Little Bit by Little Bit

I haven’t left the house in eight days, but I can sit up pretty reliably now.

Today was the first day that I was able to sit up first thing in the morning. The first hours the last week or so have found me curled in the fetal position around my breakfast and then flat on my back with the laptop stand. The period of needing to lie flat first thing in the morning has been getting gradually shorter this week, from all day to most of the day to most of the morning to part of the morning, and today I was able to dispense with it. I did recline some during the afternoon, both in bed and on the couch, but I’ve been able to stay upright pretty much all day. I’ve been able to sit up in a chair for a while, even, and answer some personal email for the first time in a couple weeks.

I have put a few pounds back on, thankfully, and am no longer hovering around 110. My fever is less but not gone, which I think has helped the weight loss abate. I can tell my brain is foggy – not directly – it’s odd, I can never tell directly – but by the mistakes I find in my typing when I go back to read it later.

I would really like to leave the house – I would rather be able to, for sure – but that would mean having the energy to make myself presentable, which some days I have more than others. Yesterday I showered. Today I didn’t. Maybe tomorrow I will. I was thinking that maybe Chimp could take me to the mall and just push me around for a while. Not that I especially like the mall – it would just be somewhere to go that’s very nearby. The bookstore would work too, I suppose, but that’d be a much longer car ride – ten minutes or so. If I were healthy, I could walk to the mall in about ten minutes.

We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.

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Working On It

(This entry is not in any way about food. If that means you’re not interested, you can stop reading now and I won’t be hurt at all.)

Well, we had a bit of a setback over the weekend.

Saturday, I was doing pretty well. I managed to get to the farmer’s market, stopped by Anthropologie for a little while, and then Chimp and I went to WFM for a few things. While we were there, I started leaning on the cart a little heavily, as I was starting to get worn out, but I was having about a 60-65% day, which was the usual bottom end of my functioning for the first half of this year.

If you’ve been watching the news, you have likely heard that we have been having a scorcher out here in California. That evening was the first that our air conditioner just couldn’t keep up. The temperature climbed and climbed in our apartment, until the thermometer on the thermostat was buried at the top of its range, which is 95 degrees.

We couldn’t stay there. I was starting to come apart physically, and my mental function was starting to suffer as well. We realized we needed to decamp, I called the Residence Inn down the street, and we started assembling what we’d need to get us and four cats (one visiting for a few days from a friend who’s out of town) on our way. Doing all that – in 95-degree plus air – trashed me.

I cannot imagine what the two people at the Residence Inn desk must have thought of me, leaning on their counter, my legs shaking beneath me. I know my eyes looked glazed over, my hair was unstyled, and I was covered in sweat.

Once we had the cats in the room, I collapsed on the bed, while Chimp brought the rest of our stuff up. I stayed collapsed on the bed until the next morning, when I swapped Chimp for the couch for a couple hours so that he could collapse on the bed. Then I went back to being collapsed on the bed. Being collapsed on the bed went on all day. The stress of the previous evening had been so bad that I couldn’t really stand for more than a few moments. We talked about the CSNY show, for which we had two $200 tickets right down in front.

Continue reading “Working On It”

What Feels Good

Cartoon borrowed from my favorite online strip, Savage Chickens.

I started to slide downhill at the beginning of the month, I think, with a sleepless night on July 2, and another on July 4, that one caused by my no-account neighbors, though it wasn’t until a week later – on the morning of the 12th – that I woke up and realized there was no chance of me going to work.  I had taken Monday the 10th from home and struggled to come in Tuesday the 11th, but once Wednesday rolled around, I had no choice.  I was flat on my back.

Today – Friday the 21st – is my first day back in the office.  I came in the afternoon for meetings the past two days, both times feeling pretty dicey and with Chimp driving me there and back.  I was in bed continuously from the 12th to the 18th.  I managed ten minutes out of the house on Saturday the 15th when Chimp took me to the farmer’s market, but that was my only excursion during my confinement.

I’m still feeling worn out – I woke up this morning with my leg muscles as sore as if I’d run five miles without stretching before or after.  In my dim consciousness, I thought Why do my leg muscles ache? and then realized that yesterday I’d been walking around the office – to get water, to go to the meeting room, to come back from the meeting room – and that was more walking than I’d done in the previous week.

When this happens, I worry that this will be the time I end up housebound or bedridden, that I will never get better; that it will swiftly turn out that my CFS/ME is progressive.  It is terrifying to slide downhill, to watch your abilities leave you day by day – to go from going to work like a regular person to lying on the couch, unable to get yourself a glass of water because the energy required to sit up is more than you have.

When I can’t do anything – when it is exhausting or beyond me to talk, or turn my head, or hold the phone to my ear – the one thing that really feels good is to laugh.  This relapse is the first time I’ve noticed how much difference it makes in the way I feel, at least for a moment, when I’m really physically suffering.

I don’t know if my friends, family, and colleagues have been funnier than usual these couple of weeks, or if I’ve just wanted to laugh more and as a result have done so, but for the few seconds that’s happening, it all recedes, like a cartoon window shade flying up and around itself, flap flap flap.  Feeling my muscles move in laughter is wonderful.  I miss terribly the feeling of having my body in motion, my muscles carrying me in space as in running, and laughing conjures that up for just a moment – I have never been a halfway-laugher, and throwing my head back and being able to move in a little moment of abandon makes me aware that my body can feel good.  The emotional release of it sends a wave of endorphins through my brain, which I swear to you I can feel cascading down into my body, working on the heavy weakness, and the joke does something as well – whatever the image or words are that I’m laughing at, it’s as if the mental energy of figuring out the joke puts flint to stone and knocks sparks into my brain.  For a minute, something rouses it from its fog, and I can think straight.  After I get done laughing, eventually the leaden fevered feeling easing itself slowly back onto me, but it doesn’t tend to fall on my body and brain as hard in those moments when I’ve been laughing as it sometimes does at other times it comes on.

It feels like exercising used to feel, really – the satisfaction of having used my body well, to a purpose it was meant.  And since I can’t manage the treadmill or sit-ups or roller derby for now, I think I’m going to stick to this plan for a while.  More laughs, more often.  I welcome all comers and I’m seeking them out wherever they hide – you name it, I’ll take it – shaggy dog stories, puns, satire, dry wit, even that lowest of the low, sarcasm.  I have always loved to laugh, loved comedy, but I am now totally convinced that it is as important as good food for my health.

CSA Box #9

Here’s our first corn of the season. I’m pretty excited to see it. It’s an appropriate time to be eating it too – though this isn’t feed corn, of course, I’m in the middle of reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and enjoying it immensely.

We have:

Foster’s Bicolor Sweet Corn
Red Leaf Lettuce
Italian Sweet Red Onions
Roma Tomatoes
Zucchini Squash (I think they were hiding under the potatoes)
Red LaSoda Potatoes
Mediterranean Cucumbers
Cantaloupe
Cuyama Pink Lady Apples
Foster’s White Garlic
Peterson’s Diamond Princess Peaches

Yellow Beans with a Chipotle Dressing

When you start looking around, it turns out that there are surprisingly few recipes for yellow beans out there.

Now, I suppose you can do all the same things to yellow beans that you might do to green beans, but if you went out nosing around just to see what was out there in the literature, so to speak, for yellow beans, if you, say, had some in your fridge as I did this week, you would find a multitude of recipes for sugary homemade versions of that nasty three-bean salad (all three beans from cans – can it legitimately be called a salad if everything comes from a can?) that I ate so much of as a teenaged vegetarian fifteen years ago because the fact that it had the occasional forlorn kidney bean included meant it was the only thing on the salad bar that had any vegetable protein to offer whatsoever.

And you would not want to recreate that palate-scarring experience at home, would you?

No, you would not.

This was a dinnertime improvisation, a little side dish to perk things up. It is, I think I can say fairly, quite perky with a whole chipotle in it.

Michelle, at K.M.K. Farms, whom I visit with at the farmer’s market on Saturdays, grows these beautiful red torpedo onions, which are perfect to go into a green bean salad, as they can be cut as long and slender as the beans themselves. I’ve also recently used them in a batch of curtido, and they were wonderful with the long shreds of cabbage as well. I keep meaning to use them in a gratin, perhaps with some zucchini also cut lengthwise, but I just haven’t had the will to turn on the oven.

But back to the beans…and some cilantro, and a little cumin and lemon juice and olive oil, and there you are.

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Black Beluga Lentil Salad with Slumped Cherry Tomatoes

Sometimes the in-between state, the half-cooked state, is better than the raw or the well-done. Cherry tomatoes are perfectly good uncooked, but at that point, most of them are a blast of sweetness and not much else. A quick turn around a very hot pan with a little oil or a blast from the broiler loosens the tight skins so that instead of popping wide open on fork or tooth contact, they yield and yield and then burst – a bit more voluptuously than a raw cherry tomato does. In this dish, doing that produces warmed bright, sweet tomatoes that provide great contrast to the garlicky, savory lentil salad.

I found these black lentils at Whole Foods a few weeks ago. I love lentil salads in the summer – these tiny legumes lend themselves so well to a variety of chopped-up accompaniments and dressings – and these looked like they’d be perfect for such an application.

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