Monday, July 8, 2013

Most Common Mistakes Vegans Make... I've Made 'Em All, Part 1

I have become a little lazy with blogging lately. I noticed that I am spending way too much time on facebook, LinkedIn, and the internet in general. These procrastinatory habits, along with receiving my very first rejection from a publisher letter and my incessant journal-keeping, have all led me to feel like a real writer. Finally! Yet, I think I have stated this before. Why, oh why, do I need to have these rites of passage to feel like a real writer? Well, I think it is because society does not always look highly on writers. I mean, isn't everyone writing a book? Doesn't every celebrity have a children's book or a cookbook? Aren't there a billion blogs out there? Who am I, then? Writer, shmiter. By the way, I am beginning to not like blogger/blogpost (the site in which my blog lives). The formatting over the last year sucks. I can't get the layout right and they keep updating and improving blogger until the features are unrecognizable. On another note... Recently, I have come across a few websites that are talking about common mistakes that vegans make. I found these articles helpful and wish I saw them at about the time I became vegan two years ago. Here are a few examples... These mistakes were written by JennĂ© Claiborne, a vegan chef, cooking instructor, and health coach from the website Amanda Rose Wellness. Here top 3 mistakes are: Mistake #1. You've unconsciously become a Bread-a-tarian I have totally been there and done that. I have toast each morning and often this is the safe go-to option when I am in a restaurant with no vegan options. Bread and salad (without creamy dressing) to be exact. (Often this is what the sympathetic waiter actually offers me as a meal with maybe... just maybe some plain rice. This is the typical scenario which led me to re-introducing cheese in such scenarios. Sniff. You made me eat... cheese.) The salad is not so bad since it may be packed with ingredients but it is hard to get that "full" feeling on leafy greens. This is where the bread comes in. It is very filling and you can dress it up with ump-teen toppings. Mistake #2: You’re not eating enough Okay, this was the case for me two years ago when I first became vegan. Oh my God. It was the first week of being vegan. The headaches, the fatigue, the bitchiness, the crankiness, the light-headed about-to-faint feeling, the I'm-still-hungry-every-hour feeling... did I mention the light-headedness. (My husband asked me if this was "de-toxing". It felt more like withdrawal from some mind-altering substance... not that I have any idea what that is about.) If you're going through this phase of veganism, get out of it REAL FAST. What did I do? Well, I said to myself, "Der gots to be a better way." I went on the internet and found the vegan food pyramid. Ta da! This Vegan Food Pyramid saved my life. I began to follow it and eat all of the servings suggested. When I did this, bought a few vegan cookbooks, and tried these meals, I not only felt full all the time, I felt GOOD. Keep in mind, while I was becoming vegan, I was also recovering from the removal of my whole thyroid, adjusting to the doses of Cytomel and then later Synthroid (the synthetic hormone to replace natural thyroid), and preparing for "going hypo" (I guess I do know about mind-altering withdrawal after all) and then radiation. Given all of this, with lots of adjustments, going vegan was do-able. Mistake #3: Being unprepared As I mentioned, in my early years of vegan-dom, I was totally unprepared. I did not have any makings of a vegan meal in my house other than a half bag of kidney beans and some rice. After I got the vegan pyramid and my cookbooks, I loaded up on such vegan staples as nutritional yeast (still don't know what that is), extra firm tofu, and almond milk. I learned to cook everything from great stews to casseroles to rice dishes to vegan pie and even Jamaican beef patties. (Please see my Vegan Photo Albums for proof.) I have also learned to travel vegan and be not so the pesky houseguest. I buy my own vegan eatables and also make plans ahead for wherever I may be staying. I go to sites like Happy Cow to find out the vegan restaurants in whichever city or community I will be in. But being unprepared is something that still happens to me. The school I teach at just so happens to be beside a Dairy Queen and a gas station. Uh oh... you can guess what happens when Blue Butterfly is at the school and has had an especially busy, hectic, noisy, hot (the portable and classrooms I teach in have no air-conditioning), long day and she is leaving the school at 6pm or 7pm? C'mon. I'm sure you can take a guess. Let me add that I did not bring any 3pm snacks and I'm also famished and I have a sweet tooth... I buy $2.00 bag of mixed-nuts... $2.00 for 75 grams of something that I can make at home for a lot cheaper and did you see the fat content? 28 grams of fat for a 75 gram bag of trail mix! Half the content of this bag is fat. OR... it gets worse. I tiptoe into Dairy Queen and I check out their flavour of the month blizzard but then I don't buy their flavour of the month blizzard. Instead, I by a mini or small Dairy Queen Turtle Blizzard with cookie dough. This is what I'm eating, people! These foods are not even vegan! Plus, if you look like on my list "Why Did I Get Thyroid Cancer?", milk is on that list. Oh... the horror! Okay, well I know the first step in recovery is to acknowledge that there is a problem. The second is to take the first step in fixing it by stocking up on vegan snacks in my classroom (a nice collection of seeds since nuts are not allowed due to the peanut allergy, dried fruit, soynut butter sandwiches, fruit, soya or coconut yogurt, a mini-fridge in my classroom to store it all) and getting my ass out of the school at a decent hour. (C'mon! Everyone knows teachers finish working at 3 o'clock. Duh!) But I shouldn't be so hard on myself. At least, I try to live a vegan existence in this meat-a-tarian world or at least this side of the world is. If I lived in many rural parts of the world and/or my fish allergy was non-existent, my diet would consist of very little meat. So at least, I am giving myself a pat on the back for making the effort. But still... they made me eat cheese.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

98 year old Vegan

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dreams Can Come True

I realize that my dreams are slowly becoming reality or at least in the process of happening. I feel like they are happening now. Dreams help me keep going. Each day is a step closer to my dreams. Each day my dreams become clearer and clearer to me. I am excited about the possibilities.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How Do I Hustle?

I went to the 4th Annual How She Hustles Brunch on May 25, 2013. I should also say that I was lucky (when opportunity meets timing) to get a ticket because it sold out within 24 hours. This event was organized by the beautiful and talented Emily Mills and her team of enterprising women. I was quite impressed with this event. I have known Emily for about ten years now through my networking thanks to my festival ICED IN BLACK. Emily has been present to support me at two particular important events in my life-- my ICanSurvive picnic and my at-home wedding ceremony last fall. Emily is positive, vivacious, and knows how to hustle as a media-savvy, newly wed, and new mom-preneur. One of her hustles is freelance photography (I have seen her buzzing around various events). Another is working in the field of media production and communications at two of Canada's major television outlets. Lastly, Emily is creating quite a name for herself as an organizer of this major event, HOW SHE HUSTLES. This year, it was essential that I make it to this event no matter what. Even if it meant taking an overnight megabus from New York City (for a relatives funeral) which ran almost two hours late, running home for a quick shower, so I could make it to HOW SHE HUSTLES almost two hours late. Regardless, I felt that I needed to be there first, to support Emily in this wonderful endeavour and second, to be inspired by 100 women who also share positive visions, dreams, and wisdom. I met women who had their own successful businesses and enterprises, women who were balancing motherhood, relationships, family, and career. I met women who like me were venturing into other directions. The overall experience was a positive one and I so glad that I got my sleep-deprived self "all dolled up" to attend this event. It is possible! I will post more photos soon.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dreamers Afraid to Dream

This morning, I woke up with a long list of things TO DO. I wonder if it is realistic or even possible however it is what I set out to do. I believe in writing down my goals. I believe in looking at them OFTEN. I also believe in breaking them down into manageable bite-sized pieces. One way I do this is by having my list of 90 day goals. For February 24 to May 24, I had a list of 16 goals. (It's hard to stay at 10.) I accomplished all but 4. The reasons were out of my control. For example, #1 Sell my car and #7 Train for a 10km in May were thwarted due to my car accident that totalled my vehicle and also required me to change my training schedule since I needed to rest my back. Otherwise, I am fiercely proud of what I have been able to accomplish. The 21-day challenge is another story. What I have learned is not that I cannot do my list of goals in 21 days is that there is a difference between a habit and a goal. The 21-day challenge is designed to formulate new habits. In addition, I can only work on one new habit at a time. So, as I get closer to the end of May, I am realizing that my original New Year's resolution of blogging once a week is attainable. This month, I have been able to many times. This is my 16th post which says to me that this goal is totally attainable. I think my new 21-day habit in June will be being at least 15 minutes early to my appointments and places I need to go. Speaking of goals, I also think of dreams. After all, a goal is a dream with a deadline. I have achieved some of my dreams and I continue to dream. One of my dreams is to get my children's stories published. I am one step closer. I submitted a manuscript of a children's book to a publisher who has taken a look at it, likes it, and offered a lot of feedback. I was/am thrilled and terrified. When I saw the letter, I did not want to look at it out of fear. Fear of what? I don't know. Fear of my own success? Fear of the fact that this was actually happening? I was at work and then when I got home, I decided to read the letter again. I was scared to look at it. Then, I read it again and I was also scared to look at the comments on the manuscript. Was I scared of criticism? OMG. Anyway, I saw on trey anthony's blog today a post by Tyler Perry which I could relate to. I felt like I was reading my journal. Well except the part about the Oprah Winfrey Network of course. Here it is: THIS IS FOR FRUSTRATED DREAMERS I was driving in to work this morning and I started thinking about all the days I dreaded going to work. I was so sick of it… the job, my boss, the people I worked with, the traffic… I would wake up angry every morning. I didn’t want to deal with the crap of the job, but I was forced to go. I had been homeless, I was broke, living paycheck to hopefully the next paycheck. I couldn’t take a day off for fear I would get fired. I was just frustrated. I thought I hated my life and the job. It was so aggravating because God had placed all these dreams and hopes in my soul and mind and I had no idea how they were going to come to pass. To have a dream of being something better and living better than the way I was at that moment and to not see a way of getting there felt like death to me. I thought, “Dear God, why would you give me so much hope and not make a way?” But what I learned through prayer was, with no path in front of you and no road map… this is where true faith begins. With faith I realized that I wasn’t frustrated with my life or the job, I was frustrated because I was a person who had dreams for myself, a person who had visions for my life and I wasn’t living it. Have you ever been there, where you felt so strongly that there was more to this life than what you see in front of you? One of the most difficult things about being a dreamer is the fear that the dream will never happen. I’m here as a living witness to tell you your dreams can come true. You can’t give up. And I am here to let you know that everything can work together for your good. The time that you are spending on that job that you think is a dead end is not. You’re being prepared just like I was. I was a shoeshine boy, I worked as a bill collector, a used car salesman, in housekeeping in a hotel, and they all were preparation for where I am now. What do these things have to do with where I am now? I’m glad you asked. I am able to use skills that I learned. I shined shoes, so I know how to shine my shoes if I need them to look nice. Selling used cars was a great way to learn how to close a deal. Bill collecting taught me great negotiation skills. Working at that 5-star hotel taught me a lot about travel. Every experience in your life is here to teach you something. Today, while you’re at work, don’t be frustrated. Look around you and ask God what are you there to learn and how will it be a part of your future dream. Honor that job, do the best you can at it, because God will bless you for honoring something that belongs to another. I hope this inspires you today. If you need a little more inspiration then watch my first sit-down interview in years with Oprah on Oprah's Next Chapter. It airs this Sunday on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network at 9/8c. I talk a little about not giving up. I know it will move you. Here’s a prayer for today: “God help me hold on, help me to get to what I dream of, help me to honor where I am today so that I can appreciate where I will be tomorrow. In Jesus' name.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Artist Spotlight: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

For today's artist I admire, I have chosen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I learned about Chimamanda quite by accident while visiting the TEDTalks website a few weeks ago. I was amazed with her talk called: The Danger of a Single Story. Chimamanda is a fiction writer born and raised in Nigeria, currently living in the United States. Her name means: "My God will never fail". In addition to writing some really successful, award-winning novels, she is also a lecturer and speaker. She grew up in a university town in Nigeria called Nsukka. Her father was a professor and her mother a university administrator. Part of her childhood was spent living in the house where renowned Nigerian novelist, Chinhua Achebe, lived. His work, When Things Fall Apart, is part of the canon post-colonial literature circles. I saw all this to say, the story of this woman's life is remarkable. First of all, she's gorgeous, dark-skinned, and poised. She is an amazing speaker in interviews and before an audience. She is another great example of the many intellectual, confident, intelligent Black women who lives in Africa and the world. At the age of 31, in 2008, Chimamanda was awarded the McArthur Fellowship valued at $ 500, 000. Her first novel Purple Hibiscus was published in 2003 and widely received. In total, she she has written four books. Although, I have not read them yet, she gives me a larger sense of what I can do with my life and aspire to be. She reminds me of why I write, continue write, and the way I wish for my audience to engage with my work. She is inspired to write books about characters like herself. Growing up in Nigeria, she talks about reading a lot of books, which I also did. All of these books were from England and the United States, the character eating apples and playing in the snow-- activities which she did not experience in Africa. She mentioned how much her world changed when she read African books, books with characters she could identify with and recognize. This changed her and her perception. I had a similar experience. Although, I did have access to books with characters who looked like me, they tended to be mostly African-American. It was not until I read a book called Harriet's Daughter by m. nourbese phillip, I had not read a book about a Black girl like me living in Toronto. I quickly fell in love and tried to find more books featuring characters of a Caribbean-background. One night last year, I had trouble falling asleep with the thought, "Who will write our stories?" Like Chimamanda, I wish to tell stories from different perspectives and stories that are unique. I like that she listened to her heart when she realized she was not happy about what she was doing. Chimamanda came to the United States to attend medical school however she was not satisfied. As a result, she decided to follow her heart and pursue her love of writing. She completed a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and another Master's degree in African Studies from Yale University. Today, she is a successful writer, lecturer, and leader in her field. (D'uh! She gave a TEDTalk.) She even presents writing workshops in Nigeria to help people tell their own stories. I look forward to reading some of Chimamanda's books this summer.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Following My Fear: Tribute to Artists and Shameless Maya

I have decided to devote the next few posts on this blog to people who admire in the arts. This will be somewhat of a study, portfolio, cache, whatever you may call it of artists who I admire and who are putting their stuff out there. I need to do this right now especially since I consider myself an artist... I am. I feel like it has always been a struggle to affirm and give space for this side of myself to exist but I am getting tired of fighting it. I wish to do art, create, write, sing, ALL THE TIME. All the voices in my head are speaking quite loudly right now with ideas, concepts, and visions of stuff. At times, I get emotional because I wonder how I might do things differently in my life to make my art whether it be my writing, my music, my illustrations, all three support me. I am seeing people around me do it and I am seeing creative artists do it and I wish to pick their brain a bit. I wish to find out how they support themselves as artists, how they carry out their visions, what are their habits, etc. I started off by talking about the work of Che Kothari. I will post a number of other folks I admire. The goal is to encourage myself to pursue my dreams and goals, to take them out of my head and my journal, into the world. Speaking of gutsy artists, I just learned about Shameless Maya today. (Thanks, Denise.) Maya Washington was born and raised in Toronto. She is Filipina and African-American. On her website she describes herself as: "I refer to myself as an artist. When I’m not storying telling with photographs or my voice I’m designing, revamping, producing, directing, or story telling with the many other creative outlets." She went to college for Classical Theatre and was kicked out after her second year. Now she lives in New York City and works as a photographer and a "shameless" self-promoter. I admire her "go-getterness" and the fact that she turned her rejected reality into something new and awesome. It reminds me of the spunk I had when I dared to organize and found a nationally touring film festival. I wish I still had some of that blind optimism and boldness. The truth is... I DO. I know it's here somewhere. Let me look for it. Anyway, something truly caught my eye on facebook the other day. FOLLOW YOUR FEAR DAY When I saw this and the fact that it falls on August 24, my birthday, I knew I had to do it. I am so doing this and I already have two "fears" in mind which I plan to face. I can't wait to get started. In the meantime, Ms. Shameless herself had some very wise words about how to view your art. This goes out to all "the starving artists, not all artists, just the starving ones". For me, it means seeing the value in your art and in how much "I believe in myself" and "believe in my work". I've got to stop feeling guilty about being "self-indulgent". So I am all for it. This is for me and all of the "starving artists" around me.

Blame It On My Thyroid (Or Lack There Of)

I just came back from a run of 7 kilometres this morning. I am training for the Toronto Thyroid Cancer Awareness 10KM Run. At points during my run, I felt lethargic and my pace was just slightly quicker than a walk. I felt tired and I gave myself every excuse in the book that I could continue at that pace. Until I passed people that is. Whenever I did, I quickened my pace and found this new energy and then I would slow down again thinking about my aching legs... how tired I was... and I began to blame it on my thyroid. Unfortunately, I don't have a thyroid so I could blame it on the lack of a thyroid. With my thyroid absent, I have no metabolism regulation, protein regulation, etc. But I don't have that excuse either since I take Synthroid (replacement thyroid hormones) so that should take care of it. I think it's just easier to make excuses sometimes for the things I don't necessarily want to do OR find too hard to do. And it's damn difficult to run 7 kilometre. But I know I can do it. And I have done it before. Whenever I get to be focussed on excuses, my Eric Thomas voice gets in my head and says: STOP WITH THE EXCUSES!!!!!