Sugar Free?

I’ve been reading over on Clover Lane about going sugar-free and that got me thinking. Should I go sugar-free? What would that look like in my day-to-day life? What would need to change? I’m not an expert on which sugars are bad for you, and which ones are okay. Can I still eat my Stonyfield Yogurt with fruit on the bottom? Sugar is the second ingredient and it’s got 22 grams in that small cup to boot! Do I have to throw out the cookies I bought last week? What about sugar in my coffee? As I sat in Starbucks today consuming a caramel latte laden with sugar, I found myself tempted to put it off until I knew more about it. However, I knew that if I put it off, I might never start, and so I sat down to make my grocery list and decided to jump right in. Having discovered over the past couple of years that I am mostly an abstainer who benefits from dabbling in moderation, I set off to create some rules for myself.

Rule #1: When it comes to daily life, I am sugar-free. This means no sugar in my coffee, no ginger-snaps or thin mints in my lunch, no sherbert after dinner, no little bites of chocolate or caramel lattes to help me make it through the day.

Rule #2: I can have ONE sugar related treat per week. Making this rule was helpful in that I didn’t have to feel deprived, it wasn’t that I couldn’t EVER have sugar, it’s just that my treat had better be GOOD. What was interesting was how that immediately clarified for me how much I like my thin mints and ginger snaps. They are not likely to be my treat anytime soon. The Peanut Butter Thing from Not Your Average Joe’s though? Now there’s a treat, albeit not one to be consumed alone!

I went ahead and purchased plain yogurt in place of my regular fruit flavored cups from Stonyfield Farm. I bought three, because I hear it takes multiple tries before you can decide you really don’t like something. This is one area where I am willing to be flexible though. I don’t get much calcium from my diet since I’m not a regular milk drinker and cheese is too high in fat to be consumed in large enough quantities. My daily cup of yogurt is pretty key in keeping my bones strong. I am going to try to like the plain variety, but if I need to move back to the flavored variety, I’m going to be okay with that.

I also found myself buying significantly more fruit. I splurged on a container of blackberries and a couple of peaches. This made my weekly grocery bill a bit more expensive ($50 compared to my usual $30-$40), but it seemed like a worthy trade off if it will help me to get a bit healthier and make my first sugar free week a bit easier. I’ll be sure to report on my progress later this week!

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A Birthday

I turned 27 today- 27 on the 27th, my “golden birthday” as I was informed by one of my students (and as I have known since I was the age of my students). I am grateful that I’ve been given another year here on this planet, and I am eager to see what will unfold in the coming months.

Remembering

Four years ago, I walked all the time. I have no idea when exactly I managed to find the time to do this between work from 8-3, grad. school filling some amount of hours between 4 and 9, and babysitting filling in any extra afternoon hours I could find, but I have vivid memories of getting outside and walking frequently. I’d layer on two fleeces, and multiple pairs of pants in the winter, gradually losing layers as the weather got warmer. I watched buds emerge on trees as I walked around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, sweated it out in the summer until I got to Starbucks for my favorite summer drink, and generally managed to squeeze every minute out of the day.

I was reminded of that today as I came home from an absolutely exhausting first day back at school. The day was mostly exhausting because I got a grand total of 5 hours of sleep the night before, and I had to resist an incredibly strong urge pulling me into bed when I arrived home at 4:20. Instead, I took a ten minute break, threw on some layers, and headed out the door. I only walked for a half an hour, and sure, my exhaustion hit a new peak afterwards, but I was struck by how much calmer I felt. There’s something about the repetitive motion, the sound of feet pounding pavement, that keeps the worries of the world at bay. It’s supposed to rain/snow/spit the rest of the week so I won’t get the added bonus of outdoor endorphins for my exercise, but I’m planning on making that afternoon walk a more regular part of my week. Even if it has to be at the gym.

Things for which to Look Forward

  1. The first 50 degree day.
  2. The first 50 degree day where it “feels like” close to 50.
  3. An ice cream cone, eaten outside, on the first day where it’s warm enough.
  4. The first day that it’s warm enough to lounge outside with a book.
  5. Buds on the trees
  6. The last piece of ice melted on the Charles (has this already happened?? I haven’t been over the river in a week!)
  7. GREEN grass visible in the Public Garden from my classroom window
  8. Marathon runners flooding the city
  9. Easter Sunday, just six weeks away. Time to celebrate the Resurrection, and enjoy fellowship with the family
  10. The early rumblings of summer plans

An End

Vacation is over. 9 days in which I didn’t do much have come to a close, and it’s time to head back to the real world. I still believe that there’s a better way to do this “life” thing. A way in which we don’t drag ourselves to offices or jobs every day at specific hours… but maybe this is just another example of how I was born in the wrong century. I should have lived pre-industrial revolution back when the home was the center of work for most people. I remember hearing that line in all of my women’s history classes with Professor Drachman at Tufts… I’m glad I learned something there. Unfortunately, I also remember learning just how hard work in the home was, so I know I’m romanticizing when I say I’d like to go back and live that life.

Anyway, I felt a lot of pressure today to DO something. After all, it was the last day of vacation and the temperature was supposed to be over 40. In Boston, in February any day that’s supposed to be over 40 is call to DO something. The thing was though that yesterday I took full advantage of the over 40 weather. I went to Concord, walked around Walden Pond (bought a Parks Pass so I can do that more often this year…), went into town to my favorite little cafe, drove around Concord, Lexington, Lincoln before finally heading to Burlington for dinner with Mom and Dad. It was a perfect day, and today, I just wanted to rest. So after church today I went home, sat in front of my (open!) windows and read. For hours. It turns out this spot in front of my window, is the perfect reading spot… even if it is on the floor. The sun streamed in through the window, illuminating the pages, and warming both my body and soul for about four good hours of reading. The afternoon was perfected by a menu of comfort food… coffee, grilled cheese, warm applesauce, chai tea, and gingersnaps.

So, I’m not ready to go back to reality tomorrow, and waking up five hours earlier is going to be a rude awakening indeed, but I’m glad I found a new spot in which to relax. And I’m comforted by the knowledge, that I can rush home tomorrow to soak up an hour of sunlight in my new favorite spot, and in just three short weeks the sun will be setting at 7:00 thanks to daylight savings, and I can soak in a good two and a half hours after work. Sometimes it’s the little things that count.

Morningtime

I’ve missed the morning most days this week. Like I said yesterday, I’m not really all that upset about it, I clearly needed the sleep, but it has been interesting to observe shifts in my mood.

I love the morning. During the school year, I love watching the sun’s reflection rise in the windows of the apartment buildings out my window. I love knowing that I will absorb every single minute of sunlight available to me. I love knowing that the day is absolutely full of possibilities, and that I have not wasted even one single minute. I don’t get that when I wake up at 11:00. Even so, I have been grateful for this time. This time in which my body got to slow down, and I got to follow its lead. I’m glad to know that I need more sleep, and it’s nice to rise in the morning without an alarm clock. 83 more school days.

Sleep

Vacation does not grow old. I have seen a few friends this vacation, but mostly I have just been resting. I have been surprised to see that without an alarm, my body is content to sleep until 10:00 every day. In the past, I would be angry about this, annoyed that I had slept away half of my day, but this time I am content to give myself what my body needs from me right now. It does make me realize though, how sleep-deprived I have become. I know that my body generally needs 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night, it has been like that for years. Yet, during the past six weeks, I have only been getting 6.5 to 7. No wonder I’ve been getting 10-12 every night this week.

The benefit of time off is that it distills for me that which I need to change in my life. During Christmas vacation I realized that I needed my time with my cup of coffee and my book before I began the day with the kids. During this vacation, I realize that I need sleep. I still want to wake up at 5:30, and the unfortunate reality is that if I want 8.5 to 9 hours, I need to be asleep by 8:30 or 9… admittedly, this will require discipline, but the payoff should be well worth it.

Snow Day

The tree across the street, a tall, strong, evergreen, is coated with a thin layer of white. It looks almost like the hardened icing on a holiday cookie. Closer to my window, I can see the snow melting off the barren branches of a deciduous tree. The days until Spring rises seem long and unending, and my body longs to feel the warmth of the sun warm my bones once again. I long for the days when happiness is not so hard fought, when night does not begin before 6:00. Still, if I am mindful, if I make myself aware, there are signs of spring emerging even now.

  • The gradual extension of daylight, a minute or two everyday adds up to a whole extra hour of daylight since mid-December. These days I make early trips home from work so that I can warm myself in the sun that streams through my window and on to my bed just before it sets- a gift from late winter.
  • The impending onset of daylight savings time, just 26 more days
  • The warming trend, and consistent temperatures above freezing. There’s not a single high in the seven-day forecast predicted to be below 32. Finally.
  • Snow that melts practically before it has landed.
  • Truck Day at Fenway, and Spring Training in Florida
  • The Lenten season beginning tomorrow, anticipation of Easter and a reminder of the Resurrection that is to come.

Spring is coming, even when it is hard to believe.

Happiness Clarified

Vacation has the effect of clarifying what truly makes me happy. A cup of coffee, brewed just right. The mid-morning sun, streaming through the windows. A book to accompany the coffee and the sun. Toast, spread thickly with jam. From this small morning ritual my day might go anywhere- Walden Pond for a walk, Davis Square for my second (or third) cup of coffee, the gym because, you know, I really should.

The other thing that makes me immeasurably happier is a list. I did this last summer, and by the end of the summer I felt not like I had wasted my time, but that I had made the most of every minute. Sure, I spent more time relaxing than doing anything else, but at the beginning of the summer I made a list of all of the summer-type things I could do, and I set out to do every single one of them. Last year, my list was pretty local, and I definitely stuck with things that could mostly be done for free. This year, I’m thinking of branching out a bit, and some of these things could, admittedly be done before summer vacation hits. So, without further ado, here’s the list as it stands now.

Cliff Walk – Newport, RI

First Friday Art Walk, Portland, ME

Eartha – Yarmouth, ME

Irish Heritage Trail, Boston, MA

Arnold Arboretum – Jamaica Plain

Cape Neddick Light – York, ME

MFA

Vermont Historical Society Museum – Montpelier, VT