2019 ~ by Sam

Well, here we are. It’s the 5th of February, and I haven’t updated since the New Year. We’ve been busy…ish.

The end of the year found us scrambling to get a new roof on the house before the rainy season. I know, I know ~ the rainy season? In L.A.? I’m joking, right? But, really, I’m not. Because, honestly, any amount of raining inside your house, is not great. Also, we kept hearing there was actually going to be a Rainy Season this year. Maybe even a RAINY SEASON by L.A. standards, and that, without a rainproof roof, did not sound like a Great Idea.

So, while trying to get lots of other things ~ like Holiday shopping, and decorating, and baking, and gift-wrapping, and packaging and mailing ~ done, we were also trying to do things like get roof estimates, find someone who could take down the solar panels and put them back up again, decide who to hire, work out all of the details and figure out how to finance all of this… And you know, get the kids to school, and still do all of the usual day-to-day stuff, too. So, you know…it was a little bit hectic. You might say. But we did some things, anyway. We didn’t necessarily get everything done in a timely fashion (we might have mailed out “Happy New Year” gifts ~late, very late ~ instead of Christmas gifts), and I definitely didn’t remember to come over here and write about any of it. So, I thought it might be good to come back and do a little bit of a check-in:

I looked at my last entry, and saw this (I’ve added notes about my progress in parentheses):

I will:

Accept that I am a work in progress. (working on it)
Balance the books and pay bills every Monday. (need to do this)
Strive to buy coffee out only 1x/week, and remember my reusable cup when I do. (eh…this needs work, too)
Exercise at least 3-5x/week, and do my PT at least 5x/week. * (um…2-3x/week, so far. But that’s better than none! I’ll keep trying)
Play my banjo every day. (not every day, but not none!)
Accentuate the positive. (um…probably also needs work, but I’m trying)
Focus on forgiveness. (I think I’m doing okay here)
Breathe, drink water & eat real food. ** (Girl Scout Cookies are not imaginary)
Read every day. (YES ~ nailed it!)
List stuff on my etsy shop within 1 week of making it. *** (Haven’t made anything new, but did list a bunch of stuff I had already made!)
Work in the garden at least 1x/week. (Okay, it’s been POURING, but I did work in the garden a little bit when it wasn’t, and I potted a couple of indoor plants)
Try to be more present & attentive. (will always need more work, but I’m doing it…the trying part, I mean)
Sew/knit/crochet or otherwise craft/make something every week. (100% doing this ~ I don’t finish a project every week, so far, but I am always doing something creative)

I will NOT:

Beat myself up if I fail. (still needs a little work)
Give up because I miss a step (week, day, whatever). (yup, got it. It’s hard)
Care what other people think about this list, me, or anything I’ve written here. (uh, huh. Pretty much doing this, most of the time. I still have my moments)

So. Here, in no particular order, are some things I have been doing:

I made some fun cookies with these adorable cookie cutters to send to friends and family. Kids helped with some of the decorating.

I made this set of pillows for my sister & brother-in-law.

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing with my mentee, and I finally started working on this dress. Several years ago, I bought this fabric and pattern. As soon as I got home, I washed the fabric, cut all of the pieces from the dress fabric (but not the lining ~ it will be fully lined), and then put it away and never got around to sewing it. Now, I am finally actually sewing it. Slowly but surely, because I keep getting distracted by other things, but at least I keep working on it.

It doesn’t have wings. My dressform, Mädchen, just wears them, sometimes.

I have been working on finishing a large single crochet blanket I started last year, then set aside. When I ran out one of the yarns I was using for that blanket and had to order it online, because I couldn’t find it in stores, I started working on another, smaller crochet project (probably just a throw), because I found some yarn I loved while looking for the other one.

Blanket #1

Blanket #2

I am still painting the Little Free Library, and trying to get it all ready to open. It’s ridiculous that this is taking so incredibly long. We have books and everything! It’s almost done! I am so excited. But still really slow. (Who knew it would take so long??) I really wanted to have it up and running before the end of last year, but promised not to kick myself if I didn’t get things done. (I’ll wait to post a picture until it’s done.)

I visited The Last Bookstore with Shane and Justice, and the Museum of Tolerance with Kaia.

We all went to the King Tut exhibit at the California Science Center.

I drove Kaia to an animal shelter to drop off 4 pet beds and 20 cat toys she’d made for the animals there.

There are so many other things I am forgetting. No wonder I’m so tired all the time. Now that I see it all in black and white, I can see that I’ve actually been rather busy.

So, now, we are just trying to get back into the swing of things. It seems like there is always something else to do. The laundry room is mostly painted, thanks to Shane, and we have settled on a colour for the next project. I am sure, by the time we get that one done, we will have figured out something else that needs work.

I think, at least for now, I am beginning to feel like I’m settling into something like a routine. It’s not the same each day, and it still needs fine-tuning ~ for instance, I have to include more exercise, if I want my foot to hurt less, and I want to include more banjo-playing, and I should include more housekeeping ~ but I am hitting my marks (or at least landing somewhat close to them) more often than I used to, and that feels good. At the end of the day, I feel like I am making progress, and that’s what resolutions are all about, aren’t they? I never expected to just immediately achieve all of those things. I set out to work toward my goals over the course of a year, with the hope of someday achieving them. I’d say I’m doing all right, by my standards.

Boxing, part 2 ~ by Sam

So, that was done.

Sort of.  We still had some things we wanted to store.  You see, Kaia is 15.  When she moved in to her bedroom in 2012 (which was actually 6 1/2 years ago, not 5 1/2, as I said in the last post, wasn’t it?), she probably didn’t mind having bins full of things like puppets and American Girl clothes taking up space in her room, but let’s get real.  I, personally, love my American Girl doll, but, at 15, I probably would have needed my shelf space for something other than storing all of the the entire household’s American Girl doll clothes and accessories.  And puppets!  Do you people even know how many puppets we own?  Seriously, we needed to free up that space for things she was actually using on a regular basis (which doesn’t mean we don’t still love our puppets, says the drama teacher inside me).  Besides which, it’s her bedroom.  She should get to keep her stuff in there, instead of stuff that’s kind of community property.  I think, again, in our haste to move, we just never reorganized that shelf after we moved it into her room, and, since she was the youngest, it made some sense for toys to be stored in her room, at the time.  Now, on the other hand…

Well, I needed just a couple more large boxes, so I headed back to Michaels, and, as anticipated, all of the good 80% off boxes were gone.  But I did find two very lovely ones that were 40% off, and that was okay.  I mean, it felt a little splurgy, after the 80% off boxes, but I guess I’ll survive buying boxes at 40% off, just this once.

After all, they are the perfect boxes for treasures.
IMG_7804

They fit perfectly into the space I had for them (if you ignore the fact that one overhangs the shelf just slightly), and they were the right size to hold all of our puppets.

When the old bins were empty, I removed the old tags from them, knowing Kaia wouldn’t need them anymore, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw them away yet.  Is that silly?  It’s just…it’s the end of an era, isn’t it?  I know, it’s the beginning of an exciting new one, too, as my three little babies, little no more, continue on their journey through life.  Two in college already, and one a sophomore in high school.  You know, I always believed those people when they told me the years would fly, but I didn’t understand how it would feel until I was folding all of the little dress up clothes, having weeded out the ones that were just beyond repair and not worth saving.  I didn’t get it, until I was carefully tucking the matchbox cars into their boxes, and trying to remember their names, making sure the puppets weren’t too crowded, and no one was getting smushed…and I could hear their little voices just like it was yesterday.

“Today, I’m going on an adventure!”

“I’m a pirate, so I need this hook, and I need to get on my pirate ship…”

“Hey, sisters, sisters!  Look at what I found!”

And now it’s quiet.  The boxes are all put away.  Justice is at school tonight.  Shane is not yet home from work.  Hallie, of course, is living on campus this year.  It’s very quiet, except for the faint sound of one voice, not so little now, talking and laughing with a friend on the phone.

Pizza’s ready, so I go to pull it out of the oven, and there on the counter, I see them.

I still haven’t thrown these away.

IMG_7805

I’m thinking, maybe, I’ll keep them for a while.  It’s silly, isn’t it?  But then, I’ve always been sentimental.

Boxing, part 1 ~ by Sam

If you’ve known me for some time, you might know I like boxes.  I mean, not like cats and small children like boxes ~ although, lets be honest, large boxes made really great playhouses, and trains, and rocket ships, and…well…so, maybe a little bit like small children like boxes, but, for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume I mean decorative boxes.  You know, the kind you might use for storage, but that don’t necessarily look like just your average storage boxes.  I like fancy hat boxes, and boxes that are made to look like books and treasure chests.  I like boxes covered with beautiful papers and fabrics ~ I’ve even covered some of my own.  I like cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, metal boxes, even plastic crates and baskets, in a pinch, but fancy boxes are my favourite.  And, although you might not know it if you dropped by right now and saw the half-painted Little Free Library on my parlour floor, the empty boxes and baskets, the unfolded laundry on the chaise, the books that need to be put away, I really like it when everything is put away neatly in its place.  It’s one of the reasons I really like boxes.  You can put things in them, and ~ look at that! ~ all of the sudden, instead of a bunch of clutter, you have this attractively ordered space.  I like it that way.  I like knowing where my stuff is, so I can find it, and I like it to look nice, too.

So.  Well, there was this one area of the house in which we had really been struggling with the whole “neatness” and “order” thing.  A place for everything?  Are you kidding me?  Nah.  Just…stick it over there…somewhere.  I guess.  We’ll figure it out later.

Sometimes, I think that’s a little bit how we moved in.  Things were moving along swimmingly, but then there was a family emergency, and Shane had to leave town, so we moved a bunch of stuff over very quickly, with the help of his parents, who were in town.  Then, the kids and I finished moving the rest of the stuff over from the old house, but I never felt like we got things quite settled here.  I still don’t.  It’s been more than 5 1/2 years since we moved.

In that time, time has marched on, and children have grown.  When we moved, we set the toy shelf that used to be in the bedroom that the two youngest kids shared at the old house in the hallway outside of the bedrooms they would have (and not share) at the new house. It seemed to make sense at the time.  The shelves contained stuff that belonged to both of them, as well as some stuff that was used by all three kids (like books, costumes, and matchbox cars, for instance).  Over time, however, more and more of the stuff on the shelf fell into disuse.  The kids just grew up.  They still loved and had fond memories of some of those things, but, you know, they weren’t leaping around the house in tiny tutus battling each other with rubber swords.  They need bigger tutus now.  I’m kidding.  They hardly ever wear tutus now.  As far as I know.

Anyway, there was a bunch of stuff just sitting there on the shelf, not being used very often, and taking up a lot of space.  We also had other stuff that just didn’t seem to have any place to go.  Stuff like shoes and hats and jackets.  Backpacks.  A trumpet.  Bags.  Just, you know, a lot of stuff.  So I started thinking, you know, what the kids could use outside there rooms might be something to store the stuff they actually use.  I knew, however that, like me, my kids are sentimental.  Over many moves, and in years since the last move, we had already weeded through toys, and what was left on that shelf really was the cream of the crop.  This is stuff we want to have around for days when little ones come to play.  It’s the cool stuff.  The keepers.  The question remained, with no useable attic space to speak of (it’s basically a crawlspace full of insulation and ductwork), and very little available space in the garage, where were we going to keep all this stuff?

What stuff?  Oh.  THIS stuff.  And, while we’re at it, can we do something about this colour, because I vowed when I moved in to banish this colour from the house, and this, Justice’s bathroom and the laundry room are the last holdouts (trust me, it’s worse in real life).

I chose the above photos because I think they highlight the stellar organization.  Not pictured: socks, shoes, backpacks, trumpet & music bag…

Well, it took some planning, and a couple of coats of Behr Marquee flat ceiling paint in pure white, and a couple of coats of Behr Premium Plus Paint & Primer interior semi-gloss in Vintage Coral to fix the colour problem.

We had already made a trip to IKEA to purchase the coat/shoe rack/bench that we wanted to put in place of the old toy shelves.  Of course, we realized that taking down the shelves and replacing them with a coatrack would leave us with some major storage problems.  After some brainstorming ~ and let’s be honest, the storm had been brewing in my brain for years over this plan ~ I discussed my design plan with Shane, who went off to the hardware store to have the wood cut to make the shelves we wanted.  He primed and painted them, and, between coats, we kept searching online for shelf brackets we both liked…or at least one of us liked…or, you know, maybe that we didn’t hate.  I mean, could they, at least, not look like they should be shut inside a closet?  Hey…those are ni…Oh, I mean, could they at least not look like they should be shut inside a closet AND not cost a million dollars?  We finally found some that fit the bill at Lowe’s.  When we got there, they didn’t have the ones we’d chosen, but I think the ones we got are just as nice, at least.

It just so happens that Lowe’s is in the same shopping center as Michaels, so we stopped to see if they might have any boxes that might suit our needs. They did, you guys, and they were 80% off.  That’s, like, pennies on the dollar.  (Or like, a few dollars instead of $20, but still, quite the deal, and really, the only way we could possibly afford to do this.)

Look what a change we made:

Little Squirrel ~ by Big Tree

Yesterday marked the first day of classes for both of my college students.

Yeah.  I am now the mother of not one, but ~ count ’em ~ TWO college students.

On the 18th of August, Hallie moved to the dorms at Otis College of Art and Design.

I still feel like I am finding my footing.  Kaia has long schooldays 2 days/week, due to  band practice, and then there will be football games or drill days on Fridays.  I won’t be going to pick up anyone at the bus stop after school.  If Hallie forgets something at home, it’s just a walk across campus ~ and it doesn’t involve me, anyway.  I won’t be running anything to school, or meeting with teachers or administrators, or trying to figure out how to juggle the two back-to-school nights that always seem to fall on the same day ~ one over the hill, one in the Valley.

There’s only one kid to wake, one lunch to pack (yes, we still pack their lunches ~ I know some kids pack their own.  Fight me), one homework progress to check.  I’ve walked away from that one high school for the last time, forever.

I have all this time, and I need to figure out what to do with it.

But, really, enough about me.

This kid. Well, not really a kid, anymore.  This whole entire grown up human.  How did that even happen?

It’s like…one day you’re watching them play in the mud and sing with the Care Bears, and the next day they’re in college.

Seriously ~ didn’t you have pants on your head just a minute ago?  But I know.  I know it’s been years. Some of them have not been so easy, my sweet, and that breaks my heart, but here’s what I know: if you made it through that, whatever life throws at you now, you can handle.  And, you know, if you can’t, call us.  Because it’s not like we won’t help you now that you’re off at college.

I feel like, as you head to college I should have some advice, but, you know, I’ve always said, I am the Sergeant Schultz of Parenting: “I know NoThing!” That’s super helpful, I know.

I do know a few things about you.

You are and will always be worthy.
You are smarter than you think you are.
You are incredibly talented and creative.
You are kind.
You are capable.
You are compassionate.
You have a strong sense of what is right.
You are a good person.
You are brave.
You are strong.
You are resourceful.
You are witty and clever
You’re an excellent problem-solver.

When you were small, you used to hold my hands and climb all the way up to my shoulders, telling me you were “Little Squirrel Climbing Big Tree.”

I might not be such a big tree by comparison anymore, as you take flight, ~ because you’d have to be a flying squirrel, wouldn’t you? ~ but I hope you remember where your roots are.  You’ll always have a tree to come home to, my Little Squirrel, no matter where your journey takes you.

I love you so very much, sweetheart.

Here’s to an excellent first year of college, and to the wonderful life it unfolds!

Echoes in the Hall ~ by Sam

Girl walking away 2010
New backpacks: 2010 (l-r) Justice, Hallie, Kaia

I’ve just returned from dropping off Kaia for her first day of 10th grade.  This year’s  picture will have to wait until after school.  We weren’t running late, but we weren’t running early enough to stop and pose for pictures, either.  With or without photo evidence, she’s off to 10th grade, and great things like AP World History, and her second year of Marching Band, in brand new sunshine yellow Chuck Taylors.  Do they still call them Chuck Taylors?  I’m probably dating myself.

It was a quiet morning, with just one kid to get ready and out the door for school, and it occurs to me: this is how it’s going to be now.  Hallie will be moving into the dorms this Saturday, and Justice’s schedule varies, but, really, being almost 21, she gets herself up and out the door to work or school without any help from us.  Honestly, at this point, I’m mostly just company and a ride for Kaia.  She’s pretty self-sufficient.  So, for these next few years, it’s just us.

It was really, really quiet.

It felt like I was learning to do this all over again.  I’m used to juggling many things, both parents up, dodging each other in the kitchen, calling over my shoulder to one kid, and then to another…but…oh…there’s just this one kid.

And one day…there will be only echoes in the hall.

For now, it’s still me and my youngest girl, in the morning, riding to school together.  I’m glad we get that time.  Last night, Shane asked, “You’ll probably want to drive Kaia to school in the morning, won’t you?”  He sounded vaguely hopeful that I might say no, and  it surprised me to realize how important driving her was to me.  Now that we’ve got just this one kid to drive, we will no longer have to “divide and conquer” as we once did, and it’s not like I ever begrudged him those rides to school with Hallie.  I knew I would get the rides home.  Maybe it hadn’t yet occurred to me how fleeting time is.  Maybe, now, as my older children are growing older still and moving on, I am finally beginning to feel that tug, that gradual letting go.  Maybe it’s just harder with the youngest.  The last.  My baby.  It occurs to me now, however, that he hasn’t driven Kaia to school in a very long time, and I am probably going to have to let him (she says, as if she gets to “let him”).  Isn’t that odd?  That I would think of this as a thing that is “mine?”  It’s ridiculous.  Of course, he will drive her some days.

Our mornings aren’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes, they are hectic.  Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to wash something that needed to be washed, or we’re scrambling to find a decent lunch to pack.  Sometimes, we are late getting out the door, and she’s eating breakfast in the car on the way to school.  Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to sign something, or she’s forgotten to tell me about something at school, or there’s a disagreement about who forgot to do what.  In short, it’s not all a bed of roses.  Sometimes, we bicker.  Sometimes, we listen to KUSC, covering the display on the dash and challenging ourselves to answer their Great Composer Quiz.  Sometimes, we talk.  Sometimes, we’re just quiet.

Always, the moments are precious.

Because, someday, there will be only echoes in the hall.

 

A Bad Case of the “What Ifs” ~ by Sam

I have a long-standing chronic case of the “What-Ifs.”  Every time I see a new freckle, or dimple, or pucker, lump, or bump I’m thinking, “Oh, God, What If…??”  I can’t help it, there’s a lot of Cancer in my family.  Every time I fall, I wonder if something is broken, because 9 times out of 10, something is.  With a track record like that, you start to get nervous.  Every time I start to cough, and my chest feels rattly, I think, “geez, what if this turns into bronchitis, or pneumonia?”  Because, you guys, I don’t have time for that.  Nobody’s got time for that.  Look, I have asthma, and the chances that my cough is going to turn into something like that are higher than those of a person who doesn’t have asthma, so it’s not just totally crazy for me to think that.  When my kids cough, I think, “What if…??” FOR EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS.  And, like, they’ve already missed roughly three million days of school.  And that was probably just this week. There’s probably a truant officer at my door right freaking now.  I’d answer it, but I’m on hold with Kaiser because the automated system kicked me to the wrong option when I coughed.  It’s not my fault.  I might have pneumonia.

Basically, I’m a mess.  Pretty much always, and I know it.

Recently ~ and by recently, I think I mean since like the beginning of April ~ I have been chronically congested, and my nose has been sore and chapped.  It’s super attractive.  I figured it was probably allergies.  I have allergies.  I have never found a daily allergy medication that works very well.  Usually, at some point, I end up with a sinus infection, which I was dreading, and trying to avoid.  I also have a Eustachian tube malfunction in my left ear, which is not the ear in which I use a hearing aid ~ I hate to call it “my good ear,” because my other ear is just as good, despite being somewhat deaf ~ this means it almost always feels sort of plugged, and like it needs to pop, but it doesn’t pop.  Like, ever.  And this affects my hearing in that ear.  It sounds like everything is underwater, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days.  Anyway, it had felt this way, and I was kind of used to it, but it wasn’t terrible, to be honest.  I haven’t ever had any pain associated with the Eustachian tube thing.  Maybe, sometimes, it feels a little full, like a little pressure, but never pain. Then, last Saturday, as we were driving home from Accepted Student Day at Hallie’s college  ~ OMG!  Did I just say that?!!  My middle child is headed to college in the Fall!!  How crazy is that??!!! *deep breath* I’ll have to post about that later ~ my ear popped, just a tiny bit, but it HURT.  I mean, it really hurt.  I had to grip the steering wheel, and grit my teeth. Then, it continued to hurt through the day, and into the evening.

I figured, maybe that was sort of normal with the Eustachian tube malfunction; but, when I looked it up online, I couldn’t find anything about pain being associated with it. So I did the smart thing, and decided to wait a few days, to see what happened.  You see, by this time, I had decided, probably nothing was wrong, and I was worried for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

But…

WHAT IF…?

What if I had a really bad ear infection, and I didn’t get it checked out, and I permanently lost hearing in my left ear?  What if my eardrum was ruptured?  I mean…On the one hand, I guess, if I thought through both of those scenarios, I’d have to say, “So?”  Like…”So, if either of those conditions already exists, HOW IS NOT CALLING THE DOCTOR GOING TO HELP??”  Also, I do get that, if I were to lose some (or even all) hearing in my left ear, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  It would just be a change from what I’m used to.  It’s weird that the idea freaked me out so much.  I think, maybe it was the possibility that something (like an infection, or ruptured eardrum) might be very wrong that was most upsetting.  I think, in situations like this, I still have a tendency to go into small-child-survival-mode. Like, maybe if I don’t call, it will go away, and then it will be like it never happened.  That’s how life works.  I’m so good at being a grown up, you guys.  Right?  I’m reminded of the time, when I was 5 years old, and a needle I’d stepped on broke off in my foot.  I just didn’t tell anyone.  That resulted in surgery, so you can see how this plan has worked for me in the past.  It makes sense that I’d stick with it.

Like the needle, this just wasn’t going away.  I couldn’t hear.  It hurt.  People would talk, and I’d ask them to stop yelling.  It was bad.  And you know how when something is wrong with your ear, your balance is off, and you feel sick to your stomach, too?  Yeah.  That, too.

So, I finally bit the bullet and emailed my doctor.  Emailed, because I didn’t even feel like making a phone call.

I got a phone call back from the nurse.  She was a bit taken aback that I had not called, and said that doctor wanted me to come in as soon as possible to be evaluated.  You guys, I was on the phone with this woman asking, “Are you sure?  We can’t possibly do a phone appointment, can we?” and she had to say to me, “No.  The doctor needs to see your ear, dear.”  I know this.  I know all of these things.  I know I needed to call.  I probably needed to call Saturday, let’s be honest.

*sigh*

Well, my ridiculous story has an equally ridiculous, but happy, ending.

I have really bad allergies.  And a Eustachian tube malfunction.  They don’t like each other very much, so they don’t work together well.  There’s no infection.  My eardrum is intact.  I’m trying new daily allergy medications, in hopes one will work.

Everything still sounds like it’s underwater.  And, sometimes, it hurts.  But at least I’m not as worried about it as I was.

Food & Stuff ~ by Sam

(in which I swear once, which is not a lot, since I am talking about food & stuff)

Alas, it was not meant to be.

I really thought Marian might pull through, until I awoke one day to find nothing but two bare stalks.  I think, this time, she truly is a goner.  I am so sad.  The next time I was at the nursery, I asked what I might be doing wrong for my maidenhair ferns, and was assured that I have done exactly what I should.  It seems my home just might not be the best environment for them, for whatever reason. It was suggested that I try a different, heartier variety of fern.  We selected this lovely sliver lace fern, which i promised to not to name, just in case…then promptly name Mathilda as I was pulling out of the parking lot.  Apparently, all of my plants will be named after literary characters.
Mathilda

I am going to try to refrain from buying (or killing) any more houseplants for some time.  Instead, I will work on trying to keep alive the ones I have.

In the interest of posting about something other than houseplants ~ ‘though I do love them ~ I thought I would share some of the meals I’ve been eating.  Because no one ever does that on the internet.  It’s a totally revolutionary idea.

I know.  Like, half of you ~ more than half of you ~ already walked away.  That’s okay.  The rest of us are still here, and we like each other just fine, thank you very much.

But food. Well, you know, food and I have a storied history.  I loved food when I was a kid.  I loved some foods other people might find really weird.  I ate stuff like butcher bologna and fried brains (no, really, y’all ~ I tell my kids I’m actually part zombie, as a result of this culinary adventure), and slim jims, and those hot sausages that came in wrappers like slim jims.  I still love red beet eggs,  and my mom’s ziti and shoofly pie ~ all of which I am pretty sure I am not supposed to eat, and that is a travesty, by the way.  I ate crabs and scallops and lobster and shrimp, and clam chowder.  I mean, I grew up in Maryland.  We ate seafood.  It’s kind of a thing.

Now…well…

First, I had an eating disorder.  When you have an eating disorder, you don’t hate food.  I think that’s a common misconception.  Maybe it’s more of a love/hate relationship.  I became positively obsessed with food.  I knew everything about it.  I was obsessed with what nutritional value of everything, how many calories it had, what was the fat content, sugar content, serving size… Not that any of it mattered.  I wasn’t actually eating much of it.  I did love to cook it.  For other people.  And watch them eat it.

Then, I became (and have remained) vegetarian.  That’s working out okay for me.  I mean, y’all can have your brains.  I have to say, I am pretty much over that.  I was vegan for about 8 years, and I felt pretty good at the time, but I’ll admit, it was difficult, especially when I got pregnant with my first child.  That’s about the time I decided to start eating cheese again.  I really like cheese.

Which totally doesn’t matter.  Cheese hates me.  With a passion.  It turns out, I am allergic to milk protein.  So, some years (yes, it took years ~ many, painful years), and many health problems later, I gave up all dairy products.  I miss cheese so much it hurts ~ but you know, not as much as that feeling in my throat when I ingest it, so this is really much better.  (I’m also now allergic to shellfish, which I had already given up eating, for what it’s worth, which doesn’t impact my diet, but is a weird side note considering that I ate it as a kid, I guess.)

Also, (and, well, really, I should have thrown this part in a while ago, because it originally reared its ugly head in high school), I have IBS.  That’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in case you didn’t know, and, as is evidenced by the name, it is just a festival of fun times, as I am sure you can imagine.  I won’t go into detail.  I mean, it involves your bowels, being irritable.  You can figure out what that means.  Or, you know, google it, if you want to, but I really can’t imagine why you would want to do that.

So, here I was going along, doing my thing, trying to be healthy ~ and I was really making a concerted effort, too, because I had some long-standing terrible habits to break.  Habits like not eating breakfast.  Forgetting meals altogether.  Eating chocolate for a quick burst of energy to get me through to the next meal, and then not taking time for the next meal.  Eating things like the crusts of kids’ pizza, the ends of their poptarts, and the few green beans that were left in the pan, and thinking, “That was probably a meal, right?”  Drinking a frappuccino instead of lunch.

I figured this was bad for me, bad for my body, and a terrible example for my kids, and I decided to do something about it.  I started doing things like eating more vegetables and fruits.  I love roasting vegetables ~ broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage ~ especially with lots of fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  I love artichokes.  I don’t like fruit, but berries are good for you.  I ate berries, even though I don’t like them.  I actually like pears, and some kinds of apples, and I can eat about half of a banana, sometimes, but only half.  I was trying with the fruit.  I started drinking coconut water. You hear so much about how good for you it is.  Man, I really bought that.  I used coconut milk in my coffee drinks, instead of soy, because I know too much soy is bad for you, and I already use some soy.  I was eating whole grains.  Oh, and beans.  I was trying to make sure to get enough protein, but from a variety of sources ~ nuts and nut butters, seiten, quinoa, seeds, tofu and tempeh, some commercially available meat substitutes, and beans.  I love beans.

For some reason, my digestive issues got worse.  At first, I thought, maybe it was just that I was eating meals that were too large, so I started eating smaller, more frequent meals. Then, I thought maybe it was just that was still getting used to eating well ~ maybe my body was adjusting to digesting all those fruits and vegetables and stuff.  Maybe it was too much of a transition all at once.  I even thought maybe it was a medication side effect…or maybe it was a symptom of something else.

The truth was much simpler: my IBS was completely out of control.

So, after one doctor’s visit led to another doctor’s visit, which led to some labwork, and a referral to a gastroenterologist (and more labwork ~ with more to come), I find myself on a very restrictive diet.  I am currently on a gluten-free low FODMAP diet, and it is the most restrictive diet I have ever had.  I am forced to be obsessed with food again, which is a little bit scary, to be honest, and I have to be careful not to fall back in to old patterns.  I think the key, in that regard, is to keep eating the food.  That, and the fact that the goal this time is to keep the food in my body and maybe actually gain some weight, which is really weird for me.  But it must all look frighteningly familiar to people who  have known me through all of this, and it must be worrisome for them, too, because here I am, again, very thin (due to medication) and obsessing about food.  My understanding is that at least some of this could be temporary, and then we can start trying to figure out what foods, specifically cause problems for me.  For now…

Ah, well, it is what it is.

If you are interested, you can look up the low FODMAP diet. For me, it’s basically like this: Make a list of all of your favourite foods. Write: “DON’T EAT THESE” at the top. Now, start eating eggs again.  What?  You don’t like eggs?  Fuck you.  Eat them anyway.  You don’t eat meat, and there are only like 4 other protein sources on this list that you’re allowed to eat.  Eat the freaking eggs.

If you have IBS, or another digestive disorder, you might want to talk to your doctor about whether or not this plan might be helpful to you.  I know, I just made it sound super appealing.  (sorry.)

Here, to entice you are some pictures of things I have been allowed to eat, to prove that it is not actually terrible:
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Vegetable curry w/ quinoa

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Maple walnut oatmeal with bananas & cinnamon

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Baked potato topped w/ veggie chili and avocado

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Egg salad, avocado, red pepper & olives

So, maybe I make it all sound very dire, but I am eating a lot of beautiful, delicious foods.  Most importantly, I seem to be getting it right, most of the time.  Eating out is still difficult, because it’s a bit of a craps shoot.  You know, you order the potatoes, and hope they aren’t seasoned with anything your gut’s gonna hate.

Feeding the whole family is a challenge, because my needs often require a little more creative meal-planning ~ and it does get a little bit redundant, sometimes.  I’ve hit on some recipes I can make that we all like, and, at the very least, I can often make a meal from which I can easily adapt something for myself.  If not, I usually have leftovers in the fridge, because I tend to cook for more than one meal at a time, anticipating that need.  I am still learning, but I’m getting there.

In the end, if I feel better, am able to keep the foods I eat in my system long enough to actually process the nutrients my body needs from them, and do important things like socialize with other humans, take my medication and, you know, absorb it so that it actually works, I think that’s a vast improvement.  You know, when things like that start working, the hope is that I will be able to do more of the things I want to be doing.

I would say things are looking up.

Today, for instance, I was able to get up and go with Shane to help sort Girl Scout cookie orders at the warehouse, and bring back all of the cookies Kaia intends to sell this season.  I loaded and unloaded cars, grabbed a coffee, came home and practiced banjo, cooked dinner, sat down and wrote this very long blog entry.  Now I intend to clean up a bit, and try to get my PT done before bed.  It might not sound like a lot, but I think it’s not bad for a Saturday with chronic pain and a digestive disorder.  I mean, let’s be honest: there are still a lot of days when I just want to pull the covers back over my head as soon as I wake up, but, you know, I have a Girl Scout, and those cookies aren’t gonna drive themselves home.  My banjo’s not gonna play itself.  I mean, come on ~ I’ve got stuff to do.

cookies