Monday, July 07, 2014

fasting in the mountains

This year's family vacation at Camp Mather began oddly. I have been sick for eight months, with one trivial illness following upon another's footsteps. Obviously there is some underlying cause, something causing my immune system to have become as weak and wizened as Mr. Burns', but it could not be determined. Extensive bloodwork ruled out thyroid, liver, kidney, or other obvious enemies. A breath test ruled out an ulcer. The best ideas my medical provider could come up with were that I had a vitamin D deficiency (no doubt caused by my staying inside when I was sick) and crystals in my inner ears (it turns out that if you cause me to sit, roll, sit, like down, roll over like a trained dog, my eyes would shake uncontrollably, thus proving that something was definitely up with my inner ear).

On my own I ran across a recent study showing that a person's immune system could be rebooted by fasting. Evidently when the body is in ketosis (burning off pre-existing bits to keep running), the white blood cells are amongst the first to go. Then the body is signaled to make new, fresher ones. The articles I read differed between saying 2 days was sufficient, with others saying it must be a fast of 3 days. It was also argued that 4-7 days of starvation (450-750 calories) would have the same effect.

No time ever seems ripe for a 3 day fast, but I decided on the spur of the moment to try. I am terrified of going back to Burning Man with such a weak immune system, and I'm sick of being sick. Also, I gained back quite a lot of all the weight I'd heroically lost with huge exercise, and I am dying to become a gym rat again. All that I need is a halfway decent immune system once again.

On Day 1 I fasted. I did allow myself a cup of coffee with lowfat milk, a smidgeon of low fat milk, but nothing else. My rationale was that I didn't want to go through caffeine deprivation at the same time I was undergoing food deprivation. I got through the day just fine. The afternoon and early evening were spent at Iris uber Alles' graduation from the 8th grade, which featured each and every one of the 57 graduates giving two speeches: one on the subject of their choice and a shorter one about a classmate. Lola and I did well sitting through the 118 speeches (some were also given by school dignitaries), but when we emerged and saw the catered foods spread about, I weakened. I told the Sober Husband to stay as long as our admired graduate wished, but Lola and I were going home. “Lola has been so patient,” I said, but the reality was that I could not be by those tables of artfully displayed food. I knew from experience that those lavash rolls were not as flavorful as they looked, but what about the spring rolls? Best to flee.

Day one of fasting: complete, with the only rule-breaking a few tablespoons of low fat milk and a single breath mint (to encourage someone who shall remain nameless to take one, who really needed one).

Day two was rougher. It was the day for Lola and I to pack and depart for Camp Mather. Iris had an elegant graduation party to attend in Santa Cruz, at one of her classmates' second homes right on the beach, and I had promised her she did not have to miss this event.

The horrible reality dawned that each and every one of our family bikes was in a poor state. My brakes were sketchy. Iris's bike had a horrendous flat and needed a new tire, the previously applied patch having failed. Lola's bike was in the best shape but was clearly too small for her. Loving the bike dearly, Lola insisted it would be fine. The Sober Husband's was the next best off but not particularly fabulous.

“Why do we never look at the bikes until the last minute?” I complained. Next year I need to calendar  a Mending of the Bicycles Festival the week before. The Sober Husband was skeptical that any of these bikes would be roadworthy, and, as he kept mentioning, he had a coffee date with his friend J.

My fasting had taken a new turn.  Onay 1, I was peaceful and ambitious, dreaming of good health. Day 2, I was just as committed but crabby as all get out. “Call J. and tell him to come to the house, instead of meeting you for coffee,” I sternly commanded. “You guys can send Iris's bike up with me except for that wheel, and you can have today and tomorrow to get a new tire. Fix one of these bikes (with a sweeping gesture at mine and the Sober Husband's), and I will ride which ever one you can get ready.” This was delivered in a highly testy manner.

At some point I was speaking to the family members about what needed to be done, and the Sober Husband and Lola slowly backed away, down the hall and out the front door. I flew into a temper and chased them. “I do not care how crabby I am, you just cannot leave in the middle of a conversation without saying goodbye! Do you realize how awful that is! How rude that is!” The parrot screamed, “Goodbye! Goodbye!”

Eventually my darling Mini Cooper was packed, with two bicycles on the top and plenty of stuff on the inside. Lolz and I took off. I had asked Lola to find us a book on CD to listen to on our ride, amongst our many, and she had chosen one which turned out to be on tapes. “Lola, I SAID CD. My car can't play tapes.” Lola quailed. “It's okay, Lolz, it's okay,” I assured her. “We'll try some short stories.”

I had a book of Tom Perrotta short stories on CD in the car, and we tried one. It turned out to have a discussion of threesomes and some other sexual inappropriateness which caused me to hit the fast forward button. I felt irked. The stories I'd listened to earlier from this collection had largely been okay for Lola; they just had to be followed by a sexed up one. We did listen to one about an elderly woman whose whiny plastic surgeon son refuses to bring his kid, the woman's only grandchild, to visit around the holidays. It wasn't racy, but it failed to grip.  We gave up on Tom Perrotta. (In Perrotta's defense, a couple of those stories had been greatly appreciated when I was in different company, driving back from camping with my friend Michele).

Lolz and I made excellent time arriving at Camp Mather. Due to my fasting, we forewent our usual decadent Mexican lunch in Oakdale (the Mexican food of Oakdale is magnificent). We did stop for diet Red Bulls, as I found myself flagging and needed a pep-up. The study had said that “fluids of no nutritional value” were acceptable during fasting, and I thought a diet Red Bull should surely count as a “fluid of no nutritional value.”

In the afternoon Lola furtively ate Cheezits in the car. This was horrifically difficult for me. I craved those Cheezits so much.

Once at Camp Mather, we located our cabin. It was somewhat inauspiciously located, in a clump with other cabins, not near any of the roads. It would be tricky to get my Mini close enough to unload. I figured out the closest I could get it, and we gamely unloaded the car. Getting the bikes off the rack was harder. I had a milk crate to stand on, but even so it was agonizing to get them off. A kindly woman sensed my growing psychosis and brushed off my rejections of her help, insisting. We got Lola's bike off. Then the friendly woman's husband arrived and helped get my own bike off. Lolz and I were grateful, although I was well aware of the bad impression I was making: short-tempered and incompetent at removing my own bikes from my own car. 

 Trying to reverse the Mimi back out of the trees to park it for the week, with Lola stationed to watch for dangers, I ran into a rock. “Lola, you were supposed to be looking!” I snapped. The neighbors came out, as if to ensure I did not murder poor Lola. I steered the car as best as I could and got it safely parked with no further misadventures.

Lola and I set up our cabin and hung a hammock. It was time for dinner. I sent Lola ahead to the dining hall as I was still fasting, but then began to feel guilty. Poor Lola, going alone to eat. I came along behind, getting myself some plain green tea (no milk, no sugar, nothing). I found Lola in the end sitting with a couple we know from her school, whom Lola had informed of my fast. “So you're fasting!” they greeted me. “We're taking care of Lola.” I sipped my plain hot green tea while they ate garlic bread and pasta and salads and desserts.

I apologized to Lola for my crabbiness, and she was kind enough to be encouraging to me. We wound the evening down quietly reading.

Day III: I woke up in a state of altered consciousness. I felt vaguely saintly and above it all. Crabbiness from Day II was far below and behind me. I floated about in an aethereal state.

At breakfast I had no interest in eating. Lola had a full meal, while I sipped green tea. The couple we know stopped by. “Still dieting?” they asked. “Fasting,” I corrected, “and I'm in an altered state. It is like those people who fast for religious reasons. It's wonderful.”

They looked at me as though I were insane and excused themselves.

Despite my being on my 3d day without food, Lola and I did some manual labor around camp. Our picnic table was at a 45 degree angle and positioned right between three cabins. Lola discouraged trying it, but I was hellbent on carrying it around and up the hill to the side of our cabin, where it would be a bit more private and a bit more level. It was not easy, but we did it. “Amazon Lola!” I praised her. We set up our bug-repelling dining tent over the picnic table and arranged all our chairs. “We've got it all nice now, Lola,” I said happily, still in my lofty state of an elevated consciousness.

However around noon I snapped. I felt so delightfully above it all... but I was keenly aware of the box of Cheezits. I also felt weak. “Lola, bring me the Cheezits,” I said. “It's 11:58, can you wait two more minutes?” urged Lola.   If not for those Cheezits, I could have made it another day. I actually skipped a wine and cheese social at Camp Mather (and believe me, I am all about wine and cheese socials) due to my fast.

End result: 2 ½ days of fasting, followed by 24 hours of very light eating, then returning thereafter to regular eating whatever the hell presented itself which appeared edible.


It may be a placebo effect in part, but I feel so much better. The first day or two after my fasting, I felt good but weak, and now my energy is gradually returning.   Since then I've worked out a few times at the gym, decluttered my garage, and generally shown a much higher energy level.  I also resisted a cold the Sober Husband had and a virus one of the children had.  Fasting:  it's magic.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

competitive art

The Sober Husband recently pushed me into starting a Twitter account.  Iris uber Alles watched him and then elbowed him out of the way when he was choosing an avatar.  Insulting his choices, she said wearily, "Let me."  She turned the computer to display the results to me.  "Oooh!" I said happily.  "I love it!"

Thanks to Iris, I am a goat, and the top of my Twitter is a lovely picture of Coconut, our feral cat with whom the children and I are obsessed.  (Once when the Sober Husband was away on business, one of the children asked him, "Do you miss Coconut?"  When he said, "To be honest, I haven't thought about him", the children were appalled.  "We worship him," they hissed).

Lola did not take this lying down.  She devoted several hours to creating a piece of art "for your Twitter."

I find it hypnotic and more than slightly unsettling.  I have yet to unleash it upon Twitter, though.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

you can follow me on twitter

I am now tweeting as @drunkenhw now!  I promise to send out a tweet when I post anything here, but I will also be tweeting randomly and possibly drunkenly as well.

Friday, June 13, 2014

at play with the eight year-olds

I am very fond of a particular game, a form of Pictionary I play on my iPhone called "Drawsomething."   Fourteen year-old Iris uber Alles got tired of this game and stopped playing it over a year ago.  "Momdude, people don't play that any more."

"Sure they do.  I play it.  All these people I play with, play it."  

She sighed and rolled her eyes.  "No one plays it."

My opponents consist of eleven year-old Lola (who took a very lengthy break from the game but who returned to the game, thankfully), the Sober Husband once in a great while (he'll make a move in our ancient match whenever he feels like ingratiating himself with me), and a variety of strangers that the game pairs me up with.  I have crossed paths with some truly amazing artists, but judging by the quality of their artwork, most of my fellow players are small children.

"Look at this," I said to the children recently, showing them a rather arcane scribble.  "What do you think this is?"

The children made some insulting remarks, but as I pointed out, the player was "probably only eight years old."  How much detail and command of perspective could we expect? Gazing at the mysterious doodle,  I said, "You know how I started playing Warcraft again, after taking years off?  Well, I was playing my new character, and I didn't know how to play that character very well yet, and someone was insulting me.  So I wanted to make them feel bad, and I typed in, 'I'm only eight.'"

The children roared with laughter.  "You said you were 'only eight!'"  We all laughed until we started to cry, except for the Sober Husband, who clearly found all of this below his notice.

At the time we were staying in a cabin, rented through a resort management company but owned by an elderly couple with an unquenchable passion for nicknacks.  Ornaments covered every surface.  Iris accidentally knocked a decorative fish off a wall, and we could not figure out where it had come from.  It was fortunately undamaged, but still we couldn't cover up the mishap because we couldn't put it back in place.  The walls were still covered with plaques, pictures, and bric-a-brac, and there didn't seem to be a surplus nail or hook.  "We should leave it out with a note," I said.  All at the same time, Iris, Lola and I had the same thought:  we would use the eight year-old excuse.

"Iris has to write, 'I am very sorry.  I am only 8."

In the end, I think it was Lola, who can produce a childlike writing, who wrote, "My sister knocked a fish off the wall.  She is sorry.  She is only 8."  At least we resisted the impulse to describe Iris in this note as having special needs.

Friday, June 06, 2014

dog for a day

The night before last I had terrible insomnia, epic, unforgivable insomnia.  I took two Xanax (prescribed to me for exactly such occasions), but still I remained awake until after five A.M.  At 7:00 the Sober Husband shook me awake, after less than two hours sleep, so I could drive the children to school.

Zombielike I drove the children to their respective schools and returned home, to discover a request that I chauffeur a sick bird up to a wildlife rehab center in Marin.  I took a one hour nap, drank some coffee, showered, and asked if the bird still needed driving, hoping the problem had been solved so I could take another, longer nap.  But no, the bird still was in a pinch, so I got into the car and drove across the city to pick up the bird.  

Only a block from the bird I saw a small dog walking aimlessly in the road.  I pulled over and looked around.  There was no one in sight.  The dog had no collar.  I parked the car (with the sick bird in a box in the back) and spoke to the dog.  The dog cowered, as though expecting to be hit, but walked over to me.  I spoke to the dog, who began to wag her tail and look enthusiastic about our budding friendship.  I waited a few minutes and then ushered the dog into the back of my Mini Cooper.

Further down the street I saw a cocker spaniel roaming idly, unrestrained and without an escort.  My heart sank.  I slowed down, but the dog vanished.  I would have normally parked and investigated, but I figured that since I had not only a stray dog but a sick bird who needed veterinary attention, I had enough on my plate. 

The directions my GPS gave me were confusing, and I missed my turn and ended up on a weird, scary street where I saw not one but two small dogs without collars roaming idly.  "My God, how many dogs are there out here?" I thought.  One of these dogs was waddling very, very slowly down the middle of the street, and I had to slow down to nearly stopping to avoid running this dog down.  "Please, I don't need any more dogs, " I thought.  The dog I had taken already was climbing all over my car and poking its snout at the poor sick bird's box.  

A man was seated on the curb, contemplatively throwing crumbs at the two collarless little dogs.  I decided to think those were his dogs or, if not, that he was in charge of them.  I drove off.  It occurred to me that if I ever wanted a dog, I now knew where to go for an admirable selection.  An hour or so later, I reached the wildlife clinic.  I cracked all the windows for the sake of the dog, who amiably licked my face.  

"What do you have for us today?" asked the volunteer at the front desk, recognizing me.  "Sick bird," I said.  "But I found a stray dog too, when I was picking up this bird!"  

I offered the dog the chance to get out of the car, perchance to pee, but she resolutely curled up on the front seat, refusing to get out.  I wondered if she was afraid I'd ditch her.  I got back in the car.  The dog expressed a lot of happiness, and I began contemplating keeping her.  I started imagining all the fun we'd have, my dog and me.  Meanwhile she sometimes disrupted my driving by climbing up on me and licking my face, and she scratched the previous pristine upholstery of my front passenger seat, but still, I was enamored.

While I was driving I spoke on the phone to the Sober Husband on my handsfree cellphone.  "Better take the dog to the shelter," he said.  "I don't have time," I lamented.  Our Lola was reading at the culmination of her mystery writing class, and I needed to be there.  I decided to drive home, leave the dog in our minuscule backyard, and then drive to the school.  The Sober Husband advised that the dog would tear up our plants, but it was better than leaving the dog in the car unattended.  

I had a little trouble getting the leashless dog into the house, as clearly she wanted to explore the block.  Once we were in the home, we saw our tabby Henry, who took great offense and puffed up like a Halloween cat, hissing.  The dog whimpered, cowered, and lost control of her bladder.  I petted them both in turns, murmuring, "There, there."  The dog ate some cat food with great enthusiasm and seemed happy to go in the yard.  Henry, still angry, hissed at me even when the dog had been put out.  I cleaned up the pee.

At the reading, I explained to Lola that I was going to have to cut out early to go take a dog I'd found to the shelter.  She is used to hearing odd things from her mother and merely nodded.  Iris, who had been brought to the reading by her father, decided to go with me.  After Lola read two pieces aloud, Iris and I tiptoed out and raced home.  There the dog was thrilled to see us.  "I love her," proclaimed Iris.

We drove the dog to the city shelter, barely avoiding accidents on the way when the dog decided to show her love for me more boisterously (my absence having caused her loving heart to grow even fonder).

Once in the door one of the staff, who knows me well as a crazy cat lady, exclaimed, "Is that yours?"  "No, I just found her," I said.  The staff were all instantly enamored of the dog.  One half-seriously suggested to another that they should not enter the dog into the system but instead just take her home.  The dog was thrilled to get so much attention.  Everyone thanked me for taking the trouble to bring her in, rather than leaving her alone.

Back at home I cleaned up some vomit my dog-for-a-day had left me in my backseat.  Throwing this away I discovered a moribund mouse in the garage, probably attacked by a cat although with no visible wounds.  I made a little box for the mouse and determined to take it to the now-closed Wildcare (which cares for rodents as well as other animals) in the morning if it survived the night.  I put the mouse's box in a quiet spot in the dining room, away from the parrots and cats.  The Sober Husband then chose to stand next to the mouse's box and shout across the house to the children.  I looked at him irritably.  "I put the mouse there specifically because it is quiet, and you are standing there next to it shouting!"

"Your work is never done, is it?" he said. "It's like Mr. Incredible, when he says he has to keep saving the world, why doesn't it stay saved?"

The next day I felt depressed.  "I miss my dog," I kept saying.  "I had a dog for a day."  Perhaps I should drive back across town and find another one.

Monday, June 02, 2014

#yesallwomen

A lot of women have been sharing their stories of misogyny and gendered oppression in the wake of the Elliot Rodger murders.  Here's my top one:

Because when I was raped, my first husband forbade me to talk about it or use the word "rape" because it was too upsetting to him.  #yesallwomen

Friday, May 30, 2014

the bitch is back: an update

I've been considering shutting down this blog.  The primary reason is that it has been a chronicle of my raising two very eccentric children, and they have grown old enough not to want to be chronicled.  I avoid writing about the ever-amusing and interesting Iris uber Alles because, at age 14, she has become a highly private person.   However!  In discussions with Lola, she has explicitly given me permission to continue writing about her "so long as it's not embarrassing."  So we're a bit hamstrung here, but not entirely.

While I was on hiatus, a mother of one of Lola's friends invited me to get together, and it turned out that she was inspired to ask me for coffee because someone told her to read this blog, saying "Everyone reads The Drunken Housewife!"  As she read it, she recognized the details and realized that she knew the author.  Indeed, her child had spent the night at the Drunken Housewife's home (and emerged none the worse for wear).  Over coffee this woman said to me charmingly, "I knew I liked you before, but now I really like you!"  How embarrassing it was for me to then stammer, "I think I'm not writing it any more."

A few other people contacted me outside of the blog to ask me to keep writing.  So, I concluded, the blog may have seen its best days.  The bigger numbers, the being mentioned in the Wall St. Journal or other periodicals, may be past us.  But!  There are still people who want to read whatever embarrassing tripe I manage to occasionally spew out, and it's not as if I'm doing something so much better with my time.

What have I been up to, besides not blogging?  I have a new volunteer gig, working a shift a week at a wildlife rehab clinic.  That's invigorating as it's hard work in a good cause and gets me out of the house regularly.  I've been quilting again.   I'm attempting to buy a vintage trailer so I can stop sleeping in a tent at Burning Man and instead live in a tiny little bastion of retro cuteness.  I have an almost-tamed white kitten with blue eyes who needs a home very badly (a home with other cats, please, as she loves all other cats).  I've read some very good books and wasted a lot of time hate-reading PUA forums online.  I took a spur-of-the-moment road trip down to L.A. to help out my beloved commenter Hughman and his elderly beagle, Polly.   And again that brings me back to the fact that this blog has brought me real friends.  It's funny how I've inadvertently made enemies with this blog but in my everyday life, I'm more affected by the real friends who've met me through it.  It has enriched my life, although not financially (I did have a few ads here once upon a time but have not done anything to follow up on those).  So!  I'll keep it up, but with significantly fewer anecdotes of the children, sigh.