Wedding Bells

Dave and I have been what I call “casually engaged” for about 2 years. We had been dating for around 6 months when I proposed to him, while driving down the highway. Gee, we’re such romantics!

We’ve had plans to get married either this summer or next, in a park with catered food or a food cart, all of our friends and family there to gossip and laugh with. Insanely casual, just a party, really. An excuse to make our friends come visit us. But then my sister was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.

Fulbright Scholarships are awarded by the US State department, and you are given a grant to do research abroad. It’s a pretty big deal. Sarah will be looking at rural community development in Hungary for a year or so. She’ll get to take her husband and their two kids, and they’ll get to live abroad and traipse around Europe for a year. But there’s no way I can get married without my sister there.

So everything got switched around. We’re still going to get married this year, only it’ll be much smaller and sooner. We still really want to have a party, but we’ll do that next year, and call it a wedding celebration. This spring, on June 10, to be exact, we’re going to have a small wedding with just family and one friend, then go out to a nice dinner afterward. It sounds really great to me, not overwhelming or too stressful. My system gets over-stressed very easily, and then the fatigue and pain starts to hit. So keeping the stress level low is very important.

Mom’s been helping a lot, narrowing down restaurants that have private rooms to have a small party in. Dave and I went out and bought an amazing antique sapphire and diamond ring this last weekend. I just bought two summer dresses online, in the hopes that one will fit. No white frilly dresses here. They’re both dresses I can wear again, things that are festive without being glamorous. Sounds perfect. My cousin is going to be the one to marry us, which should be hilarious and awesome. I picture us all in a park, standing around for a 10 minute ceremony, then having champagne and appetizers before we head across town to a fabulous dinner somewhere. We’ll have some sort of cake, or maybe cake plus a custard based dessert for Dave, who loves custard almost as much as he loves me! It’ll be a big enough party to feel special, but still small enough that we’ll get to really have fun with everyone.

I’m really excited. I also love that in addition to being our wedding, it’s a sort of goodbye party for Sarah and her family. I don’t mind at all sharing the spotlight, and I love that she’ll get to see everyone before she goes.

So don’t mind me, I’m just over here making lists of what needs to be done. Things like:

  • Figure out what exactly we want the ceremony to be like.
  • Where should we hold the dinner? Picking out the entrees and food options
  • I’ve got the old (ring), new (dress), and blue (both dresses have blue), but I need a borrowed!
  • Should we get whatever restaurant to make a cake? Should we bring one in? Is it possible to combine cake with custard? Maybe we should do cake and banana cream pie.
  • We need to figure out what park and when, for the ceremony. Plus it’s early June, the weather can’t be relied upon. What if it’s pouring?
  • I have to get started on a wedding shawl! It’s a wonderful knitterly tradition to make a wedding shawl. I’m starting to look at patterns, but I’ll need to see the dresses and figure out what color shawl I want, and then furiously start knitting. I only have 6 weeks!

 

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Eureka!

Last time I remembered I had a blog, I was frustrated and miserable with the elimination diet, especially the “paleo” part. I realized quickly after that how much I hated the flavor of coconut in everything. Coconut oil and coconut flour are very common substitutions in cooking. However, I can taste that coconut flavor even when just a small amount is used. Coconut flavored steaks, coconut flour in muffins or whatever else. I quit the coconut, and basically quit the paleo aspect of the diet, and was significantly happier.

I kept eating gluten free and dairy free for a full 8 weeks. I’m incredibly proud of that accomplishment. I did discover that something I was eating caused stomach pain, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and brain fog. At the end of the eight weeks, I began to reintroduce foods.

Gluten came first. I’ve tried going gluten free in the past, and was nearly certain gluten wasn’t the issue. And it wasn’t. I’ve been eating bread now for weeks, with no issues. Hooray! That means a world of break, baked goods and general treats has returned!

Dairy is more interesting. I decided to break dairy into two groups: fermented, and non-fermented. Fermented dairy refers to things that have either been aged, or have active cultures added. The fermentation process, I think, breaks down the protein chains, and otherwise changes the structure of the dairy. Whatever it does, it means I can eat it with no problem. Hooray for cheese! And even more for sour cream! I was incredibly grateful for the ability to eat cheese.

In the past few weeks, I have eaten a bit of ice cream here or there. My stomach gets unhappy, but otherwise I’ve been fine. So yesterday, I had my first cup of coffee with lactose-free (thinking maybe lactose was the problem) half and half. Oh dear god.

Within about a half hour, my stomach hurt. Then it started making noises. I ran to the bathroom. And then the joint pain began. Every large joint in my body ached. I got a headache. My hands were shaking. I didn’t feel steady on my feet. I felt nauseous. My heart was pounding in my chest. It was horrifying. I felt like I’d eaten poison and my body was trying to get it out of my system. My nose was running like crazy. Every system was screaming. All from less than a tablespoon of half and half. I was furious with my body. Furious with myself that I’d been poisoning myself like this for such a long time.

So, lesson learned. But I’m not giving up. I started doing some research. So there are two primary proteins in dairy: whey and casein. Casein is hard to get rid of, so it’s fully present in cheese. So, since I can easily eat cheese, I don’t think casein is my problem. So time to focus on whey. Whey is pretty much taken out of cheese. When dairy starts to separate into curds and whey, the whey is discarded and the curds are used for cheesemaking. Yogurt and sour cream may still have whey, however, the addition of fermentation breaks the protein chains into shorter bits, for easier digestion.

I think I’ve solved it. I have a whey allergy. Eureka moment!

But I’m not done. I am still on a quest to put some sort of dairy in my coffee, dammit! I’m making divine soy lattes each morning, but I really want the pleasure of a plain, simple cup of coffee. So how can I get dairy without whey?

In my fridge right now are three odd things: kefir, buttermilk, and goat’s milk. Goat’s milk seems the most likely, as the proteins are just slightly different enough that it’s often more easily digested. Kefir and buttermilk are fermented (or cultured) dairy products. I took a sip of each, kefir tastes like liquid yogurt, and buttermilk tastes like liquid sour cream. I doubt either would be that great in coffee, but I’m going to try it anyway, probably with some sugar.

Last night in bed, Dave and I were talking about dairy, and realized that, when I ate ice cream, I didn’t feel fabulous, but I didn’t have this insane poisoning reaction. So what’s different about ice cream? Ice cream has both milk and cream, like half and half does. Ice cream, however (at least the good stuff), cooks the milk first. You make a custard from the milk and eggs, then turn that custard into ice cream. What if the cooking is changing the whey into something more digestible?

Whey is denatured (the proteins break apart) at around 172 degrees. What if the milk is heated to above that temperature, and maybe held at that temp, before freezing, to make ice cream? It would break down the whey. There’s some logic to that. I’m going to try heating and then cooling some milk to see if that helps.

But the weird part–all dairy is already heated and cooled during the pasteurization process. Ultra high temp pasteurization, which is the standard now, heats milk to well above the boiling point (212 degrees) for a short period. Wouldn’t that denature the whey? Maybe it needs to be held at that temp to denature? I have no idea. That was when Dave and I gave up trying to sort it out. My head was full of random facts about lactose, casein and whey.

I have some future experiments to try. However, I’m going to give my system about 4 days to get the half and half poison fully out of my system. I’ll be drinking lots of water and going easy on myself. Even today, a day after, my stomach is still upset, and my head feels foggy.

In the next few weeks, these are my experiments:

  • Does buttermilk upset my system? Is there a way to make it taste ok in coffee?
  • Does kefir upset my stomach? What about that in coffee?
  • Heat milk or cream to above 172 degrees, hold it at that temp for a few minutes, and then cool it. Does THAT upset my stomach? Does the texture of the dairy remain the same? What happens to whey that is denatured? If the texture and the taste remain mostly the same, does that taste ok in coffee?

My destination of course, is something to put in my coffee. I know, I’m obsessing a bit over this. But I’ve found work arounds for everything else that needs one. Cultured butter, which is what most of Europe uses, is readily available and tastes great. Lactose free sour cream is divine. I can eat everything else perfectly fine. It’s just liquid dairy. I’d like to find a way to consume liquid dairy so simple things like a bowl of Cheerios or a cup of coffee become normal.

Oops, I Disappeared

I haven’t written in awhile, because I’ve been going through a phase of not-so-great. I feel like crap, to be honest. Pain and fatigue are through the roof, and brain fog has been creeping in as well. I’ve stopped sleeping through the night, which is a very new development for me, I’ve always slept through the night, and been a somewhat heavy sleeper.

I’ve been having a lot of “painsomnia,” as my wonderful chronic illness internet forum calls it. I wake up in the middle of the night with searing hip pain that radiates down my leg. I prefer to sleep on my side, but the pain is too great, so I use a wedge pillow under my knees and sleep on my back. Either I wake up with horrifying back pain or awful hip pain. And when I wake up, I am awake. Fully awake brain. So I go pee, turn on a podcast, and try to find a comfortable position. Eventually I fall back asleep, but I’m often awake for more than 2 hours. One night I woke up at 3, and was awake until past 6. I’m so tired.

Out of curiosity, I decided to start checking the time when I wake up. I find it exceedingly interesting that for the most part, I wake up between 5:15-5:30 am. I take my pills at somewhat different times every night, depending on when I go to bed, so I don’t think it’s things leaving my system and waking me up. The house and world are very quiet at that time, so I don’t think it’s outside influences. I just wake the hell up.

Being so tired has affected everything. I’m injuring myself way too much. Burns, cuts and bruises are the norm at the moment. I sliced up a finger knuckle with a serrated knife the other night. Tonight I managed to burn my hand through my thickest potholder (I think it was wet). The other day I whacked the side of my ankle so hard it gave me an adrenaline rush, which then resulted in a panic attack. Ugh.

I’m also lethargic enough that I can’t get much of anything done around the house. Before this fatigue flare–crap, I just realized that’s what this is, I’m in a flare again dammit–I wouldn’t watch much tv during the day. I’d get up, play on my ipad, get a few things done, read or play on my ipad again, etc. The last week or so, I’m fatigued enough that holding up my ipad first thing in the morning is tiring. I’m watching my way through the entirety of Futurama on Netflix (no great hardship, it’s only the best show ever). I have been trying to leave the house once a day, but that’s getting challenging. I have three errands I need to do tomorrow, and I’m already overwhelmed thinking about it.

The brain fog has returned as well. I currently can’t remember one of the three errands I just mentioned in the last paragraph. That was about 30 seconds ago. What the hell, brain. I hate the fog. It affects my speech, I stare into space, I confuse words not just when I’m speaking but when I’m writing. I have stuttered over my words and erased and rewritten things more than you can imagine. (ooh! ooh! library books! That was the third errand.)

The diet is still going well, I’m over 5 weeks in! I’m really proud of that, and for the most part, it’s become normal. But I really don’t know if it’s helping in enough ways to be worth the hassle. I’m still going to complete the two months, and slowly reincorporate the banned foods to see what the problems actually are. But before the elimination diet, I had such great expectations for it–energy! Pain-free days! I feel like I’m more tired and in more pain than when I started the diet. Maybe gluten lubricates my joints?!

I see my doctor in 2 weeks, where we’ll discuss how and when to reincorporate foods. I’m expecting that I’ll bring one food back at a time, and bring the dairy back incrementally, so I can see if I can tolerate ghee, then hard cheeses, then butter, then yogurt, etc. Something in the dairy family, I think, is the culprit. I refuse to think it’s gluten. Yes, there are decent subs out there, but dammit, I want bread! For the last week, all I’ve wanted was a slice of toasted sourdough bread with butter. Lots of butter. Well, except for last night when I would have given my left arm for a slice of pizza. Damn. 3 more weeks.

A few good things: I bought a sewing machine last week. I’m really excited to re-learn how to sew. I took a sewing class in high school and loved it, but I really haven’t touched a machine since then. I bought a used-new machine. A woman bought herself a new sewing machine, but never got around to learning to use it. So it’s a much better quality machine than if I bought one new. It’s a quilting machine with a zillion stitches and features. I was playing with it today for the first time, and it’s really fun. I would love to learn to quilt, as well as to sew household things. Ultimately, it’d be really nice to be able to sew myself a shirt that actually fits well.

I’ve also been knitting like crazy. I just finished my latest sweater, which just needs buttons and ribbon behind the button bands. It’s very nice and simple, sort of an old fashioned classic cut. I’m very pleased. I’m currently working on socks and a shawl, and will probably start thinking about my next sweater soon.

I found a local bakery that is gluten free and vegan, and gorged myself on scones and cookies over the weekend. The scone was pure heaven. I love pastries. I also bought myself a mini cake, and honestly, it was too sweet. I haven’t been eating many super sweet things, no ice cream (except occasional Ben & Jerry’s sorta-ok vegan ice “cream”), no pastries, cupcakes, cakes, etc. Not that I ate those things all the time, but now I’m eating almost none of it. I think maybe the diet has helped to curb my sweet tooth, and that’s a good thing.

Also, spring is here! Everything is better when there’s more light. Even when I’m awake at 5:30 in the morning, I can hear the birds starting to chirp. Trees and flowers are blooming, and we’re having lots of days with sunshine in the afternoon, and highs in the upper 50s. It feels amazing.

 

Floating

Every winter, I get to a point where I crave the water. I want to swim in warm water, feel the weightlessness, be warmed throughout. Some winters, I’ve lucked into vacations to warm places like Arizona or Belize. Other years, I just head to a swimming pool. Today, however, I tried something very different.

I went to a float tank, or sensory deprivation tank. It is an enclosed, shallow bathtub full of very salty water. The water is full of epsom salt, a magnesium compound that has wonderful pain relieving properties. I love epsom salt baths, so I was looking forward to that. More than that, though, I wanted to float. Swimming and floating takes all the pressure off my joints and muscles. There’s no gravity, you get to virtually float in space. These float tanks take it a step further. The water is warmed to skin temperature, you’re in a pod that looks like a space ship with a closed lid, so the air warms up as well. The air and water become the same temp, so you truly can’t tell where the air stops and the water starts. The tank I was in had an option for total darkness, a greenish light, or darkness with tiny stars lit up on the lid of the tank. Darkness with the stars was perfection. You lose track of your body completely. Nothing hurts, nothing gets stiff or achy. You stop feeling body parts. You are just a brain, floating. I spent 90 minutes in the tank, and it felt like it couldn’t be more than 30 minutes.

Some of it is legitimately odd. You’re taken into a room the size of a bedroom. A giant pod is in the middle of the room. It looks like something Superman was shot to Earth in.

floatation-tank

There’s a shower in the room, and you take a quick shower to wash off as much body oil as possible, then pop in some ear plugs, and use vaseline to cover any open sores (cat scratches for me). You really REALLY need to cover any open sores. I didn’t do a good enough job and had to hop out to reapply. It stings like crazy. When you’re ready, you step into the tank, and sit down. They also gave me a blow-up neck pillow to use if I wanted. I popped that around my neck, and leaned back. The water was so salty, I barely leaned back and I was awkwardly floating. It takes a second to relax into the water. It reminded me of swimming in the Dead Sea. You float at a much higher level, more of you is out of the water, than in a normal pool. I ended up removing the neck pillow, and since you float higher, my face stayed fully out of the water.

I let my thoughts wander, focusing on relaxing and breathing. Other than having a song stuck in my head (Joni Mitchell), I felt incredibly relaxed. I was able to push aside all the daily thoughts of things to do, errands, worries, and just focus on being. It was basically the best meditation session I’ve ever tried.

When your time is up, underwater speakers start playing music to get you up. When you get out, you are encrusted with salt. There were sheets of salt across my belly, between my fingers, in every crease and crevice I had. It took about 10 minutes to shower the salt off my body and out of my hair, and I still feel a bit salty. However, the best part was that upon getting out of the pod, I felt painless. Nothing hurt. No aches and pains, I felt like I could do yoga, run a marathon, do anything. What a wonderful feeling.

Several hours later now, and I feel a bit closer to normal, though my body still feels very happy and relaxed. It was a wonderful experience.

If you’re thinking of trying a float tank, look on sites like Groupon. From what I’ve heard, there’s almost always a Groupon happening for float tanks in my area at least. Normally it would have been $75 for 90 minutes, I got it for $42. I really want to do this again. It was invigorating and stress relieving. My skin feels soft and supple, I keep grinning for no reason. It was fabulous.

Driving for Dollars

Since I left my job, it seemed like an easy option to start driving for Uber and Lyft. It’s a great way to make money on the side, or like some people, turn into a full time job. I quickly learned my tolerances, and things I just wouldn’t do. I can happily drive for about 3 or 4 hours, until I’m bored, my butt hurts, and I’m sick of the same conversation over and over with passengers. I’m not enough of a night owl to drive the bar scene, even though there’s typically big money to be earned around 2 AM. Plus, I don’t want drunk people puking in my beloved car. So that limits my hours a bit. I tend to drive from about 3 or 4 in the afternoon until 6 or 7, depending on traffic and weather.

I started driving right around Christmas, and it was busy! People visiting town, people heading to the airport, Christmas shopping, all on top of the typical rush hour locals. It was a great month to learn about driving.

December and January also gave us winter storm after winter storm. Massive ice storms, and a snow storm that dumped more than 10 inches of snow on a city that has a panic attack over a single snowflake. I didn’t drive in the ice, I’m not stupid, but that snow storm was epic.

The snow started falling around 3 in the afternoon, and we had no idea it was going to be such an avalanche. Around 9 at night, we looked outside and realized how crazy it was out there. Cars were buried, and there wasn’t any traffic on the busy road at the corner. I flipped on the Uber and Lyft apps, and the surge rates were insane! (Surge rates are when there are more passengers than drivers, so rates go up to entice more drivers. Typical rush hour surge rates may be 1.5-2x the normal rate.) I saw surge rates well over 5x! so I would get 5 dollars for every dollar of normal fare. Around 10 pm, Dave and Sadie walked me down to my car, which I’d parked off our steep hill, and helped me clear the snow so I could go driving.

I only had, I think, 3 fares that night, but they were whoppers. I picked up my first pax (passenger) on 82nd street, and drove him downtown (about 90 blocks). That ride earned me $60! Typically that would have cost about $15. The roads were completely unplowed, and for the most part, there weren’t even tracks from previous drivers. My car, a Lexus SUV, has a “snow mode” as well as really fantastic traction control. I had no problem whatsoever driving in snow. My final ride of that night was a guy who had worked late (until 11pm in a snowstorm!?), and lived about 10 south of downtown. He lived up on a hill, and once we got into his neighborhood, my car actually did start to struggle. His neighborhood looked like it’d gotten about 15 inches of the white stuff, and he had me stop at the bottom of his cul-de-sac, worrying that I wouldn’t be able to turn around and leave. He had to push aside snow to get the car door open, and trudged in deep snow up the hill to his house.

The whole next week, while the snow stuck around, I drove like mad, bringing in great fares and substantial tips. It was a blast. People were always thrilled to see a larger car come pick them up, instead of a tiny sub-compact that wouldn’t be able to deal with the roads. I had a ton of fun, met fun people, and drove all over town.

A few fun pax I’ve had since I started driving:

I picked up a woman at a titty bar in a weird neighborhood. She was, in fact, a dancer getting off her shift at 2 in the afternoon. A bouncer walked her out to my car, saying, “Alright Peaches, have a good night.” I drove a stripper named Peaches home to Vancouver.

Speaking of stripping, right around Christmas, I drove a family around downtown. They were two adult sons, an adult daughter, and an elderly father. They had all been at one of the infamous strip joints downtown. I cannot fathom first going to a bar like that, say nothing of going with siblings and my parents!

The week after the big snow fell, I was way out in one of the outer suburbs (Gresham), and picked up a man who needed to go all the way into downtown, quite a long drive. He was a physical therapist at acute rehab facilities, and work had given him a large allowance to use on rideshares to ensure he would make it to work. Since he didn’t car, and it wasn’t his money in the first place, he gave me a whopper of a tip!

On New Year’s eve, I picked up two women heading to a party. They were already tipsy and were stoned as well. They were hilarious and we had highly entertaining conversations the whole way. One of the women had chronic pain symptoms similar to mine, so we talked meds and pain stuff for part of the ride. At the end of the ride, one of them said to me, “I don’t have any cash to tip you, but do you want a hit of my bowl?” Thanks but….no thanks!

Generally though, the pax sit quietly and don’t talk to me. When they do, we seem to have the same conversation every time. What do I think of driving for uber? Your car is nice, they’re not charging me extra, right? What did you do before you did this? I had a couple last week that sang along to all of the songs that were playing, the whole way. I tried to quietly join in, but I’m notoriously terrible with song lyrics.

People often ask about the difference between Uber and Lyft, and which I prefer. The answer is always Lyft. The Lyft app has an opportunity to add a tip, while Uber doesn’t. I don’t get tips often, but I like that there’s an opportunity for it. Lyft passengers actually seem to be more interesting, more conversational, more fun in general. And I’ve heard that the driver support for Lyft is a million times better than for Uber. Plus there’s all the news lately about how sexist Uber corporate is, their sexual harassment issues, and the ball of crazy that is the CEO. If I could, I’d only drive for Lyft, but I can’t get enough fares to do that. I’m hoping that eventually it’ll be possible.

 

The Diet Experiment Continues

I’ve now been quasi-paleo for two and a half weeks. Seems like longer, actually. I say quasi-paleo because technically, I’m gluten and dairy free, and lower sugar and carbs. I’m ok with soy, and other legumes, I’m using some non-paleo gluten free flours, I’m eating fruit when I want it. However, it’s been a huge change to my eating life, and it’s starting to show. I have much more energy than before, I’ve decreased one of my crucial medications for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), my brain fog seems to have lifted. It’s pretty awesome.

Much more importantly, I’ve solved coffee! My morning cup of coffee with a hefty dollop of half and half was a surprisingly important part of my day. No longer having half and half to put in the coffee seemed like the end of the world. Until I discovered two techniques that work perfectly:

  • I now make coffee in my french press. French press coffee is much less acidic. With less acid, there’s less of a need for the natural sweetness of half and half. A bit of hemp milk in the coffee does the job perfectly. No honey or anything else is needed.
  • I’ve discovered the joys of soy lattes. I had no idea how easily soy milk frothed up! I’ve got a stovetop espresso pot and a great little frothing pot where you hand pump a fine mesh screen through the milk. Works like a charm, and the latte tastes divine. I never liked lattes before, they upset my stomach. No wonder!

I’ve also gained a new found interest in trying new recipes. I’ve been making crepes like crazy. And I’d never made a crepe before in my life. They’re so easy! I like finger food during the day, and with a stack of crepes in the fridge, I can roll up bacon and avocado for a sandwich, or make a breakfast burrito, or a peanut butter banana sandwich. Crepes are so versatile.

I explored making Ethiopian injera, which is a sourdough teff flour crepe. They were a bit too sour to use with everyday things, but they were another fun food experiment. I bought a jar of tahini (sesame paste), and mixed up a great tahini salad dressing to have with a raw kale salad full of pine nuts and a bit of nutritional yeast (replacing the umami flavor that I’d usually use parmesan cheese for).

I was expecting food to be boring and frustrating. Instead, I’m taking this new diet and running with it, exploring new ideas and recipes and actually having fun in the kitchen. I’m still looking forward to the diet being over, but hopefully I’ll keep experimenting, this is way too much fun.

 

Going Paleo

I had an appointment with my fibromyalgia specialist last week. She really wants me to restrict my diet, to see if certain foods make my fibromyalgia symptoms worse. The easiest way to do this is to go on the “Paleo” diet, which is super trendy these days. Paleo means gluten free, mostly dairy free, low carb and low sugar. Typically, the goal is to cut out grains altogether, since they weren’t eaten in the paleolithic era. My diet is a bit different: Gluten free, dairy free (even ghee and goat’s milk), processed sugar free, lower my carbs, and try to lower my natural sugar intake. The thinking is that I have a sensitivity to some food or another, and that it causes joint pain and brain fog. Which both cause exhaustion and poor sleep. At the same time as the paleo diet, I’m also on a candida diet. Candida is a yeast in our bodies that can sometimes go nuts and multiply much more than it should, and can cause pain and brain fog. The candida diet is similar to paleo, with more of an emphasis on sugar free, both artificial and natural. Candida feeds off sugar (and sugar from carbs), so starving it helps kill it.

This diet is supposed to be for 6-8 weeks, if I’m hardcore at it. If I cheat on the gluten and dairy, it’ll add time to the end. She wants to get the effects of the dairy and gluten out of my system for a minimum of 6 weeks before I can start experimenting with adding it back in. I will do my best.

I can’t give up sugar. Or carbs. I’m finding that the hardest thing. I’ve cut processed sugar, that’s really not that hard, I don’t eat much processed food to begin with. But carbs? Like potatoes and rice? And sweet things in general, like raisins or carrots? Good lord, that’s hard. I am doing my best, but it just won’t be 100%. I just don’t know what to eat! I feel like I ate a ton of food yesterday, much more than I would on a non-diet, but I was still frustratingly hungry most of the day. So it’s a work in progress.

I went to the store today specifically for paleo approved foods. My cheats were for fake dairy products, which I know are full of soy (soy is NOT paleo, but at the same time, it’s not gluten or dairy, so…). I’ve been eating a lot more eggs, and eggs without cheese or sour cream or SOMETHING are just sad. So I bought fake cheese and fake sour cream. I haven’t tried them yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re downright terrible. I also caved and bought a loaf of gluten free bread. I don’t plan on eating as much of it, but it’s there if I need an instant fix–like a bacon and avocado sandwich. I’m also going to make injera, an Ethiopian flatbread made with teff flour. It’s fermented, and makes a soft, spongy flatbread, like a thicker, bouncier crepe. That might be an awesome bread substitute, I could make sandwiches with it.

I am generally the sort of person who just doesn’t do diets. Food is a joy. Cooking is a happy time. Cooking with limits and restrictions is extremely frustrating. Not being able to walk into the kitchen and grab an instant snack is annoying. I’m trying to adjust though. And I’m struggling with how low carb to go. On one hand, I don’t need to cut carbs completely–my doctor mentioned that, but to really kick the candida, the lower the carbs the better. Can you tell, I don’t really know what I’m doing here?

However, I basically have free reign to eat as much bacon as I want. I was hungry yesterday afternoon, so I cooked up a pack of bacon, had a bunch in some salad, then munched on it all afternoon. I certainly liked that! I bought some smoked fish today that I’m excited to snack on, and toss into salads and eggs. I promised Dave I’d make some deviled eggs. He can down deviled eggs like Paul Newman with hard boiled eggs in Cool Hand Luke.

Coffee is one of the worst challenges, but I think I’m even starting to solve that. I love coffee. It’s ritual more than food. I like my coffee freshly ground, made in a very specific fancy coffee maker, poured into a handmade coffee mug, with half and half. Quite a bit of half and half. Which I now can’t have. I have settled, for now at least, on hemp milk. The idea of hemp milk is a bit disturbing, but it doesn’t taste terrible. It’s certainly not coffee that I’m used to drinking, but hemp milk and a bit of honey tastes like a new coffee flavored beverage that I think I can get used to. Friends have suggested all sorts of cream alternatives, every variety of fake milk, and some people swear by adding coconut oil and butter to their coffee. I just can’t. It just seems too weird!

I’m getting there though. My head does feel clearer, like someone swept out all of the cobwebs. I feel like I’ve got a bit more energy as well. I do think I have an issue with dairy. I think that, in addition to being lactose intolerant, there’s something else in cow’s milk that upsets my gut. I don’t know about gluten. I was gluten free for a long time about 8 years ago, and I don’t think I really noticed a huge change. However, I didn’t have fibromyalgia at that point, so it could be gluten. If, in the end, I have to go dairy free, I am still going to experiment with the fattiest of dairy products: butter and heavy cream. If I can keep that in my diet, I’ll be ok. I know that my favorite ice cream doesn’t hurt my stomach. So maybe there’s hope? Going gluten free wouldn’t be super terrible, I’d mostly  be sad about store bought pastries, and eating my sister’s incredible breads and treats.

But I just can’t go low carb forever. No way, no how. Rice is a huge staple of our diet–Dave’s half Japanese after all. And I love potatoes. Mashed, roasted, anything. And pasta!! sheesh. How can anyone give up carbs!??

A Saturday with Fibromyalgia

Dave (my fiance) woke me up around 10. I was grateful to be woken up, as I was in the middle of a bizarre nightmare. Since I’ve been unemployed, I’ve discovered that my body really does need at least 10 hours of sleep. It’s absurd, really. It’s not anything I chose, but on days when I sleep less, I feel like I’m swimming through a thick fog all day. It was a surprising realization that lack of sleep was seriously affecting my quality of life.

We hung out in our pjs for several hours, watching old Simpsons episodes and knitting. Eventually, around 3, I decided to go out driving for Uber/Lyft. I didn’t expect to be especially busy, but I figured I’d get some rides at least.

In about 2 hours, I got 5 rides. That’s not that great. Before Christmas, when there were visitors in town and people going to the airport, I would be incredibly busy. Regardless, it was nice to get out and earn some money.

I drove a young guy who had recently moved here from Mississippi, from a hipster laundromat (I guess that’s a thing) back to his apartment. He had the thickest southern accent I’ve ever heard. Very deep voice, too. I kept him talking to hear it.

I had several couples visiting Portland for the first time. I drove all the way up to Pittock Mansion to pick up a couple who wanted to go to the Portland Saturday Market. I didn’t know that their specific destination was the market, I only knew that they wanted to go down to Waterfront Park. We got down there, and they were suddenly very disappointed. The Saturday Market only runs through Christmas Eve. I parked for a minute, then drove them to a brewery instead.

A typical, uninteresting few hours of driving. On my way out of downtown, I had decided that I’d drive up SE Hawthorne Street, which is a fun shopping/eating neighborhood, before heading home. However, just as I was about to cross the Willamette River at the Broadway Bridge, the drawbridge went up. I sat there for about 20 minutes as a huge freighter was tugged under the bridge.

I gave up on the idea of driving anyone else. I stopped at the market, then came home. I tidied up the kitchen and started dinner. While the meat was marinating (you’ve got to use this marinade on flank steaks or flatirons, it’s the best), I walked back into the living room and basically collapsed. I was done. My shoulders felt heavy. My feet hurt, my hips ached. I feel like I had slammed into a brick wall. The fatigue slapped me upside the head.

And that’s the thing. I really didn’t do anything. It was a mellow day, plenty of sleep, I ate well, a bit of chill driving, and dinner. And I was so utterly exhausted, the right words wouldn’t come out of my mouth when I tried to speak.

I feel like my body betrays me. As if my body doesn’t actually belong to me. It’s its own entity, with a mind and gas tank all it’s own. And man, it runs out of gas so quickly! It’s the most frustrating thing about having fibromyalgia. I can’t rely on my body. I can’t go to a museum or to wander around town, and assume that I’ll be ok walking around for a few hours. I have to take a cane, and expect to stop and rest, or to give up altogether. And if it’s not the fatigue that gets me, it’s the pain. My flat feet can’t keep me up, my hips try to dislocate, my back aches. Even if I have the energy to do something active, my body gives up, and exhausts me into pain.

I’m not writing all of this to complain. It’s simply that I often get questions from people about what fibromyalgia is, what it does to me, how I react. It’s shit. That’s really what it is. It saps my energy, my attention, my ability to function. I spend way more time in my little corner of the couch than just about anywhere else, other than my bed.

I’m done. Yesterday, in a fit of energy, I made a double batch of cookie dough (light chocolate chips and raisins for Dave, tons of chocolate chips for me). I’ll get Dave to cook up a handful of cookies in a bit and call it a night.

Finally, I’m Blogging Again

I haven’t had a blog since 2013, when I stopped working on the Wheatland Ferry. If you’ve never seen that blog, feel free to check it out. For two and a half years, I operated a ferry that crossed the Willamette River. I had lost my job as a land use planner due to the recession, and managed to hang onto my benefits and longevity at the County by running a ferry. It was quite an adventure, both wonderful and terrible, often in the same day. I’m glad I’m done with that part of my life though.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early 2014. Fibromyalgia is a neurological disorder that causes widespread muscle and joint pain, extreme fatigue, and a confusion that’s often called “brain fog.” This condition has seriously affected my last three planning jobs.

I lost my most recent job the week of Thanksgiving, 2016. I loved that job. I was working as a planner for a local County, working mostly rural planning, with a good helping of code compliance, which is the enforcement of land use and zoning regulations. It was a really great job, however the fatigue and brain fog meant that I just wasn’t working to their expectations. I couldn’t meet deadlines, I would come to work and just stare at the computer screen, unable to get my brain to engage in my work.

Since I lost my job, the big question is, What’s Next? I don’t think I’m going to look for a full-time job. I think it’s just too stressful for my body. I have started driving for Uber and Lyft, which is quite fun. I’ve met some hilarious people, which I know I’ll be writing about. I picked up passengers in the middle of a snowstorm, I drove on New Year’s Eve, I’ve driven strippers home while they count all of their one dollar bills. It is a job that is ripe with storytelling opportunities.

Lately, I’ve been looking into freelance land use planning and freelance writing/editing jobs. I feel like I’m a decent writer, I try to write as if I’m talking to someone right in front of me. At the same time, as a government employee, I have taught myself to write in the dry monotonous government-speak, the stuff required for planning documents. Things such as, “The applicant states the building will be located more than ten feet from the north (side) property line. This criterion has been met.” I swear I’ve written almost that exact sentence at least 20 times in my career.

Knowing me, you’ll also read me when I gossip on about my knitting escapades. I’m a voracious knitter. I knit like I read–swallowing whole books at a time, skeins of yarn turning into sweaters, socks and shawls in a heartbeat. Right now, I’m working on bright purple socks for my fiance, Dave, and a new sweater for me. I try to knit at least one sweater per winter, and it’s already February, so I better hurry up!

So welcome to my new blog! My chronic illness, knitting, job hunting, uber-driving blog.