Work hard, eat hard

So, when we left off on Thursday night, I was going to attempt to recreate Maria’s yucca, a meal that will forever hold a special place in my heart since it represented my first bite of real food in three days. For $1.79 at the Compare Foods next door to my office, I picked up the necessary supplies:

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The ladies had given me a verbal yucca-peeling tutorial during lunch, so I followed their instructions to get rid of the “bark.”

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While the yucca boiled in a pot with water and a dash of salt, I started on the most critical component of the dish: the fried onions. I sliced a red onion into thin rings and set it aside while I juiced an entire lime:

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Next, the juice and the onions went into a pan with olive oil until the onions softened:

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While the yucca was in process, I stepped out onto my balcony to inspect the garden. Look what I found!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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A tomato!!!! In case you don’t understand the magnitude of this development, I’ve been growing this tomato plant from seed since last fall when I saved and planted the seeds from a Farmers’ Market heirloom tomato. I had a bunch of little seedlings growing on my bedroom windowsill all year until my window shade fell down in May and crushed all of them except this one … which is clearly thriving now 😀 I hope I can get to the finished tomato before the squirrels do!

Also, look at what else is holding its own out there:

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Red basil! I rooted a couple sprigs from my CSA delivery a few weeks ago and planted it last week. I’m so excited that it is still alive.

Anyway, after I stared in awe and pride at my little patch of green for a good two hours 20 minutes, I went back inside to tend to the stove. Here’s the yucca, boiled to perfect softness:

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And topped with the limey fried onions:

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I brought about half of it to work with me on Friday so I could share. I wanted to bring the whole thing, but I knew it wasn’t as good as Maria’s and was worried that my coworkers wouldn’t like it. But they loved it and ate it all!! Now I know — I can bring the whole thing in next time 😀

With the yucca, I had a few bites of Belkis’ chicken and beans (more than pictured, of course!):

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And my CSA salad (I brought in a ton to share — I got behind on my eating due to all the fluids and knew I’d be getting a big influx of new CSA goods the next day) with avocado from Jessica, tomato from Pansy’s garden (she has a real yard!), and cilantro, onions, and avocado dressing left from Sister Pat’s lunch:

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Mmmmmm, it was obviously delicious. I love the teamwork that goes into all of my meals at the office:

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We weren’t done yet, though! Nydia had been about to throw away an unopened quart of milk on Thursday that wasn’t even past its sell-by date because she hadn’t had a chance to drink it. I convinced Jessica to take the milk home with her so that she could turn it into her specialty:

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Arroz con leche! Ohhhh yummmmm. I ate a lot of it — more than my fluid-shrunken tummy was ready to handle — but I rallied soon enough so that I could have another hunk of Pansy’s Guyanese coconut dessert:

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Later in the afternoon, Danilda came down to share this German chocolate bar with Deborah. It was legitimately from Germany, courtesy of one of the agency’s volunteers who had her last day on Friday and happened to be German:

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Here’s the hand-off:

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Deborah was so excited to open the wrapper. Apparently, they have easy-open tabs on German chocolate bar wrappers:

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The chocolate looked like a cow!

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Obviously Deborah shared with the rest of us. Belkis and Jessica wheeled right over to get in on the action, while Nydia looked on jealously from her telephone call in the background:

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Mmmmmmmm, everyone’s happy:

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Not being a huge fan of either milk chocolate or white chocolate, I just took one little square and didn’t expect much:

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But OMG, what do the Germans put in their chocolate?????? This was insane. Again, as usual, I’m in the wrong country.

Also, as usual, my agency had an “informal staff gathering” at 4:30 to send off this round of volunteers. Here’s the spread:

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You’d be very proud though — knowing I had dinner plans, I only looked and did not touch!

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Well, that’s a lie. Beryl asked me to make a plate for her, and I happily obliged:

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Mingling volunteers:

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Flowers from the agency’s back patio:

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And my white wine spritzer with grapes:

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(OK, so I ate some grapes. And cherry tomatoes :-P)

I hung around kind of late while I waited for the rest of my dinner crowd to finish up work so we could head out. In the meantime, I inspected the day’s food pantry delivery from the farm. Check out all the collard greens and corn!!!

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Apparently, there had been a cooking demonstration earlier in the day for the families to show them what to do with collard greens … and I missed it!!!! There’s going to be another one on September 18, though — I definitely marked my calendar for that, so I will be there camera in tow.

We finally left for dinner around 6:30, but this dinner needs its very own special post. I had to miss it when everyone went out to eat at this restaurant last week because I was in MA, so they agreed to go again this Friday just so that I could experience the culinary brilliance, too 😀 Seriously, you’re going to die when you see what we ate!

In the meantime, imagine that a giant burlap sack full of one food has arrived on your doorstop. What’s in the bag?

Yucca eat?

Hahahaha, get it?!

After receiving the good news at my doctor’s appointment Wednesday, I spent the train ride back up to work nearly bursting out of my skin with excitement. I got to my office and literally glided down the hall where I announced to my coworkers (while probably simultaneously jumping up and down and flapping my arms): I CAN EAT!!!!!!

The whole office stood and applauded … and then directed me to the conference room where a platter of Maria’s homemade yucca was waiting 😀

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This yucca was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted. I tried to eat it slowly and savor every single bite. It was wonnnnnnnnnderful.

I took a break for some CSA cucumbers:

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But I couldn’t resist and went back for two more baby plates of yucca to finish the platter 😛

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My coworkers were thrilled to see me going back for more and kept patting my head with relief and saying, “She’s back!”

Belkis also put out a box of alfajores that Nitza had brought back from her recent trip to Argentina:

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Mmmmm, I got introduced to alfajores in Peru and loved them! An alfajor is a sandwich cookie with dulce de leche (in Peru, they call it manjar blanco) in the middle. This particular box of alfajores contained some covered with chocolate and some covered with meringue. I kept my personal promise of moderation in mind (along with the awareness that refined sugar had not passed my lips in four days!) and just had two itty bitty wedges:

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Mmmm, they were yummy but super super sweet — the little bite was enough to satisfy!

When I got home, I had the cup of mom’s homemade grape nut pudding that I’d been saving in the fridge since I got back from MA on Sunday:

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I topped it with cinnamon and CSA blueberries, and it was delish!

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Thursday morning, I got to have my first real breakfast in days!

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Tea, diluted prune juice (about 1/4 juice; the rest water), brown bread from Saturday’s clambake, and a CSA egg with CSA “reject” greens (broccoli leaves, turnip greens, balcony arugula flowers) and CSA green onion:

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I actually got full mid-meal and had to save the other piece of brown bread for a snack at work later in the morning.

When I got to work, there was an adorable little arrangement waiting on Belkis’ desk:

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Jessica and Nydia had refilled the candy jar, and Belkis wanted to make sure they got credit. In front of the jar is a little solar-powered flower Belkis found — when the light shines on, it starts to sway back and forth. So cute! (I just admired, though — no candy for me yet.)

Lunch was two small bowls of CSA salad (I brought a bunch and shared with Belkis and Jessica) topped with avocado from Jessica, pepper, and a couple tbsp of Diana-inspired baba-humma:

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Seriously, it is so exciting to be back to food!!! I couldn’t contain myself Wednesday night and had to cook to celebrate my triumph 😛 My giant hunk of CSA eggplant roasted beautifully:

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And it made a perrrrrfect salad dressing blended with some pine-nut hummus (also from Diana!):

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And I had a little bite of this steak that Deborah’s mom cooked:

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OMG, seriously, I was born in the wrong country.

For dessert, I had some of these maduros left from Nydia and Lillian’s lunch:

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Some other little treats over the rest of the afternoon included a handful of grapes, some more bits of alfajor (I kept cutting the dulce de leche part out of the middle of the last cookie and eating just that, shhhhh!), and an amazing homemade Guyanese coconut dessert that Pansy brought in to share:

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On my way out, I had a CSA apricot (again, please disregard the apple!) and a coffee Werther’s and called it a day (until I got home for dinner, of course!):

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Oh right, and between my office and the subway, I stopped into the grocery store for THIS:

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I had to try to re-create Maria’s magic for myself of course 😛

Yay for food! Yay for food! Yay for food!

What is the most exciting bite of food you have ever eaten?

About those fluids

Let me preface what you are about to see by stating that the following is clearly not expansion-worthy and that I sincerely hope you never have to experience a post like this from me again! Also, I do not advise that anyone follow my eating example ever … and especially not in this post, as it is obviously atypical. Also, I did not photograph all the water I’ve been drinking (the post is boring enough already!) but please rest assured that I am keeping hydrated 😛

To recap, I completed Saturday night’s “cleanse” fully determined to make the second time be the last time. There was no way I was going to even entertain the thought of using the two additional packets that the ER doctor prescribed last week. Since my body had indicated it wasn’t into digesting solid foods, avoiding another “irrigation” meant relying solely on liquids to begin my journey back to eating.

I started Sunday morning with a cup of scrumptious watermelon jello-water.

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Jello-water was on the approved list of foods that the ER doctor handed me on my way out last Wednesday. I don’t know what jello-water is, so I made it up. My jello-water involved two cups of jasmine green tea, two cups of immersion-blended watermelon, and one Knox gelatine packet:

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I sprinkled the contents of the gelatine package over one cup of cold watermelon; I boiled the other cup of watermelon with the tea. All got mixed and poured into a 13x9x2 pan to chill in the fridge.

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(You know you’ve left the city when trees are reflecting in your jello instead of pigeons and cement.)

Anyway, watermelon jello-water (my preferred liquid breakfast) was born. I sipped every last bit of pulp from the cup and was on my way to the bus because life in Brooklyn was calling my name and I couldn’t procrastinate forever! I got home to the city and dove into a cup of the clam chowder broth my mom made (and sent back to NY with me!) from clam bake leftovers:

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Mmm, dinner never tasted so good. I went to bed at 8 and slept until 6:30 Monday morning when I had to get up for work. A day of 100 calories (if even!) will do that to you.

I mentioned before that I was loosely following this plan for recovery, so my goal was to stick to liquids Monday with perhaps a bit of fruit thrown in there. I began the day with tea:

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And rounded out my breakfast with more jello-water and prune juice diluted with water:

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Lunch was wicked exciting (and, yes, worthy of the MA lingo influence) because I finally had a reason to buy something from the juice bar around the corner from the office (aka my fresh coconut supplier, aka the best-quesadilla-ever supplier as experienced through tastes of my coworkers’ lunches … sigh … will I ever be able to taste my coworkers’ lunches again?!):

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I ordered the “Spritz It Up” with spinach, celery, ginger, and apple. Back at the office, I diluted my juice with water (thereby creating two juices and lunch for Tuesday, yessssssss!):

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Also for lunch on Monday, I had more diluted prune juice, more herbal tea, and more clam chowder broth:

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While leaving work Monday night, I had dinner, aka a life-changing experience:

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Best pear ever … and also my first bit of solid food in over 48 hours. I made sure to chew thoroughly.

The energy from that pear kept me going for the next 12 hours! You can ask me how I was able to function after consuming so little, but I would not be able to give you an answer. This is all quite new to me. I tentatively continued my foray into solid foods on Tuesday, as I still was not quite convinced that my body remembered what to do with this strange thing called sustenance.

Tea:

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Plus more liquid-esque items consumed in order of digestibility from easiest to hardest: watered-down prune juice, watermelon jello-water, and (something new!) a bit of thawed rhubard-blueberry compote from last week:

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Lunch was an exciting packet of miso soup that Edward & Sons sent me a while back.

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It tasted delicious, but I’m not sure how much stock you could put in my taste buds at that point.

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I also drank the other half of Monday’s green juice:

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(I did not eat that apple on the side. A mom gave it to me as I was leaving a visit earlier in the day, but I didn’t want to push my luck. I saved it for another time instead.)

I drank my lunch in the company of the ladies who had brought food to share as usual.

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I refused the cheese, ate one grape, and told Maria that I could not rescue the other half of her banana. I almost cried.

Later, though, I got hungry (yeah, I don’t know why my stomach was not in a constant state of hunger, either) and went wild on a CSA apricot. It was so juicy and rich inside!

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I kept telling everyone all day, if I do well with this fruit, I can have a salad for dinner tonight!!!!! I almost wrote a song I was so excited.

I had to stay super late at work Tuesday night for a visit, so I took my CSA peach with me for the subway ride home just after 7.

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Nothing like being able to chew!

I got home just after 8:30 and really had no indication at that point that my body was fulfilling its requirements for digestion (aside from my extreme state of shrinkage and utter lack of fullness). I threw caution to the wind with a green leafy CSA salad with romaine, arugula, basil, a few pieces of broccoli, baby bok choy, and cucumber:

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(Oh right, I also had a prune for an appetizer. And more tea for dessert.)

I savored the salad over the next hour while I finished up more mountains of work:

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Yesterday morning, I downed some more “everyday detox” tea and then walked over to my doctor’s office so I could finally meet with my PCP. She referred me to a gastroenterologist just as I had hoped, so immediately following the appointment and a nice full breakfast of watermelon jello-water enhanced with actual watermelon chunks, I systematically worked my way through the list of providers with my insurance until I found one with an opening in the afternoon. I zipped up to work for a couple of hours (and more tea and water) and then headed back out for doctor #2.

I told my whole long saga to the gastroenterologist, including all of this liquid. He said,
And you’re not hungry? I said, Are you kidding? Of course I’m hungry!

I gave my best I’M STARVING AND I NEED FOOD NOW face:

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(Look how gaunt I got!!)

With that, the gastroenterologist did a quick exam and told me to stop over-thinking everything. He explained that, as there was nothing in my body and I was in no discomfort aside from my hunger, I should return to living my normal life. If there is an underlying problem that caused all the intestinal drama, it will come back when I resume my regular lifestyle, at which point I should schedule an immediate appointment with him. I amended his recommendation to continue eating the way I normally would to include a “within reason.” I have a feeling my nonstop unreasonable over-eating somehow led to all this … and I would much rather never have to go back to the gastroenterologist! The subway ride back to my office after that appointment may have been one of the happiest rides of my life 😀

In conclusion, I am beyond awed at my ability to survive through three days with hardly any food entering my body. After I ate that first pear, all of my strength came back miraculously. Honestly, I only ate what I did on Tuesday because I thought I should and was worried about how little I was taking in. I was shocked that I wasn’t ravenous and unconscious the whole time … but I guess that had to do with a combo of my body adjusting to starvation rations and my very present fear of having to do another round of irrigation. I now know that it’s okay to feel a little bit hungry sometimes — waiting for food won’t kill me. Also, I am now confident that I could survive with no food in an emergency situation … as long as I had some jello-water handy!

And there you have it: my life on liquids.

If you had to pick one food item that defines your diet this week, what would you choose?

Happy as a …

Saturday morning arrived, and with it came the knowledge that all the food from the day before was still sitting heavy in my stomach. Not cool. I started to understand why a gradual reintroduction to food via liquids would have been more beneficial than a full onslaught of fiber. I had no time to dwell on this understanding, however, as the clambake (the reason for my trip in the first place) was fast-approaching!

I grew up in New England and have experienced my share of seafood, but I have somehow avoided taking part in a clambake before this. When John offered to get me a ticket, I jumped at the chance!

The process was fascinating. There was this above-ground oven of sorts:

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With a big pile of seaweed:

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As the layers were removed, here’s what was underneath:

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Mmmmm, full belly or not, sweet potatoes make me so happy!

We found ourselves a spot amongst the masses:

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And dug into our first course of New England clam chowder with Boston brown bread:

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I usually prefer the broth-based chowder, but this one was so light and not sickeningly creamy at all! I ate it all except for the potatoes (and it was mostly potatoes), which I gave to mom.

The brown bread was so tasty, yummmmmmm.

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It looked to be straight from the can and delicious 😀

Mom and John tucked right in:

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Next, servers came around and dropped the steamer bags onto everyone’s plates:

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A bag of veggies and a bag of clams:

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I took my time unwrapping everything because I like the work portion of my meal to be concentrated in the beginning so that the actual eating process can be relaxing.

Good-bye steamer bags:

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Hello sausage and fish:

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Hello stuffing:

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Goodbye cornhusk:

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Goodbye corncob and shells; hello perfect plate, ready to eat:

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By the time I started eating, mom was into the middle of her meal:

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(It looks like so much more food when all the shells are still there!)

Mom and John filled up fast:

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But they forged ahead bravely:

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I ate everything on my plate except for a few clams that I shared with the others. This meal was one of those absolutely perfect summer moments. All of the food had the essence of ocean since it had been baked/steamed on top of the seaweed.

Dessert was obvious:

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Yes, I was stuffed. But I was also happy.

Mom and I did a mini photo shoot. John started out as our photographer, but we didn’t love any of his shots:

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He resigned as photographer when we kept making him take “one more.” We resorted to my old friend, auto-timer:

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Much better 😀

We headed home, and I napped some more. When I was still full a few hours later and well-aware of the three big meals that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in my digestive tract, I decided it was time to take the medical advice seriously. And I also realized why Dr. Eddie had prescribed me four packages of the colonoscopy prep drink-from-hell. I got some liquid meals ready so the liquids-only rule would be easy to follow on Sunday, and I bravely set to work conquering round two of my cure-Sarah’s-intestines mission. I made it fun this time with a fancy lemonade dispenser (top right, chilling in mom’s produce-packed fridge) and a fancy juice glass:

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And I set about systematically slamming one cup every 10 minutes until that whole effing gallon was gone. Pleeeeeeeease let it be the last time — I can’t go through this again!

To increase my chances of success this time around, I decided to pretend I had just completed a super expensive celebrity cleanse and had to reintroduce solid food accordingly …

Have you fasted/cleansed before? How did you manage the return to real food?

The second-to-last hurrah

I got up on Monday morning at 7, after just five hours of sleep, because I had big plans for a 9:30 bus to Providence. I’d been planning this trip for a couple months in order to attend a clam bake over the weekend with my mom and John (stepdad). Excellent timing, right?

I still felt sooooooo weak from the previous night’s events, and I was not particularly optimistic about my ability to survive a 4-hour bus ride. I was afraid of what might happen if I ate anything, but I knew I needed some strength. I cooked 1/3 cup plain instant oats in 1 cup of water and added tiny bits of cinnamon, ginger, and honey. I dragged myself to the subway and nibbled on the oatmeal as I made my way up to Port Authority.

Somehow, I survived the bus ride (and even squeezed in a little nap!), and my dad and Rae Ann (stepmom) picked me up at the terminal and deposited me at my mom’s house, where mom greeted me with a tour of her dehydrating adventures.

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How jealous am I of my mom and her fancy kitchen appliances???!!! She has four dehydrating trays and usually has them going simultaneously since she has been experimenting with all manner of produce in there. The picture above is of cherries, and this one is watermelon:

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Oh my goodness, why don’t people sell dried watermelon? This was insanely delicious. And there was kiwi:

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And finally a veggie selection of zucchini, carrots, squash, green pepper, and red pepper:

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The red pepper tasted like candy. Again, I’m so jealous! Mom does them all until they’re crunchy, so she has these teeny jars of crunchy fruit and veggie crackers tucked into every little corner of the fridge. I told her that I’d take the dehydrator off her hands if she got bored with it. She laughed at me. Hmph!

These little snacks were all well and good, but I was fully ravenous at this point, as my stomach was e-m-p-t-y. Mom seemed to think that it would be fine for me to have veggies (and she would know!), so I split the rest of my CSA salad (yes, I brought it on the bus with me so it wouldn’t go bad in NY this weekend) with her, and she supplied us with cabbage slaw, garden tomatoes, and two eggs each for topping.

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I felt rejuvenated and satisfied after this salad, enough so that I turned down mom’s grape nut pudding for dessert! Knowing exactly what was in my belly (since I was starting from scratch) was an interesting experience and definitely made me think twice before adding more unnecessarily. I was also able to turn down the pudding because I knew that we had dinner plans. I wanted to get as hungry as possible before eating again! Instead of dessert, I curled up on a bench in the kitchen and passed out for the next hour and a half.

At around 6, my mom, John, and I headed to my dad’s house for a cookout with dad and Rae Ann.

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While dad manned the grill we had some nibbles that involved crackers, peanuts, tabbouleh, and cheese …

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… and admired the patio decor:

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I kept my wits about me and had just one (aren’t you proud?!) cracker with tabbouleh:

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Plus two more spoonfuls of tabbouleh straight:

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And a fresh orange mocktail:

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(Fresh squeezed orange juice from 1/4 orange, soda water, water, and an orange slice for garnish.)

Dad took a break from the grill to hang this candle chandelier and toss a box of matches to me:

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I’m very good with a match:

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Everyone pitched in with the food distribution. Mom passed out the corn:

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John sliced the bread:

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Rae Ann handed around some corn holders:

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And I concentrated on my plate:

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Be still my heart, look at all that char!! We had olive oiled corn, Rae Ann’s salad, grilled carrots, and pork tenderloin with applesauce. (As you can see, I snagged the two most burnt ends of the pork. You know how I love my over-cooked animal products :-D).

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For dessert, we had watermelon and cantaloupe:

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But I was too full for it again! After a couple hours of chatting, though, I detected some space and had a few forkfuls of cantaloupe before we called it a night and headed back to mom’s house, where I literally collapsed into bed for what felt like the 10 millionth night in a row. Who knew that a day of sitting, eating, and sleeping could be SO draining?

In which situations are YOU most able to honor your fullness?

P.S. The last hurrah (for real this time) is coming up next …