Thanks to my inability to type for long without pain, it is taking me days to finish a single blog post, hence my lack of posts lately. So here is an update on what is going on in the life of this trend-hating grumpy reluctant eater of superfoods …
I reckon I’m reaching the finishing line with this. At the moment the only things I’m still to attempt to reintroduce are nightshade veggies, gluten and dairy.
And I already know I have to be careful with moocow dairy, so I’ll be making more of an effort in future to stick with goaty and sheepy goodness, and save my moocow experiences for treats of the occasional bit of butter and good quality cheese.
I am uncertain about gluten: I suspect it won’t be nearly the disaster that various people have predicted it will be. My own suspicion is that as long as I try to stick with wholegrains where possible, rather than refined grains *, and don’t scoff things like bread and pasta daily but keep them for Sometimes Treats, my gut should be happy enough.
Nightshades are a complete mystery to me. But – let me be honest here – I’ve just planted some tomatoes in my garden, and if they bear fruit I’m eating it. And if and when I plant spuds, and should they not all die on me, I will be eating those too. Such is life.
My suspicion with the nightshades, just from previous experience, is that cooked tomatoes = fine. Raw tomatoes = okay in small quantities. Potatoes = a Sometimes Treat. Eggplant and capsicum = okay in small quantities. Chillies = lovely, but probably not a great idea.
I have been experimenting, with great success so far, with pseudo-grains such as quinoa and buckwheat, and gluten-free grains such as wild and brown rice (yummy). Apparently no issues, and it is a relief to be able to eat lovely, lovely things such as my favourite Japanese-style vegetarian hotpot again. (Try it, it’s delicious.)
Look: I have no idea if this is a nocebo thing or not, but the only times I’ve noticed a direct food-gut reaction are when I’ve had too much coconut or tried something that seems to contain those gum thickeners or preservatives – and I don’t know exactly which preservatives either. Oh, and I have to be careful with peppermint, which is a shame, because: Minties.
The thing is, thanks to my cook-everything-from-scratch housewiff lifestyle, it is so easy to avoid these things. So I’m not concerning myself overly about them. It will be interesting if I end up having to travel at some stage, when it is not possible to avoid them. I think sometimes the excitement of being elsewhere overcomes the shock of new foods (or makes it worse) so it’s a case of wait-and-see.
Housewiffery suits me. Sad to say, but it’s true. I am fitter, less stressed, generally more able to cope with things (although I still feel more fragile that I should be). My pain is more controlled, my skin is clearer, my fingernails are stronger **, I sleep better and have fewer nightmares.
My various medics keep looking at me and saying things like ‘Wow! Looking good! Well done!’
Best. Housewiff. Ever.
I always have something to keep me occupied, but I don’t feel stressed or pressured. I still have bad days – especially when the weather changes – but I have the freedom to work around those.
The only sad thing is that doing what I’m doing now – typing – is still very very painful if I do it for more than a couple of minutes at a time. And if I’m silly and let that pain take hold, I have it for the rest of the day and it drains my energy too.
And although I am getting stronger every day, I’m not as strong and balanced as I used to be, and sincerely doubt I’ll ever get back there again.
But that’s okay. I’m getting used to the idea that as a lifelong Spoonie I simply have to redefine my basic ‘normal’ and start again from there. I’m not as strong or as physically capable as people who don’t have arthritis, a severe chronic pain condition, and a rare and uncurable peripheral nerve disorder. A-maze-ing. Such is life.
When (if?) I get back to work, it will be very very scary, and I know not how I will go. But without a shadow of a doubt, if I’m working I will be severely limiting all of my other activities. Which makes going back to work rather unattractive at the moment.
I think I’m gradually learning to become a better housewiff. It’s true that we are eating better and throwing less rubbish away. My rubbish bin is barely half-full when we put it out each week!
I’m trying to keep learning from people who are experts at frugality. I have a lot to learn! I have been reading a lot, and watching some of those excellent BBC documentaries that sometimes crop up, showing those life skills that a lot of us have lost because we don’t feel the pressure to save and reuse and make everything count.
Plus there really are some excellent frugality blogs out there, written by intrepid people who are living the dream.
This is making me realize that we are doing very well financially now, but there is plenty of room to tighten the belt!
Frugality doesn’t come easily to me because I’ve never really had to think about it too hard before (except for that difficult home/school-leaver time many of us have had, struggling to set up a new home on a very low salary). But this is very different. We are established, we have heaps of stuff, we are getting pretty close to paying off our house which will give us a decent financial foundation.
It has come as a bit of a relief as I begin to understand how much wriggle room we have. If I really cracked down we could still live extremely comfortably on much less money, although no doubt it would take work, plus a bit of initial investment to get things set up.
As I type, our power is flickering on and off – a fairly widespread blackout apparently, via the local substation. It has made me start to appreciate how much power we waste on a daily basis. Plus the weather is hosing it down outside. Free water! Water from the sky that we don’t have to pay for! (Later note: it took me about a week to type this whole blog so at time of posting it is stinky hot and free water from the sky is but a happy memory …)
We don’t have a rainwater tank so early this morning I rushed around outside with any bucket and receptacle I could find to catch the rainwater that was sluicing off our poorly-maintained gutters. (Later note: and then I used it all to water my vegetabes.)
So should we ever decide to go the whole hog and do the frugal, environmentally-aware lifestyle thing, getting the gutters done and buying a rainwater tank would be high on my own agenda.
Plus getting the functional end of the garden set up for chooks. I eat loads of eggs, and because I only want to eat eggs that come from happy hens, if I buy eggs they are plenty expensive. On top of that I adore chooks, am very experienced keeping birds, and we have a lovely large garden, plus a small protective guard dog. (We’d have to keep her away from chooks though, as she would obsessively herd them around and around and around until they were exhausted. Not ideal for egg production.)
Buh-GURK. You’re welcome.
Anyway you get the drift – we’re not struggling at the moment and if I put a bit more effort in, we could save a heck of a lot more money than we do now.
I guess my only real limitations are: 1) lack of skills and knowledge, but that’s where the interwebs, books, asking experts and learning comes in. 2) Lack of initial outlay money for doing things like installing rain tanks and getting the garden set up to do more work for us ***. 3) My own physical limitations, which I can’t do much about.
I have been trying to set myself a challenge each week. This week my challenge was reducing the use of disposable products that just get thrown away after a single use.
I realised that one of the few disposables we still use is paper towel, and I have been feeling a bit guilty every time I use it. Eventually I cleaned out the linen cupboard, and scored a pile of ancient, worn tea-towels and cotton pillowcases etc. I have been gradually chopping these up into useful-sized rectangles, inexpertly hemming them, and using these in place of paper towel. **** When I have used them I can soak them in Napisan and wash them, and they are quite clean enough to use for purposes such as drying lettuce and covering dishes when we are reheating food in the nuke-o-matic (microwave).
One small step for frugality, reducing waste and not throwing away good paper!
There is one catch with the whole make-do-and-mend thing, which is that all the sewing and knitting etc., is hard on the hands. I do have arthritic and stiff fingers, prone to cramping thanks to my nervous system condition, AND as an added bonus I have some RSI in my right arm *****: plus doing that kind of delicate work for too long sets off my back pain. Hurrah!
So I have to be very careful about pacing these pleasant, homely activities as well. Pacing the writing is one thing, but pacing work that directly contributes to a well-maintained home is a pain in the … well, a pain in the fingers, I suppose. Now I’m quite jealous of all those people who can sit and knit or crochet pleasantly for an evening!
So I’ll hem a single cloth, or knit a row, or stitch on a button: then I have to force myself to go away and do something else for a while. Spoonie Life!
Where to from here?
Well, I only have a month left until I have to make some tough decisions. And it is going to be a pretty full-on month.
I still have a lot of projects on the go at home. On top of that I have a market coming up this weekend, plus next weekend I agreed to do a gig with my band, just for old times’ sake. Sadly, I’m kind of regretting it now. It involves having to go out in the evening for rehearsals, which is a LOT harder than I remember. Plus the gig itself is in the evening and will go until late, and I have realised too late that it will destroy me effectively for the rest of the weekend (and leave me at risk of a flare).
But I always enjoy singing and hearing the fabulous guys in the band playing, and it is a bit of a nod to my ‘old life’ (I keep thinking of it as my ‘real life’ but it really can’t be that anymore). I’m lucky to be able to do it so I’m trying to enjoy it without getting too scared of pain and flares, but it will be my last gig for a while.
Me and the guys laying down some sweet riffs.
Then there is the whole holiday season, which is always a mad whirl full of mortally terrifying shopping, which I pray won’t be left until the last minute. (If you’re a family member reading this, please, for the love of little birdies, send me your kids’ wish-lists early so I don’t end up at the shops on Christmas Eve desperately searching for the latest video game or whatever, trying unsuccessfully to dodge scary humans, and then have to be smiling through my agony all Christmas Day).
It takes at least three weeks of hard slog to get ready for Christmas and then a good week to recover, by which time it is New Year (which I shall be spending quietly at home with a good book and a glass of white wine), then it is time to try and figure out if I can work in my job without agony and exhaustion.
Trying not to think about that!
(Aren’t you glad Father Christmas does all the really hard work?)
* In spite of the name, refined grains seem to be popular with the riffraff of the gut flora world, and I don’t want to encourage that sort.
** Which is actually a miracle.
*** And actually finding somebody who is able to do the work!
**** I’m afraid some things – such as those bad times when Darling Dog eats something that disagrees with her – will always be better dealt with using something disposable, but we can save the paper just for those purposes.
***** I had only barely been aware of the RSI, but it showed up quite distinctly in my nerve conduction test. The problem had been that the rest of my pain quite overwhelmed the dull RSI pain and numbness. Now, of course, I am a lot more aware of it than I was before. This is one of the risks of a public service career!