Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Sweet Peace #22: Breaking my sugar-fast. Now what?

I chose to break a 67-day sugar fast to celebrate my move to Santa Barbara. My friend Barbara organized champagne, miniature ice cream cones from Trader Joe’s and binge-watching several episodes of the new season of Grace & Frankie.  It was perfect and I feel much more confident about my ability to commit to a health plan and honor it!

I never intended the “no-sugar” thing to be forever, just to break the sugar cycle that had gotten out of control. It seems to have worked; one glass of champagne and the tiny ice cream cones didn’t trigger a reaction. My intention for moving forward is to restrict sugar to important social celebrations.

During the no-sugar days, however, a new behavior crept in. Because I wasn’t eating sugar, it suddenly seemed okay to eat non-sugary junk food, especially on the road trips I was making as I prepared for the move. Salty snacks became a thing. As I thought about how to continue moving toward cleaner, healthier eating, I knew I needed to do something about those snack attacks. A different fast seemed like a logical idea … maybe processed-foods. At first, I jumped at the idea, but after awhile, it began to pale. There are lots of problems with processed foods: chemicals, calories with few health benefits, bad fats … and again sugar. However, another fast sounded horrid … like going to war with food instead of making peace with it.

Instead of focusing on eliminating “bad” foods, maybe it’s time to choose healthy foods, foods I like *and* add to my health. Mainly plants, focusing on fiber, and avoiding highly processed foods. Moderate eating without the black and white drama of fasting or (never again) dieting. 

When I moved, I inherited a 3-meals-a-day cafeteria which tries to be healthy while also pleasing 250 residents. It’s far more carb-loaded than my system wants so I have to learn to adapt to what’s available and my own health requirements. Fortunately, there is a decent salad bar at lunch and dinner and I think, with some creativity, it could be supplemented to become the foundation of a healthy eating plan.

I just found a guide to healthy eating in college cafeterias that offers some great ideas. This could be like a game … avoiding the hazards with simple supplements to the fundamentals.

Oatmeal: enhanced with peanut butter, cream cheese, chia seeds, greek yogurt, or fresh fruit.

Salad: enhanced with chopped greens, hard boiled eggs, beans, seed mixtures, fresh fruit, avocado,

blue cheese or other pre-shredded cheese

Soup: make my own once a week and store in serving sized, microwaveable jars.

Snacks: nuts and fruits.

This is doable. Obviously, I need an apartment-sized refrigerator and a microwave. 

Love Letters to My Life: #47 - A new form of freedom with gratitude to Rich Strike

A labyrinth near my new home

One of the few times I've ever felt depressed was when I bought my first house with my first husband. We were on our way back to college after he returned from Vietnam and finished his tour with the Marine Corps. The government offered some sort of assistance for first-time home buyers and tacked on a requirement that it be new construction. There was ONE such house available in Stillwater, Oklahoma ... a tiny cookie-cutter, scraped-bare dirt lawn on the edge of town. One day, a lonesome cow wandered into our yard and ate my newly planted red bud tree. It was that kind of place.

     We were thrilled to find affordable housing, however that's when a strange spiral of depression began. I knew I should feel elated, however, instead, I felt burdened. Instead of feeling a pride of ownership, I felt owned and some sort of fear about losing something I wasn't even sure I wanted.

Over time though, I put the feeling aside and went on with life, bought and sold many houses, tried different housing options, and one more husband (who left way too soon). It wasn’t until this week when I was moving my thrice-downsized stuff into Friendship Manor, a senior community on the edge of the UCSB campus, that I realized the feeling of being owned by houses had evaporated. I was/am free … free of the expectations and responsibility of home ownership. Free of the expectations of being an “adult.” 

Somehow I’ve entered a zone of freedom from expectations … most likely of my own creation since I don’t think other people are bothering to create expectations of me. As the old joke goes: when I was 20, I worried about what people thought about me. When I turned 40, I quit worrying about what people thought about me. When I was 60, I realized they weren’t thinking about me. 

As I approach the next number in that double-decade series, I am truly realizing that this is MY life, the only life I have and what I do with it is my choice. This morning, a friend used the metaphor that we are in the home stretch and it made me think of Rich Strike, the horse that stole our hearts at the Kentucky Derby. Rich Strike lit our imaginations and brought home the message that it’s not over until it’s over and the expectations of others do not create our reality.

Few of us will carry off a win like the Kentucky Derby, however, as long as we’re running our own race, doing what we love to do, and giving it our all, we will take home the roses. And, there's another metaphor ... what exactly do we ... each one of us ... mean by "take home the roses?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Sweet Peace #21: Balancing Solitude and Community

Hiking a peaceful creek in Fallbrook with a friend.

The RV is in chaos, open boxes waiting for something to fit in that one last cranny, a sack for the thrift store, a few items for the kids, what can be packed away and what will I need for the next few days before the unboxing begins in a new place? Moving. One more move; perhaps the last one.

This time without a kitchen waiting presents a new set of questions, thoughts about a new way of being and how this development fits into the Sweet Peace journey. I’m moving into a dorm, albeit a dorm converted to apartments for seniors, apartments without kitchens. There is a central cafeteria and the manager has already joked about the “freshman fifteen.” I remember my own freshman bout with unlimited food, potatoes and dessert at every meal, freedom to explore and indulge. I wonder how I’ll deal with this new environment? Will I be able to hang on to Sweet Peace? It's my choice. Which reminds me of a poem:

It’s My Choice

I can let it flow.
I can turn it loose and let it go,
Or, I can work it.

I can push it, pull it, pound it,
Shove it, shape it, turn it inside out,
Or break it. I can work it.

I can form it in my hands
And make it fit my plans.
I can work it!

Or, I can let it go.
Turn it loose and let it flow.

Let it flow ...
    Let it flow ...

       Let it flow!

Of all my moves, this may be the most radical, even more than moving to Mexico. Solitude has been my norm for the past fifteen years; now I will be living with 215 close neighbors, eating communal meals, choosing to, or not to, participate in community activities. Learning how to adapt to and appreciate the community I've chosen.

The past almost-two years camped in a beautiful oak forest has been a gift, although an isolated one. I am one of the few full-time residents and days can go by without seeing anyone other than the maintenance guys who are always tending the park. I have lovely neighbors on both sides of me, but weeks go by without seeing either of them. Fortunately, telephone, internet, and zoom keep me tethered to the larger world. Now, I will be deep in community, not only my neighbors but friends and all the cultural offerings of being in Santa Barbara. How will I maintain my solitude in the midst of so much richness of community?

I put myself on the waiting list for this apartment in November and have spent the last six months dithering about whether or not I really wanted to make this move. Solitude has become familiar and comfortable. It has also bumped up against isolation which is not so comfortable. Thoughts about how long it would take for someone to find my dead body have reoccured often enough to become a macabre joke.

However, I kept taking two steps forward for every one backwards and here I am. This is the week. Friday, I drive a small U-Haul van to Friendship Manor, my new home, my new life, on the edge of the University of California Santa Barbara campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on an island of long-lived souls surrounded by a sea of just beginning spirits. 

Who knows what’s next on this journey.  

Friday, May 6, 2022

Sweet Peace #20: Don't miss twice!


Visiting Grace

Life is hectic right now. Just found out last week that I’m moving to an apartment in Santa Barbara so there has been a flurry of planning and the beginning of the packing process. That should be a simple thing since I’ve radically downsized over the past few years, however, it is still chaotic and stressful.

Therefore, it is now Friday and I missed my Tuesday commitment to write about this Sweet Peace journey. Perhaps it's because I’ve been frustrated by having my blood glucose spike again even though it seems like I’ve been conscientiously doing what should be done. I’m now on Day 60 of no sugary foods, processed carbohydrates are a rarity, intermittent fasting for 18 hours, and walking daily. You would think my body would be singing “Hallelujah!” Maybe, it’s waiting to see if I will keep this commitment.

During the creation of  Gratitude Mojo, a transformation journey for a better life, one of the lessons learned about habits was … don’t miss twice. Life gets chaotic, so it’s almost a guarantee that something will happen to pull us away from our commitments. That’s to be expected. However, if we miss twice, we’re on a downward slope toward extinguishing the work we’ve done to create the habit. It get’s easier and easier to think: tomorrow!

Two weeks ago, I missed my Tuesday commitment and posted on Thursday. Now, it’s Friday with no Sweet Peace post made this week. I thought about just skipping this week and showing up next Tuesday. It was tempting. I have a lot of stuff to do today … and that would only be missing one week so I would still be in the safe zone. However, since I “missed” or delayed last week, skipping this week felt like too much of a gamble. I’ve gotten a lot out of these weekly posts and I want to keep this 52-week commitment.

So, here I am. Showing up. Keeping my commitment. Determined to show up next Tuesday.

Image: This week, I was invited to visit a friend’s garden, two acres of flowers, orchards, succulents, all designed with a consciousness of water and beauty. Later as I thumbed through the many photos, this canna kept catching my eye, inviting me into a creative process that became “Visiting Grace.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Sweet Peace #19: What is it within us that insists on growing?

Mountains of Santa Barbara

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint,
a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.
What one can be, one must be."
-- Abraham Maslow

Maslow’s wise thought rests on one tiny word: can.

I read them and think: I can be anything. Then wonder: does that mean if I decide to be a musician, I can be a musician? Yes … but. It doesn't tell the whole story. There is something missing or implied in that simple word which he says opens the door to inner peace.

You could say it’s talent and that would be true, partially. Sometimes, as children, we do something a little bit better than others and people encourage us, find us teachers to guide our efforts, and we get better, gaining even more attention and encouragement. Eventually, we might claim art or poetry or golf or music or cooking as a significant part of our identity. It grows into something we must do.

However, what we can be is more than talent and teachers. It’s about what we do and how it makes us feel … time after time. It’s about doing something that makes us feel so connected, engaged, and joyful that we want to do it again … and again! 

Early encouragement can make a huge difference, but it isn’t everything. There seems to be some tiny seed deep within us which keeps trying to grow even when it falls on rocky ground. For me, the impulse to write came early, hand in hand with its dark cousin, rejection. I wrote a play in the fourth grade which was rejected because my writing was a tiny, unreadable scribble. First rejection.

In college, while typing student records as part of my work scholarship, I started writing poetry: dark, angsty lines no one wanted to hear. Two years of creative writing classes yielded nothing of interest to my professor, class mates or even self. I chose to major in business so I could get a job.

Years of periodic submissions to magazines met the same fate: rejection. Finally I launched my own 8-page newsletter (long before internet) where I wrote about anything that interested me and which eventually landed me a book contract. Something in me wanted to write in spite of the rejection and an almost total lack of interest or encouragement.

What is that something that leads us toward art or sports or gardening or raising children? Whatever it is, it’s where we find our peace; it’s what, as Maslow says, we must be.

As I write this week’s thoughts on Sweet Peace, it makes me think something similar is in process. My first husband came home from Vietnam with a chronic illness that stimulated my interest in health and the function of our bodies. There was no internet, of course, so I stalked libraries and bookstores for books on health and became a fan of Adele Davis, the early, and often controversial, nutritionist.

That fascination with health and nutrition plus the psychology of eating and food has continued through the years and brought me to Sweet Peace in my current experiment of one. “What one can be, one must be." 

This is more than a search for peace with food and body; it is part of the journey toward making peace with myself.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

What is the true cost of war?

Sweet Peace #18: Lessons learned and relearned


It has been an interesting week and hectic enough that I missed my Tuesday Sweet Peace commitment. Packing for my trip to Santa Barbara, I managed to leave my computer bag on the couch, so dictating my thoughts into my iPhone was better than not doing anything. Now, reunited with my writing brain, here are the notes for the week:

Yesterday was a glorious day. It was a road trip day which comes with a road trip mindset of junk food indulgence. The morning started when I picked up my friend ReAnn Scott in Solana Beach for our trip to Santa Barbara where we will explore the next phase of our life as we tour a senior community in Isla Vista, home of UCSB. I’m already on the waiting list for an apartment and ReAnn is checking it out to see if it fits her also.

Along the way when it was time for a pitstop, we happened upon an Indian food place, one of my favorites and something that hasn’t been on the menu for many years primarily because of garlic intolerance. A short conversation with the waiter solved the what-to-order issue and, somehow, naan, a favorite carbohydrate, also wound up in the order.

By mid-afternoon, we arrived in Santa Barbara and, after introductions, proceeded to the Bacara, an ocean front resort, where we found an outdoor table looking out at the endless Pacific and proceeded to order drinks and bar food (nachos). While not indulging in the alcohol was easy, the nachos were above average and I definitely ate my share. When we got back to Barbara’s home, where we would spend the night, there were more snacks, including my favorite: blueberry goat cheese log and seed crackers. 

While that may sound moderate; it was three separate carbohydrates in three separate eating events. After five days of blood glucose readings in the 80s and 90s, the reading the next morning was 118 and brought me back to reality: everything counts. This is not a game to see how much I can get away with. I know perfection is not the goal … or even possible … but everything is a choice … and blood glucose is a significant indicator or health.

Somehow I thought the lesson I had learned was that as long as I avoided sugar, I could eat anything I wanted as long as it was part of a meal. It’s time to redefine the parameters. As much as I love carbohydrates, my body needs a rest from them, especially processed carbs … those lovely, crunchy things that come in bags which invite open-ended indulgences.

While reminding myself of the reality of carbohydrates, I am also congratulating myself for my successes. There were a lot of sweet things available and, when my blood glucose shot up, I had several moments of frustration when I thought, “Why not go for the sugar, too?” I resisted; and even though I’m no longer on the sugar fast, I have 46 days without sugary sweets.

All in all: lessons learned, commitment honored, and I am grateful to be on this journey.