Category Archives: healthcare

On Feeding Our Son Food.

Callum with garden beets

This is Callum. He’s 1 year and 8 months old. He likes birds, buses, water, dancing, pushing things with wheels, reading books, especially ones with monkeys, stacking canned food, throwing rocks at the beach, petting his dog-sisters, and roaming around the yard. He also loves food. Avocados, Yams, refried beans, tofu, goji berries, strawberries, kale, tempeh, zuccinni, lentils, brown rice, crackers, peaches, yogurt, blueberries, apples, raisins, spicy things, coconut milk, sunflower seed butter, garbanzo beans, watermelon, garden tomatoes, indian food, thai food, vietnamese food, peanut butter, toast, noodles, calzones, oatmeal, farmers market fresh apple juice, grapes,   (I could go on).

In addition to breastmilk, Callum thrives on whole foods. Fresh foods. Garden foods. Foods high in protein, rich in vitamins, filled with fiber, minerals, and good complex carbs. We supplement his diet with a children’s multivitamin, a vitamin B-12 supplement (he loves it when we spray it right into his mouth)  kiddo probiotics, and plant-sourced vitamin D and DHA. He has an exceptionally healthy digestive system, and he’s never been sick. Runs a fever or gets a runny nose occasionally when he’s cutting a tooth, but that’s about it. He’s exceptionally well-engaged with the world, a keen observer, experimenter, risk-taker, and adventurer. He’s self-sufficient, sweet, creative, and unbearably cute.

He’s also vegan. His poppa is vegan. His momma is mostly-vegan. When I tell people we are a vegan family, it tends to make them uncomfortable. Some ask questions, like “is your son getting enough protein and good fats?” Others change the subject. Rarely does anyone ask why. Of course, I’m not in the habit of asking people why they eat meat, dairy, or eggs. I’ve never asked another parent if they think their children are getting enough complex carbs, fiber, or leafy greens, or if they’re possibly getting too much protein, transfats, or meat- and milk-borne antibiotics and hormones. I assume that they’re educating themselves about their children’s nutrition in the best way they know how.

By their questions and comments, not a few people have made it clear to me they assume we are undereducated about nutrition, or that we’ve chosen a path of deprivation for political or far-left ideals.  Many people clearly believe its one thing for us to “do this” to ourselves, but another thing entirely to subject our son to our beliefs.  Leaving aside the fact that they’re overlooking the superb nutrition that takes place in our home, they miss a fundamental point: every parent “subjects” their children to their beliefs.  Every parent raises their children the best way they know how, based on what they know about the world and what matters to them.

I’ll tell you what though…. Our table is hardly a place of deprivation.  We use our cookbooks like other people use facebook. We season, sautee, bake, experiment, and savor daily. We love flavor, we love spice, we love to eat, we love to share good food with friends. We embrace dessert with gusto.  And we enjoy our food all the more because we know that the choices we make in our kitchen are in line with our most deeply held values.

compassion. health. stewardship and sustainability. community.

compassion.
Ryan and I believe that if we can eat delicious, filling, sustainable, and nourishing foods without causing suffering, then that’s what we want to do. We don’t judge other meat eaters, and we understand that humans and other animals have been eating meat for millennia. What hasn’t been happening for millennia is the factory farming industry, which causes horrific suffering for chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals, for the entirety of their lives. They do not experience the “humane,” painless deaths we would like to believe, and their bodies are flooded with terror and pain and adrenaline as they are slaughtered. That’s just not something we want to eat, and its definitely not something we want to feed our son. The meat, dairy, and egg industries have gotten savvy to the fact that people are disturbed by these realities, so they market things like “cage free eggs” and “happy meat.” Both of these labels are words used in an effort to sell products. They very rarely reflect reality.

I have a great love for cheese, and my periodic indulgence in it is what makes me refrain from calling myself a vegan. I am not oblivious to the suffering that indulgence necessitates. The cow that gave the milk for the cheese I love didn’t give up her life for my smoked gouda, but her male calf did. To get milk from a cow, you need to get that cow pregnant, then take away her baby so you can take the milk for cheese. Male calves aren’t worth much now that veal is unpopular, so they’re not kept alive. In Tillamook County, Oregon, there are so many of these throwaway calves they’re talking about using their bodies for biofuel. Which takes the edge off my cheese craving. Going through the intense, demanding, exhausting, and often painful physical processes of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding also put a dent in my desire for queso. I did these things out of love, and they were hard. I shudder to imagine doing those things under coercion. Sometimes I still eat cheese. But it just doesn’t hold the appeal it once did.

health

Healthy eating habits are learned in childhood.  My parents and Ryan’s parents raised us on balanced meals, and the love which with they prepared the food we ate as children set the stage for our choices as adults.  We want to do the same thing for Callum.  If we can start him off with a craving for kale, an appetite for whole grains, a passion for fruits, and a love for legumes, than by golly, that’s what we’re going to do.

There is a literal epidemic of obesity and childhood diabetes in America. The leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and cancer.    One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk or heart disease and cancer is to eat a plant-based diet.  The vast majority of animal products in the United States are filled with hormones, to make the animals grow bigger faster (to achieve maximum profit) and antibiotics, to prevent the animals from succumbing to disease in the severely overcrowded and filthy conditions in which they live (again, to achieve maximum profit). If you consume food with growth hormones and antibiotics, you are incorporating those substances into your body also.  Numerous studies have found that animal products consistently arrive on grocery store shelves contaminated with fecal matter and foodborne illnesses like salmonella.  No thanks.

Thanks to our decades-old habit of using the oceans as a dumping ground for garbage, toxic waste, and the radioactive effluence of nuclear power production, seafood is extremely high in nasty crap like heavy metals. Being at the top of the food chain has its price—small amounts of toxins absorbed by plankton become concentrated in greater amounts in the flesh of the fish that eat that plankton. And so on, in the bodies of the humans that catch and consume that fish. Its called bioaccumulation. That means that if I feed my twenty-four pound son fish, he’s consuming a significant quantity of heavy metals.  That’s a lot of work for tiny kidneys—and our son was born with only one kidney. So we’re not messing around.

stewardship and sustainability.

I was raised to be gentle with the earth, and to consider how my choices impact the air, water, and overall health of the world around me. Animal products exact a severe toll on the environment.  Agribusiness has a vested interest in keeping this toll off the front pages, so you don’t tend to read too much about it.  Two trillion pounds of animal waste are produced by the livestock industry in the United States every year.  It has to go somewhere, and it usually ends up sitting in poorly managed holding ponds (from which it evaporates!) or running into waterways.   It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein.  It also takes roughly sixteen pounds of grain feed to produce a pound of meat.  That same amount of grain could feed a lot more people than that pound of meat.  There’s a lot of people on this planet, and less and less space left to produce viable food crops.  Meat just doesn’t make much sense.

community.

Yes, there are farmers out there raising meat, milk, and eggs who are dedicated to compassion, health, stewardship and sustainability.  If you eat meat, milk, or eggs, seek them out.   They are doing something difficult and noble and their product is worth every penny they are asking for it.  Unfortunately, they produce only a teeny, tiny fraction of the meat, milk, and eggs (something like 1%) consumed in the United States.   Most communities that host meat, milk, or egg production have a long list of chronic health problems, thanks in large part to their exposure to toxic watershed and air pollution.  Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are breeding grounds for infectious disease (think bird flu and swine flu) which can of course spread far from the “farm” on the flesh of animal products).  Slaughterhouse workers have one of the highest rates of occupational injury of any industry in the country.   Animal product production is bad for communities.

When its time to sit down to eat…

We don’t think of our meals as “vegan.”  We think of them as food. We are feeding our son food.  Varied, nutritious, ethical, delicious, plant-based food.   We are not alone in believing this is healthful.  “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. “
We are not alone in believing this is delicious either.  We would love to have you over for dinner. If you live far away, I will mail you cookies.

I’m going to keep feeding my son food.  And I’m going to send him out into the world knowing how to ask questions, think critically, and stand by his decisions—no matter what they may be.

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Filed under coexistence, community, culture.society.anthropology., Family, Farm Sanctuary, Food, Garden, healthcare, mostly vegan, motherhood, Peace, Vegan Recipes, violence

Please Approve Referendum 71.

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Last fall, I was dancing at a friends wedding on Vashon Island. As darkness settled in, a string of paper lanterns was turned on, and I discovered that looking at the soft glow of the lanterns produced an intense pain in my right eye. The light sensitivity was nearly unbearable the following morning, and shooting pains had begun to radiate back into my skull. I tried to grin and bear it for a day or two, assuming I’d rubbed my eye too hard and bruised something.

When the pain continued to intensify, I called Group Health’s consulting nurse. The nurse took down my symptoms, then ordered me to be seen immediately. I got on the bus, and was sitting in an optometrist’s chair within two hours. They diagnosed me with Iritis, an autoimmune disease that results in an inflammation of the iris.

I’d never heard of it before. Turns out, its the 3rd leading cause of preventable blindness in the developed world. Left untreated, the inflamed iris can swell until it permanently fuses with the cornea.

Fun stuff.

They dialated my right eye until it looked like a shark’s eye (not kidding) and kept it that way for over a week.

Shark Eye.

Shark Eye.

Any time with my eyes open made me nauseous. (Contact lens wearers: try spending seven days in a row with only one contact lens in.) I was ordered to put steroid drops in every thirty minutes, then gradually phase off the drops when they deemed safe.

At the end of it all, I’d came out unscathed, with no permanent damage to my eye.

Nine months later, I ended up in the hospital again, with the same symptoms. This time, three different doctors misdiagnosed me, even though I told them my symptoms matched my last bout with iritis. After an emergency room visit on the fourth of July, I was finally referred to a specialist in degenerative eye disorders, who immediately diagnosed me and quadrupled the prescription other eye doctors had given me. I spent the entire month of my honeymoon in India putting in twelve steroid drops a day, and I will continue putting in one a day until November.

Two weeks prior to my first bout with iritis, I lost my health insurance from Basic Health of Washington. I was making too much money waitressing to qualify. Within a few more weeks, the economy would begin to crash into recession, and thousands more people would be dropped from the state healthcare system rolls.

Washington State’s Domestic Partnership law enabled my partner Ryan to add me to his insurance. It wasn’t cheap… over three-hundred dollars a month would be deducted from his teacher’s salary to cover my healthcare. I protested, worried we couldn’t afford it.

He insisted we go ahead, and after he threatened to make me call my parents to tell them I was willingly going without insurance, I acceded.

In all likelihood, that decision—and the domestic partnership law that gave Ryan the right to add me to his healthcare plan—-saved my vision in my right eye.

Ryan and I are just starting out.

at our wedding in June, 2009

Neither of us has much extra money laying around. Certainly not five hundred dollars or so to walk into the Emergency Room—not unless the situation is desperate. Had I been uninsured, I would have waited until I could no longer tolerate the pain in my eye before I sought medical attention. Chances are good I would have been misdiagnosed in the emergency room, or been prescribed the wrong quantity of eyedrops. Unable to afford follow-up care, I would have suffered further damage to my vision.

The domestic partnership law helped save my eyesight, at the age of 28.

Wait, you say, that’s you in your “wedding picture.” You don’t need the domestic partnership law anymore, right? You’re married, so you’re automatically entitled to coverage under your husband’s plan.

Yes, we got married in June, in the eyes of our family and friends, and the holiest people we know. Not, however, in the eyes of the state.

Too many of our friends and thousands of people we haven’t met yet are unable to marry the person they love. They are denied the right, legally, to take care of the person they’ve committed their lives to, by providing them access to health care, or comforting them in intensive care. Other people have deemed it their moral right to dictate who is entitled to love whom, and take care of whom.

We do not accept this reality and we refuse to tolerate it. Which is why we had a really beautiful wedding, committed to each other in the presence of everyone we care about, and never signed a single paper. We call ourselves married. Ryan is my husband, and I am his wife. We wear rings. And we are provided the legal rights of a “traditionally” married couple by the domestic partnership law.

A lot of people think that law threatens “the sanctity of marriage,” or the “integrity of the family.” These people gathered signatures to initiate a challenge to the domestic partnership law. 4000 of the signatures they gathered were judged to be of questionable validity, but the challenge to the domestic partnership law was allowed on the ballot.

Washington State law mandates that when a measure already signed into law is put up for a referendum, voters vote either “approved” to confirm the law or “rejected” to oppose it. Thus, although the petition to put this law to a vote was circulated by its opponents, the ballot wording is such that voters vote in the affirmative to approve the law or in the negative to reject it.

A little confusing, eh? Which is what the opponents of domestic partnership benefits are banking on.

If you vote to approve Referendum 71, you will be voting to PRESERVE domestic parnership rights in Washington state. (The rights that helped save my vision.) IF you vote to reject Referendum 71, you will OVERTURN domestic partnership benefits in Washington state, causing me to loose my health insurance.

Ryan and I are privileged. If that happens, we have the right to go to the courthouse, get legally married and rescue my health care. A lot of people we love and respect are denied access to that privilege.

Please take a moment to shelve your dogmas, your slogans, your culture wars, your ideologies, and your biases (on both sides of the aisle.)

This is the bottom line, as I see it (out of two seeing eyes):

If People Love Each Other, Let Them Take Care of Each Other.

VOTE YES on Referendum 71.

Here’s the dates you need to know:
October 5, 2009 (TOMMORROW): Mail-in and online voter registrations and transfers deadline
Seattlites: go to http://www.kingcounty.gov/elections/elections/200911.aspx

October 14, 2009
Ballots mailed to voters. As soon as you get it, mark it and mail it back.

YOUR BALLOT MUST BE POSTMARKED BY 3 NOVEMBER 2009 OR IT IS INVALID!

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Filed under healthcare, marriage, politrix