This is the story I tell myself: Until my kids were in middle school, I pretty much lived most of my values. I was blessed to be a stay-at-home mom who worked part-time around my kids’ school hours, and I was focused almost completely on being a mom. It was all I really wanted to be when I grew up. In my forties, my life became a lot more complicated (but eventually happier). My husband of 19 years and I separated in 2007 (difficult but mostly amicable), and my life became focused on completing my dissertation (a 20-year process), finding a real job, getting my kids through high school (they were 14 and 16), dating, and trying to stay generally sane. Honestly it’s mostly a blur. I met Ken, worked freelance, started teaching, the market crashed, I stopped teaching, my son graduated high school, I found a writing job (three years later), my daughter graduated high school, I got my current job (three and a half years after that), and this past year, my kids both graduated from their respective universities. Whoo Hoo!
Erika, Shira, Dad, Mom, Shea
About three years ago, I realized that everything I had been doing before the upheaval had pretty much slid away (simple life, vegetarian living, nutritional coach, homeopath, etc.) and I really wanted to reclaim who I am inside (thank you, Mulan). I became a huge Michael Pollan fan (I’ve read all his books), watched Forks over Knives, which led to reading The China Study, and then John Robbins‘ The Food Revolution, and on to Sugar Blues, and Robbin’s Healthy at 100. I listen to a lot of Books on Tape if you’re wondering where I found the time.
And so in March of 2014 (after I learned my cheese-eating, sugar-eating, sometimes meat-eating self had rapidly rising cholesterol issues), I made a complete change. The biggest change was that I stopped eating sugar. The initial sugar cravings were tough, but after the first few weeks, they weren’t bad. Now it’s fairly easy to pass on all the cookies, cakes, donuts, etc. that are constantly around me. I stopped eating meat, stopped eating almost all dairy (I make my own organic yogurt), and stopped using as many chemicals as possible (with the invaluable help of the Environmental Working Group, EWG).
With the equally invaluable help of Katie, the Wellness Mama, I started making my own laundry detergent and deodorant (I use recipe #1). I researched every possible use for coconut oil, from internal to external, and use it for just about everything. After 30 years of slathering on my beloved chemical-laden Neutrogena sesame body oil, I have replaced it with a mixture of organic coconut and organic almond oil (so it doesn’t harden and smells nice). I also wash my hair with Baking Soda and once a week use Dessert Essence Shea Butter shampoo and conditioner (the vinegar rinse did nothing for me)–an EWG-approved compromise. I switched from Natural Instincts to henna for the first year, but now I’m embracing the gray. The jury is still out on that one. I bake my own whole wheat bread, and I try not to buy anything–at home or out–that Michael Pollan’s grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
A lot of this wasn’t difficult, and a lot of it was. I hadn’t eaten fast food (except El Pollo Loco) in as long as I can remember. Really. Giving up chicken was tough, but I have those images of baby chicks to keep me honest. Giving up pizza was tougher. Going from lapsed vegetarian to mostly vegan was the most difficult, and I compromised and still eat fish–because a girl has to live in the real world if she wants to keep eating with her friends. I imagine if I lived somewhere other than The Happiest Place on Earth–Portland or Seattle or Northern California, places with more like-minded communities–going full vegan would be easier, but as with everything else in my life, I’ve made compromises.
Fresh from the garden
I’m a little more lax with the sugar now than I was before my lovely daughter moved back home in June. I’ll taste the awesome brownie she brought home for me (“I know you aren’t eating sugar, but…”), and I’ll have some of the limeade she made from our homegrown limes and mint (delicious with local honey!). I’ll eat a bit of feta if it’s thrown onto a salad, but I try to stay away from cheese.
And that’s where I am. My simple eating which can be seen as complicated. It’s not always simple to go out to dinner or even have friends over for a barbecue. But it’s simple for me, and the earth…and my homegrown tomatoes are just about the best you’ll ever eat, and I’m happy to share.
October 16, 2015