Archive for July, 2009

Trippin’

July 31, 2009

I’m Baaack! It’s been a while since my last post because, well, I’ve been trippin’. That’s right. My husband, our daughter, Megan, and I made a 3-1/2-day trip to northern Idaho to attend my nephew’s wedding. We left on Friday morning, July 24, and returned Monday evening, July 27. Of course, all told, ‘the trip’ involved pre-trip preparations, the road trip to the destination, executing the events at the destination, the road trip home and, last but not least, the post-trip process of unpacking and decompressing back into our pre-trip life, tackling anew an ever burgeoning to-do list.

I like road trips and love weddings, but I hate the pre-trip planning and packing. This adds three days to the time you spend taking the trip. Well, it’s good to start on it a few days ahead, so you aren’t in a panic like I was last Thursday, out, first of all, shopping for a new pair of shoes to wear to the wedding – because I already knew without opening my closet that my shoes were dorky. Having arrived home with new shoes, I affixed myself in front of my closet to start packing.

I have my own special technique on how to pack: Postpone even thinking about it till you absolutely have to, which, for me, fell mid-afternoon of the last pre-trip day. Then … quick! Pretend you are hypnotized so your thoughts about how much you hate to pack are disconnected from your body. Because one lousy “Geez I freakin’ hate this” thought worming its way into your consciousness is enough to derail you. Open your closet. Quickly grab and fling everything you could possibly wear onto the bed. Oh wait, most of everything you could possibly wear is in the dirty clothes! Throw a wash in! But first! Strip down! Because you also want to take the clothes you are now wearing.

So, yeah, packing sucks. I hate it when my husband arrives home from work expecting everything to be ready to go and there is no sign of my suitcase. That’s because it is still in the basement storage room. “What have you been doing all day?” he asks.

“I needed new shoes!” Well, I had packed our daughter’s suitcase, watered the gardens and house plants, delivered the dog to the sitter’s, tied up about 30 other domestic loose ends, and crammed everything we could possibly want for the car ride, motel, weekend festivities, and leisure into backpacks and tote bags, which were now sitting on the dining room table, ready to go.

So now it’s Friday, 9 AM, road trip day. The car is loaded up and we are all piled in, ready for take-off. You can always tell how well things went in the pre-trip phase by how long you have to endure dead-air silence in the car after finally pulling out of the driveway and heading down the road. For us on this trip the silence lasted uh, about the usual: 25 minutes. Not bad! Pretty much up to par. l was gloating to myself during that silence about what a good job I did overall, packing for this trip – I didn’t forget a thing! I even packed 2 bathing suits, and I don’t even swim.

We drove straight north from Idaho Falls, 460 miles to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. With cruise control set at 80, charging up I-90, it was a 6 1/2-hour drive. Geez! And when we pulled up to our motel we were still in Idaho.

Our two sons, Aaron and Ben, flew into Spokane from Atlanta and Denver, respectively, and met us at the motel. We were all staying at the Coeur D’Alene Resort – a costly but very nice five-star accommodation. My husband, David, daughter Megan, and I had a room on the third floor of the main building while our two boys settled into a room on the second floor in an adjoining 15-story tower. Nice. We could do our thing and they do theirs and if we find each other it’s beautiful. Hey, they are in their mid-twenties and we are, well, their parents. My husband was sporting a beard and our younger son Ben greeted him with, “Hey, Father Time!” (The beard came off post-trip, uh, yesterday actually.)

To be honest, my husband and both sons did well with the wedding festivities through Saturday afternoon, but it became clear that getting them to participate in (my) family reunion walks, sojourns on the beach, and anything organized was like herding cats. Our last name is Caraher … or is it … Cat-aher?

But I had fun. The 11 AM Saturday wedding was great and I was glad out on the dance floor that I didn’t look down at my feet at dorky shoes. About 15 of my extended family members enjoyed a fabulous dinner Saturday evening at the Bardenay restaurant (sans my sons, not sure where they were). Sunday a large group of us walked down Sherman street and stopped for lunch (sans our younger son). Sunday evening about 15 of us ate a nice dinner at a Marina, while basking in a summer sunset (sans my husband and both sons, I hope they are reading this and realize how much I NOTICED their absences. What WERE they doing, anyway?).

I had been having so much fun romping around the resort that I didn’t even think about where our room was in relation to the stairs, you know, like you’re supposed to do when you check in, in case of fire. This detail has never mattered before, which is probably why I wasn’t paying any attention to where the stairs were now. Sunday night the three of us in our room all fell into a deep sleep soon after our heavy heads hit the pillows – about 11PM. The next thing, there is this horrendous screeching siren blaring through the halls of the motel. “What the …?” I tripped out of bed. Our daughter was up. I realized I was stark naked at precisely the same time I realized it was a fire alarm going off. Evacuate! Naked? Crap! I hadn’t packed a single nightie or jammies or anything! I stumbled to the dressing area in complete darkness. I don’t know why. Maybe I thought in my sleepy stupor that I would be able to spot the fire better in the dark. The fire alarm was still wildly blaring in the hallway, people were evacuating the building and I there I was buck naked still groping in my daughter’s suitcase. My husband was up and gazing at the shadow of my bare ass as I hollered in a panic, “Where’s my suitcase?”

“Try turning on the light.” he called out to me flatly.

A good ten minutes had expired by the time I made it into the hallway dressed in my daughter’s shorts and shirt. I would likely have burnt to death buck naked if it had been a real fire. My husband had somehow concluded from the get-go that it was a false alarm. But maybe it wasn’t! This was a huge motel! But in which direction were the stairs? I was still thinking these thoughts when I met security at the end of our hallway fiddling with the alarm system, which had now been turned off. “Sometimes mists from the showers can set the hallway alarm off,” was their explanation. At 12:45 AM? At a humongous, tremendously expensive, five-star resort motel?

So we all went back to bed. I was just dropping off to sleep again when my cell phone rang. “What the … ?” I tripped out of bed and stumbled in the dark to get to my phone. It was our younger son, Ben: “Mom! Where are you?”

“In Bed … Why? Where are you?”

Well at least I knew at this juncture where both our sons were. They were sitting outside on the pavement in front of the entrance to our motel, having evacuated their high rise along with scores of other folks. The alarm had gone off in their 15-story tower. They, and a large number of other motel guests, were still waiting for permission from motel security to safely re-enter the building.

Is anyone out there buck naked? I wanted to ask. If I had packed my jammies or nightie then maybe I would have evacuated too. Would I have truly burnt to death in my birthday suit had there been a fire?

So we are back home now. Have spent the past three days unpacking, doing laundry, dealing with the fungus and weeds in the gardens that proliferated with Godspeed while we were gone. In post-trip mode I have been practically tripping over myself trying to catch up to where I left off in my life pre-‘pre-trip’ mode.

Next time we plan a trip, my nightie will be the first thing to go into my suitcase. Otherwise, I probably won’t do anything differently.

I do find it difficult to pack my suitcase.

Eat Less, Conquer Mange

July 16, 2009

Speaking of diets, longevity, brain freeze and, uh, monkeys – I can’t stop thinking about that 20-yr. study done with those rhesus monkeys which showed that cutting calories by almost a third slowed the aging process and fended off death. Some guy named Weindruch and his colleagues conducted the study where half of the monkeys were allowed to eat as they pleased, and the other half ate a carefully controlled diet that provided just two-thirds of the calories they would normally choose to eat. Well, they didn’t eat less by choice, did they? The monkeys were caged and the half that ate 1/3 less did so because their diets were were carefully controlled by that Weindruch guy and his associates. Caloric intake was reduced in the dieting group by 30 percent over three months and held at that level for the rest of their lives!

By the end of the study, 37 percent of the control group had died of age-related causes while only 13 percent of the dieting group had succumbed to age-related conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy.

It turns out that caloric restriction of around 30 percent also leads to health benefits in yeast, worms, flies, and rodents.

Yeah, well, during these studies, did anybody interview the worms, flies, rodents or monkeys to see how they felt about being held captive most of their lives and forced to eat 30 percent less than they wanted to? They couldn’t even make their own food choices. Their lives may have ended up more healthy, but were they happy?

A couple of days ago I tried to eat less. I guess I took this study to heart especially after watching this CBS Evening News clip. This and other recent news articles have effectively convinced me that I should eat less. For starters, I wouldn’t want to be eating naturally all my life only to end up with mange hair like the monkey in the control group who, you will notice (check out the photos in that first link) ended up with patchy, red balding spots all over his scruffy fur, whereas the monkey who was food deprived for 20 years had a thick, brown, lush coat of hair covering his body. What was with these contrasting photos? Some kind of scare tactic? Okay so I’ll cut my calories!

But I’ve been eating normally for 55 years already so I’ll probably still get mange hair and other nasty conditions in my older age. Geez, had I been depriving myself of my daily intake of food by 30 per cent over the last say, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years maybe my hair wouldn’t be this thin already.

As I mentioned, I did try to eat much less than usual about three days ago. I can tell you, it was difficult. I cut my breakfast and lunch in half. By 3PM, I was at home with no supervision, ravenous with hunger and scrounging in the fridge for something big and filling to eat. But hey! As I hung on to the open fridge door I paused and began breathing deeply to feel the hunger. You know, do a ‘Zen’ thing and be the hunger, embrace the aching hunger in my belly …”Hmmmm … good, kind, nagging, lovable, fending-off-death, hunger …”

Being hungry sucks! I devoured all the still-edible leftovers in the fridge and, still feeling hungry, cleaned out the Baby Ruth candy bars from the candy bowl on the dining room buffet. I don’t even like Baby Ruth candy bars, but I didn’t remember this until after I had eaten three of them.

My point here is, the average human couldn’t follow a caloric deprivation diet for more than about six hours, much less 40 or 60 years.

And the problem with these ‘caloric restriction studies’ is that a ‘caloric lifetime of deprivation is needed to achieve the longer-life benefits.’ Darn it! Forget that! Although some people might eat less longer by joining the calorie restriction society,they might never smile again (judging from the member interviewed for CBS News).

Or … choose to continue eating normally and possibly succumb to age-related conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, brain atrophy, and mange hair.

My plan is to keep on keepin’ on with my happy eating habits while holding out for some Big Pharmaceutical Company to replicate the positive results of the food deprivation study with drugs! Yeah! Because they have their research teams working on it, developing a souped-up version of the red wine compound resveratrol that has been found to make mice live longer and stay healthier. Not to worry! Just keep eating the way you normally do and slow your aging process and fend off death by taking a pill! How else could we ever do it?

That’s my plan! Hey, at least I have one! I may buy a wig too, because I really don’t dig the look of that mange hair.

And I do wonder, in the final analysis, how are you really gonna know that you are living longer?

Vit D, Brain Freeze and Monkeys

July 12, 2009

It’s Friday morning and I am holding my prescription bottle, examining the label and gazing at the three remaining greenish 50,000iu vitamin D capsules inside. I am supposed to ingest one this morning, like I do every Friday morning to keep my vitamin D level up. But I’m not going to. A 50,000IU single dose of a fat-soluble vitamin sounds toxic; it has always sounded toxic, ever since I began dutifully ingesting them every Friday beginning in January, because my doctor prescribed it. I told him at the time the dose sounded toxic. He declared it the standard prescribed dose for patients deficient in vitamin D. So I’ve taken my pill, faithfully, every Friday. But, not today. I’m not taking it today.

And I’m totally done buying bottled water. Turns out, any water can be bottled; there are no regulations on it. So you’d better hope that the bottled water you are drinking is tap water, since tap water is at least regulated and tested for contaminants. I’ve heard this before about bottled water, but I’m making a stand today. Just like the folks in Bundanoon, Australia, where the residents have recently voted to ban the sale of bottled water: 350 to 1.

I’m totally done with ‘diets’ too. Because I know what that word does to me. Uttering “I’m” and “diet” in the same sentence jolts me directly into pig out mode, wolfing down whole bags of cookies, or losing track of my right hand only to find it buried in the ice cream. Brain freezes are unrecognizable to me when I’m in this state.

I have a close friend trying to lose weight. She tells me she’s on a low-carb, low fat, and low calorie diet. Now that should do the trick! Because, hey! – they are all bad. Carbs are bad because they taste good and trigger that part of your brain that remembers the word ‘fun.’ Fats are bad because they taste good, trigger your brain and clog your arteries. Carbs and fats are both bad because they contain calories.

Calories are bad because they shorten your life. That’s right. Researchers have proved this after a 20-year study with monkeys. The result: those monkeys subjected to what the average human would consider near starvation, lived the longest. To quote an article about this monkey study that appeared in our local paper:

“A 20-year study found cutting calories by almost a third slowed their aging and fended off death” … “What about those other primates, humans? Nobody knows yet whether people in a world better known for pigging out could stand the deprivation long enough to make a difference, much less how it would affect our more complex bodies…” So we are too complex to stop ourselves from pigging out and so we’ll never know if we’re like monkeys?

Like I said, in my pigging out state, I don’t recognize brain freeze.

If humans are so into pigging out, then why do we need a gazillion supplements? I’ve been washing down fistfuls of pills with my morning coffee for years now, although somewhere I’ve picked up the warning, “vitamins may be useless to improve health and may even be bad for you…” Huh?… But hey, they are good for the economy! Think of all the people who have gotten rich selling supplements and bottled water – all in the name of increasing longevity and improved health. I think of my 96-yr-old mother-in-law. She has NEVER taken supplements. In her old age she takes a daily baby aspirin to thin her blood and a water pill to regulate her blood pressure.

Maybe as part of the stimulus package we could bottle Idaho air and ship it to California. Someone could get filthy rich while reducing the mounds of empty bottles in the landfills.

Should I take the weekly 50,000IU vitamin D supplement prescribed by my doctor? My vit D level was rechecked in April after I took the supplement for three months. It was up in the normal range. It made sense, with summer coming, to get off the pills, get out in the sun and let my skin manufacture my vitamin D.

But, Nooooooo! My doctor advised me: “Stay out of the sun, or use sunscreen, and continue taking the 50,000IU synthetic vitamin D.”

What is he, some kind of monkey? Does this make any earthly sense? How is it that we humans have totally convinced ourselves that sun is bad and taking a 50,000IU supplement of synthetic vit D is good? That bottled water is preferable to tap water? So a bunch of folks smarter than the rest of us can laugh themselves all the way to the bank getting rich selling sunscreen, bottled water and supplements?

I haven’t eaten yet today. I’m too confused. I was thinking about having soft boiled eggs on toast but my human brain knows the eggs are high in cholesterol, the butter is high in fat, and the bread, well, you know, is loaded with those horrible carbs. Maybe I should channel those starved monkeys in that study. Maybe I should pretend I have a monkey brain and purge my thinking of all my ‘knowledge’ of food, diets and supplements. And go out on our deck and lay in the noon summer sun without sunscreen, because it just feels good.

And take some aspirin for my headache.