Escape From New York

Yesterday I left Staten Island for the first time in nine years. That’s right, I hadn’t stepped foot off the island, even for other boroughs, in nine long years. Actually that time went by rather quickly.

The drive was surprisingly non-horrific. With two and five year olds in tow I braced myself for the worst. A couple older kids came along for the ride and Mom did the driving, which was heaven sent- I dislike highway driving to the point of phobia.

We went over the Goethals, the turnpike, various parkways. We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s; I had a double quarter pounder sans ketchup and I threw out the bun (not before offering it to the rest of the family, they declined). It was awkward but doable eating the floppy hamburger patties with my fingers, the meat was terribly overcooked. It was edible, but barely, to the tune of $5. My little guys shared french fries and chicken nuggets, mom had a salad, older kids had an egg mcmuffin, more nuggets and fries. For drinks we had water (me), lemonade, mocha latte and diet coke.

I was surprised how many black people and hispanics are now north of NYC. Nine years ago non-asian minorities faded out a certain radius beyond the metro area with the exception of Springfield, MA. Most of the diners at that connecticut McDonald’s were black or hispanic, and it didn’t turn all/mostly white until Vermont.

After five hours we reached my hometown; I didn’t move here until age seven but it’s essentially my hometown. I wondered if I would start crying after all these years. But it was anticlimactic. There were the gorgeous mountains, lush green rolling in distant landscape. There was the guns-n-ammo shop. More lush greenery, an auto shop. Some kind of manufacturing plant (the sole one in the area, industry here has been decimated). The veterinarian where our sick pets were euthanized so long ago. Pretty colonials and victorians, many but not all in disrepair.

We arrived home to my very grouchy father. Grouchy is my dad’s version of happy, it only goes downhill from there. My little guy was all over the place while we unpacked- I tried to lock him in a playroom via baby gate but he howled pitifully so I let him escape.

My parents had dinner but I told them I would eat later. I went for a walk around local roads and hopped briefly into the woods, climbing a steep incline padded with pine needles and thin weeds. Pine trees towered overhead like solemn angels. I sat under one and patiently slapped mosquitoes as they landed on my skin. Later I ate some salmon and semi-raw hamburgers. My mother was horrified as she packed them out of sight into the fridge, asking wasn’t I worried about eating rare beef? Nope.

This morning I went to walmart. I needed shampoo and razors, my five year old requested pretzels. My mom warned me: the town looked worse than ever, but as I drove it looked the same. There was a new CVS. There was an abandoned something or other. There was the middle school where I was mercilessly tormented by my peers. I peeked down the street to my childhood best friend’s house- I considered driving past but that would feel stalkerish. I have no idea if her parents are even still living, and she has long since moved away.

Walmart… it looked exactly the same as nine years ago, except the shopping carts were in terrible shape (nothing irks me more than lousy shopping carts) and the walls were dinged up, in need of repainting. Two women said hello and politely asked how are you? This jarred me. They don’t do that in Staten Island, not that Staten Islanders aren’t friendly in their own way.

I am here for my aunt’s funeral. There is some drama with her estate that has darkened my father’s mood from bad to worse. I feel mildly vulturish hanging around waiting for the proceedings to unfold, but I never asked for this money. It’s all very sad. She should have lived a good twenty, thirty years further. God gives and god takes away.

Zootopia Looks Like Staten Island

After all the hype, after my mother raved about it, after my children raved about it– including my 19 year old nerd son with ice in the veins– after my daughter put the dvd on view for her psych ward– I watched Zootopia once it was on netflix. I’ll reserve my observations for a future post, but I could not help but notice that the city of Zootopia greatly resembles Staten Island.

zoo1

zoo2

staten-island

I’ll note this: if having a tiny bunny on the police force is novel, how does Zootopia police its rodent population? That doesn’t make sense.

Do You Want Something to Eat

Everyone has their own opinion on the homeless. You either walk past them, or throw a little money at them.

One of the nicer aspects of Staten Island is you are typically spared this choice… until the recent inception of the heroin epidemic. These days you see all kinds of beggars, mostly young white kids in areas they would not typically spawn. This morning I ran to the grocery store for a few things and there was a kid, about my oldest son’s age, holding a sign stating his dilemma.

I AM HOMELESS TRYING TO GET OFF THE STREETS.

I dug through my purse as I harnessed my shopping cart, handing him money as I walked past. Then I knelt down, looked him in the eye, and asked (because this has been the purpose of my life for the past 19 years): do you want something to eat?

He looked stunned.

I’m not used to junkies, but there was a nervous, exhausted, desperate look on his face.

“Yeah…” he replied.

“What would you like?” (This is the “mommy monster” inside of me. Because seriously, I’ve been doing nothing but feeding and placating whiny children for 20 years.)

He looked even more stunned here. “Uhh…” he said, confused…. “Anything?”

Now it as my turn to be stunned. My kids are all picky eaters. I mean really, really picky, as in two or three foods, for years, picky. Was this guy really willing to eat anything? This was a novel concept for me… to put it mildly.

“And maybe something to drink,” he added weakly.

“What do you want to drink?” (there’s a liquor store right by the Stop and Shop)

He stared at me incredulous… “Water?” he asked, again, so weakly.

“Just water?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay honey.”

And I walked into the grocery store. What exactly do you buy a homeless drug addict? I felt, in a surreal way, like a mom packing lunch for her kids at camp: it had to be nonperishable, palatable, and high calorie. I settled on a big bottle of Fiji water, a box of granola bars, and doritos. Along with the other items I came there to purchase.

I handed the bag to him as I embarked to my car, knowing I had accomplished no good, but no bad either. “Take care of yourself honey…” but I knew he wouldn’t.

Let’s Play a Real Game

beach partay 2.0
Once again we embarked on our strange family outing- dropping my husband off at the psych unit (he was such a pill during the ride I seriously considered just leaving him there) then soldiering onward to Midland Beach with the girls, this time a different set of girls as my mother swapped the 8 & 10 year olds for the 12 & 14 year olds. The beach was unusually crowded- there was some kind of event going on- but the beach itself wasn’t too sardinesque. We laid out our beach blankets, I harshly warned the girls not to kick or throw sand (I do this EVERY time, why I don’t know) and they padded down to the water’s edge.

adie071716

I didn’t feel like going in today, despite the inviting gray waves rolling over each other like puppies.

But then I got my ankles in, then my calves, then my knees, and before I knew it I was diving underwater like last time. The water was warmer than then but choppier, thick waves rolling up and over. I guess like people, the ocean is changeable. Indeed each wave rushed upon me with a personality of its own and seemed to invite: let’s play a real game. So I began swimming out as far as I dared- past the fat russians, far enough to make the lifeguards whistle- then let my body go limp as the current pushed me back to the girls. Sometimes the waves were gentle, other times they welled up like a bullying brother. It dawned on me this was life to a degree; you forge into an unknown only to be met by a tide of fate, and it either carries you gently, or flirts with drowning you.

hogging the hedge
Best.t-shirt.ever.

hedgehog

This makes me think of Rodney King’s plea to just get along. But no, the hedgehog simply cannot. I bet he’s voting for Trump.

life in the psych ward
After many visits to my daughter I now know a lot of what goes on in adolescent psych units. First, the kids are majorly doped up. Her meds have been ramped up at least threefold from the short term unit. She’s on so many pills she’s lost her sense of time. She stopped calling home because, apparently, she’s not aware she hasn’t been here. The kids sleep… a lot. Her current roommate was curled up in a comatose little lump during my last few visits. And my own daughter spends an awful lot of time sleeping or semi-asleep.

They pirate music- even handing out mp3 players to the patients (there is unfiltered internet access, but the aides watch the screens). My rule-oriented daughter was alarmed by the piration and approached one of the aides, who covered up one eye, gave the thumbs up, and said, “arrghhh, matey!”

“School” consists of three rooms. In one room, you can use the internet. For anything. My daughter writes online screeds about animal rights and draws crazy ponies. [Note to reader: have I mentioned crazy ponies before? If not I will elucidate.] Room 2 is the current events room. You write essays about current events, but the teacher prefers the essays not be more than one sentence. Again, my daughter writes rambling screeds about animal rights. Room 3 consists of an eternal art project of a paper roller coaster. Marbles roll down it.

crazy ponies
When my daughter began having issues she embarked on the same drawing, over and over again, rarely finished. It was of a My Little Pony, the Friendship is Magic variety. She used to draw adorable and highly accurate ponies from the show as fan art– you know, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, etc.. My kids are all bronies and pegasisters (hoof salute!). But as she deteriorated, the ponies grew ever weirder, creepier, and she never finished them. I have thousands upon thousands of these half finished sketches all over the house which she eventually termed, affectionately, her crazy ponies. Case in point:

crazypony

crazypony2

crazypony3

crazypony4

crazypony5

crazypony6

crazypony7

crazypony8

crazypony9

crazypony10

Occasionally we get a crazy alligator:

crazyalligator

… or a crazy bird(?):

crazybird2

crazybirds

… and lots and lots of eyeballs.

crazyeyeballs

Barbie Heaven

Yesterday we had the incongruous family outing of heading to the beach– the psychiatric facility is right by the one I take the girls to. So I dropped off my husband at the psych unit, then continued to the water with three girls in tow: the 14, 12, and 4 year olds.

“If there’s no garbage in the water,” I announced [you know you live in NYC when you have to preface statements with if there’s no garbage…] “I’m going swimming.”

The older ones took bets on how far I would go (to those unfamiliar with the beaches around here, the water can be chilly). “I bet she’ll go up to her knees,” said Dea, the 12 year old.

“Waist at the most,” quipped the overachiever.

Well there was no garbage in the water so I took off my sunhat and waded in. It was chilly but not unbearable, I dove underwater to the accolades of my girls still on the sand. I swam back and forth, dove under again, did a backstroke. It dawned on me I couldn’t remember the last time I went swimming.

“Hey mom!” shouted the overachiever. “I didn’t know you could swim!”

I wanted to tell her– I had forgotten I could too, but I dove back under, surfaced like a seal and floated in the gray waters of the Atlantic. There was the Verrazano; there was a passenger jet heading to JFK; there was the gaggle of fat russian men, lounging in lapping water (I don’t know if it’s a Staten Island thing, but it’s mainly men who go in the water at the beaches). They chatted to and fro in Russian while I dove under again. Salty water streamed down my face when I resurfaced; I wiped droplets from my eyes and pushed back my soggy hair. This was paradise!

My 14 year old got the 4 year old on her back, piggy back, and waded in to her waist. I shouted Mommy shark! went under, and grabbed at their ankles to the 4 year old’s sheer delight. Dea darted in and out of the ocean, looking like a starved, wet rat.

I don’t wear bathing suits. My reasoning is, I wouldn’t walk around in public in my underwear, so why would I walk around in public in a bathing suit that probably shows more than my underwear? No thanks! So I wore leggings, a skirt to my knees, a tank top and a long sleeved shirt for good measure. I figure if nothing else it will protect me from UV rays. I may have gotten a few curious stares but didn’t care.

The girls either followed suit or were too lazy to find their own bathing suits. So there the four of us were, fully clothed, horsing around in the water.

Later we went to the playground where the 4 year old misplaced her Barbie. Back in the car, noting Barbie’s absence, Dea gibed She went to Barbie heaven. This satisfied the 4 year old who spared us a torrent of tears, and she fell sound, sound asleep on the way home, her cheeks flushed bright red from sun.

 

Dog Days of Summer

quiet
Summer vacation is now tallying three weeks. The house is eerily quiet with my oldest daughter “elsewhere.” I never realized how much noise the constant pacing, chattering, and random giggles produced. She also loves to blast youtube while pacing (Pink, according to her, is musical genius). So that’s not happening. And it’s quiet.

over the river
My parents took two girls to New England where they wile away the days in the pool, eating donuts, ice cream, and visiting my sister.

angiedonut

And they got to see fireworks twice- once at a private party and another time at the local park.

diurnal living
Us here, it’s down to my oldest, the overachiever (who did overachieve, she was valedictorian at her middle school- more impressive than it sounds), Dea (the artist, see chalk drawing below)…

flower

…and the two youngest. It sounds like a lot of people but the house feels empty three men down. Every morning is the same- I change the baby, barricade the kitchen, and let him loose while he wreaks havoc. The following picture is not an unfamiliar scene.

aleric070616

Shortly after I took that picture (and retrieved him from the table) he walked into a corner cabinet… three times. He reminds me of a blind cat in that regard. He’s always walking into stuff, falling, and whacking his head. He even busted up his eye a few days ago (but it’s better now).

alericeye

The overachiever often quips he’s either stupid or fearless; perhaps that’s a Venn diagram.

beach partay
With so few children to take care of, an outing to the beach is less daunting. This is precisely what we did over the weekend. As you can see, the Staten Island beaches were mobbed.

amadeaadie1

The overachiever and Adie got to “work on their tans” while I collected seashells.

ahavaadie

visiting hours
Most evenings are punctuated with visiting my daughter in the psych ward. It’s a strange adventure each time: getting past the ill-tempered safety officers is like facing the cyclops, wandering the grounds is navigating a labyrinth, the random adult patients are passing minotaurs, and in the center of it all my daughter, a disheveled Phaedra, reigns over the adolescent unit.

The adolescent ward has a constant, mild party atmosphere. There’s a lot of video games, music, movies, jocular chit chat, and food. In fact food seems to be a perpetual pursuit amongst some of the girls: rifling through the freezer, concocting dishes in the microwave, idly stirring that evening’s dinner in its styrofoam container, clandestinely slipping packets of graham crackers hand to hand like a drug deal.

weight loss
A couple months ago I read an article about type 2 diabetics put on a very low calorie diet. According to the study, diabetes was reversed in all patients. However as is common with discussion of diabetes, it’s unclear if “reversed” means “eliminated” or “managed.” So I decided to try it myself, and got down to a little under 116 lbs. At my height this is approximately BMI 17.

Mission accomplished, I pulled out the glucose monitor, drank a glass of grape juice… drumroll please… and my blood sugar promptly shot up past 200 within an hour. So much for that theory. I hate to be pessimistic but if reducing myself to an underweight BMI has no impact on diabetic reactions, how is telling a morbidly obese person to lose 50 pounds going to help anything? But I’m not a doctor.

strange dreams
I continue to have strange dreams and nightmares most nights, which is nothing new, but the pace has picked up. Perhaps it’s spillover stress from my daughter’s situation. Last night I dreamed I returned to high school, but the facilities had been redone to look like The Hermitage. The teachers and other students kept referring to me as “princess” which I found odd but didn’t question. I saw two of the Romanov daughters running through the hallway (redolent of the scene from Russian Ark). I climbed up to the third floor of one building and the stairway began to collapse; so I instead walked down to the basement where a demon, locked in a prison cell, whispered through the walls to help him escape.

The Pelican People

After her first psychiatric stint my daughter stabilized somewhat on a cocktail of anti-psychotics. She continued to pace, talk to herself, but was far less paranoid and accusatory. She stopped picking out her gorgeous hair and it grew back in short, pretty tufts.

A few months ago I noticed a decline. As did her grouchy psychiatrist, who prescribed an array of new anti-psychotics to no avail. My daughter reverted to constant pacing, constant chattering, and picking out the new version of her hair. The grouchy shrink eventually gave up. Perhaps she should go back to the psych unit.

So off we ventured one bright saturday morning. By this point I was accustomed to the double locking doors (the second locked door doesn’t unlock, until the first door slams shut) and even remembered the names of most of the nurses and doctors. My daughter was bright eyed and chipper throughout. I’ve gradually learned she has two modes: happy crazy, and paranoid crazy. Today she was happy crazy.

“I am not a goose to swim in murky waters!” she announced gaily to the empty waiting room. “I fly with seagulls in salty skies, I sing with the pelican people!” She pronounced those last words, pelican people, with great flourish. We sat together in the waiting room, endless episodes of Sponge Bob on television, her eyes darting to and fro like a cat watching bugs. She laughed, frowned, cocked her head to the side with serious expression as though listening to god’s secrets. She nodded her head, smiled warmly, and relaxed into her plastic seat.

They brought her in. They brought me in. I went through the whole spiel yet again. She was normal and happy until age 14. She grew withdrawn. She started pacing incessantly. She stopped sleeping. She began talking to invisible people. She picked out her gorgeous hair until nearly bald. She accused us of conspiring against her, accused us of poisoning her food. Whatever hair grew back she refused to wash or comb, and she hadn’t showered in months. Her hair was tangled in thick mats. Like you see on homeless people.

She looks like a homeless person,” I said flatly. Because this was it: defeat. Game over. Your turn.

They admitted her to the psych unit which housed just one other patient, a surly african american kid who kept sticking his hands in his pants, even in front of me. She was oblivious, cheerily playing Uno and watching movies with him until his discharge. Then it was down to just her on the unit, the lone adolescent patient.

She chattered incoherently to the nurses at their station. She read aloud classified ads in case they might need a new job (waitressing! that might be fun!). She explained to me, during visiting hours, that we are the construct of a mathematician in a simulated reality. She penned rambling letters to her psychiatrist and social worker. In one she ended succinctly: Finding myself here I realize I am easily confused and have great difficulty with basic functioning. I hold no ill will against you.

She decorated it with hearts and curlicues.

The unit psychiatrist, an almost handsome man with glittering eyes, likewise surrendered. She was on an elephant’s dose of seroquel with no effect. They lacked the resources to help her, he said, and perhaps she should transfer to the long term facility.

And that’s precisely where she went, carried by two young EMTs glued to their cell phones. My daughter smiled and chattered as the ambulance tumbled. She would meet turkeys! (The wild turkeys of Staten Island originated at this psychiatric facility.) She would receive turkey hugs! Nothing like genuine turkey hugs! And we saw them- the wild turkeys- as the ambulance barreled over locked grounds. Males with feathers outstretched, brown mothers, fluffy chicks scampering.

“Turkeys!” she cried in elation, “They waited for me!”

Yet another intake interview. Yet again the same spiel. Though this time I recalled a few details. “She says she has Jesus powers,” I explained matter of factly, as though the notion weren’t ridiculous.

The psychiatrist and social worked nodded, scribbling in notebooks.

“When Jesus died on the cross, he granted a select few special powers, she is one of the select few.”

They continued to scribble.

The unit coordinator took me on a tour of the facility; in the distance I could hear my daughter chattering happily with her fellow inmates. Then they ushered me out; the facility is located near the beach and the salty breeze washed over me, bright perennials nodding in the wind. Crows soared overhead like watchmen; I was reminded of the Norse mythology I learned from Vikings (an excellent series, highly recommended) where ravens operate as the envoys of Odin.

 

Port Richmond, Staten Island

Port Richmond, derisively coined Puerto Richmond by some Staten Islanders due to its massive influx of hispanic immigration, is a neighborhood spanning roughly from Forest Avenue to the south, Richmond Terrace to the north, Clove Road to the east, and Morningstar Road to the west. Originally an Irish neighborhood (at least I think so) it eventually turned predominantly African American, and over the last decade has transformed into a Hispanic neighborhood with a dominant dose of Mexico.

The commercial areas host restaurants, storefront churches, fly by night shops, and natural healers (known to Spanish speakers as curanderos or botanicas). You don’t see much else beyond that. Here and there are a few holdouts from the anglo era, including Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices and Ice Cream.

ralphs

In fact when we moved to Staten Island, the first thing the realtor advised after we sealed the deal was to visit Ralph’s. This ice cream shop is a Staten Island landmark and has withstood the environs’ decay. Denino’s, a pizzeria consistently ranked as some of the best in the country, is right across the street (if you click the above picture you can see it in the background).

As you head north things get dicey but my end goal was a live poultry butcher on Richmond Terrace. North of Castleton is especially decayed, so I gave myself the option of abandoning the endeavor if things felt unsafe.

There were few people out on this early, chilly Sunday morning. And those who were: all men. It was weird. There was not a single woman (other than me) to be seen. Most of the men traveled in pairs and were carrying coffee. In retrospect that should have been a warning sign but I soldiered on, taking pictures of anything that caught my eye. And a lot caught my eye.

guadalupe
eat, pray, comprar

virginmaryla virgen gets ready to mop

pushbutton
do these things serve any purpose?

postoffice
Port Richmond post office

postalparkingonly
lock without a cause

iglesia2
one of many, many storefront churches

iglesia
another storefront church. the power of tax free income!

abogado
abogados (lawyers) for when Trump takes over

lawyersteps
the lawyers’ front steps. business must be bad.

coconutjuice
a discarded can of coconut juice in the lawyer’s front lawn

twitter
twitter and facebook meet graffiti

restaurantauction
a restaurant that bit the dust

restaurant
another restaurant: “The Western Cowboy.”

lostdog
lost dog… sniff. But $1000??

automotive
an abandoned auto shop

caseyspublichouse
a holdout from days of anglo

inca market
…that is now next to Nando’s Inca Market

compramosoro
one of many signs offering to buy gold

It Only Takes One Microbe

I’ve officially entered the realm of crazy pregnant woman mode, where I’m in a constant and acute state of anxiety, superstition, and worry. I’ve been reading meaning into everyday occurrences. My daughter saw a mouse in the kitchen this morning. A good sign! There’s a dead cricket on the basement floor. Bad sign! And it would be even worse luck to touch that dead cricket, so it’s been there for weeks.

This morning I had to go to Willowbrook for yet another blood draw. My phlebotomist was an older Russian lady who suited up in a face mask before sticking me, ranting the whole time about Ebola and how neither the government nor the lab manager were taking adequate precautions to protect healthcare workers. “If it becomes an epidemic…” she said morosely, and put her hands in the air in a hopeless gesture. Then she jabbed me way too hard, and I still can’t fully extend my arm which is swollen and bruised opposite my elbow.

By that point I’d fasted for 14 hours, so I sat in the car and wolfed down a sandwich with juice. I was supposed to eat a high carb meal before returning two hours later for the second draw. I haven’t eaten bread in months, and while it was yummy it didn’t seem to re-awaken my bread addiction, especially since I knew it would make my levels shoot up (it did, I tested later at home out of curiosity).

During the second draw I overheard a group of phlebotomists in the hallway discussing Ebola. One intoned ominously there are a lot of Liberians on Staten Island. Yeah, but they live in West Brighton said another. No, they live in Park Hill said yet another. Well as long as they don’t come here, said a fourth. Errr… don’t they realize Staten Island is a mere 60 square miles? And microbes don’t care about neighborhood demarcations. As my aunt the pathologist always said when I left the cap off the toothpaste: It only takes one microbe.

I don’t know why but I’m just not worried abut Ebola, even in my crazy pregnant woman state of mind. I guess it could become as airborne as the common cold, then we’d all be in trouble. I’m a lot more worried about nasty flu viruses, or the enterovirus circulating the country, as two of my children have life threatening asthma and a third has moderately bad asthma. Even with suitcases of medication in the house they’ve been hospitalized for it, one in the ICU for a week (the overachiever). Anyway, if there were a clear and present Ebola threat I’m sure my aunt, who works for the CDC, would have contacted me. But so far she’s only sent me scary information about DV-68.

Here is the current state of the bump. It continues to look much smaller in pictures for some reason. It looks, and certainly feels, at least three times bigger in real life.

bump

Al Sharpton Cometh

Al Sharpton and 15,000 of his friends are due to arrive on the shores of Staten Island tomorrow, so I decided to do all my grocery shopping today. There will be a number of road closures and networks of diverted traffic due to the “We Will Not Go Back” rally (what exactly does that mean? Is it like “Never Again?”). I have trouble believing 15,000 people will journey to Staten Island for any reason, and it’s a shame those visitors who do show up will be marching through one of the more miserable sections of the island. Despite its supposed renaissance as the next Greenpoint, St. George for the most part is not a pretty sight. Yes, there are lovely historic landmarks here and there (like St. Peter’s Church) and some well kept Victorians. But for the most part it’s blight, ugly storefronts, and lots of down and out folks hanging around. Perhaps the borough president should have organized hospitality squads to shepherd protesters on diversionary tours of our sparkling beaches and vast greenbelt. They could even take a golf break in Todt Hill.

The timing of Mr. Sharpton’s visit to the island is serendipitous because the one year anniversary of my breach from sugar is approaching, and as some of you may be old enough to remember, Al once cut a portly figure.

chubby al

My husband often waxes poetic about Sharpton’s jumpsuits and bling that are now relics of a bygone era. Despite being chubby in years past, Sharpton is now emaciated thanks to a prison fast and vegan diet.

skinny al

I don’t know, I think he looked better fat! It’s people like Al who give veganism a bad name. They look sick, gray, and withered. But I’m going to assume that like me he has also sworn off desserts, even vegan cupcakes. It was almost one year ago tomorrow that I decided to quit all desserts, and I only fell off the bandwagon once through that period when under the influence of too much wine. I wolfed down a chocolate chip cookie before I remembered it was verboten.

What is life like without dessert? Honestly, not much different. The only physical change is that I have a somewhat less tortuous time trying to sleep. My entire life I’ve had difficulty staying asleep more than two hours, and without the sugar and accompanying chocolate (my weaknesses were chocolate croissants, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, brownies, and chocolate) I can occasionally stay asleep for three hours. But other than that I feel no different. No extra energy. No greater immunity to the common cold. So if you’re considering giving up desserts, too, you may not want to bother.

Not only that but two months ago I finally managed to quit bread! This means I’ve been gluten free for some time. Other than some possible withdrawal symptoms, like a severe headache and bad mood, I can report that I feel no different without gluten either. So again, you may want to avoid this current health food craze. In fact, a recent study surmises that the gluten free fad is completely fake.

The only reason I gave up desserts and bread was because I realized they were wasted calories, and I would rather my carbohydrates derive from fruits as they, at least, contain antioxidants and fiber. The only perceptible difference is that so far I’m gaining less weight with this pregnancy than I gained in previous pregnancies, but that’s only because I’m not devouring bagels, rye bread, pizza, and homemade pretzels like I once did.

Yet another radical change in my dietary life is that I’m now eating meat. After being a devout vegan for years I began eating the very occasional egg, piece of chicken, or dairy item. But once I noticed Costco sold lamb at $5.50 per lb the die was cast. If there is one meat in the world I actually enjoy eating, it’s lamb. I cook it on “low” in the crockpot for 10 hours with wine, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s utterly divine and the final nail in my vegan coffin.

However, eating red meat for the first time in nearly 20 years has not made me feel any different. As I’ve noted before, I think humans are more like rats than we want to admit: we can survive nicely on just about any calorie source, as long as it’s not outright carcinogenic or poisonous.

If I weren’t very pregnant I might venture into the fray tomorrow to take pictures for my readers, but as it is, I can barely make the rounds of Costco without bordering on collapse. I don’t know why that is, because I haven’t gained much weight, though I guess it’s the nature of babies to suck the life out of their mothers.