Paleo Diet

On July 24th, without a lot of warning (none I was heeding, anyway), I switched from a kinda-mostly-gluten-free-and-dairy-free diet (with lots of cheating but no sugar) to a strict low-carb paleo diet. For the wonderful reasons of “because my doctor said so, and he’s scary.”

There are several different interpretations of “paleo,” but the way I’m implementing it is this:

mostly vegetables

and grass-fed organic meat

and hopefully some seafood too

olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, lemon juice

a few nuts, a few berries, but not many

the occasional apple

no grains (corn is a grain), no legumes (green peas sometimes exception), no potatoes, no dairy.

no sugar or sweeteners (but that predates paleo)

no eggs (as of August 24, when I found out I was allergic)

Also, I’m allergic to spinach, asparagus, walnuts, cinnamon, cocoa, and coffee, which otherwise might get to be part of this diet. And I’m allergic to gluten, wheat, and peanuts, which I wasn’t going to be eating anyway. The asparagus and spinach allergies are low enough that I’ll make exceptions if I’m out and about.

Why am I doing this?

Because I have that fun and contested illness known as chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic fatigue immunodeficiency syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis,  systemic exertion intolerance disorder, and by something else now too, I bet. They seem to like coming up with names for it.

At any rate, I have a fairly mild case of it, but as it’s not at all a mild illness, it’s still a pretty big impediment to me doing anything at all with my life. In between all kinds of scary test results (where are my natural killer cells? why is there no detectable level of a hormone-precursor molecule in my blood? why can’t my body produce enough cortisol? etc.), I am also trying to get my wonky blood sugar under control and stock up on the many nutrients I’m low on.

The foundation my doctor suggested was the paleo diet, with an emphasis on veggies.

What’s it been like?

The first four days I thought I was dying. I was even more lightheaded than usual. I thought I was starving. I got hot flashes. I smelled terrible. I looked up how many calories I got the first day (1000) and realized that in addition to the “low-carb flu,” I didn’t know how to eat enough on this diet.

After those first four days, things got a lot better. I don’t get crazy dips of energy before meals, and I have a little bit more energy to spend throughout the day without triggering a relapse. I’m not longer having the hot flashes and my sweat isn’t so ridiculously smelly.

While I wasn’t trying to lose “weight” (by which I mean size), I have lost a lot. I don’t have a scale, so can’t tell you numerically, but I taken three sets of pictures and the difference is striking. Unfortunately for you, they’re naked pictures, so not going up on the internet.

What’s really surprised me, though, is the shape of the size I’ve lost and how attractive it is. Most of the times in my life when I’ve been really skinny, even if it was from doing tons of yoga or what-have-you I haven’t looked this healthy. The best way I can describe my body in the mirror at the moment is “happy.” It’s a happy shape. Paleo isn’t the only thing going into that, but it’s a major contributing factor.

No, what’s it been like logistically?

Kind of a nightmare. I basically eat stir fry three times a day.

One of the symptoms of CFS is orthostatic intolerance. In other words, when I stand up, my blood pressure lowers and I either pass out or start feeling very wonky. Some days I can’t even sit up. So cooking is mostly out of the question.

My husband had to learn to cook three paleo meals a day, every day, with basically no warning. Then we found out I couldn’t have eggs (which, okay, I kind of knew. I knew they made me feel sick but I wasn’t going to stop until I got it in black and white numbers on the allergy test) and things got even harder.

Basically – I have stir fry for three meals a day. The vegetables almost always include cabbage, carrots, and onions. There may also be bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, collard greens, or something else my lovely man comes up with. There is always some kind of meat – (sugar-free) sausage, (non-pork, sugar-free) bacon, ground beef, chicken, or salmon.

We also have this cool “casserole” we can make, but it’s a lot of work and a bit high in carbs for everyday eating.

Now that we have a few weeks before I start school again, we’re going to try out a few other recipes.

I was just at a fabulous retreat where for the first several days I didn’t even have to break into my cooler because everything just was paleo. I’m especially craving her salads and this delicious coconut soup she made, at the moment. So I’ll see what David can figure out.

We’re spending way too much money on food. Mostly on the meat – it’s a couple bucks per meal for me alone. Then David and Scarlet are eating junk, which is a phase I hope we’ll move out of. But it’s not like they’re super thrilled about the idea of eating paleo with me, or like we can afford it, or like David has the time or energy to make all our former curries and bean dishes from scratch at the same time he’s stir frying things for me.

What next?

I’m looking into quail, since I wanted to raise some anyway and I’ve heard their eggs are okay for people with egg allergies. I don’t know that it’ll save us any money, but it might save us some time. Cooking time. Not chores time. And I do want the option of (very occasionally) indulging in some paleo “breads,” all of which require eggs to hold their almond-flower-y selves together.

I also want to expand into different types of meat (it’s very American of us, in a bad way, to eat only ground beef and chicken breast) as well as different parts of the animal. I’d love to go buy some 1/4 cow or something, though with my inability to help at all in the kitchen, we’re currently mostly into things that don’t need a lot of preparation. I do definitely want to explore liver and bone broth, if nothing else.

I may also start adding in some more carbs, paying attention to how I feel. If I can get a bit more of my energy from sweet potatoes or butternut squash, then maybe I don’t have to eat so much meat, which doesn’t exactly thrill me. Hopefully this is not an ever-after diet. I’ve eaten in a lot of weird ways in the past, but this is by far the most restrictive. Still, it’s worth it to have an extra hour and a half every afternoon when in the past I would have been napping.

The KonMari Method, Part 18: Toddler Clothes and Toys

Click here to start at the beginning of my KonMari story, and for links to all the other posts.

Remember Scarlet? She’s two-and-a-half (three in November).

And her stuff has been taking up a lot of the space in our house.

House with toys strewn everywhere

Clockwise: toys strewn all over the playroom, not stored on the shelf where they go, in boxes at the top of the closet, in more boxes at the top of the closet, on the bedroom floor, and in a giant red bin at the bottom of the closet.

I’ve been avoiding going through her clothes and toys because I didn’t know if I should be saving for another kid right away or not. This last week I decided enough is enough.

Not only had our house looked like the above (and I spared you the pictures of her toys in my office, our bedroom, the living room, the kitchen…), but she was waking up every night crying that “shadows” were coming from her closet. Considering how creepy the energy of her closet felt, I couldn’t blame her.

Stored Baby Clothes

I decided to start with all the teeny clothes stored in the attic (no “before” picture for that one, but there were seven plastic storage containers.) We’ve finally settled on “no kids for the next few years.” As I held each article of tiny clothing in my hands, I’d imagine opening the box in four years and putting this onesie or hat or whatever on a brand new baby. (So, not just keeping something because I loved using with with Scarlet – has to be new-baby ready!) In the end I kept about half of it.

Maybe that’s silly because if/when we do have another kid there’s only a 50% chance it’ll be another girl, and of it all there are probably only three things that aren’t pink or ruffled. But hey, it sparked joy!

In addition to the giant garbage bag of things to donate, I put together two grocery bags of stuff for a friend who is either about to have or just had a little boy (the remainder of our unisex stuff went to her), and one grocery bag of things to sell. We only got $7 in store credit for it, but it let us get an $8 new-to-us diaper bag, so I’m happy.

As part of this process, I got all the too-small, too-big, and just-misplaced stuff out of the top of Scarlet’s closet, and then kind of organically began going through her current clothes.

Current Toddler Clothes

We got rid of a few things she doesn’t like, but kept most of it. She loves her clothes. I don’t, particularly, but they’re not my clothes. And while it would be nice to have fewer: a.) now that she’s in preschool she needs more clothes than she did before and b.) now that I’m in school laundry happens less often.

So we focused on organizing. The major change was taking all her everyday dresses out of her shirts basket, where they’ve been ending up because if we hang them in the closet they’re too high for her to reach on her own. And my girl is all about the dresses.

We ordered a closet extender bar to bring her dresses down to her level, where she can access them herself.

In the meantime, we have all her current dresses in one part of her closet, and then things that are too fancy for everyday wear (not many – but she’s not going to get jam on the jacket my Grandmother knitted me by hand when I was her age) and things that are still too big (like size 8 jeans I got for $1) in the other side.

Shelves with pants, shirts, pajamas, and underwear; closet fancy things and too-big; closet current dresses and jacket; five roomy containers in the attic

Shelves with pants, shirts, pajamas, and underwear; closet fancy things and too-big; closet current dresses and jacket; five roomy containers in the attic

Her main clothes shelf is still about the same, her closet a big more organized (and with more things hanging up), and we are storing about half as much in the attic. Only two of those boxes are clothes. The other two are diapers and baby accessories.

In Which We Experience a Time Crunch

By the time we finished clothes it was 1 and we hadn’t even started lunch yet. We have to leave to get Scarlet at preschool at 3. It can take until 4 to get back, depending on traffic, meaning one of us could conceivably get in 3 more hours, but really the time wasn’t looking good for us. This was Thursday. Since Scarlet doesn’t have preschool on Friday and it was also Labor Day weekend, we were staring down a race to get the toys done ASAP or wait another four freaking days of messy messy madness.

David rushed to the kitchen to throw together some stir fry. I started hustling all the clothes to their final locations. Then we scarfed down food while frantically emptying toys from wherever we could find them.

KonMari Toddler During1

It was looking a little dire.

But then there was a miracle. We finished it all with exactly enough time for me to change and head to the car and David to take a well-deserved break. (We even got the vast majority of the donations in the car so she wouldn’t come home and get into them.)

As usual when KonMari-ing (I think I mention this every time) it felt like we didn’t really get rid of much – and also like we got rid of a lot. She still has most of her toys. And yet we ended up with several empty drawers, an empty giant red bin, an empty closet…. Clearly some stuff left the premises.

KonMari Toddler To Release1

Clothes for a friend’s baby and to sell, a dollhouse to head back to Grandma’s, a big bag of clothes and a pile of miscellany to donate.

We tried to keep anything she really liked, even if we didn’t feel quite the same. I would have passed on a few more things that David thought we should keep around just to see how she’d like them now they were coming out of storage. But it’s not like we can’t pass them on later.

The Results

KonMari Toddler Toys After1

Clockwise: The playroom, Scarlet’s bed, shelves in the playroom, box of trains, more playroom shelves, and inside the hutch.

Here’s her playroom now. It’s so much easier to keep clean now that almost everything is in a category. Brio trains or blocks or marble maze or 1970s Fisher Price toys or horse figurines. There is almost nothing that fits in a “miscellaneous” category and nothing that should probably properly be in a “garbage” category. Because we threw the garbage out.

Some of her toys were already in clear plastic bins, but most were stored in less-ideal containers. We used the leftover bins from the baby clothes we gave away to put away her trains, blocks, and marble maze. It’s made it a lot easier for her to access them herself, and also easier for (theoretically) her and (always) us to put them away.

We did leave one drawer of art supplies to organize during our next child-free day. But I can deal with one drawer. We cleaned the whole house!

What Scarlet Thought

I warned Scarlet in the car on the way home that her playroom and her room were going to look pretty different. She came in and it was like watching a kid at Disney Land. “My playroom! My blocks! My trains!” She was delighted.

KonMari Happy Toddler1

Playing with zoo animals, drumming, and combining farm animals and cars.

And when I showed her the closet we’d cleared out in her bedroom she looked up and said “It’s beautiful.”

So we’re all pretty thrilled. Working on the concept of “you can only play with the contents of two boxes at a time,” but thrilled.

I did consider recruiting her active participation in this. Marie Kondo thinks children as young as three can help feel into what sparks joy for them. I made a judgment call that between her distractibility and my (lack of) patience and (lack of) energy, almost-three was still too young to KonMari one’s own stuff. But I tried to be clear that I was tapping into what sparks joy for her (in my observation and in consultation with David), not me. So far she seems to agree with my decisions.

Here’s the link to all my KonMari posts again. 


Growing up, I was almost a prodigy.

Not quite; not really. I mean, certainly not at the piano or the violin, though I was okay at the latter eventually. And not at ski-racing. I could sing like no one’s business but somehow I never really took lessons so eventually everyone else was better. Writing was my main thing, but in school I was only allowed to test out in math, which I didn’t enjoy as much. Can’t say I wrote much of note outside of school, though I did write a lot.

Still, I excelled in getting people to say “my God, she’s so advanced for her age,” “so mature,” “so poised.” And I liked that.

(I still played in my room with my dolls every night until I was well into the age 14, but it’s not like I told people about it, so it was okay.)

I thought fast was better. Learn faster, learn better. Hurry hurry hurry. Be one of the quick ones.  I would race to the finish line.

Though, yeah, I adjusted the finish line. First it was finish college and then ENOUGH because it had been TOO MUCH SCHOOL ALREADY and I wasn’t going to do the grad thing. Then it was why bother with college when you can go straight to midwifery school? Do that. Then it was why are you doing all these other things when you want a baby? Move to Portland, meet someone, have a kid, and the rest will fall into place.

I chose that latter option, by the way. Moved to Portland. Met David. Got engaged. Got pregnant. Got married. Had a kid. Bought a house. That in the first year and a half we’d known each other.

It was good, but it was hard. It still is hard, some of the ramifications from that. Going back to where I was, I’d make that choice again in a heartbeat, but from here on out I’m happy to explore some different choices.

I’m better at school now than I was at 19. Who knew? When I was 19, the non-traditional students generally struggled. A lot. I figured I wasn’t going to get any better and with a kid I’d probably be worse. I am taking fewer credits than I used to, but I’m also working less for each credit I do take. Some of it is that with my emotions flowing better I don’t spin my wheels nearly as much. Some of it, to my surprise, is that I’ve become a better at school, despite (or because) of the time I’ve taken off.

When I went back to school, I thought I’d get a Bachelors in “easiest way to graduate while still feeling I’ve learned something,” then apply to grad school for a Master’s in Anthropology, which would let me teach at Community Colleges. But the more I looked into grad programs the less I seemed like a good fit right now.

Then in a weird two day download it occurred to me that the original plan, the “be a midwife” plan was still the one to go with. And then…suddenly there was no way on God’s green earth I could get my prerequisites taken in time. I’ve got a whole year left at Portland State. That’s 40ish credits I’ll be taking. And I can’t fit the remaining midwifery prerequisites in. I’ll need to wait a year after I graduate to give myself the time to take 8 more credits at a community college.

I was very tempted to squish. Very tempted to take 20 credits at the same time I’m teaching 10 hours a week and work as a volunteer doula for 24 hour shifts on the weekends and fit the GRE in there somewhere so I can start the intensive program next June without any break and… go fast. Fast at all costs; something I’m good at.

I mean, I’m already going to be 32 when I graduate and then it’s not like I want to have my next two kids before I’ve even got a job or established a practice so…what? Scarlet’s an only child until she’s ten?  Are you trying to make me cry? The original plan was that I’d be a midwife by age 25.

But I’m glad I waited, and I’m glad this summer was so awful that it very firmly showed me I can’t try to push credits in where my schedule won’t allow. Not that next year will be a cakewalk. Still teaching 10 hours a week. Still taking 14 credits, at least this fall, and probably more than 12 in winter and spring as well, though I hope not. Totally revamping my husband’s business now that he’s ready to be his energy healer self instead of trying to fit into a massage therapist mold. Still a mom. Still a wife. Still a gardener. Still an HSP. Still need to sleep. Also have a chronic illness I’ll blog about some other time.

All of this – going back to school at all, the anthropology goal, then the midwifery goal – all of it is coming from guidance. And guidance says I need that extra year to get good and solid before I take on midwifery school. It says I need it to become a better midwife, ultimately. A better person. That if I push too fast, I’ll miss some of the important stuff.

I hate it, I really do. I want to be done. Not just starting. Done.  Grown up, already. With a job. That pays.

I want to prove how good I am, or maybe mitigate some of the “bad” by graduating in as little time as possible, since my god has it been a long time so far.

But fast isn’t the way. Not right now. Right now I need to ripen. And even if all I learn in that year is a bit of patience, that’ll be enough. Assuming I ever do make it to this “be a midwife” part of my future, patience will probably be the best tool in my arsenal. Time to practice slowness. And practice and practice some more.

A Year Without Social Media

I hadn’t even realized it’d been a year without Facebook until I was organizing documents on my computer. (I wish I could say I was KonMari-ing them, but I wasn’t in that place of clarity about joy-sparks, and I was definitely keeping some things that don’t bring me joy but which I wasn’t ready to release yet. Still, I did delete a lot, and I organized most of the rest!)

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where to put my master Excel spreadsheet with all the addresses for friends I send holiday cards to. I opened it and scrolled through the list of loved ones. There are maybe 10 people whose addresses I still don’t have, and of those, about 5 who I don’t even have email addresses for, since we’ve always just communicated on Facebook.

I fled Facebook so suddenly and with so much negative emotion that I didn’t really say goodbye or tie up loose ends. I thought that after a year, I should reactivate it. So I have, for the next weekish, to get those last email addresses and then be done in a way that feels more final. Also, this time I’ll tell people I’m going to be done. Last time I gave no warning.

So I’m back, for at least a week, and thinking about this year without Facebook, and this upcoming lifetime in which social media is not a plan.

It still feels so toxic to me. Not the right way for me to connect and communicate.

Even my little NextDoor app that I was just using to connect with my neighbors – I was reading about every single gunshot or stabbed cat in all of Northeast Portland, and I started getting hyper-vigilant every time I walked outside, scared of gang violence or pet violence or random violence or who knows what. Not to mention the many hours I spent reading people being terribly nasty to one another. So I deleted it too.

Logging back into Facebook, I was happy to see the pictures of my friends kids. To see a few of the life updates. But it still just felt like too powerful of a river. No whitewater rafting for me right now. I’m just so much happier without it.

KonMari Next Steps

(If you’re wondering “KonMari who?” click here for the whole saga.)

Despite officially “failing” the KonMari timeline (and I always say fail with a smile, because it’s kind of a silly idea, failure) I’m am very much still enjoying how much cleaner and clearer our space is. And very much looking forward to clearing out more.

This summer damn near killed me. In order to keep my scholarships, I needed to take 12 credits, and in order to be able to go on a very important family vacation, I needed to take all of those 12 credits in 2/3s the time you normally would – just 8 weeks. So I had two 4 credit 4 week classes (INSANE), and one 4 credit 8 week class.

Even medical anthropology, which may be my dearest academic love in this world, will wear on a person when one is reading 2+ hours each day, writing an essay every day and then writing longer project papers several times a week. And my other classes were statistics (interesting, but kind of a lot when you’re doing 3 hours a day of it), and psychology of human development (interesting topic in theory, but one of those rare classes I actively hate.) Still, I learned. And they’re done!

Then there was the traveling, worth it, but hard. The serious illnesses, mine and in my family. The scramble to keep things going at all, to be a good present mom in the minutes I had, to keep up with my inner processes which are not okay with being pushed to the side for paperwork, even if the paperwork is necessary for grades. Not to mention (but I will) the 90+ degree heat, the drought, the smoke. And I see I’ve forgotten to mention being a good wife, which is a pretty apt metaphor for the way my husband’s been treated of late.

It was good for me (in part because it very much cemented some things I won’t do, like take evening classes), but I am so so very happy to be done. This weekend I’m going to a healing workshop, and then from September 1st through September 16th I’M NOT IN SCHOOL AT ALL HALLELUJAH! I considered squeezing in a doula class, but nope. Just glorious not-doing.

Anyways, what I’m saying is that this summer was kind of the opposite of KonMari. It was doing a lot of things that didn’t spark joy, and a few things that did spark joy, and no ease or extra or spaciousness. Not to mention the house got really messy. (And yet – people still commented on how spacious it was when they visited. Getting all the extra furniture out of the living room matters, even when the living room is covered with kids toys.)

If not-doing swallows my entire two weeks off, then great. It’ll be a very KonMari thing to do, at a time-management level. However, if I find the desire to go through the rest of the paperwork, Scarlet’s things, the shed, the outdoors, the rest of the attic… you’d better believe I will. Sometimes releasing is more restful than resting. At least for me. So I’m happy to have a few weeks to follow the threads where they lead, and take a nice breath out after the frantic rush of the last few months.

Spoiler alert: I did find time and energy for decluttering, starting with the toddler toys and clothes, and the stored baby clothes.