In September, ten days after our daughter went off to her first year in college, we got a call that my brother was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. My brother lived alone in a wonderful, supportive community. He had a stent put into his left anterior descending artery about 11 years ago, when he was 38. He has diabetes and has struggled with managing it. He’d had his thyroid removed at some point too. He’s had a few back surgeries. Needless to say we dropped everything, rolled into our Eurovan with the dog, and were on the road to Brewster, Washington within an hour.

When I saw him, I didn’t know if he was going to die. His belly was profoundly bloated. His skin tone was literally (and I literally mean literally) grey. Over the next 36 hours, we found out he had “severe cirrhosis” and that he would need to see a specialist ASAP. They removed 4 liters of fluid from his abdomen. He had a MELD score of 12 (for those of you who are familiar with what that means). We brought him back home with us, to Bend. Great timing though–with our kid freshly set loose we had an empty bedroom for him.

My husband, Rodney, and I have always been pretty healthy, so we made some modifications and started eating even healthier. I read as many studies as I could about liver disease. My brother, who enjoyed his alcohol but was not an alcoholic, hasn’t had any booze since before he went into hospital, and he will eat all the healthy, cardboard-textured, pond-smelling crap I put in front of him. Then we found out about how whole food plant-based diets have been known to reverse diabetes and a whole bunch of other chronic diseases. So we’ve drastically reduced his intake of salmon, chicken, yogurt, eggs, and cheese (although this has to be balanced because he keeps losing weight–it feels like a tightrope walk). Anyway, Jason’s sticking with the super healthy stuff. There’s nothing like cirrhosis to spur a lifestyle change.

That was almost 3 months ago. He seems to have stabilized, but we’re not sure. He has lost 60 pounds. And he still hasn’t been able to get in to see a liver specialist. His first appointment is scheduled for next week. That’s pretty fucked up.

This website is about this: our dietary choices have a profound impact on our health. This is a fact (and, yeah, I know the whole “fact” thing has been up for debate, but call me old school, I still believe in them). Sadly and frustratingly, government policy, corporate America, and our culture funnel us towards unhealthy choices, with tragic, expensive, and global consequences. It comes down to money and big business interests.

There is no kale lobby.

But there is a meat and dairy lobby. And powerful pharmaceutical companies. And elected officials who have lost sight of their role in protecting their constituents (and my democracy, while I’m at it).

My government is not protecting me. Or my brother. Or my daughter. I’d say it’s not protecting my husband, but he’s the type that doesn’t need protecting. He’s that guy you’d choose to have on the desert island with you.

Anyway, I’m pissed. I’ve become pretty private in the last year or so, but apparently that was short-lived, and it’s time to bust out of privacy mode. I’m still going to ignore Facebook; it’s fucked around with my democracy way too much. 

NOTE: Why the hell is this website called “Warm Bricks”? About ten years ago, I was outside on our front porch trying to gather myself over I don’t even remember what. It was spring, and it was cold, but I laid back on the bricks. They were hard and slightly uncomfortable, but they were warm from being in the sun, despite the cold. I flashed back to being a kid. And it was nice. It reminded me that even when shit gets serious, small things–like warm bricks–can be lovely. And they might even tether us enough to keep us from completely losing our minds. I started the “Warm Bricks” blog thing back then, but took it down a couple years ago. Recently I decided to resurrect it, under the same name. All the other names I came up with were super fucking cheesy and already taken.

Now I’m gonna talk about healthy human bodily functions. I have to acknowledge that “warm bricks” sounds like a metaphor for fresh and way-too-firm poop. I think that’s kinda funny. But let me assure you, if you go whole food and plant-based, your poop will continue to be warm, but it will rarely be the consistency of a brick. Enough said.