Finding Inspiration and Admitting I’m a Cheater!

June 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

I’m glad it is Monday, June 18. It means Sunday, June 17 has come and gone. So, I think it is time we focus on something positive!

I’ve recieved some really touching, lovely notes, emails, calls, and visits the past 45 days. While all the love and support has meant more than anyone can imagine, the ones that have really made me smile are those that told me I’ve inspired them…

My dad lived an amazing life. He had this ability to walk into a room and convince anyone to believe in his dreams. He was the epitome of a charismatic salesman. He knew what he believed in and he sold it well. I on the other hand have never really felt like I’ve had this quality. I used to be an artist. Weeks were spent creating fine pieces of art that were meant to move people. Make them feel something. But I often felt as thought I fell short. I went into business, and while I can sell my case, it isn’t like my dad. He was a natural.

So you can understand why I got so excited when a few people wrote to me that they are thinking of trying veganism in part due to me and this blog! My mission in life is not to convert everyone (OK, I may be fibbing here as with every day that passes, that is really what I want to do) – but I do want to show people that it isn’t necessarily that hard to be vegan. Vegans are often viewed as hippies that seem to do the impossible and have to eat food without flavor. I don’t care if I convince you to be vegan. But I do care that I do my part for the community in showing that this is not the case. Let’s debunk some myths:

  • Vegan food has NO flavor. This couldn’t be further from the truth! When I first became vegan, I’ll admit I worried about this very thing. But really, if you think about it, non-vegan food doesn’t always get its flavor from the meat or cheese it uses to create it. I was predominantly a chicken eater before going vegan. Come to think about it, chicken really doesn’t have good flavor on its own. You’ve got to give it a lot of seasoning, add some delicious sauce, and then its got good flavor. So then, why can’t you give this same flavor to veggies, beans, and grains? Just because you’re entering a world without bacon or beef doesn’t mean it has to be devoid of flavor. I can promise you this vegan chili, raw zucchini pasta (don’t let the raw part fool you), curry spiced sweet potato soup, and spaghetti squash pasta are all absolutely bursting with flavor – this is the type of vegan diet I enjoy 🙂
tomatoes and chickpeas with zucchini noodles
Get this zucchini noodle recipe here.
  • I just CAN’T give up meat or cheese.  OK let’s just get one thing out of the way. Yes, bacon is absolutely amazing. It is crispy, smokey, and straight up delicious. I’m not going to argue with you on that one. Now that we’ve settled that, I don’t eat bacon because a) I know animal foods lead to a higher chance of disease, and b) pigs are highly emotional beings – they feel the need to be loved and seek community. So, now that we agree on the fact that bacon is delicious, but I chose not to eat it, I want you to know that you can choose the same thing if you want. Most people are worried about variety. It’s not that they are that worried about never having one thing again. I was really nervous about going vegan – how would I find variety in my diet? Well, I did my 30 day vegan challenge, and I can honestly say after 30 days, it didn’t bother me anymore to not eat meat, eggs, or dairy. Don’t get me wrong, the first few weeks are brutal. There’s no denying that. But after 30 days it really is no biggie. You Catholics out there will recognize this. I used to give up chocolate for Lent. At the beginning it seemed impossible. By day 30, I wasn’t even craving the chocolate. Your body is pretty unbelievable. It can retrain itself in no time. You just need to give yourself a little nudge.
vegan, vegetarian, dairy free
Get this hearty vegan chili recipe here.
  • I just CAN’T live the rest of my life without ever having (insert item here) again. When I first went vegan, I was really nervous about my favorite food – cheese pizza. How on earth was I going to give it up?? Well, luckily for me, cheese pizza didn’t turn out to be a problem. Believe it or not, I haven’t missed it yet after almost a year. What’s turned out to be harder for me is fish. If I’m out at a super nice restaurant and there’s some fresh caught fish that sends my mind into foodie dreamland and I can’t possibly come back to planet earth without eating it – I order the fish. Yes people, I’m a cheater (GASP!!!). It’s taken me a while to come to terms with this as the vegan community can be seen as an all or nothing one. For me, it is about moderation. I cheat usually once a month or so and that’s how I keep my sanity. The way I look at it, if I eat 89 vegan meals out of 90 for the month and cheat at one meal, that ain’t so bad. So, I’m here to tell you, it is ok to cheat. This is about making positive changes for you, animals, and the environment. If never having a slice of cheese pizza or the aforementioned crispy bacon is enough to send you over the edge, then go ahead, allow yourself to cheat once in a while. You just need to watch your stomach and make sure you don’t overdue it.

So, I hope this has inspired you to realize that you CAN find flavorful vegan food, CAN live without the things you think you can’t, and CAN cheat occasionally if that convinces you to give this a try (don’t worry I won’t judge or tell!).

I hope this has made the thought of trying veganism more attainable and easy. Stay tuned for a post on tricks for newbie vegans!

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June 17, 2012 § 5 Comments

Today was as could be expected – pretty brutal, but we managed to power through. I knew this week was going to flat out suck. There’s just no other way to put it. Thursday would have been mom and dad’s 32nd wedding anniversary. While they were fortunate enough to share 32 years together, they deserved and thought they had at least 20 more. They were a couple that was made for the long run. For my mom to be a widow at 54 is simply unreal.

And then there was the matter of today – father’s day. A day that I regret to say was never taken very seriously by me. I always bought dad a card and some sort of gift, but I’m not sure I ever put too much heart into it.

I recall last year, my dad was nominated as one of three Central Florida “Fathers of the Year” by the American Diabetes Association. My dad called me a few hours prior to the dinner and said “You just need to go up and say a few words about me.” He didn’t make it sound like a big deal, so I was prepared to walk up and say something about my dad. Nothing fancy, just talk. Well wouldn’t you know that everyone had speeches prepared! Speeches that involved the entire family, stories, and jokes. I sat there listening – I was last of course – and just kept glancing at my dad giving him the “are you kidding me?” look. I couldn’t believe he didn’t tell me to prepare better! I went up and was honest. What I said was my dad didn’t need this nomination. He was father of the year every year at our house. And that’s how I felt about father’s day. I never took it too seriously because I felt like every day was father’s day. I loved my dad deeply.  I did what he said. Where he led, I followed. And I thought he would be around forever. I just never saw the future without him.

Knowing this week was going to be tough, we arranged for a little surprise for my mom. We took her to the Grand Cypress resort this weekend for a quick little getaway. I still remember the first trip there with my family nearly 25 years ago. This was a place we came to over and over throughout the years. We took her to her favorite restaurant last night, Hemingway’s. I distinctly remember my 12th birthday spent there when my dad gave me an emerald ring. This was just one special occasion there – there were countless birthdays, mother’s days, Easters, and more spent in that restaurant. While there was a distinct longing for a fifth seat, we made the best of it and enjoyed the evening.

But today, I wish things were different. I wish my dad were alive. I wish I could have gone over to his house this morning and made him these pancakes which he loved. I wish I could wrap my arms around him tightly and not let go. I wish I could hold his hand and tell him how much I love him. I wish I could hear his boisterous laugh which I can’t believe after only 44 days is hard to hear in my heard.

I love you and miss you daddy, today and every day…

A Month of Reflection

June 4, 2012 § 7 Comments

Today is June 4. Its been a month since my dad so abruptly and unexpectedly left this world. 32 days since he died to be exact. 31 days we have lived on our own.

It feels as though its been a day, a month, and a year all at the same time. The fact that a month has passed is astonishing. And yet the fact that its only been a month and feels like a lifetime is troubling. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting this past month on my father’s life, my own life, and grieving in general.

My father’s death was a public one. For the first week there was non-stop local news reporting. At first I was troubled by this. It was a private time but yet it ran non-stop on the news over the weekend. The Orlando Magic held a moment of silence – we got calls from friends in other cities saying they saw it on television. I couldn’t break away from social media – odd as that sounds – you’d think I wouldn’t have wanted to be on Twitter or Facebook – but for me, as long as people were talking about him, he was still with us. And so I found myself tied to the TV, Twitter, Facebook, Google News. It was as though with every mention of “Gary Sain” – he was somehow still alive. While the first week truly sucked, we were all comforted by the many friends and family around, as well as the virtual support online. (((Hugs))) abounded.

Then came week 2. A total fog. Life quieted down. Friends and family went back to their lives, and so we tried to do the same. I left my mom’s house and came back home. I kept waiting for my dad to visit me in the silence – I wanted to look up and see the fan moving even if it wasn’t on, to have the radio magically turn on to Chicago, the Beatles, or Frank Sinatra, to have my dog start barking happily at the sight of him that only she would be able to see. But none of those things happened. We were alone.

Week 3 was back to work week. I knew going back to work wasn’t going to be easy but I had absolutely no idea how painful and hard it would be. I just really can’t describe it. Last week, week 4, was my first trip and while I found little bits of my old self – getting excited here and there during meetings or wanting to meet up with people for dinner – mostly there was a huge void and I’m sure that will always remain. I found myself going through motions and wondering how many times my dad had done them. I found some sense of comfort in literally following in his footsteps. After all, he’d just been to DC the week he died. As I flew home I looked out over the sea of clouds and waved hello without raising my hand. A silent longing.

So, here I am, on Day 31 of living without my dad – and while there is still an uncontrollable sadness that can’t be defined, I’m coming to terms with this and can’t help but reflect on my dad’s life and be extremely, utterly, over-the-top proud of my father. I would have answered very differently Saturday but you see, last night was Florida Hospital’s Gourmet Soiree and the focus of the event is to help raise money for their “Healthy 100“. They’re trying to teach people how to live to a healthy 100. Part of the event was something called the “Executive Challenge.” I knew my dad was part of the Executive Challenge – it started out of his pushup challenge he set for himself on his 61st birthday – but I had no idea the instrumental role he played in it. He pretty much got it started and recruited the other executives as I learned last night.

Gary Sain, Florida Hospital

My mom spoke about the Executive Challenge and what she wanted everyone to take away from it – I was super proud watching her on stage!

As I saw this room full of people wanting to help others live to the Healthy 100, and these executives on stage saying all these great things about fitness and infusing a healthy lifestyle into their culture and doing the right thing and how my dad inspired them, I couldn’t help but be proud and amazed. The best was when the executives all got down to do 10 pushups in honor of dad, I had a huge smile and I know my dad was smiling too.

So, here we are trying to make progress. Yesterday really invigorated me and it was the push I needed. I exercised both yesterday and today and now have to decide what healthy vegan meal to make for dinner.

My request of you: Don’t wait to make a change in your life.

Do something today.

Take a challenge.

Go for it!

Reduce red meat. Cut out dairy. Walk daily. Try yoga. Meditate. Practice smiling. 🙂

No improvement is too small. You can do it!

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