reading about various health and wellness related conferences and events for some time now. They look interesting. I am intrigued by the opportunities that I might stumble upon amongst so many other like minded people. So tonight I am off on a little adventure south to Shreveport, Louisiana where I will spend the night before heading to the small town of Marshall, TX, home of Healthfest 2015

Today actually began yesterday, Wednesday morning. I worked all day, but took a break to pick up Carlos from school. The only thing that makes this weekend bittersweet is being away from Carlos. I have only spent two nights away from him a few times. Sorry that might seem ridiculous to some, but I really hate to miss anything that goes on in his life. Sunday is his last skating session of the season. I have attended two of these ceremonies in the past, but still I’m sad to miss this year’s. Deep down I know this weekend away is as important for me as it is for Orlando and Carlos to have some time alone together. I am grateful for FaceTime though!

Back to yesterday…Carlos had a friend over in the afternoon while I finished up some work. After dinner I brought his friend home and stopped for a quick mani/pedi. Wow did that feel amazing! I was long overdue.

I finished up the rest of my work and took a short nap. I had agreed to work the overnight at the hospital weeks ago and didn’t really pay attention to the fact that I was traveling the next day. By 10pm last night it wasn’t feeling like such a great idea, but it’s always good to see my colleagues again. It ended up being an uneventful night. I enjoyed catching up with the girls.

This morning was a whirlwind of chaos. I brought Carlos to school, stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a few things because I had to whip up some kind of gluten free treat to send with Carlos to school on Friday for staff appreciation day, returned home, attended to work email, and started baking oatmeal raisin cookies. Suddenly work got busy, the oatmeal cookies were a disaster and I was staring at an empty suitcase at 12pm. I had to leave home by 2:30 to get to my mom’s so she could bring me to the airport. 

My oatmeal cookies had gone awry and baked themselves into one large sheet cookie! I ran a fork through the giant cookie after it cooled and realized I had just made really amazing gluten free granola! However, I now had absolutely nothing to send to school. My mom kindly arranged a box of biscotti from the bakery she works next to, but unfortunately they are not gluten free. I called the school to explain and apologize. Many of the staff are gluten free so they prefer baked goods be made to accommodate this need. 

For some reason the whole baking fiasco set off my emotions. I got a few work emails this morning which also frustrated my mood. This new job is very overwhelming and although I keep hearing it takes at least a year to feel comfortable, I am anxious to reach that point. I had myself a little cry and then moved on.

I finally got ready, packed and finished up with work. At last I settled in at the gate to await my flight and as soon as I sat the last two days (probably the last 4 months) hit me like a ton of bricks. I probably could have slept in that seat for a week. To be safe I stood up and waited for the plane to board.

It was an uneventful flight to Atlanta. I had a quick layover with just enough time to grab a tropical kale smoothie. I love airports that offer healthy options. The flight to Shreveport, Louisiana was aboard a much smaller plane and quite bumpy at times, but the flight attendant was great as was her coffee. The Shreveport Airport was so easy to navigate. I received an email from Hertz Rental Car as I landed. Hertz was right in the baggage claim area so I stopped there while I was waiting for my bag. They had my car ready, invoice all set as ordered online and I was in and out in about 3 minutes. The best part, no pressured attempts to get me to take all sorts of insurance. This was without a doubt the best car rental experience ever. 

I’m lounging in a large king size bed at the Holiday Inn in Shreveport watching Rehab Addiction on HGTV. I am looking forward to exploring the Shreveport tomorrow on foot before heading to Marshall, TX for Healthfest 2015.