Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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I'm friends with an 84-year-old woman named Ruth who has been blind for about 30 years. She lives alone. She teaches first level Braille to two other blind people, conducting daily classes with them by phone. She walks briskly four days a week, 1.5 miles each one of the days. She brings her tools to schools to demonstrate to children how she manages independent living. She "Brailles" their names with her Braille label maker; she lets them listen to and play with her speaking watch and calculator. She explains how her cane helps her. She patiently answers all their questions and she welcomes each hug that she invariably receives at the end of her session. Her hope is to help children accept people who are different from them and to break down the walls of prejudice. She plays the organ and has a social calendar that makes my head spin. She gives abundantly and graciously accepts help from friends and strangers alike. I'm grateful for this blind friend who helps me see.

Ruth introduced me to one of her pupils, Louise. Louise is a year older than Ruth, she's blind and she's in a wheel chair because both legs have been amputated due to complications with diabetes. When there was a local concert to which I had invited Ruth, she asked if I'd mind picking up Louise and taking her as well because Louise seldom gets out. I hesitated, trying to picture how I would lead Ruth and push Louise but knew if Ruth requested it, it would likely all work out so I agreed. As I wheeled Louise out of her house she gasped, throwing her hand to her chest and saying with a passion I 've seldom heard, "Oh! How good the air feels on my skin!" I'm grateful for the breeze that brushes my face, my arms, my hair.

The other day as I was driving to or from somewhere, I noticed a particularly lovely sunset. The sky was colored with those wintry red kinds of clouds and the shades of crimson, pink, red, purple, and gray were breathtaking! I'm grateful that I notice sunsets.

I'm mother to two wonderful people, Laurie and Christopher. Both are irreverently funny. Both are exceptionally creative. They are very close, in spite of a five year age difference. They are sensitive, caring people and I 'm happy they are in my life. Christopher is married to Cynthia and Laurie's sweetie is Sean. These two seem to be perfect mates for my children and fit right into the rather offbeat nature of our family. I love them both as I love my children.

Christopher and Cynthia became vegan about a year ago after having been vegetarian for awhile. Due in part to Christopher's research, I began following a vegan diet early this year. In February of this year, doctors found a mass in Laurie's left lung. Her brother was sure a vegan diet would help her and she agreed. She began following a vegan diet in February. Finally, after months of agonizing, she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in July. Small cell lung cancer is the most aggressive of cancers and yet in six months, from discovery to diagnosis, the mass in Laurie's lung didn't grow. Six months without bovine growth hormones. Six months of healthy eating. Tomorrow, she's having what we believe will be her last chemo session. The mass no longer shows on x-ray, and we don't expect it to show on CT scan four weeks from now.

In addition to diet, Laurie has been the recipient of amazing support. Her sister-in-law has been her sister and has helped care for her when she was sick; her man has been with her through her midnight terrors, her emotional ups and downs, and her baldness. He and her brother have shared chemo duty with me, accompanying her and sharing the day with her as she receives her medicine over a six hour period. People at church have visited her, encouraged her, and offered whatever it takes to help her through this health challenge. Prayer or positive thoughts have come to her from people at church, friends, and complete strangers. I'm grateful for my daughters and for my sons; I'm grateful for the discovery of a vegan lifestyle; I'm grateful for all the people who have come together to lift Laurie spiritually and emotionally. I'm grateful to Laurie for showing me what courage looks like. I'm grateful to Christopher for his quiet persistence, and I'm grateful to my children for showing me the way in so many aspects of life.

Through wonderful twists of fate, Laurie ended up receiving all her treatment as an outpatient at St. Paul Medical Center in Dallas. Nowhere is there a group of more positive, compassionate, committed individuals than the healthcare professionals at St. Paul. I'm grateful for the path that led us there, and I'm grateful when it's my turn to do chemo duty because St. Paul is near one of my favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurants.

Christopher adopted a turkey for me from Farm Sanctuary this Thanksgiving, and I'm looking at a picture of my bird, Smoochie Goochie, as I type this. I'm grateful for Christopher's kindness and for Smoochie Goochie.

It's cold and rainy outside tonight. I'm sitting in a warm house; I'm comfortably full from dinner. In front of me, my keyboard and computer monitor; behind me, my warm bed. I'm anticipating a holiday season with people I love, including my brother who lives in Albuquerque and who didn't understand how "this could happen in our family" when we told him we are vegan, but who also began experimenting with no-animal-product dishes so he can cook for us when he visits.

I have conveniences and freedoms that others can only imagine, and I have amazing people in my life. I'm grateful for all of this, and so much more.

Mary S.

- n e x t   e s s a y -


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