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Category: memoir

Let the Juicing Begin...

Come and get it!
Come and get it!

I will not quit I will not quit I will not quit…

This has become my mantra today, Day One of the Great Reboot, undertaken in solidarity with my daughter, who has had to begin a vegan juice fast for some stomach problems she’s been dealing with.

My daughter is already a vegetarian, so the idea of a straight-up veggie liquid diet ought not to be so foreign to her, though it is. She likes her veggies in a chewable state, thank you, and isn’t thrilled with this whole juicing mandate, which his why our family decided to support her cause by joining along.

Me? Well, I hate vegetables. I was weaned on Froot Loops and it was only downhill from there as far as my nutritional intake from the get-go. I grew up on a steady diet of Fluffernutter sandwiches and Twinkies and processed garbage that tasted not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Sure I ate fruit here and there. Usually in the summer when peaches and plums were in season. But veggies? No way, man.

It wasn’t until adulthood that I gradually incorporated a handful of vegetables into my annual diet repertoire. Yeah, you read that right: annual. Not like veggies are a daily part of my life anyhow. I’m exaggerating a bit — I do consume vegetables, but not often. With the ironic twist that I’m all about the Buy Local food movement, and buy local produce as much as possible. Mostly for my family.

I mean I’ll eat a salad if someone else makes it and it’s super gourmet. And contains things like nuts and dried fruit and goat cheese and artisanal croutons and homemade dressing. Now that’s my kinda salad. And I pick around all of the vegetables in it and mostly eat the add-ons. I’m fine with a veggie platter as long as it’s really fresh and it has a homemade ranch yogurt dip in which to drown said veggies. Throw in the occasional asparagus, maybe a mushroom or two (only if they’re fresh white button mushrooms), perhaps a sugar snap pea (the operative word there being sugar), and well, you’ve got the extent of vegetables I can tolerate. In fact most of the “vegetables” I find palatable are technically fruit, anyhow (tomatoes and peppers, for instance).

So you can imagine me trying to fathom undertaking a vegan juice fast. Might as well insert the true name: starvation diet. Alas, as explained by my daughter’s doctor, you have to keep your grehlin levels on an even keel, which means starvation isn’t an option, because it will defeat the whole idea of a juice fast. So avoiding vegetables as a means of this juice fast is not an option, darn it.

What, you may ask, is the idea behind a juice fast? Um, hell if I know. I’ll get back to you on that one. Okay, I lied. Basically the plan for your average Joe is to detox, get rid of all that crap and sludge that builds up in your system. Cleanse the liver and whatnot (note to self: no need to make matters worse with that liver by overconsuming delicious red wine on the eve of said juice fast. Of course my liver’s still trying to process that bad Advil I popped at 4 a.m…).

In addition, it can give your stomach a rest if you’re having trouble digesting solids. And by juicing you are piling on the nutritional value of plates full of vegetables, with every glass you drink, while enjoying the benefits of micronutrients or some such gobbledy gook I’ve been told. You’d be hard-pressed to ingest the normal way the amount of vegetables that you’ll consume in a juice fast. Check out the obscene volume of produce we had to purchase for four of us to fast — and this is just for the next several days.

our organic veggie juicing stockpile
our organic veggie juicing stockpile

I have a friend who undertook a juice fast last year and became downright evangelical about the benefits of juicing. She’s already one of those age-defying, gravity-defying women who you want to just assume has amazing genes, because most people her age look her age, yet she looks a good five years younger than me and she’s got a decade on me. She’s been a great source of encouragement and a wonderful resource for information. Shame she can’t also just drink my juices for me, since she loves them and I, well, I just don’t.

Which brings me to my first encounter with juicing today. Until now I have used one of those old-fashioned juice presses to squeeze delicious blood-orange juice, which I incorporate into my morning smoothie. That smoothie I thought was so healthy for me, what with mounds of berries and greek yogurt (all that protein!) and protein powder to boot. With fresh-squeezed blood orange juice. But evidently that’s nothing on plunking an orange, skin and all, into the juicer and consuming what comes out. Unfortunately mixed with all sorts of less-desirable greenery.

Juice!
Juice!

So breakfast today consisted of a bunch of kale (that’s about 14 leaves), a half head of romaine lettuce, a host of carrots (probably about 8), a cucumber, a lemon, and about 1/2-inch piece of ginger root. I will tell you never once in my life has kale (or any other healthy green, for that matter) passed my lips. I’ve probably eaten about 10 carrots in my whole life, and hated each bite. Cukes? I can deal with them in small quantities in salads. I mean they’re practically tasteless. I do love them in tzatsiki dip, if that counts (which is primarily simply a vehicle for the pita bread, which is what I really want). It was fun watching all those veggies transform into a bright green juice. It was not fun putting that juice to my mouth and knowing it had to go in. And down. While ensuring no return visit.

(Click here to see how that first glass went down)

I tried the first sip cold turkey. It was not delightful. I even put it in a martini glass to make it more festive. The thing is I couldn’t fool myself. It was green juice. I felt like I was on a goat diet. And I don’t mean a diet of eating goats but rather a diet of eating what goats eat. Actually goats probably have it better because they’ll eat the occasional shoe. Plugging my nose helped somewhat but there is always still that moment when you can’t run from the flavor a minute longer. And that’s the moment when you have to gulp and gulp fast, just get it down there, away from the taste buds, and have it start doing it’s thing.

As far as it’s thing? I’m not convinced of that yet.

“Your skin will look great!” Said the doctor (and others have corroborated this allegation).

“You’ll feel so energetic!” Says my friend. She is awfully energetic. I still chalk it up to genetics for her.

“You’ll lose weight!” Claims Joe What’s-His-Name, creator of the inspirational documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (more about that in a minute).

Right now I have a headache drilling through the center of my skull. My stomach is growling like an angry wildcat. I feel weak and woozy and just screamed at the dog for barking. I’m that surly that I can’t even let the poor dog do what a poor dog does. Ten days from now looks like eternity as I face the prospect of what the hell I can juice without dry heaving?

For me, food is such an integral part of daily life: the shopping, the preparation, the meal, the conversation, the communality that comes with it, the whole thing. So to have fueling one’s body being boiled down to its essence: i.e. stuffing a slew (and I do mean a slew) of veggies down the throat of a juicer and throwing back the end result as quickly as possibly just to get it over with, well, it sort of takes a bit of fun out of the day.

To make matters worse, already I find myself hand-washing dishes out the wazoo: bowls and cups and strainers and knives and cutting boards and all the receptacles that go into the production of a measly bucket of juice have to be re-used frequently all day long, especially when there are four of us juicing. My daughter who is away at college is grateful she’s off-the-hook for this one, happily ingesting dorm food (oxymoron, I know). “Well, looks like I’m not coming home till you’re done with this!” She said. You go right ahead and enjoy that dorm food. Which is going to start sound downright tasty before I know it. Grrrr.

My teeth are lonely and bored. They’re waiting for their chance to get to work. And they’re not gonna get it for a good long while. I wonder if bubble gum counts in a juice fast?

I swear to God my burps taste like meadows. My friend said, “Let’s hope you don’t leave behind meadow muffins!” I second that. I can’t fathom ingesting enough calories this way for that to be a worry.

My juicing daughter says she now has more empathy for her rabbit–though at least he gets to eat things whole!

So far I’ve done two rounds of juice — which translates into about a whopping 16 ounces and it’s nearing 2 o’clock. I tried to make the second juice more user-friendly (i.e. upped the ante, fruit-wise). You can’t get too aggressive with fruit, or you’ll end up with a sugar high and a sugar crash, and insulin levels off the charts. There’s clearly a fine line in introducing sugars (via fruits) to cut the edge off the green. I’ll be working on that. My second juice consisted of: a stick of pineapple, a blood orange, a handful of kale, a half head of romaine lettuce, 6 carrots, a cucumber, an inch of ginger (too much!), some watercress, some mint, and the kitchen sink (well, practically). The ratio is supposed to be 25% fruit to 75% veg. My daughter and I object and wish to reverse that, though clearly we don’t get a vote in the matter. That said, fruit in the juicer isn’t like fruit juice: once you throw it in there with the rind and all, well, it just doesn’t taste spectacular. Or maybe it’s the added kale juice that’s the killjoy.

The irony is my husband and my son, neither of whom needs a juice fast, are totally loving it. My daughter and I, the food lovers in the group, are muscling through, like it or not. For her, it’s not an option: she has to in order to maintain enough nutrition to not need medical intervention. For me, I have to, primarily to have her back while she’s suffering through this process. Though I admit I could definitely use the weight-loss that sure as hell better happen in great volumes from this thing. I’ve admittedly been in food hangover mode from a 3-month long food bender thanks to extensive traveling and celebrating a landmark birthday, with holidays to top it off.

For my third juice of the day (and I’m at half as much consumed as I’m supposed to be — I’ve only had 24 ounces and should be double that), I came a bit too close to puking it all back up. My daughter cackled at me.

She shouted up to my son, “Did you hear that?”

“The retching?” he asked.

Clearly sound travels. Glad we’re all getting a laugh at my expense.

“Think of barium, Mom,” my daughter said, cheering me on with glass #3.

This in reference to the hideous chalky liquid one has to ingest by the gallon when having an Upper GI done. Swallowing barium is an unpleasant experience, to say the least. And it ranks a close second to this juice fast so far.

Even the dogs are averse to this thing. When my daughter dipped her finger in and gave it to the dog to lick, she backed away with a shudder. So clearly even dog food is preferable to this stuff to some of us…

My evangelizing juicing friend had told about the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. About a very wealthy (and personable) Australian man who’d lived it up a bit much and was paying the price for it with a huge gut and autoimmune problems for which he was on permanent steroids. He decided to fly to the States and cross the country while on a 60-day juice fast, recording his experience while enlisting people along the way. When my daughters doctor also referred to it, I was more curious to watch it.

I’d contemplated joining her on her mandatory fast, though there was that niggling problem of hating veggies. It was kind of like I really want to run a marathon, but my bum knee won’t ever allow it. So I can’t control the marathon dilemma, but dammit, I could control the vegetable aversion. I think. I thought. I don’t know.

But once in on this thing (and with a vast stockpile of vegetables we have to plow through), I’m in on it for the long-haul. I just wish the long-haul could be a bit more pleasant….

In the big picture, I have to stay in it to provide moral support for my girl. That is what will force my hand, when the taste of this stuff gets me down.

A doctor on the documentary said “It’s about retraining your tastebuds.” But I’m wondering if they’ll simply become deadened to their misery. Hard to say. I’m seeking out recipes on their Reboot website, hoping I’ll hit upon something that is my jackpot juice. In the meantime, my face is really itchy. Could I be — horror of horrors — allergic to vegetables? Maybe it’s been my body’s way of avoiding them all these years, by making me hate them.

I’ll keep you posted.

 
Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

Where the Heart Is

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I’m a contributor)

And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions

The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F’s Rhymes with Duck

Naked Man On Main Street

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 find me on my website

I'm On a Roll, Baby


I have a friend with a real eye for design—in another life she definitely would have been a fabulous interior decorator if not an engineer creating useful products for better functionality. Often she’ll stare hard at something, point a menacing finger toward the thing and say, “That was designed by a man.” She never means this as a compliment. Rather, she she thinks men tend to design for looks, not function. Including functional flow in houses, on boats, in products we use in our everyday lives. They may think they’re helping, but generally, it seems not (or so my friend contends; do direct your complaints her way, thank you!).

(I Googled “man made” images and this is what came up first!)

I remember years back when public bathrooms started being retrofitted for wheelchair accessibility. It was at about the same time that the salesman for the Giant Toilet Paper Roll Company clearly hit the sales jackpot, because it seemed you couldn’t stumble upon a public loo in the U.S. without a gargantuan roll of the stuff. Which from a male-designed standpoint made some sense: buy big, buy cheap, sure. Buy big, replace less often. Okay, I’m with you. But then the plans things went awry: someone (a male? One wonders…) established standards that seem to have been implemented nation-wide about where to position these mambo-rolls within the narrow confines of a bathroom stall. It had some vague connection to wheelchair accessibility, but I can promise you it had nothing to do with how those in a wheelchair would then be able to access the stuff.

I think it was all about avoiding the handle bar that is installed midway up the stall. So this rocket scientist had a choice: position the paper high, above the bar, or install the paper low. For some reason low made imminent sense (is this because they don’t use the stuff, thus don’t “get” the failed functionality test?). Thus, these mega-rolls are forever installed wayyyy downnnnn lowwwww, requiring the user to lean far to the left and back slightly or forward too much to then get her arm bent enough to be able to reach up into the roll canister to access the stubborn paper that is stuck therein. Once there, you must hard, but argh, you can’t, because some brainiac (perhaps an infrequent user of the product, like, say, a man!) decided it was going to be even cheaper (yay!) to make the paper one-ply (sometimes I think they’ve gotten it down to near zero-ply), so that if you try to pull it–and bear with me because there is physics involved in this and I fail miserably at science concepts–the weight of the 20-lb. roll of toilet paper (TP for short) precludes the ability for the ply-less paper from holding strong against the vigorous force of the pull.

(it seems Bessie the elephant has it easier in the loo than your average woman)

So the innocent bystander (or should I say sitter) in said stall is left, shall we say, holding the square. Because the paper is not going to come off but for sheet-by-miserable-sheet, while you bend over at an awkward angle (and dare I suggest that your average wheelchair-bound woman in a public restroom is likely ill-equipped to be lurching gymnastically leeward to do the TP-twist?).

To compound this dilemma, you have the auto-flush toilet (man designed? you decide…). I once was helping potty train a kid who was terrified of the auto-flush. Poor child burst into tears upon hearing the ominous rumbling of the oncoming flush, a locomotive coming down the tracks. Once, when attempted to help wipe said child, the power flush erupted after having to tilt the kid to one side, and the poor thing literally flipped into a forward roll off the toilet from fright. Leaving me—the one who always cracks up over the wrong things—to laugh till tears streamed down my face.

Okay, so how this fits in with this theme: when you are in the midst of the left-leaning swoop to try to clutch at the elusive weak-willed TP, you then move away from the omniscient laser-beam light that tells the pot it’s time to flush. So while you’re desperately grabbing for paper, that cursed thing is flushing. Again, and again, and again. Because after the first flush you instinctually sit upright to stop the thing from happening, but then darned if you don’t have to reaacchchhhh wayyyyy down to try to get that elusive paper.

Maybe the end-result of this design flaw issue is that women are less likely to use public bathrooms, an added bonus for the provider, who then saves in water usage (except when the auto-flush goes awry), paper consumption (because you can’t get to it and thus you give up even trying), and cleaning supplies (because no one is using it with the regularity of days gone by). Plus you save on all that toilet paper theft.

About that TP theft…I’m sorry! I did it! I was a stupid college student! What can I say?

Yes, I have a dirty little secret: I have to assume some of the blame in this TP quandary. I admit there were times when my college roommates and I would help ourselves to a spare roll or two from the dorm bathrooms and take them back to our apartment. On a college budget sometimes you had to choose between spending spare cash on beer or TP. I think you can guess which usually won the internal debate. I do remember being at a bar one night with three rolls tucked lumpily in my backpack. I have to concede that it would be downright impossible (not to mention awkward) to lug a 10-lb roll of that cheap paper in your backpack. Plus once you got it home, what would you do with it? You’d have to hammer a railroad stake into the wall and dangle the thing from it. (note to students: if you do so, please hang it high enough!).

I have absolutely no idea what this has to do with this blog post but it seemed like such a bizarre image I just had to include it!

Okay, so back to the design thing. I am a female. I know how to do this better. It’s actually quite logical. Put the mega-giant-gargantuan roll of toilet paper up HIGHER, people (i.e. men who have decided it should be as close to the floor tiles as humanly possible). We women will appreciate it, and I have to assume particularly those in wheelchairs will thank you as well. End of rant.

All in a Day's Work

This is not me, but the vodka while cleaning might not be a bad idea...
Cliché or not, I want to talk about resolutions for just a minute. And not because I ever bother with any; I don’t. But because I know that there is at least one person around my house who wouldn’t mind if I resolved to try to clean my house occasionally this year.

The thing is, I don’t not clean my house. I just rarely undertake the rigorous all-day effort required to have the whole place clean all at once. Maybe it’s because it only builds up smoldering resentment in me when everyone then comes home and ravages our home in a matter of minutes; or perhaps my psyche can take it better one meager clean-then-trashed room at a time. Or I OCD clean, which takes ten times as long (no hired housecleaner will devote hours to baseboard cleaning, and if I do that, by the time I work my way up days will have passed!).
We do sometimes have folks come to clean, when things get desperate. I’d love to have a regular housecleaner, but I think I might be too populist to have someone doing my dirty work for me all the time, like I feel as if I need to pitch in. I’d be fixing meals for the maid, donning my own pair of rubber gloves when done with that to help scrub things.

this poor maid needs a makeover

Don’t get me wrong, I adore having a sparkling home, but it’s a moot point, as it’s not in the budget for the next, oh, say, rest of my life, anyhow. So I’ve resigned myself to picking up the broom, and yes, even the toilet brush, all in the interest of avoiding COPD or whatever other breathing disorders my family might succumb to if I don’t clean the place.
In honor of my birthday a few days before Christmas, we had cleaners come in. More because we had 18 people coming for Christmas Eve dinner and there was no way I’d have time to cook and clean for that lot. In truth it wasn’t for my birthday, but ended up being an unexpected bonus. See, I cleverly tried to get them to come clean on my birthday as a self-gift, but they refused, saying they were too busy. I had to settle instead for two days earlier (meaning I’d have to re-clean again before company came, because my family would have dismantled the cleanliness by then). But then they forgot to come on their appointed day. Which is problematic, when you spend hours preparing for the cleaners.

See, preparing for the cleaners is almost as hard as cleaning the place yourself. You have to pick up a houseful of stray mess, discard the piles of trash the kids have left lying around, clean up the clumps of dog hair in the corners (too embarrassing for them to witness), wash every dish, put away any hint of your slovenly self. For me, that takes about, oh, ten hours (I’ve been known to dump the motherload of extraneous mess into laundry baskets and hidden it in the garage; out of sight, out of mind).

this is not me doing the laundry, either

So to my chagrin, the cleaners forgot me (which isn’t as bad as the time a surgeon forgot to release me and left me stranded in the recovery unit till he was tracked down by a nurse while mingling at a cocktail party that evening). But the upside was I got them as a booby prize for my birthday! Hurray! Which meant a completely clean home, which was indeed a lovely birthday gift.

Now if I looked like this good cleaning, maybe I'd do it more often (or at least do it in sexy lingerie that I wouldn't mind bleach splattering)

Occasionally I’ve hired cleaners expecting to smell the heartwarming aroma of the freshly-cleaned, only to be accosted by the most offensive odors imaginable. Once, it was the unsavory fragrance of cat excrement permeating my entire home. The cleaner vacuumed our unfinished basement, the one piled high with boxes and only occupied by the cats, and sucked up the kitty goodies our antique feline failed to leave in the nearby litter box. This in turn clogged my new vacuum cleaner, and for some odd reason they continued to sweep the entire house despite the ghastly smell. Thank goodness I didn’t have to clean the house, because I then had to spend about four hours trying to de-cat poo the vacuum. It was not a pretty sight. Or scent, for that matter.

if only we'd had this litter box, my vacuum would've remained intact

I blame powerful cleaning agents for them not smelling the stench. See, another time we went out of budget for a cleaners treat. These occasions usually occur before unexpected houseguests, so that we can delude these friends that we are not slobs. I left the cleaners to do their thing, then returned home to the noxious scent of a cheap hooker. One in dire need of an olfactory system transplant. Seems the cleaner had used a product called Fabuloso, something that is apparently very popular amongst Latinas who clean, but the aroma of which had me running for the gas masks, if only I’d stockpiled them post-911 and the anthrax-in-your-mailbox-scare. This confirmed my suspicions that cleaning a lot of houses with powerful toxins has rendered the noses of many cleaners basically dead zones. Because the smell of Fabuloso is so not fabuloso; rather it is so vile, toxic and lung-searing, that I had to fumigate my house when they left, re-cleaning with something more mainstream.

My nose burns just looking at this bottle

Back in the 80’s, when a flood of Salvadoran refugees fled to America, many of these immigrant women became housecleaners. We occasionally hired a cleaning company managed by a country gal from West Virginia who was under the impression that if you added enough vowels, very loudly, her Spanish-speaking Salvadoran workers would understand her implicitly. Her commands of “Moppo el flooro” usually fell on uncomprehending ears. And their use of a Chlorox-infused cleaner on my teak dining room table cemented the notion that I should’ve just done it myself.

This is not me cleaning, thank goodness!

I suppose I could turn this clean-house resolution on its head by suggesting the one around here most desirous of the spic and span mode perhaps pony up as well. After all, we need a lot of painting on our aging house, and I’m way too short to reach all those high places. Plus, last time we had housepainters, you should’ve seen what those folks destroyed. It’s either that, or fire the maid, and I’m pretty sure I can’t fire myself.

Now this is more like me, happily polishing the good china after spending hours preparing a hearty meal