Food, Mind and Body, Plants and Animals, Post

Ben the Phoenix Cat

Here is a story of how I recently saved a (cat) life!

This past summer, my parents traveled to a few of the National Parks “out west” for a month, leaving my sister and I to take care of their house and pets. My parents have two 13-year-old cat brothers, Ben and Jerry (yes I named them, yes I used to be addicted to Cherry Garcia ice cream). My sister was doing most of the house-sitting and living there every day, while I traveled into town a few days a week to help her when she got busy. So she was seeing the animals every day, while I was gone for days at a time.

One day I came over, and Ben was totally different. He had always been a rather obese cat – eating a lot, never going outside, and barely getting up from the couch. This time, though, he was skinny! And he wasn’t grooming himself. My sister hadn’t really noticed, but since I mentioned Ben was looking weird, she paid more attention and texted a few days later to say he was getting skinnier and more lethargic.

So I took Ben to the vet, who confirmed my suspicions. Ben had gone from weighing 15 pounds to 10, and his blood sugar levels were off the charts. Ben has diabetes! Shit.

The vet said I (really my parents) had two choices: (1) hospitalize him and then give him two insulin shots at the same time every day for the rest of his life, or (2) do nothing and expect him to die within 30 days. Shit.

My parents chose #2 due to his age and their survival-of-the-fittest, raised-in-the-country belief that giving a cat two shots a day for the rest of its life would be cruel and unnatural. So I spent the next two days petting Ben, crying, and beating myself up for not being nicer to him over the years. I wasn’t mean, but he was never my favorite. . .

That night after crying, indulging in a selfie photo shoot with Ben, and drinking a couple glasses of wine, I decided that I owed Ben some Internet research on cat diabetes to make sure that the vet’s “Only Two Options” decree was actually true.

It wasn’t. Did you know that cats aren’t supposed to eat dry food? Did you know that feeding a diabetic cat dry food is just fueling their diabetic fire and killing them even faster? Did you know that Fancy Feast (classic seafood variety pack specifically) has the lowest carb, highest protein canned food you can buy at the grocery store? I didn’t, until I used that amazing tool called Google.

So the next morning, I woke up early, went to the grocery store, and bought Ben and Jerry their first pack of Fancy Feast. Jerry wasn’t impressed at first (he now loves it), but Ben loved it from the first bite. He ate a lot Fancy Feast. And he has been eating high protein/low carb canned food ever since (my mom buys him something from the natural pet store now).

It’s been two months since Ben’s dead-in-30-days diagnosis, and he is lean, active, and super happy to see me every time I stop by my parents’ house. He could go downhill at any time, but I definitely bought him some time and a higher quality of life.

Today my dad called him “Ben the Phoenix.” I’m so proud.

wegmans list
Food, Mind and Body, Post, Sustainability

Grocery Shopping

Today I went grocery shopping, and I have a lot of thoughts about this activity, so it seems like a good place to start writing. I’ll be writing about food a lot because it’s a big part of my life – I’ve learned from good and bad experiences that what I eat has an effect on my entire life.

I’ve been going grocery shopping on my own for over ten years, but it’s only been over the past year or two that I’ve been implementing a strategy. This strategy has helped me buy only what I need (way less wasted food) and buy ingredients that I later combine and cook into a meal, as opposed to buying ready-made and/or processed foods.

So here are my grocery shopping steps:

  1. Before I leave the house, I find a small piece of paper. On the top half of the paper, I write out the next five or so days of the week and what I plan on eating for dinner on those days.
  2. On the bottom half of the paper on the left side, I write out all of the ingredients from the produce department that are needed to make the above dinners. I also add bananas and maybe another fruit or two for breakfast and snacks.
  3. On the bottom half of the paper on the right side, I write out all of the ingredients from the rest of the store (non-produce) that are needed to make the above dinners. I also add in cereal, almond milk, eggs, cheese, bread, chocolate, coffee, crackers, and any household items I need.

    wegmans list
    Today’s grocery shopping list.
  4. When I’m at the store, I keep the pen and list in my hand as I hunt down the items on my list and cross off each item as I put them in my cart. I get all of the produce items from the left side of my list first, and then I go around the rest of the store and grab the items listed on the right side.

That’s it.

I tend to cook similar things over and over again (soup, vegetable fried rice, lasagna), and once I learn the layout of the grocery store really well, I know where all the ingredients are and the trip goes by quickly. I also make large meals for dinner so I can eat them as leftovers for lunch, and I have no problem eating the same thing multiple days in a row. For breakfast, it’s almost always Ezekiel 4:9 cereal with a sliced banana, and a fried egg with salsa on the side.


One more thought: the incredibly huge grocery stores I’ve grown up with have conditioned me to expect access to countless varieties of fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or climate. Today I was looking for organic carrots, and received a reminder that the produce I buy really does depend on real-world weather conditions:

CA carrots are struggling

This is an example of severe weather affecting food production on a large scale. Although severe weather has been happening throughout world history, one of the effects of climate change is more frequent severe weather events. As time marches on, consumers are going to see these types of food production disruptions on a more frequent basis. Being flexible, adaptable, and more self-sufficient is important in this time of increasingly frequent and disruptive change.