Monthly Archives: March 2011

Day 23

Halfway there!

As a kid I was obsessed with baseball and as an adult I’ve been strongly involved in beer culture, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had a more single minded 23 days in my life. It’s been rewarding in many ways, it’s been a drag in a few ways and and I will hereafter appreciate the gifts of flavor and variety in ways I previously could not imagine.

It is curious, and ironic, that while I’ve spent the past three weeks subsisting on beer and water, I’ve been very food-centric in my daily endeavors. For several years, I’ve plotted a cookbook, compiling my inspirations, inventions, tweaks and grandma-recipes in a folder. When Michelle and the boys busy themselves with a meal in the evening, I’ve taken to my notebooks and recipe cards to bring this plan into greater focus. Has anyone ever written a cookbook while fasting? Seems weird, but it’s working out. Dreaming of food doesn’t bother me at all. I can think it and taste it without putting it in my mouth.

Weird.

In other news, I took a pee test today! It was a follow-up from yesterday’s concern over my creatinine numbers, which speak to kidney stress. While I had been drinking quite a lot of water all along, I threw it down with greater gusto yesterday and that seems to have done the trick, flushing the bad guys away with great proficiency. My numbers today did not concern my doctor one bit.

I can certainly follow through on the water intake, but a catheter is sounding good right about now.


Day 22

On a scale of .6 to 10, how bad is 1.4?

At the beginning of the day, I thought my biggest problem was going to be the fact that I ran out of CO2 last night with a half glass a beer remaining on my agenda.

That changed when my kind nurse called to put me on hold, as my doctor wanted to speak to me. I had stopped in early in the day to follow up on my high potassium, which was noticed after last week’s blood test. In this conversation, potassium didn’t come up, so I assume that it’s gone down into the normal range–either that or this other issue is more concerning, which is my assumption no matter where the potassium fell.

As it turns out, my creatinine is above the happy threshold. Normal levels fall between .6 to 1.2 mg per dl for adult males, and I landed at 1.4. Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule generated from muscle metabolism, and is a reliable indicator of kidney function. So I took a few moments to be concerned about this possible problem. Symptoms include feeling dehydrated (have you felt my tongue lately?) and fatigue (yep, Sunday and Monday especially), shortness of breath (nope), confusion (some would argue that this is normal for me) and “many other nonspecific symptoms” (which I may or may not be experiencing).

What’s happening is that my body has exhausted all the old doughnuts and cheeseburgers in my system, as well as my meager storage of fat. Now it’s eating my own protein to supplement. So there’s a protein buildup in my kidney. It needs flushed, so the shortest-term solution is to drink more water. While there are a couple of days that I know I’ve under-hydrated, I sure enough am generally drinking tons of water (I pee a lot to prove it). So I must fire down even more. Fine.

The next solution is to add other liquids to my diet, preferably something with protein to supplement my own cannibalistic tendencies. It’s been three weeks today and tomorrow will be precisely the halfway point, so a rise of .3 isn’t going to get me down when severe kidney impairment is 8.4 away.

“As your doctor, I’d tell you to stop,” said Dr. Hadaddin. “As your friend, we’ll see what happens; you’re a healthy guy.”

At the end of the day, I turned from being impacted by hearing The Lemonheads’ “Into Your Arms” on Pandora (purposely thinking about God rather than any girl from the nineties) to considering Cracker’s “It Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself.” But maybe that’s the beer talking.

Either way, life will go on, and so will my kidney. No sense in getting spooked away from a goal, not with all that leeway.

Peace and Pints!

J.


Day 21

“Agitation drives out consciousness of God. When we’re driven by agitation, consumed by fretting, we become immersed in our own agenda, and it is always exaggerated. We get caught up in things that, in the final analysis, simply don’t count, in things that pass away, in things that are concerned with living comfortably rather than living well.”

These words from Joan Chittister stuck out as I was noticing that despite the centrality of this project to my life, I was not as personally focused as I naturally found myself in the opening days. I’m not agitated at all. I’m very peaceful. But I have work and family obligations that certainly prove that there’s a major lifestyle chasm between a part-time monk and a real-live monk.

We get used to things, I guess. I’m used to not eating. I’m used to the crack in my windshield. I’m used to my lifestyle. Some people are used to eating greasy food. Some people are used to emotional abuse. They are used to their lifestyles, whether in possession of a tyrannical agitator or not.

There are a number of goals that I established at the beginning of this project: spiritual tune-up, a hands-on historical study, re-evaluate balance, detox, evaluate my future, gain deeper appreciation, contribute to both the worlds of beer and Christianity.

The tag-line for my “regular” blog, brewvana, is “an ideal condition of harmony, beer and joy.” This is the style of our family. Beer is part of it, and while we plan vacations around brewery tours and tap lists, we work to have a balanced life experience which is very focused on the strength of our family. Take out the word beer and insert the word golf. The same effort to achieve balance should be made. Just because beer has alcohol in it doesn’t mean that it can do a better job of destroying a family than golf, money or work.

Getting caught up in “our own agenda” is what can blind-spot the notion of balance. A little self-awareness can go a long way in maintaining good relationships with others, especially God. And so if today brings any success in my laundry list of goals, I can know that my hopes of re-evaluating balance and tuning up spiritually haven’t fallen off the table, even if I have had a lot on my plate.

So to speak.

Cheers, all!

(145 pounds today)


Day 20

Another quick video check-in, Day 20 style.

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Today’s weight (I didn’t get to the scales over the weekend out of town) was 146. Can’t complain about that.


Day 19

Once again, we took a short trip this weekend to celebrate Tom’s birthday, so just a brief hello to let you know I’m still kicking. I’ll put a piece of video up for Day 20 when time permits later today.

Today’s primary challenge was Krispy Kreme, where food is concerned, but honestly, that wasn’t a big deal. While I generally have a huge sweet tooth, ice cream, chocolate and doughnuts have absolutely been vacant from any food-dreams on my mind. Everything has been savory.

Since it doesn’t take an obese person to develop Type 2 Diabetes, I consider shedding sugar’s grip a real victory for this project. I’ll certainly enjoy my return to the land of love and fudge, but I’m pretty sure I’ll more easily eat that sort of thing in more disciplined and reduced manner.

Beyond that, I’ve found that the bustle of our little sortie into the city for shopping and recreation has worn me down. Pretty nappy today.


Day 18


Sorry for the delay on a Day 18 post. Tom’s birthday weekend took precedence and we followed a three-year’s tradition and hit Des ?oines for a little shopping, swimming and an overnight at a hotel.
Eating at Tom’s choice-a barbeque joint-certainly brought a challenge, but I toughed it out.


Day 17

Vocatus atque

non vocatus

Deus aderit

That’s what Rev. Rummer had to say today. These words, meaning “called or not called, God will be present,” say that whether you’re seeking Him or not, He is there. It’s not a matter of when will He show up?;  It’s when are you going to engage him? He’s already there.

As we sat down for our weekly conference, I outlined today that this week had been a good deal more mundane than last week, and I felt like I had no huge revelations to chat about. I had realized late in the week that I was less clearly in my “tunnel,” used to this thing I was doing, and so had put some effort into getting back on track. I’d been on auto-pilot, with work obligations, parent-teacher conferences and whatnot wearing me out. I was behind on my planned psalm reading and not being smacked with any new revelations as had come in the first few days. But as I told him my plight, I realized that every day can’t be a revelation, and that it’s important to pull yourself off of auto-pilot and put in the work if you have any hope of a good relationship with or strong message from God.

He likened it to the “ordinary time” in the church’s calendar between Pentecost and Advent, when there’s nothing huge happening on which to focus. God is there; you just gotta show up. This time, Rummer said, was the time to focus on the parts of oneself that might need addressed. They’re different for everybody.

We turned to the story of Moses and Ten Commandments, Part II, found starting at Exodus 34:27, where Moses was found to shine after talking with God. He put a veil on to speak with his human brethren, but took it off to speak with God. The takeaway for me is this: take off the veil and talk with God. We mustn’t climb a mountain or visit a sanctuary; we can do it anytime. He is there, readily accessible. All we have to do is take off the veil and take the initiative.

He is there for us. Even in the boring times, and possibly, especially so. Our goal should be to shine in the community.

PS: 147 pounds today.

Cheers, all!


Day 16

I spent concern, time and wife-explanation yesterday on this whole high potassium thing and it was all for nothing.

The kind nurse called me with the results at work, and I didn’t have the my copies of the baseline tests handy. When I got home, I looked them up to see what the upward spike looked like and discovered that the bloody numbers were actually going down.

Long live beer!

With 3.7-5.1 established as “normal,” I started two weeks ago with potassium at 5.4. Somehow the height of that was overlooked since all my other numbers were completely pukka. This time, a closer eye noticed I was sitting at 5.3. Though it’s headed downward, the doctor still wanted to monitor it. Basically, everything went down, with the exception of CO2, Calcium and something called AGAP. One piece that went down was my prealbumin. With the ideal range at 20-40, it dropped from 40 to 29. This is a number that reflects general nutrition. While it’s not good that it’s down, it proves that one can get enough nutrition to survive on beer.

By contrast, my liver numbers went up: AST, ALT and Bilirubin Direct (whatever those are). They didn’t check my cholesterol this time, but it’s feeling pretty good.

Do I need to prove anything? No. These numbers over the duration of two weeks tell some good stories. It’s possible to live on beer. It puts pressure on your liver.

Now if I could just stop tapping my foot when listening to Paul Simon’s “That Was Your Mother” and going to the bathroom all the time I would stop burning unnecessary calories–it’s 33 steps to my bathroom at work and just 15 trips works out to a half-mile of walking. Too much.

For the record, today I weighed in at 148 pounds, which means I did a good job of sitting for most of the day.


Day 15

I don’t know about you, but my liver is not enflamed.

As scheduled, I visited my doctor for a follow up today,  and nearly everything was in good shape. Most numbers were unchanged from my initial consultation prior to the start of my fast, but that’s not to say that everything was picture perfect. My liver enzymes were elevated, as any of us would have expected. Interestingly, my potassium was a little on the high side, and that’s the issue that caused my doctor to ask me back to monitor again next week.

It only took two weeks to reach hyperkalemia, a word I didn’t know yesterday.

Beer is high in potassium, which is good, but at high levels it can cause cardiac arrhythmia due to changes in electrical impulses in the heart muscles. There are other heart-symptoms, but left untreated, the ticker could stop. That’s probably not a good issue to press, given my storied family history with heart attacks and good looks.

There can also be gastrointestinal symptoms, but who would have thought my stools would be normal at this point? Other concerns include the nervous system, muscle system and kidneys. Some of these provide easy fodder for beer-related jest, but my health and family are too important to me to screw around.

I’ll head back for a check-up in a week’s time and decide what alterations are necessary.

Peeking around to find potassium’s role in a beer, I found that “regular beer” boasts 96 mg. I’m sure my beer has more–because it’s not “regular.” Apparently, drinking 4.23 of these delicious elixirs on an empty stomach for two weeks straight will boost one’s levels.

With luck or intervention from God, the numbers won’t continue to rise to a level of concern in this next week. If so, I hope I can simply dilute my intake with juice, broth and doughnut kvass. It’d be nice (and possible) to complete the 46 days in some liquid fashion, and since I’m already abstaining from more than our Paulaner brothers of yore would have done, I won’t feel bad about simply adding to my menu. My bored taste buds certainly won’t object. Over the phone this afternoon, my doctor indicated that even diluting the beer would help relieve the stress on Mr. Liver, so there are certainly options.

Like I said from the start: I love my family, so I won’t be stupid until the last couple of days, if I can get away with it.


Day 14

It’s funny, the things that cause worry.

The last couple of days, I have been increasingly alarmed about my condition. I didn’t want to mention it too soon, but yesterday, let me tell you, I started to worry. My tongue is hurting. It’s like the alcohol is drying it out, beating it down. Since food and flavor is such an integral part of my quality world, this caused a moment of worry.

“If I thought I was going to ruin my taste buds, I would shut this project down right now,” I announced to Michelle, clear about my flavor-soaked plans for the rest of our life together.

She looked at me, puzzled. “You’d stop because you didn’t want to ruin your tongue, but you don’t mind ruining your liver?”

That’s how mean women talk sometimes. Ever notice that?

“It’s not that,” I corrected. “It’s just that you can monitor your liver’s functioning to know if there’s a problem. But what if I’ve already burned off my buds?”

What you don’t know can be scary (check it out–I’m not digressing into a discussion of fear-mongering Christian preachers!). I’ve learned today that your taste buds regenerate themselves every ten days or so, so perhaps I can relax. And I already knew that much of taste is picked up through the sense of smell. So it’s probably no big deal, but having your tongue be tired of the same thing and feel like sandpaper is a little worrisome. I’m thinking of massaging it in olive oil tonight for a little moisturizing magic.

I go to the doctor for my two-week check-up tomorrow morning for him to monitor my freaking liver. But I’ll also be asking him about my precious tongue, rest assured.

For the record: 147.5 pounds today.

 


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