Saturday, December 17, 2011

How My Veganism Has Helped My Brain Injury

I know that there are people in my life that don't understand how I could possibly be getting enough nutrients to help my brain.
I am getting far more nutrients than most! But I'll leave that for another post.

What I'd like to write about is the act of becoming vegan. Or of transitioning away from consuming animals and their secretions, to consuming plants, and about my brain's rehabilitation.
For those that don't know, I never cooked prior to becoming vegan. Troy likes to say that I could burn water. He did all of the cooking.
After the car collision, and the coma, and tubes and such, I started my various therapies: physiotherapy, speech language therapy, exercise therapy, occupational therapy, and eventually recreational therapy. My occupational therapy, once I mastered the basics of sitting up and walking, consisted of following simple directions to accomplish a task. The tasks would gradually get more complicated and distractions were also added to see how I would do.
Some of the activities we did was: board games and card games, puzzles and tests, baking and cooking, following a recipe, and other things that I'm sure I'm forgetting.
I have to say that the baking and cooking didn't go great the first few times. Troy had to jump in to save me(or the dish I was making) more than once!
This was prior to becoming vegan. I still saw double, and I wasn't loving reading the way I had adored it before. I hadn't started reading the vegan books yet.

It didn't take long to realize that I had to learn to cook if I wanted to be vegan. I thought Troy would never learn to cook plants. And certainly not just plants.
He adores the taste and texture of any animal's flesh!
Please don't misunderstand. I didn't stop eating animals because I didn't care for the taste of them anymore. I stopped eating them because it's wrong!
I decided that I needed to learn to cook. Namely, to not burn water! (joke)

                                           I did just that.
I bought The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Simply because I appreciate her writing style. I was familiar with her stuff from using The Joy of Vegan Baking.
In her baking book, she even gets down to how to read a recipe! Her recipes are simple to understand. Crucial to me! On account of never cooking before, and this pesky brain injury. I love how the ingredients are somewhat familiar. Lots of plants that I've never eaten before, but are commonly-found in major grocery stores! The truly beautiful thing is that, currently, we can get all of the ingredients between 2 different grocery stores: Dad's Organic Market, and the Real Canadian Superstore!  Especially now that veganism is moving more into the mainstream. Very exciting!!

Because I seem to get distracted,<ahem> and forget ingredients and steps, I take steps to prevent this from happening. Or really, just set myself up for success.

1)No music.
2) Put all of the corresponding measuring tools and ingredients on the counter. I like to place the ingredients in order on the counter, as they're added to the dish, and putting the measuring device next to the ingredient. Or just pre-measure it.
3)Put the ingredients away as I use them. This way, if vanilla extract is still on the counter, I know that I didn't use it.

I'm so happy that I learned to nurture myself, my family and friends! Learning to cook has been fantastic cognitive therapy!
Following instructions, measuring ingredients, calculating cooking times, learning the cooking terminology and techniques, meal planning, trouble-shooting, and veganizing loved dishes!
All wonderful brain exercises! All of these tasks are either exactly the same, or very similar to the exercises I did, or tried at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.
Yes, it could be argued that I didn't have to become a vegan to do any of this. Fair enough.
But before, I didn't care enough to even try to learn! 

Friday, December 16, 2011


Saskatchewan Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured.
Yeah, try to remember that with a severe brain injury!

My first painting after the brain injury
All joking aside though, it did take many months to learn SARBI's full name.
How I got involved with them was through a painting class I was taking at the Neil Balkwill Centre in the summer of 2010. Well, that and my brain injury. No need to be cheeky.
I found out about the painting class from Richelle, my ABI rep at the time. The class had other brain injured folk, usually with their ABI rep, depending on the effects of their brain injury. Turned out that I knew one of the reps! After he told me how we knew one another, because I had no memory of him. I actually asked if I might have met him at the hospital or in rehab. He reminded me that he dated a friend of mine for a long time, and we sort of worked together. Well, damn it. He was so unfamiliar to me! Turns out, he's a recreational therapist, and he works with the Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Team and at SARBI. Oh, teeny tiny Regina!
SARBI hosts art time at their office for the brain injured. Basically, they provide time, space, art materials, and support on Thursday afternoons. Because of my visual art education degree, I was encouraged to come spend Thursday afternoons helping with whatever they want to do. I did.
Van Gogh inspired
I provided instruction for whomever was having a hard time with whatever piece they were working on.
It was nice to have people that can relate. Everyone is very nice and the brain injuries vary greatly from person to person. Brain injuries from vehicle collisions, horseback riding, tumors, strokes, meningitis, even a tooth abscess! I know, right?!? I had no idea that was even possible!
From now on, I am going to the dentist whenever anything is wrong with my mouth!
And I will refuse to leave till they fix it!!

Everyone's abilities also differ greatly. Some in wheelchairs, or walkers, some need hearing devices, some need word charts. I find it so inspiring that these people are still trying. Despite whatever handicap afflicts them. Amazing!
I brought vegan baking every couple of weeks, along with the recipe, for everyone to share. It's nice to show people that vegan baking is delicious! That's my way of being an activist. By making delicious vegan baking and sharing the recipe.
I also paint non-human animals, whenever I get a chance to paint while I'm there.

I stopped going to SARBI in October 2011. I had gotten a new job, working as a baker at a local shop. I worked 2-3 hour shifts, and they closed permanently over the Thanksgiving weekend (remember Canada celebrates the harvest earlier than the States).
<wah wah> 

So it's back to the drawing board.
I haven't gone back to SARBI because I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life. I thought I had this figured out before!
We will see what I can do.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Breakfast With The Family

Every Saturday morning, we go out for breakfast with Troy's parents, and sometimes his brother, Tyler.
We go to Nicky's Cafe. We've been doing this for years. Other members of Troy's extended family are usually having breakfast with their families. And a few good friends go to Nicky's with their families as well. We know a lot of people there on Saturday mornings.
I continued to go for breakfast at Nicky's when I became vegan in September 2010. I just had dry toast with a fruit bowl and some mint tea.
By 'dry toast' I mean, it didn't have butter. I put peanut butter and jam on instead. Sometimes I sneak a banana in for a toasted peanut butter and banana sandwich. Yum! 
Did that for months. I was so afraid to find out if the bread they use is vegan or not. If the bread isn't vegan, I didn't want to stop seeing our friends and family each week! I didn't want to cut myself off from the rest of the world.
But, I sucked it up, and was brave and I called and asked. Turns out, their bread is not vegan. <wah wah!>
Well, damn it. For months, I ate non-vegan toast every week, calling myself a 'vegan'.
(This is where I forgive myself for not being the perfect vegan, learn and keep on, keeping on!)

I can't recall if the bread they use has milk or eggs, I just remember thinking, 'Nope! Don't want any of that!'
I do remember a wheat-sensitive customer(maybe she was celiac?) would always bring her gluten-free bread to Western Pizza for breakfast when I worked there. I would just do the same! Bring my own bread.
Problem solved!
I've been taking my own bread for a year now, and I'm very pleased that my brain thought of it! Now, it's hashbrowns, toast and tea.
I realize that most people wouldn't bother, but this vegan shit is important to me!
It takes absolutely no effort to take my bread(other than remembering to take it), and they toast it. They have zero problem with toasting the bread I brought, and there's no charge. How awesome is that?!?
I will talk them into offering more vegan options. I will! Bound and determined! I would especially love it if they offered vegan pancakes! Yummy! I can't see how making vegan pancakes would be anymore expensive. I think it actually costs less. I'll give them one of Colleen's pancake recipes to try.
Yeah, restaurant vegan outreach!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Year of the Dog

This story started a few years before I became vegan.
My husband and I adopted Chaos. It wasn't long before I was involved in the pit bull rescue community, helping pit bulls and others find loving homes. At one point we were given a Bloodhound puppy that our friend had rescued. He took the dog from the owner because the owner wasn't getting his dog's broken leg fixed. The owner had looked into how much fixing the leg would be, decided it was too much, so didn't do anything for days. Actually it had been broken for a full week. The dog broke his leg because he jumped from the moving truck bed while on the Lewvan(a quick paced road in Regina, Sk).
Why he wasn't tethered in, to prevent injury, I can only guess.
That's when our friend intervened. He brought the broken dog to our house. We quickly figured out which clinic could actually do something for his leg, and got him there. We paid for his leg to be fixed. It was pricey, he required pins and such. The poor dog was sent back to his owner. I don't really know what happened to him. I hope he's okay and happy.

Anyways! In 2007, I was taking a look at one of my dog magazines and there was a short story about a new film, Year of the Dog, with Molly Shannon. It talked about how the film was all about this character's concern for dogs. I talked Troy into renting it with me and we watched. It was, meh.
For me, it was sad. It made me sad. In fact, it made me a bit uncomfortable. I thought this was because it was sad. Nope! The entire film is about Molly Shannon's character, Peggy, and her transformation into becoming vegan.

This summer, I heard a great review on Our Hen House about this movie! I couldn't recall anything that they said happened in the film, so I watched it again Wow! I saw this movie back when it was released, but clearly, I didn't!
I had no idea it was all about becoming vegan! And it's actually a comedy! Despite the really sad parts that make me cry, it is a comedy! It really is!! It's a rather absurd comedy because she does so many absurd things! Things, that as a vegan, I have considered, however briefly, doing. But I haven't because I would really seem crazy. You probably have to be vegan to understand and appreciate the humor, but wow! Was I so blinded to her veganism the first time, that I couldn't appreciate or see the funny bits?

She does the stuff that ethical vegans have thought about doing, but don't. Cause that would be . . . inappropriate. 
I don't know how, but I totally missed her becoming vegan. Actually, it makes sense. I had blinders on. I didn't want to see it, so I didn't.
I watched again because I wanted to see which parts I had missed the first time.
It was the entire film.
I think I must had seen the first 10 minutes and another 10 minutes in the middle, and that was it. Because she clearly states several times throughout the film, "I want to be vegan", "yup, vegan", "there's no milk, butter, or any animal product in them. No animals were harmed in the making of those cupcakes". She even sponsors farm animals for family gifts. Delightful!
Is this what everyone goes through? I mean, does everyone really not see vegans? How did I wake up?
Does everyone really need to get bashed in the head to wake up?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our Hen House

I have listened to each and every episode of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's podcast, probably a dozen times.
I wanted more. Colleen has been busy this year! With Vegan's Daily CompanionColor Me Vegan, and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, all released in the last year, she just hasn't had time to release many podcasts.
I started trying other vegan podcasts on iTunes. They were okay. Some really challenged my thinking, like, Animal Emancipation, hosted by Gary L. Francione. Some were video podcasts, which I didn't want. Audio only please. I finally asked on, and Our Hen House was recommended.
Boy Howdy! I am glad I asked other vegans what they listen to!

This podcast is hosted by Jasmin Singer and Maryann Sullivan.
Maryann is a lawyer and an adjunct professor of animal law at Brooklyn Law School and Cardozo Law School, and will soon be also teaching at Columbia Law School.
was the campaigns manager for Farm Sanctuary, and — with Our Hen House — stayed on as a consultant through September 2010. She is a contributing writer for VegNews Magazine, a host for VegNews TV, and was also named by VegNews as one of twenty stand-out stars of the animal rights movement. She has also written for Satya Magazine and Heeb Magazine, and contributed to dozens of blogs.
Great podcast!
Each episode is about an hour long, sometimes a little longer, depending on the news, current events, and such. They interview inspiring vegans each week, talk about what's currently happening in the world of animal rights, and review products, books and movies!
Their website is full of inspiring content! Articles, videos, books, artwork! They've got it all! 
My understanding is that they're working on making Our Hen House into an online magazine! I think that will be rad! I am so excited to see what it'll be like!
They are completely listener and reader supported, which is ultra-cool!
Troy and I don't have cable, so we don't pay for TV, but I have zero problem with paying for content I actually want! So I do. Happily!
They have lots of tips on how to be an animal activist in creative, non-violent ways, from baking to visual art, and documentaries to literature! Our Hen House really makes their tagline their mission!
A Place To Find Our Way To Change The World For Animals.

This podcast helps me feel more connected to the vegan community. I know I've talked about the importance of community, but I will say it again. Community is important! Even if that community is online! We are social animals, so secluding yourself in a vegan bubble is not helping anybody!
Plus, Our Hen House has great thank-you gifts! Like the tote bag pictured here!(I have one!)

Monday, December 12, 2011


Cows have to be pregnant to lactate. 
Yeh, should be common sense, right?!
You would think so . . . but I somehow never knew! I'm a smart girl, I should know this! I mean, I know that mammals have to have babies to make milk, I know this!
I just wasn't putting the two together. And maybe you haven't yet either. 
Cows are pregnant for 9 months, same as us, so every year the cows are impregnated. Most of the time, it's artificial insemination. Usually with a machine, sometimes with a person's arm. 
Financially, it just doesn't make sense to feed a bull to keep him alive, when that bull isn't guaranteed to impregnate that cow when they're together. Hours could be wasted, waiting for the bull and cow to get it on! Hours, that could be spent, pumping more money, er, I mean, milk from the cow's udders.
Dairy cows in Canada are only used for about 3 lactation cycles. Or till they're 4-5 years old. Cows naturally live about 25 years.
The dairy industry uses cows for such a short amount of time because as the cows get older their production wanes. This is also why they are kept pregnant. The majority of ground beef is made up of  'spent' dairy cows. The reason they are sold ground up is because these cows are so physically destroyed, that no one will buy the bruised and damaged meat they can see.

They're milked 2 or 3 times a day. A large number of dairy cows suffer from terrible ailments, like mastitis. The machine doesn't know when it's sucking up milk or puss. There is an allowed amount of puss per glass of milk. According to the USDA, a cup of milk, should not contain more than a single drop of puss.
Still. We're drinking puss?! Gross!
To be fair, the milk is pasteurized . . . but . . . THERE'S STILL PUSS! Sure, it's clean puss...but it's puss, all the same!
Who wants puss in their milk? One, two, three, NOT IT!

Dairy cows also suffer from lameness. Basically, she's putting so much of her body's own minerals into the milk meant for her baby! The minerals are taken from her bones, and her bones, physically, can't keep her up, so she collapses often.

The part that truly breaks my heart, is that the cow's baby is stolen from her.
Usually, within the first 24-48 hours.
That milk was meant for the baby cow, not for us! So we steal every baby she ever has. The infant females go into the same servitude as their mothers, and the boys are sent to slaughter as veal.
I hear from many ex-dairy farmers and undercover agents that the mother cows bellow and cry for their babies for days. All she wants is that baby!
As a woman, and a feminist, the controlling of female reproduction cycles really bothers me. I don't have children, but it is still extremely offensive to steal a new mothers' baby. I don't care what species that mother is!
I truly do not understand how human mothers, 
after learning the truth, can keep consuming such an offensive and dirty product! Do they just pretend it isn't happening? Do they keep telling themselves that cows naturally 'give' milk to humans, like a gift?! The cows would suffer more, if we didn't take the milk?!
I'm just asking because I can sort of relate. Cause that's what I told myself as a lacto-ovo vegetarian years ago.
I also didn't put the veal industry and the dairy industry together. They are one and the same.

The dairy industry(along with school, the government, our friends and families) makes us believe that cow's milk is the only good source of calcium. (it isn't-btw!)
The calcium that cows usually get is found in the leafy greens they eat. We could just eat the leafy greens... Since cows no longer eat greens(instead they are given soy, corn, and wheat, and kept indoors for easy milking), their feed is supplemented with calcium.
Once pasteurized, the milk is supplemented with vitamin D and more calcium.

The fact is, the animal protein(casein) in the milk makes our bodies acidic. Our bodies can't stay acidic for long or we die. To neutralize the acidity, our bodies need phosphorus. The only form of phosphorus, our body has access to, is the calcium phosphorus found in our bones. To solve the acidity problem, the calcium phosphorus is removed from our bones, the calcium is peed out, and the phosphorus makes our bodies more alkaline.
So, why do we have shelves, and shelves of calcium supplements if we're consuming so much calcium from dairy??
This is why there is so much osteoporosis in North America. When we drink milk from mammals, our bones don't absorb the calcium. They get rid of it.

I'm sorry I don't have references for a lot of this information. It's all from the many, many books I've read, There's loads of websites, just google it, and you'll find it. Easy.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer has really great information, I know off-hand. This post was mostly from my memory(!!), and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's podcast, Vegetarian Food For Thought.
Actually, Where Do I get My Calcium If I Don't Drink Cow's Milk?, and Milk Is A Natural Food, And Cows Naturally Give Milk, So What's Wrong With Drinking It? are both very helpful and informative podcasts regarding milk, cows and calcium. The best part is she sites her sources. Unlike me.

My mom assumed that the Canadian animal agriculture systems were not 'as bad as' the States animal agriculture systems. After doing some digging, I have found the Canadian systems to be more out-dated and often more cruel than the American systems. Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals is one of the groups I get the Canadian information from.

My neuro-psychological assessment is done!!

It was supposed to take two days, but I got it done in one!
There were approximately 200 questions regarding depression and suicide that I had to answer.
It got, oddly, depressing . . .
But! I had to look at 50 different images, then another 50 images I hadn't been shown,  with the previously viewed images. I had to say which image I was shown before. I got 49 correct out of 50!
Boy howdy, I am sleepy! Had an hour long nap afterwards, and I'm still tired.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Not posting for a few days

I have my second neuro-psychological assessment on Monday and Tuesday Assessment runs from 8am to 4 pm. Long days for me. So I won't be blogging for a few days.