Clarification

I just wanted to briefly clarify one point from my post of two days ago.  After rereading, I realize I never expressly stated one of the major conclusions of the post, which is that the health problems that run in my family (like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes…the list goes on) are something that I can’t change, but that I can tackle head-on by doing what is best for my body.  The fact that I have just lost my uncle and am on the brink of losing my aunt, both before their time, was a wake up call that I personally need to change my own habits and outlook.  At no point did I mean to place blame on anyone, particularly not the subjects of the post. 

My heart goes out to all of my relatives in England who will be celebrating the memory of Uncle Tony this Friday.  I hope the fact that I have publicly posted my own thoughts and fond memories of him shows that I am celebrating with you in spirit.  Love to all xx

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The Many Colours of Tony Cook

Thank you to everyone who has commented, here or on facebook, and emailed me personally, for all of your kind words and support.  At the hardest of times, though there is nothing any of us can really do, those kinds of small gestures mean so very much.

And thank you to my grandparents for facebook posting the pictures of my uncle that I referred to in yesterday’s post, so that I may share them here.  While the outfit is slightly different than the image in my head (the suspenders are polka dot rather than rainbow), I think the pictures really show what a fun and outgoing person my uncle was.  Love to all xx


LOVE this one…”Artist”–no kidding!


My uncle and me (at age 18) 🙂

Reality

I am back to blogging after taking a long hiatus.  I apologize in advance for the length and depressing nature of this post.  Sorry if it’s difficult to read, but there is an over-arching message here if you can stick with it. 

Off the Wagon
I suppose it doesn’t really matter why I took a hiatus, but in the interest of full disclosure, the main reason was that I have not been vegan in the last year, and I would have felt like a liar blogging about vegan cooking (which I actually still do, as often as possible) during that time. 

My tumble off the wagon was caused by several factors, which can all be summed up under the heading of “law school.”  One of the most important components of a healthy, nutritionally adequate vegan diet is the ability to engage in meal planning.  Law school means tons of stress, an unpredictable schedule, erratic sleep patterns, and, in the first year, more partying than I care to admit.  More importantly, law school has left me no time to meal plan, let alone cook.  The issue is compounded by the fact that my school is far from my home and I commute there by public transportation, a commute which takes anywhere from 25-60 minutes (a special thank you shoutout is due here to the MBTA, for sucking so much), and leaves me stuck at school until the end of my class day (second shoutout goes to BC Law, for building a school smack in the center of residential-ville where I’d have to either suffer through your revolting freshman dining hall fried junk fare or walk 20-30 minutes {often in 2 ft. of snow or plain freezing weather} to get to a restaurant or store for food).  During the spring of my 1L year, when my veganism unravelled, I would leave my house at 7 a.m. to get to school for an 8 a.m. class, stay at school the entire day for classes, studying, and extra-curriculars, and not get home until 10:30 p.m. (for the non-math majors, that’s a 15.5 hour day).  Even if I had a means of refrigerating food while at school (which I don’t), the amount of food I’d need to bring with me for 15 hours would necessitate carrying a grocery bag on the commute with me, in addition to my laptop, purse, and 20 lbs. of books.  The result was that last spring, I ran on little more than a diet of vegan garbage–probably 90% refined carbs (things like crackers, English muffins, crap energy bars, and of course, tons of soda and coffee to try and artificially imitate the energy I wasn’t getting from my diet).  I felt awful, sick, sluggish, and constantly tired.  In other words, I wasn’t doing vegan right anymore, so I gave up. 

I have come a long way, health-wise, since then.  I have mainly been vegetarian, at times pescetarian, if labels are needed.  I’ve eaten chicken from time to time.  I have also gained a bunch of weight, which I suppose I should have expected, despite training for two half marathons (and running one…the second one is coming up, this Sunday 5/30).  So…there you have it: the reasons for my vegan downfall and blogging hiatus.  It may all sound like excuses, but honestly, I have to listen to my body and take care of myself.  I loved being vegan and the way I felt, healthy, strong, and compassionate, while I followed that lifestyle.  I sincerely hope that one day, hopefully after graduation next year, I’ll find a rhythm in my life that will allow me to eat that way 100% of the time again. 

In the meantime, I am back to blogging, with a renewed commitment to healthy eating and living.  I am going to keep this blog as a vegetarian blog for a while, and plan to post once a week with updates on what I’ve cooked and eaten.  However, I want to make it clear that I am planning to transition back into vegan eating for the summer, anticipating that my job this summer will give me the normal schedule I crave, as it will allow me time to plan meals and cook for myself. 

And now for the depressing stuff.  One of the main reasons that I am recommitting myself to taking care of myself and my body is that the events of the last 15 days have provided me with a stark reminder of why I wanted to be vegan in the first place. 

My Uncle Tony
On May 9, 2010, my uncle, my dad’s only brother, passed away swiftly and suddenly from a heart attack.  He was six weeks shy of his 52nd birthday.  Uncle Tony was a truly lovely man, warm and jovial, always the center of attention in any room, always smiling, always wearing bright colors, quick with a joke and quicker with a bear hug.  He had a booming voice and a loud, infectious laugh, and loved his family, his wife, three daughters, and his four grandchildren dearly.  My dad’s family all live in England, so I didn’t get to see my uncle often in my life, but all the times I did see him resonated deeply with me.  I loved him very much and I miss him terribly. 

Some of my favorite memories of Uncle Tony were from August 2003.  One day, he and I and his youngest daughter went to a football match in Ipswich together.  He bought me a hat and a hot dog, and we watched the game; it was a beautiful day, and it was a ton of fun.  The next day there was an outdoor music festival in town which Uncle Tony, who was always involved in the arts, had helped to organize.  He showed up in an outrageous outfit, typical Tony, consisting (as I remember) of a bright, striped button down shirt, rainbow suspenders, and a funny beret.  I have a picture of it somewhere, which I really need to find.  In the meantime, here are some pictures of my uncle that I think help to capture who he was.


With his three daughters, my beautiful cousins


With Dad and their parents, my grandparents


Our family, June 2006 (Tony is in the back row on the far right)

My Aunt Debbie
On May 22, 2010, my aunt, my mother’s only sister, was admitted to the ICU at a hospital in NJ.  Her kidneys as well as her liver are failing, and she has a terrible infection in her body.  She is 55 years old.  My aunt has had alot of health problems in the last several years but this is the worst it has ever been.  She is still in ICU today and fighting hard with the help of a great team of doctors and nurses.  My whole family has been to see her, and we are all being as optimistic as possible, while keeping in mind that she is really very gravely ill.  I was with her in the hospital on Saturday and Sunday, and now that I am back in Boston, I want her to know that I am still thinking of her and praying for her, and that I love her very much, which is why I am posting. 

Like Uncle Tony, Aunt Debbie is a real character, someone who likes to make others smile, and who really is just a kid at heart.  She loves Lady Gaga and Akon, playing the piano, eating lobster, and going to shows and concerts.  I haven’t known many people in my life who were as comfortable relating to young children as she is; as a child I loved to play with her and spend time with her, going to the boardwalk or pool or the toy store.  She would make funny faces, wiggle her nostrils, imitate Donald Duck, anything to make me laugh, and she’d ask “Who’s the best aunt in the whole wide world?”  When I said “Aunt Debbie!” she would exclaim “Isn’t she smart!”   She always came to my high school plays and my college a cappella concerts, and loved meeting my friends and telling them to call her “Aunt Debbie”.  She doesn’t have any children of her own, and has always treated J, M, and me like her own.  Whenever we see her, she’ll slip each of us $5 before she leaves and say “Here, buy yourself a cup of coffee!”  Even though her health hasn’t been great in recent years, she has still done her best to come to all of our family gatherings, and has called me often when I’ve been away at college or law school, to check in and see how I was doing.  Here are some pictures of Aunt Debbie, when she was feeling a little better than she is today.  If anyone is reading this, please say a prayer for her.  Thank you.


With M, me, and our cousin, Thanksgiving 2008


With her dog, Hercules


Making fun of “Jersey Shore” with J, Thanksgiving 2009

The Takeaway

Both Uncle Tony and Aunt Debbie are people that I will always think of as having wonderful, loving personalities, and being important parts of my life.  I wish things were different right now.  I wish that Uncle Tony were still alive and that I’d get to see him and hug him next year when I go to England to see my family.  I wish that Aunt Debbie were well and that I could call her and go out to lunch with her.  But none of these things are possible, and it all comes down to health.   Uncle Tony was overweight and had even suffered a heart attack a few years ago…yet, he did not make changes in his life that prevented his having a second heart attack, which killed him.  It seems like such a waste of such a lovely person.  Aunt Debbie has had so many health problems but has not been careful to avoid things that could put her at risk for very serious complications, such as the ones she is experiencing right now.  This, too, feels so tragic to me. 

We have to take care of ourselves and our bodies.  Really, there is nothing more important.  I love to help and take care of others but I won’t be able to do that if I don’t have a healthy, strong body that can transport me through the daily rigors of life.  I know that both my uncle and my aunt would want me to live a long, healthy life, and to not repeat the mistakes they made.  For this very important reason, I am recommitting myself to a healthy lifestyle and redoubling my efforts to return to veganism, because I know that this will be a way for me to improve and maintain my health, and to stick around for a long time.  This is honestly the best response I can think of to the hard times that have fallen upon my family in the last two weeks.  I need to stay strong for them, and for Uncle Tony and Aunt Debbie.