The Toaster Oven

by moonwatcher on November 8, 2012

How  a  Beautiful Exception Can Prove the Rule

Two years ago, in the summer of 2010, I wrote this:

“Note: Don’t internalize the theories of others about how well you’re doing. They will always miss the mark in some essential way, especially if they are not in any way informed or involved in a plant based life-style. But also even if they are. Let what you read and what others tell you, even in this area, corroborate your own experience. Trust yourself first.”

For me, this is absolutely true. But how I know this is that every once in a while a beautiful exception comes along to prove this rule I live by. One of those times came about just months after I’d started eating this way, back in the Spring of 2008. I was cooking up a storm from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, and very excited about making so many good things to eat using no oil or added fat. At the time, I wanted a toaster oven so when it got warmer  I could use it to bake potatoes instead of having to turn on the oven (I hadn’t yet discovered the miracle of baking potatoes in the slow cooker), or roast an eggplant to make Susan’s delicious Baba Ganoush.  My son Mike and his girlfriend Kelly were still living here in town, finishing up their college degrees. We all like to shop at thrift stores, and they had been to a good one over in the next town. They called to say they were bringing me over a toaster oven.

I had a conventional toaster that had replaced an old worn out veteran, but I didn’t like it. To me it looked like those little black robots attending Darth Vader in Star Wars. I couldn’t get past this ridiculous association. But it was the only one around at the time I needed a replacement. We had all laughed about this. So when Mike came in with the new toaster, I couldn’t wait to get it off the counter. I jumped up from the chair in the kitchen to move Darth Vadar’s robot off the kitchen counter and make room for this “new” experiment. I turned back to my son and saw this on the face I love more than any other in this world:

Amazement. Joy. And relief. And the mirror of how severe my illness had gotten. Now Mike is not one to talk about how this has affected him in a negative way, though it had to. In fact he did nothing but cheer me on, and clown me out of the depths in all the years he was growing up living with me living with MS. But when he was a freshman in college he had to take a speech class. He was still living at home at the time. The assignment was to give a speech on something that had been most influential in his life. Since he was an avid skateboarder, and had worked for years to have a skate park built in our town, successfully (later actually receiving a college scholarship for that work), and had also had the first skate video he’d made shown at a film festival in southern California, I thought he would speak about that.  He thought he would, too. So I was moved beyond words one night when, sitting in front of the fire, I asked him how his speech had gone, thinking it was about skateboarding. In what was then a rare moment of serious self disclosure concerning our relationship, he said, “Well, at first I was going to do it about that, but then I decided to do it about how you having MS has affected me. I didn’t want to, but I knew if I didn’t I’d just be lying to myself about what has affected me the most.”

I had heard the speech about how if you’re going to hunt animals, then you should at least learn to do so with a bow and arrow, to give them a more even chance of getting away. I was shown drafts of essays for other classes, and ideas for projects in design class. But I never heard this speech. And that is as it should be. I realized Mike had grown up enough to have a set of feelings and a reality about me that was not me. but him.  I remember thanking him for telling me that had been his decision, and we left it at that. Perhaps the first time ever I did not “help” with a homework project.

So to see those feelings play across his face was a profoundly beautiful experience for me. And then to hear the words that followed. Something like: “You just picked that up. I mean you just went over there and lifted it, like it was no big deal.” Evidently he had been getting ready to move it for me and put the other one in its place. He did not expect me to be able to. And now I was in this place in which I did it automatically. In all the wonderful improvements that have followed since those early months, this moment remains one of my very favorite little victories.  Its power to keep me on the path has lasted a lot longer than the toaster oven did.

Because of that old toaster oven someone donated to the thrift store, I saw what it meant to my son, in his face, in his eyes, for me to have the courage to trust myself and embark on this way of eating. Seeing the effect of that truth translated into the face of someone you love cannot be matched. There is nothing else quite like it.

 

Mike made me this sign and paper chain when I was diagnosed with MS. in 1996.  He was ten. It sill hangs on the wall in my room right next to my bed.

 

Publicity photo for one of Mike’s skate videos taken around the same time he gave the speech about me haviog MS I never heard. He is the “Y” in “You” on the far left.

 

Kelly, Mike and Me August 2012

 

Maria

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sue silva November 9, 2012 at 4:30 am

Lovely. You`re so lucky to have such a fabulous relationship with your son.

Sue
xo

P.S. I thought potatoes and eggplant were off limits for those of us with fibro.

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2 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 8:44 am

Thank you, Sue, for the lovely comment. I do feel very lucky to have the son I have. As far as nightshades go, I have not read they are universally off limits for those with fibro. I seem to do fine with them. I eat potatoes way more often than eggplant and tomatoes, however. But now is the season for those two, so I’ve been enjoying them. It seems to me that processed food,sugar, soy and gluten are more likely to be culprits, at least in my case. Everyone is different, even everyone with fibro!

xo

Maria

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3 Kristina November 9, 2012 at 8:00 am

Yours is one of the only blogs I read from top to bottom. Your stories always move me in the deepest way. Thank you for sharing them, Maria. I think you are a beautiful teacher.

Hugs,
Kristina

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4 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 8:46 am

Thank you, Kristina. I am honored by your comment. I used to teach in actual university. Now my university is each day of my life–and the internet. There are many ways. yes? And it makes this writer’s heart happy to know you read from top to bottom in this crazy fast paced world. You are a treasure.

Maria

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5 S November 9, 2012 at 8:02 am

Thank you for sharing the hope and joy of a substantial and well earned triumph and reminding me of what I am working towards. I delight in your success!

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6 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 8:50 am

You’re very welcome, S. Thank you so much for delighting in my success! All those shared good feelings I believe, do remind us what we’re working toward, and help strengthen us along the way.

Maria

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7 Marge Evans November 9, 2012 at 9:00 am

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog. It just radiates joy.

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8 kally November 9, 2012 at 9:03 am

Lovely story thanks.

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9 kally November 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

About how long was it before you noticed your symptoms changing?

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10 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 9:21 am

You’re welcome, Kally. Thank you for your question. The answer to it will probably reveal itself in bits and pieces as I continue to write here. But the short answer is that right away, within a couple of weeks or less, I felt a shift. I had the awareness that I had been living as if something was “eating away at me”–these were the words that came to me–and that it had suddenly stopped. Like a fever breaking. And I felt that “tired” that comes after a fever breaks, allowing me to rest. And then I started to notice things not hurting quite so much, being so intractable when they did. It was subtle, but there. This automatic jumping up to move the toaster oven probably occurred about two months in. By two years so many things were happening that I started to try and write them down. I hope that gives you some idea. And I do hope to fill in as I go.

Maria

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11 Nicole O'Shea November 9, 2012 at 9:49 am

What’s that you say, Moonwatcher? No, I am not crying because of this wonderfully moving post plus the picture of that incredible sign Mike made in you in 1996.

Nah. Just got a little dust in my eye….

XOXOXO

Nicole

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12 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 9:52 am

Bless you, my dear Nicole. Isn’t that sign just the best? It’s one of the first things I see when I wake up each morning.

xoxoxo

Maria

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13 Cadry November 9, 2012 at 10:09 am

That was just a lovely post. I can imagine the relief and joy your son must have felt. Thank you for sharing it.

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14 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

Thank you so much Cadry. It’s beautiful how you can imagine what my son felt.

Maria

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15 Cherie Dover Perkins November 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Hello, I am loving your blog in general but this post came at a great time for me. I went plant based to combat autoimmune arthritis and have been able to do away with my symptoms as long as I stick to the correct food which has to be no added oil and gluten free. Recently, having eaten a few rich meals (oil) I have had a significant flare and then someone told me that just not having the inflammation is not good enough because at a cellular level the damage is still occurring and I ought to be on biologics… My instinct is that the disease is caused by a wrong diet and not having the inflammation is enough. I don’t want to go the drug route – I watched my sister decline drastically and recently pass away by following the med route. Your few words – trust your instincts – came at the right time for me. Thank you.

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16 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Dear Cherie,

Thank you so much for this powerful feedback. I believe in doing just this. As Dr. Esselstyn says, that ” genetics may load the gun, but diet pulls the trigger.” I believe this is the case for many many illnesses. If we are not feeding the inflammation, who is to say that the body can’t get a chance to heal itself, without the heavy handedness of meds, if that is your choice? I am honored I could help you trust your own instincts about whatever you feel is right for you. Serendipitous timing is a gift that goes both ways.

Maria

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17 joanne November 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Hello – I just wanted to say “thank you” for this post. I have been struggling for about 1 1/2 years with MS but just got diagnosed last month. This post reminded me of how the other day I asked my son (19) to please move something for me. He said something like, “Seriously mom?” Yes. Seriously. He was very surprised that I no longer had the strength to move something that used to be no problem at all. I know this affects my children. I am so thankful for their help and encouragement.

This has really taken a toll quickly on my body. I just started a special diet (basically fat free vegan except some fish oil for a few months and then switching to flax oil) with the hopes that it will help me gain some of my life back. I think most of all I miss going on hikes and I look forward to doing that again … soon …

js in MO

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18 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Dear Joanne,

You are very welcome, and thank you very much for commenting and sharing some of your own situation here. I, too, look forward to the day you can go on a hike again. That took a while for me, but I did it this summer. That story is to come. First elemants of my ability to walk and my stamina had to improve a little at a time. And Romeo, my dog, too, cae to me too. Stay with it. Be patient and gentle with yourself. And yes, our children are such beautiful lights for us, always. I am glad yours are with you.

Maria

ps: I use golden flax seed ground up in place of the oil. About a tablespoon a day, a teaspoon at a time at each meal. Everyone is different, but it seems to work for me.

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19 sepeters November 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Maria,
Please excuse my ignorance on this issue, but I was wondering why you take flax, or if that is too personal, what the benefits of adding daily flax to a FF, GF, vegan diet are. I like flax and use it often but don’t know too much about it and am wondering if i should add more to my diet after seeing this! Do you take it instead of daily vits?
PS- I have been reading your blog, but have never commented before and want to say your words are filled beauty and your personality really shines through your writing! Thank you for sharing your voice and courage with us. It helps to know a body is not alone in this.

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20 moonwatcher November 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hi Stephanie,

Thank you for your question. Ground flax seed is considered a good concentrated source of omega 3 fatty acids. Those with MS following the Swank Diet, which is a low fat diet devised by Dr. Roy Swank specifically for treating MS, are instructed by him to use a teaspoon of cod liver oil for this purpose. Those of us applying the principles of his low fat diet to a vegan and oil free diet, such as Dr. McDougall recommends for MS, often use the ground flax as a good substitute for the cod liver oil. In his original book on the diet, Dr. Swank does mention that if you can’t tolerate the fish oil to use flax oil. I and some others use the ground flax because we prefer to be completely oil free, as Dr. Esselstyn advises in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. In that book he advises taking a tablespoon of ground flax a day to support the overall health of the vascular system, which is very similar to Dr. Swank’s suggestion.It seems to work for me so that’s what I do.

And thank you very much for your kind and lovely words about my words. It certainly does help to know we are not alone in this!

Maria

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21 sepeters November 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm

How enlightening! Thank you!

22 Christi B November 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Maria,
I love your way with words. You definitely have a gift. I am currently considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan. I have fibromyalgia and I have to take alot of Neuronting and a 24 hour muscle relaxer. I also have been battling Plantar Fasciitis for about a year… which they tell me has nothing to do with fibro but I still think it does. I have been to two doctors and the pain just keeps moving around various places in my foot. I now think I have a tendon issue as well. I love pretty much all veggies and just with I could gather up the strength to just do it.
I love it when I check and see you have posted something new. Thank you.

Christi

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23 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Thank you so much, Christi, for your lovely compliment. It’s important to trust your own instincts about what is going in your body. I am sorry you are having such a hard time. Sounds like with your love of veggies you’d be a good fit with this way of eating! All the best to you, and thanks so much for looking forward to my posts.

Maria

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24 Louise November 9, 2012 at 6:04 pm

what a great story Maria !!! thank you !!!

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25 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 6:06 pm

You’re welcome, Louise!

Maria

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26 imdhreeves November 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Thank you for sharing your stories of the small and large things that we notice as a result of our chronic diseases. I try to recognize and celebrate the small successes we have in our daily lives. Your words are well chosen and you are an inspiration to remind us to embrace our victories.

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27 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

You’re welcome, lmdreeves. Thanks for your kind words. I do believe embracing even the smallest victory adds to the momentum of healing.

Maria

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28 kath November 9, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Thank you for taking the time to write. It has been such a pleasant way for me to have some quiet time during my day. I pour over your words with a longing inside to once and for all say goodbye to the foods that aren’t life giving. I am baby stepping my way there…trusting those instincts as you say.

Grateful for your experiences and how your legacy will reach so many in search of a freer life.

Blessings!

ks

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29 moonwatcher November 9, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Thank you, Kath,for sharing what the words I write mean to you. That means a lot to me. Here’s to trusting those instincts.

Blessings back to you,

Maria

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30 moonwatcher November 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

You’re very welcome!

Maria

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