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Work, health, silver hair, and other thoughts from the drywall wars

After yesterday, I’ve concluded that manual labor is too much like work.

We writers are prone to get all whiny about what tough jobs we have and how we suffer for our Art. But I tell you, by the end of the day yesterday, if I’d have had to haul one more slab of drywall up that narrow, twisty attic stair, I’d have sat down on the steps and cried.


Ten years ago I drywalled Cabin Sweet Cabin by myself (except for the ceiling, where I assisted somebody else). So I thought “piece of cake!” when I merely faced the prospect of doing two sides of a wall to divide the garret into a bed-sitting room and storage area. A very small wall, at that.

By the end of the day, I felt as if I’d been kicked in the knees and back by a herd of pissed off donkeys. For the first time in my life, I felt old.

I tell myself that drywalling was just as tough on me a decade ago. And maybe it was. I remember that even then I limited myself to a certain number of sheets a day because the job was pretty strenuous. No, I can’t be getting old. Not me.


Years ago, I had a brief friendship with a guy who went on constantly about his aches and pains. He attributed them all — and many other real or imagined troubles — to his “old age.” He was 38.

He became my object lesson in how not to think. My lord. Just imagine. If he lives to be 80, he’ll spend over half his life “old.” He’ll feel every minute of it, too.

For me — with no exaggeration and no Pollyanna sunniness — getting older has been almost entirely about getting better. Physically. Attitudinally. And in all the ways that really count.

Yes, my hair has gone silver. But it really is silver, not dull gray. Precious silver I’ve earned through experience. Lucky me. The wrinkles? Well, I think of them as the perfectly acceptable price I’ve paid for spending happy time in the sun without slathering myself with cosmetic concoctions. Pardon me for leaning Pollyanna on those two drawbacks.

But my health and energy have gotten better decade by decade. I used to have frequent minor headaches. No more. I’m also less tense, better able to roll with life’s punches, less judgmental, more sure of what I want. More independent. Just … happier.


Diet has been a huge factor. At 24, I got an enormous wake-up call on the effects of a bad diet — not just on the body, but on the mind. My life changed overnight. Since then, I’ve tweaked my nutrition occasionally. But two of the biggest life-improving deals came within the last year.

One was emphasizing primal nutrition.

The other — thanks to a reader of this blog — was supplementing with lactobacillus acidophilus.

Boy, the positive changes, especially in energy level and body composition. (Among other things, for the first time in my life, when I gain a pound it’s not all in my belly and waist.)


Part of the primal diet for me has been eating blueberries or strawberries every day that I can get them fresh. Increasingly blueberries (h/t are looking like a superfood.

Although some primalistas recommend against apples, calling them nothing but sacks of sugar, the old adage about keeping doctors away is also proving to be true.

Although I haven’t completely sworn off wheat and other gluten grains, there is mounting evidence of the commonsense primal claim: human beings did not evolve to eat them. (More.) Or at least, didn’t evolve with them as a staple, let alone the alleged “staff of life.”

Nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, a little meat, a little dairy and some fermented foods (including plain Greek yogurt; thank you, Winston), and some healthful oils. A little wine now and then. Choose unprocessed over processed, as a general rule. Skip the “foodlike” crap. De-emphasize grains. Eliminate most refined sugars in your daily diet. Indulge in anything once in a while if your body can handle it. You might not live to be 100. But you’re more likely to love the years you have. Chances are you won’t be so quick to join the diabetic, obese crowd lining up for the dubious benefits of ObamaCare, either.

A lot of you were ahead of me in figuring that out.


And on the subject of health — our own MamaLiberty is writing on that subject once again at The Price of Liberty. Yay!


Now … sigh. Back to manual labor. At least all the drywall is up. Now it’s just final nailing, taping, and mudding.


  1. Danny
    Danny April 13, 2011 10:29 am

    Aches & pains with aging? Just hang in there….it gets worse!!

  2. Claire
    Claire April 13, 2011 11:16 am

    Danny, I can tell you’re one of those “glass is half full” kinda guys.

    If it inevitably gets worse with age, then how come in general I have fewer aches and pains than I did 20 years ago? (Yesterday … definitely achy. In general, nope.)

  3. Woody
    Woody April 13, 2011 11:20 am

    Once you are older than 50 if you wake up in the morning and nothing hurts, that is a reliable indication that you have died during the night.

  4. Pat
    Pat April 13, 2011 1:16 pm

    I tell you, aches and pains from doing nothing is infinitely worse than pain from doing something. “Something” pain will go away with use; “nothing” pain just gets worse with time and stillness. I’ve been in the position of doing both in the past few years (not by choice), and doing “something” these days is a breeze.

    50s and 60s are good years in spite of the pains. They are positive, hopeful years due to the mindset that experience and self-awareness bring to the table. In recognizing what you can do and what you can’t do, you alone are able to see where you’re going and how to get there. I think age brings self-awareness to a peak; women especially start to realize that they do have the ability and the right to act apart from those relationships that have been holding them back. (Maybe men also, but not being a man, I can’t speak for them.)
    I read MamaLiberty’s remarks and she mentioned the “paleo diet.” Have just been reading “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain (, and have been struck by some differences between his diet and Mark Sisson’s Primal Diet; I guess there are other variations to this type of diet as well. Actually have been doing pretty well on my own variation (which came from Boyd Eaton, one of the earliest proponents of the Stone Age diet (this is a long paper). Minus wheat and most other grains (except oatmeal and occasional corn or cornmeal), aches and pains are minimal and can be worked off easily, and energy is increasing. The human body is a very complex and personal thing. The biggest factor in good health is the person’s desire to achieve it.

  5. Sam
    Sam April 13, 2011 1:41 pm

    I totally agree that diet is a huge factor. I’m in my 60s though, and I can tell you for sure that a bunch of the aches and pains from being active have a bit to do with your physical mileage. Old wounds, broken bones and such hurt a bit more than they once did. Stretching three times a day helps me a ton. I learned the following at the volunteer fire dept from some of the old guys, the folks in their 40s ;o).

  6. Keith
    Keith April 13, 2011 1:52 pm


    So glad you benefited from my suggestion re: lactobacillus acidophilus. It has been a real blessing to me in my travels.

    Also was pleased to see my suggestion on wood pellets worked for your fire starters when I read your most recent column in BWH. Thought I was crazy at first, didn’t ‘cha?

    Aches and pains of aging? Not a doctor, not diagnosing, nor prescribing, but I’m pretty impressed w/ benefits of Vitamin D and cold processed (hard-to-find) fish oil.

  7. naturegirl
    naturegirl April 13, 2011 2:26 pm

    Ah, you missed a perfect opportunity to blame the stairs….I bet Cabin Sweet Cabin didn’t have you dealing with the stairs 😉

    I have found that the one perfect fix is activity….diet can always help, and all of the other things people tell ya to do, but it all comes down to keeping active on a regular basis….sitting is the beginning of a life full of aches and pains and odd unexplainable twinges……

  8. winston
    winston April 13, 2011 2:58 pm

    I’m amazed by the ammount of discomfort I can relieve just by walking around a lot, drinking lots of water, stretching, etc. And Obama’s peace prize should have gone to the person who invented the foam roller…those are great if you have a problem with really tight/knotted up up sore muscles esepcially in the legs and upper arms.

    Going at least semi-primal is on my to do list for long term, I’ve seen and heard so many sucess stories…

  9. naturegirl
    naturegirl April 13, 2011 3:45 pm

    LMAO at how correct Woody’s comments are….

    And thanks for the link to MamaLiberty, I will be absorbed in reading all that very soon…….

  10. Matt
    Matt April 13, 2011 4:05 pm

    One of the compensation of growing older is the stories that go with some of the scars and permanent pains. Some of us can read our scars like a roadmap of our lives with visible reminders of the joy, pain, fear and courage that we experienced.

  11. Mary Lou
    Mary Lou April 13, 2011 6:32 pm

    Yeah, well, I’m thankful for the parts of me that still work pretty good:-) … if if wasnt for the teeth, bad back (from several car wrecks, none of which were even my fault) and my latest problems with my darn hands hurting alla the time, I’d be in good shape:-)

  12. Mike
    Mike April 13, 2011 6:37 pm


    Looks like you have a good handle on life at large, nice.

    One thing that I have always thought about wrinkles is that they are nature’s way of showing where the smiles have gone before. Like the others on this forum, I’m pulling for you.

  13. Ellendra
    Ellendra April 13, 2011 7:48 pm

    “I tell you, aches and pains from doing nothing is infinitely worse than pain from doing something.” -Pat


  14. Dana
    Dana April 13, 2011 9:43 pm

    Non-scientific poll: If you’re a primal advocate, what’s your blood type?

    The (pseudo-scientific?) blood type diet folks argue for a paleo/primal diet for type O, and whole grains (but not refined carbs) for type A.

    Anyone try the primal diet and have it “not agree with them” so to speak?

  15. A.G.
    A.G. April 14, 2011 8:56 am

    That was a great post, Pat.
    I am a young man still, but lost strength and gained weight working a desk job for a few years after sustaining an injury. Finally, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “THIS is unacceptable”. Began to look for role models to emulate, and found myself going back to the pre-steroid era of Jack Lalanne and his contemporary Bob Delmonteque
    That led me to Crossfit, and then Paleo. Within less than 48 hours of being Paleo, my energy level skyrocketed as if I had downed two energy drinks, and my body fat began to diminish rapidly. So I am a firm believer in both.
    Investing in your health is just that. You need to be consistent over the long haul. Injuries aside, the only people I hear complaining about their health have not done the basics to maintain it, and are reaping the results of years of neglect.

  16. Claire
    Claire April 14, 2011 9:16 am

    Dana, interesting question. Buried in a comment section, it might not get many answers. If it doesn’t, I’ll re-ask it on the front page.

    Though I with you on the (psuedo-scientific?), FWIW, I’m doing well on primal and I’m type O.

    Anybody else?

  17. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty April 14, 2011 12:18 pm

    I’ve decided I won’t be crowded into any diet or lifestyle corner at all. 🙂 Stress is what nearly killed me 6 years ago, and I don’t ever intend to let it get to me again.

    Wellness is so much more than any diet or lifestyle. In essence, it is the congruity of your life with your true self, however that works out in your individual case.

  18. Claire
    Claire April 14, 2011 6:51 pm

    Keith — I had forgotten you were responsible for both those suggestions! Then I owe you thanks, big time. 🙂 I also owe you an apology. Your comment went into the spam filter for no particularly good reason and I didn’t discover it for more than 24 hours.

    Been taking vitamin D3 and regular fish oil. Have to look into cold-processed, especially since you have such a good record on suggestions.

  19. Ellendra
    Ellendra April 14, 2011 8:40 pm

    Dana: neither paleo not whole-grain diets agree with me, but then I’m missing a few enzymes, so most food in general doesn’t agree with me. During my 3 years of hell one doctor pointed me toward some over-the-counter enzymes, particularly Digest EZ, which has made a huge difference.

    (I also tried the acidophilus, it made some difference, but not as much as the enzymes)

    I may try the paleo again paired with the enzymes after I get moved out on my own. Right now it just wouldn’t be practical.

  20. Ellendra
    Ellendra April 15, 2011 8:13 pm

    That should have said “nor whole-grain diets”. I type in the dark sometimes.

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