A Big-Deal Birthday, and Giant Juicy Steaks

October 4, 2010

Dear Family,

You are not going to get a GAPS update this week. Here's a little explanatory parable:

On some days, you wake up efficiently and enthusiastically and Ready To Go, launching directly from dreamland onto a mental trampoline. Then you realize it's dark out, and that you kind of have a headache. And then you touch your own face, and suddenly you just KNOW--the lump you can feel is a tumor! Panic sets in before you discover that you aren't even fully awake yet.

Turns out, the tumor is only a zit. And since it's only four in the morning, you really need to go back to sleep. Except way too much brain processing power has already been used up, so it's hard to shut down right away. And you still haven't even finished thinking about all the digestive and neurological and crazy-fascinating-and-exhausting GAPS events from yesterday...and the wheels are spinning...and spinning...and nobody's even awake yet, to jolt you from thoughts into the actual reality you're thinking about.

Which makes you think about it more.

Which is currently not what you need to do.

Which is why you (really, I) shouldn't do any more thinking or writing about GAPS or gut dysbiosis right now, because it really was a Zit Tumor Week.


Instead, I'll write about Jeff's birthday!

For future reference, it's good to know that Ben can keep a secret for approximately 1.5 hours before he's ready to burst. Which is why it was really good timing on my part that I chose to tell Ben about Jeff's upcoming surprise party exactly 1.5 hours before it started, and after Jeff had gone out to run an errand...

Yes, it's true. My True Love is now forty years young, although he doesn't look a day over twenty five. I wanted to celebrate his birthday, and knew that coordinating childcare and a romantic night on the town was not currently possible. So instead, I (and lots of helpers) planned some surprises.

First, Jan and Sal arrived on Saturday. Then, some more friends came over for a little surprise afternoon lunch. The great thing was, this was two days before Jeff's actual birthday (9/27), and he thought this was it: a surprise party and family visiting for the weekend.

...BUT, it turned out that a bunch of guys (with Sal as co-conspirator) were coming over at 6:30 to take Jeff to the movies, followed by an impromptu game of cards that went until 1:30 the next morning.

This was fun, and Jeff thought, after his parents left on Monday, that the celebrating was all over.

...BUT, it turned out that my brother Loren “just happened” to arrive at our front door that evening, in time for dinner (someday, I can bore you by explaining exactly how logistically challenging it was to get Loren from the Ithaca bus station and up to our front door without Jeff noticing).

We had a nice dinner (this was Jeff's actual birthday), and Jeff thought that this was it—one last birthday hurrah.

...BUT, it turned out that a whole other batch of guys (only half of them could come on Saturday night) were arriving at 6:30, to take him out to another movie.

And then, this was really the end of the birthday surprises, which I was so happy I managed to pull off, because A). I really love Jeff, and B). I really wanted him to have a fun birthday, and C). it's harder than it seems to do anything in secrecy without slipping up.

(I'm relieved that I am not a secret agent or anything, forced to keep classified information from any and everyone and to maintain Constant Vigilance.)

Happy Birthday, to my dearest husband in the whole wide world!


Our neighbor has recently begun a once-a-week morning Yoga class in the common house. It is a super wonderful way to begin the day. I think, although I'm not positive, that it's more useful than therapy.


Okay, this will probably sound really weird, but someday, I want to do this:


It's a cadaver dissection workshop for Regular People. I mean, medical professionals, yes, but also people who want to see What's Inside. Ben says he wants to attend with me.

We'll have to start saving up now.


I was thinking this week:

1. Living with and dealing with a chronically stressful situation is...stressful. I guess this is probably the most obvious thing I have ever written, but thinking about it this way makes me realize: reactions to stress is inevitable. Normal, you might say. Which means that, in my case, crying, or bouts of sadness or depression, or saying things I really wish I hadn't...might actually be _normal_. And therefore, expectable.

2. This does not at all excuse such actions, and it points constantly toward the need to work on stress relieving techniques, and toward bringing as much balance into ones life as possible.

3. And yet, the whole point is that, at least right now, the stress is _chronic_. And it's not going away super fast. It seems possible also that no amount of deep breathing in the world can totally save a person (me!) from feeling stressed out by stress, no matter how successful my Life Balancing Brainstorming might be.

4. This week, I've been trying to differentiate my gut reaction of fear from Actual Facts Relating to a Situation. For instance, when Jeff makes a casual and fun suggestion that our family Go Out Somewhere, I'm realizing that I'm very likely to freeze up and say, “NO! I can't _possibly_ do that!” Thing is, it would be much more honest to state, “Hey, I'd _love_ to go out, but right now I don't want to deal with the possibility of dealing with Ben totally losing it in a public place.” Saying the former means that we don't go out. Saying the latter might still mean that we don't go--but every so often there's another way of solving the problem (like going out, and Jeff waiting in the car with the boys while I run into a store to do an errand....) that I wouldn't have considered if I stayed frozen in fear.

5. It can be easier to forgive almost any disability in a person before you can forgive their chronic rudeness, however involuntary it may actually be. It might be easier to forgive just about _anything_ else, actually, short of a person's outright cruelty. People often comment on a person's “differently-abled”-ness, and then follow it up with something like, “He's in a wheelchair, but he's just the _nicest_ guy you will ever meet!” People never, ever say things like, “His insulting behavior and social anxiety get in the way of our interactions, but I can tell he's just a super great guy!” Having rude behavior as a primary symptom of your illness does not an easy future suggest. This is a large part of why, for our child's sake and our own, we are doing GAPS.

6. I'd be in a pickle if I believed that everything happens for a foreordained reason. Because then I'd know that I deserved my current parenting adventure. And I don't. It's just that it's happening. So therefore I guess I must deserve it. (See, I came to that conclusion without any help from a higher power.)

These are my thoughts. I'm sure I'll have more soon.


Okay, I promised not to talk about GAPS, but I can still talk about diet and food, right??

Anyway, I will.

I was thinking recently about “emotional eating,” and “eating to fill up a psychological need,” and all the ways that changing ones diet affects a person's psyche. And then I was considering weight loss in particular, and how current mainstream (and even alternative and hippy) thinking essentially says: If You Are Overweight, You Eat Too Much And/Or Exercise Too Little.

We've heard this so many times that most of us think it's true. And if you follow this thinking, and you're someone who wants to lose weight, then you essentially believe that you personally should eat less (except that of _course_ you'd be eating less, if you weren't so hungry), and/or exercise more (except that of _course_ you'd be exercising more, if you felt like it). And if you fail to lose weight despite being hungry and exercising, most conventional advice says: you have to eat even less, and exercise even more, without stopping to ponder: what if exercising and eating less are actually _effects_ of weightloss itself, and not the causes at all?

This seems totally simplistic, and not useful if you're trying to understand the psychology of overweight, right? The thing is, if what I'm learning is true, than nearly all overweight is _not_ due to overeating or underexercising, but rather to metabolic malfunctioning, which can be corrected by dealing with the underlying cause: imbalanced insulin levels, due to over-consumption of carbohydrates (particularly refined grains and sugars).

High-fat, low carbohydrate diets, even when unlimited calories are consumed, appear to cause significant, permanent weightloss--and they work fairly quickly, completely independently from exercise levels, and people don't feel hungry while following these diets. At the beginning, switching from a high-carb to a high-fat diet, people can suffer from major withdrawal symptoms (which can be horribly similar to other addictions, like heroin). These symptoms are hard to deal with, for sure. But when people consider the unpleasantness of dieting, I wonder if they often confuse the prospect of _cravings_ (for specific foods, regardless of hunger levels) with _hunger_ (the body's non-ignorable directive to eat, in order to provide energy for celllular function). This confusion must be amplified when you've been told that it's actually normal to feel hungry, and that you lack self-control if you can't eat less, since conventional wisdom says you need to cut calories in order to lose weight.

But what if it's really true, that you _don't have to feel hungry in order to lose weight?_ And that calories really don't matter? If this is true, and I think it is, then it could be a huge public service if people seeking to lose weight were actually informed of this simple fact. It could help them deal with the cravings much more effectively, if they didn't also have to feel hungry at the same time. It could be a huge shift of public consciousness, to understand that overweight is NOT a disease caused by “lack of self-control.”


Have I mentioned how nice it is that Jeff makes us breakfast? If I haven't, it is. I really appreciate that he almost always serves our family's morning meal.

I find breakfast-making exceptionally attractive in a man.


The other day I spoke very calmly, in response to one of my boys yelling from across the house: “Please,” I said quietly, for the fortieth time that week (plus or minus). “Walk into _this_ room to talk to me. I don't want to shout.”

And suddenly I realized that I am turning into my mother, who has always been a very reasonable and rational person, and who _also_ never liked it when we shouted from another room.


I am training myself to like eating fat. It is not always easy, because sometimes it's super-gross.

We are eating Giant Juicy Gobs of saturated animal fat these days. It's sometimes simply amazing. We're literally eating like kings (and queens). We had pork chops two nights ago, and let me tell you, watching Jem eat pork chops is just a fascinating sociological experience! At the farmer's market on Saturday, we purchased: rabbit, bison, chicken, pig, cow, and duck meat. Every so often, I just stop mid-chew and think: Oh My God.

The stuff doesn't always appeal to me, it's true, but I have to say: I'm feeling better physically than I have in years. I won't give you too much information, but after six months on GAPS, I'm sleeping better, I've got more energy, the symptoms caused by Aunty Flow are continuing to improve, and my digestion is better than it's been in two decades The more I read, the more I I'm beginning to think that I used to be healthy in _spite_ of my vegetarian diet, rather than because of it.

I'm starting to notice: I don't know many life-long vegetarians, or vegetarians who haven't reverted back to eating at least some meat. I'm grudgingly beginning to admit: we probably have canine teeth for a very simple reason.


This article is long, and absolutely fascinating. http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-diseases/metabolic-disorders/591-cop…

I need to read things like this (a summary of some of the nutrient imbalances that can accompany chronic disease) to rejuvenate my hope on Ben's bad days. And to remind myself about the virtue of Patience (i.e. years of accumulating dietary and environmental imbalance does not correct itself overnight due to a single bite of steak. Especially if a person won't even consume even that single bite...).


The other day, Jeff fixed the front left speaker in the car. This is great, because now we can hear music playing out of it, which is really excellent!

“Yeah,” Jeff said, “why don't you put in your update? That your husband fixed the speaker he installed wrong to begin with...._two and a half years ago!_”

But I feel that this speaker-fixing was very inspirational. Kind of like, looking at life the way geniuses do: not just putting up with an ergonomically bad design forever, but taking the bull by the horns and making our lives just a little bit better. :) I took this inspiration and ran with it: I rearranged our “office” furniture, so that the back room is much more pleasant and spacious.


Two interesting articles from our friends at Wired magazine:

Concerning the slow acceptance of the Waterless Urinal: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/06/ff_waterless_urinal/

A description of the inner (and surprisingly imperfectly understood) workings of Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/06/ff_alcoholics_anonymous/



On Ben's bad days, it's like we're living with an obsessive tautologist. On the other hand, I know that when he is well, this personality trait will serve him with solid functionality for the rest of his life.

For the first time ever, I think, Ben put his arm over and around me while lying in bed. This may seem like nothing--and to a child who's developed normally, it really isn't anything at all. But Ben has spent his life trying to burrow his way underneath me when he cuddles, trying to put all of his extremities under my body as he sags against me. So this was kind of a big deal, and a sign that his brain is slowly making progress.

“Great!” This is a word that Ben had never uttered until very recently, when he told me that his origami model was “great!” and then additionally commented that Uncle Loren's drawing was “great!”

Looking at a hand-launched helicopter, a lightbulb goes off. “If I spin like this...” Ben tilts each arm, sticking them straight out from his sides, and begins to rotate. “...if I spin _really_ fast, then maybe I could do that too...”

“Why do _I_ have nipples? I'm a boy, and I can't even have a baby!”



“When the chicken is done, I don't want you to put it in the fridge, because I want to eat it ALL...so I can be as tall as Papa.”

“Sourkrauk” = Sourkraut

“Do you have lots of POWER? ...I have teeny itty bitty power, 'cause I'm teeny.”

“How do pianos make two sounds at once?”

Hiding under the table: “Where is me?”

“I want to die a deer, so we can eat it.”

Ben is screaming in the other room. Jem notices that his brother is not eating his dinner, looks concerned, and then asks, “If Ben doesn't want it, can I eat his pieces of pig?”

Yesterday, Jem spent at least a half-hour making something out of Popsicle sticks. And then he spent another hour walking around saying, “...Look at my Three-Back Gun! ...Look at my Three-Back Gun!” The definition of a Three-Back Gun remains unclear.

Scenarios I never considered (in a public restroom): “...What would happen if there was no sink?” Well, then we couldn't wash our hands, I tell him. “An'....what would happen if there was no turlit [toilet]?” Umm... then there wouldn't be anywhere inside where we could pee or poop! “...An' what if there was no THIS [pointing to flush tank]?” Well, then, I say, there wouldn't be any way for the toilet to flush. [There is a long pause.] Also,, Jem inquires, “Why aren't there any books and magazines on the back of this turlit?”

Lying in bed in the morning, cuddling: “Let's stay here forever...and then go and eat our eggs.”

“Why are there two holes in my nose?” I don't know, actually. Why do you think? I ask him. And then Jem figures it out: “One is for boogers, an' one is for air.”


We're already toward the end of “Little House on the Prairie.” Both boys are fascinated, which I know because they listen raptly for at least 2.5 consecutive sentences in between asking questions like, “Why did Pa say that?” “Why did Jack's 'hair stand up on end'?” “Why did they make their chimney out of sticks if it would burn their house?” “How come Laura 'took her eyes off' him? How she take her eyes off?” “How did they make the _armrests_ part of the rocking chair? We should go there, and ask them!” (Ben answered this last question, from Jem, by explaining in a very big-brotherish tone: “We _can't_ ask them. They're _dead_, Jem.”)

Here's the real problem with this book: every single time the book mentions “Indians,” there are also descriptions of how fierce they look, and how scared Ma and Laura and Mary are, and how threatened they feel. Every single time I read these descriptions, I feel compelled to temper the derogatory comments by saying things like, “Pa and Ma and Laura and Mary are scared because they don't understand the Indians' customs, and because they also can't speak the language. Also, people like Pa and Ma were moving into the Indians' land, and taking away their food messing up their lives and driving them away from their homes, which is why the Indians weren't always so friendly...”

Ben is curious: how did they make the Indians leave? Why did they kill all the bison? Why was Laura so scared?

But Jem is spellbound by the illustration of the “wild men,” and wanted to flip back to it at least three dozen times. Once he heard the story, complete with Laura being so scared, and after he saw the picture, his mind was utterly made up. “I don't want to have an Indian in our house, EVER,” he said.

I hastily explained to Jem, till I was blue in the face, that we _know_ people who have “Indian” in them, and that these Indians in the picture only look scary because they are wearing old-fashioned Indian clothes--just like Ma and Laura and Mary are wearing funny, old-fashioned white settler clothes.

But I'm his mama, and I was up against a convincing work of fiction! Therefore, I didn't have much luck.

I've subsequently decided that reading or exposing certain children to certain media at certain formative points in their development is kind of like introducing propaganda to kids just when they least have the tools to figure out What's What. Jem is still at the age when he is scared of flashing lights that look like “rainbows” (very scary, for no clear reason), and tells me that out the window he sees “Sky Men! I just saw two!”

So I'm not reading verbatim every derogatory comment made by Ma and Pa et al, and not to protect their reputation. My boys can re-read when they're older if they want to understand more about the ways that our Great Country has been built upon the actions of people with less understanding than real blind prejudice. I'll explain as many of the gut-wrenching facts as I can, as they come up. And meanwhile, they can get a taste of life in the Olden Days, when--just in case you're listening, Ben--Laura drinks lots of Prairie Chicken broth to get better when she's sick...



Graham and Pete took their gourds to market this past weekend, at the Apple Festival!! We couldn't go, but are happy to hear that business was good. Ben was thoroughly impressed by how many pieces they sold, and we're so happy that folks took home their art: http://www.handsonithaca.com/contact.html

Thanks to Katie and Sarah for the move recommendation: “Between the Folds” http://www.greenfusefilms.com/ is a great, Ben-approved documentary about paper folding. (Ben's proficiency, by the way, is increasing incredibly. He has now memorized the alligator--a model that is nearly the hardest I have ever done.)


Okay, I should have been asleep hours ago.