Post #5 – New photograph, willing spring to arrive, and rounding the bend of the Whole30

Dear Reader:

When I started my blog I wanted to use a photograph of my children, but, being a bit backwards when it comes to technology, I couldn’t figure out how to take this photo from my phone and make it my header.  I started to ask one of my children for help, but decided it was time for me to pull up my big girl pants and figure it out.  So I did!  I took this years ago on our last trip to Cape Cod together.  We spent time there for 17 years, visiting my aunt who took a place every summer right on the beach in Truro.

We started going when I was married to their father and the youngest was maybe six months old, but very shortly afterwards our marriage began to crumble and soon it was just the four of us and my aunt.  She provided a dependable situation during a critical and difficult time in their lives and mine – – a week or two at the beach in August, just before school started; no internet or TV or outgoing calls; card and board games galore; crossword puzzles; unlimited high-end art supplies (she was an artist); nightly movies (usually oldies/classics) piled upstairs in the loft with blankets and pillows on the bunks and bowls upon bowls of popcorn; pop tarts for breakfast; sandwiches and chips on the beach; days spent at the beach, exploring the lighthouse, P’town, the occasional flea market or art gallery and shops; bonfire cookouts on the beach, followed by star gazing until the little ones fell asleep; games of flashlight tag; and the promise of one lobster dinner over in Wellfleet followed by ice cream at A Nice Cream Stop.

Being a born and bred Southern, and raising my children in the heart of New England, tradition is the cornerstone to my life.  And making sure my children had traditions they could count on and recall (when their own lives were turned upside down and often unpredictable) was of great importance to me.  Almost every aspect of my parenting style has been centered around traditions.

For the past 31 years I have been a wife, a divorcee, a single gal, a wife (again), a widow, single for a long time, and a wife (yet again).  But for 27 of those 31 years there has been one constant in my life – motherhood.  Although I have also worked at various points in the past 31 years, my identity has been as their mother.  In many ways, I cannot think of myself outside of them and I also feel they are my greatest achievement.  That is why I wanted to use this photograph as my header.  If you knew us, you would say it very clearly says quite a lot about my children, my mothering style, and us.  An old friend used to say we were quite the force, a total unit.  Also, I took the picture and I think it’s cool!

I hope you like it.

Although we are closing in on the last full week of April, the temperature here in northeast PA is still on the chilly side.  Just 10 days ago we were still getting little snow storms off and on for almost an entire week!  The high today was supposed to be 62*, but it never felt that warm at all.  It was so windy!  Since the end of March/early April, we have had a day or two here and there of spring-like weather, but it was always short lived and back we went to cold and snow or chilly and rainy.

Although my winters in New England were terrifically cold and very snowy, and often seemed endless, for some reason I am finding this winter the one that doesn’t want to end!  When I lived north of Boston, I lived in a typical New England town that was built around a small main street area and in conjunction with a private boarding school.  Our streets had sidewalks and, therefore, it was safe to walk all over for miles and not worry about cars.  All I had to do was get dressed for whatever the weather was and head out my door.  Talk about easy!  My favorite route was up the street, through the downtown and into the campus of the school.  I have so many pictures taken at various times of the year to document how the seasons changed.  Here, in the bucolic mountain area of Northeast PA, there are no sidewalks.  While our views are stunning and we have so much privacy, as we are surrounded by small mountains, I am very uncomfortable heading out for a walk or run.

I usually walk the dogs with the professor once or twice a weekend, and sometimes during the week when it is not too cold.  But the ease I enjoyed before, of walking out the front door without worrying about cars, is not the case here.  We have to navigate roughly a mile of windy road until we arrive at a local school where we can walk for another two miles in the woods.  There are similar routes without the woods option, but all require me to navigate windy roads and passing cars.  There are nature trails that are beautiful, but they involve getting into the car.

I think the fact that I could easily get out and about safely when I lived in New England helped to alleviate any possible feelings of winter blues.  It did take me about a year to get used to it, but, once I had dogs, we were out almost every single day for a three to four mile jog.  Unless the sidewalks were icy and dangerous we were outside enjoying nature.  Thankfully my back yard was fenced in and solved the need for daily outings when the conditions were poor.

It is a funny mix of emotions for me.  I can stand in my kitchen and look out upon mountains and feel so at peace and filled with gratitude.  However, I can also think longingly back to my morning outings with my dog and feel sad at the loss of that easy daily activity.

Finally, I am nearing the end of my Whole30 experience and I could not be more excited!  I know I won’t be going back to my milk and sugar coffee habit, but just knowing that I will have the freedom to make choices again is glorious!  I’ve been doing research on grain-free and dairy-free baking and am eager to put my research to the test.  Wednesday morning of next week…

All-in-all, I have felt really good the past 10 – 14 days.  I continue to learn a lot about myself and my relationship with food, and about food in general.

With the end of April comes preparation for exam week in mid May at the U.  Once exams are under way, the professor and I can happily start to think of our summer plans and heading up to Maine to get our New England fix!  We have a little cottage up there, nestled against some woods, along the mid coast.  Not only is it private and woodsy, but it is also very close to the beach – – close enough for a four or five mile bike ride.  I have two gardens I love to tend and we go on daily walks with the dogs, often along the rocky shores.  We have comfy sofas and chairs for reading books and napping and a back deck perfect for lounging and cooking out.  It is our little slice of heaven!

I guess my high/low today is connected – – the sun was out (HIGH!), but it was pretty chilly (LOW!).  Another high was figuring out how to put one of my favorite photographs on this blog.  All-in-all, it has been a good day.

Until next time…

E.M.

P.S. – I have just made an Instagram account!  The account name is elinor_may_.  Guess I am not the only person named Elinor May.  It was hard to find a handle that wasn’t already taken.  I think of my name as being rather unique.   Oh well.  At any rate, I haven’t posted any photographs yet, but I will soon.  I hope you will follow along.  And, as always, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

POST #3 – The Whole30 and me

Dear Reader:

After starting this blog with all good intentions to keep it up and running, posting at least once a week, here I am 44 days after my last (and only second) post.  I am guessing the momentum has fallen by the way side.

Life can get in the way, but it is not how many times you fall down that counts; it is getting up and trying again!

Lots of stuff has been going on since I last posted, but I am not sure if I will reflect back on any of it.  As the days melted into weeks, I was nervous about writing another post after being off for so long, but keeping this blog up and running is important to me so here I am.

What’s new, you ask?

Today is my third day on the Whole30.  My middle one did it about two months ago and has been raving about the positive effects – even now, four weeks after completion.

She didn’t do it to lose weight; she’s a former NCAA Div I athlete and continues to live a healthy lifestyle.  She has always been super careful about her diet and exercise.  She did the Whole30 because, while she doesn’t eat a ton of sweets, she had been wondering about food intolerances (such as dairy) and she liked the whole idea of “resetting”, taking away the extra stuff – – no matter how infrequently she consumed it – – and seeing where she ended up after 30 days.  Would she notice a difference in her energy?  Her skin?  Her sleep?  Her digestion?  Food intolerances?

The answer was a resounding yes.  Well, her skin wasn’t an issue, but she has noticed her energy staying constant and her focus, which has always been pretty good, remaining sharp throughout the day.  She no longer experiences stomach aches after consuming dairy because it was on the “no” list.  She reintroduced a few foods she loves, such as chick peas and rice, and hasn’t noticed any bad reaction so those went back on her food list.  Leading up to Easter and over the weekend, she indulged in sweets and realized that effected her energy, so things like sugar and dairy are out save for special occasions.  And she won’t be eating bread or pasta any time soon either.  She doesn’t miss them so she hasn’t reintroduced them.

Why did I decide to give it a try?  I tend to eat a diet heavy on fresh vegetables with lean protein as a compliment.  Pasta is reserved for those evenings when I am in a bind to get dinner on the table fast.  It is also a favorite comfort food for me, especially with pesto, but it is not a weekly indulgence.  I like bread, but I don’t consume it regularly, although I did eat these amazing multigrain flatbread crackers while visiting my mother for five days last month.  Every.  Single.  Night.  And toast is my go-to whenever I feel yucky, but my general diet is not a concern.

My real problem is sugar.

For a long while now I have felt I might be addicted to it.  It’s not like I eat a lot of junk food and sweets, and certainly not every day, BUT I do have a special way of making my coffee that includes sugar and dairy – – I start with hot skim milk, roughly half of the mug, then add a heaping spoon of sugar, and top it off with strongly brewed coffee.  You should know that I used to take two heaping spoonfuls of sugar, but in recent months I lowered that to just one.  However, that one is still heaping!  Wile I may not have more than one mug in the morning, I definitely have a second mug in the afternoon, say around 2pm.  Some days, I admit, I consume three or four mugs of this deliciously wonderful concoction.  The other problem for me is that it’s all wrapped up in the ritual.

I am a highly ritualistic person.  I thrive on it.  Rituals of sight, touch, taste, and smell, even sound.  I am highly attuned to my senses and they kinda run my life.  I do best when I can follow through with the way I prepare my coffee, make my salads, set the table, make the beds, organize my belongings, even the route I took on my daily jogs  with my dog when I lived in New England – – you get the picture.  Now that I write it all down, I sound like a freak! Anyone else out there like me?

At any rate, worried about the long term effects of so much sugar on my health, I decided I needed to try to cure my sugar addiction.  Now, I realize addicts have to give up their addiction for life, but, seeing as my love of coffee is tied up in the way I prepare it, when this is all over I  hope I will find a way to enjoy coffee again.  Sans sugar.  I know – – milk contains sugar.  That is something else I am contemplating over the remaining 27 days, since dairy is also out of the picture.  UGH!

Day three and what I am really noticing is the absence of my morning and afternoon ritual: taking the long-handled, two tablespoon measurer out of the vintage, cut glass, handle-less sugar bowl (given to me years ago by my aunt to corral my collection, which she helped start, of antique and vintage silver teaspoons); measuring out two scoops of beans and one heaping teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa; the sound of the beans as I grind them; the smell of the coffee, tinged with cocoa, brewing; the act of measuring out the milk in my pyrex measuring cup (the one I use ONLY for heating milk); the ding alerting me to both coffee and milk being ready to pour into any one of my special mugs (Yes, I have a collection; are you surprised?  Each one actually means something to me.  Right now I am favoring my millennial pink, short, squat mug that makes me smile because it reads “hello gorgeous”); milk first, then comes the sugar, followed by coffee and topped off with cinnamon.  I pause briefly, both hands wrapped around the mug, as I bring it towards my face.  The warmth transfers from the mug to my hands, which always run cold.  The aroma wafts up, around my head and inside my nasal cavity.  Gosh, I genuinely love that moment.  I take my first sip leaning back against the counter.  Often I will say, to no one in particular, “Wow, now that’s a cup of coffee!”  Then I move to the kitchen table or living room couch or back deck to fully enjoy every single sip.

This time is for me, usually, and mostly I simply sit and enjoy the mountains beyond the back of our house in NEPA or the view from the living room couch into the dining room or the woods behind our Maine cottage or the flames flickering in our gas stove up there.  Sometimes I read an article or three.  Often music is playing; sometimes NPR news on our little kitchen radio.  And there are days when I barely get it made before I have to run out to take my youngest to class, so the coffee is enjoyed in the car with country music playing on the radio and the passenger seat occupied.

Before I started this journey, I tried several different ways to prepare my coffee  – – with almond or coconut milk and vanilla extract – – but nothing tasted good enough to warrant me taking the time and energy to put it together.  I may change my mind after another few days, but I decided to go without coffee altogether!

I don’t seem to have an issue with caffeine.  It rarely, if ever, keeps me awake at night.  On mornings when I rise feeling sluggish and tired, I don’t think it is the caffeine that gets me up and going.  Honestly, I believe it’s the sugar.  Sadly, I think I kinda run on it.

So, on this third day of the Whole30, it seems my main complaint is missing out on my morning and afternoon coffee ritual.

Have you heard of the Whole30?  Tried it?  If so, what was your experience?

Time to get ready for my Wednesday early evening slow flow/restorative yoga class.  I had worried my yoga practice would be effected this first week on the Whole30, but yesterday morning’s class was definitely one of the best I have experienced since moving to NEPA.  While I was a bit tired and sluggish, I found I was able to rise to the occasion and put in a really positive effort.  Interested to see if tonight is the same.

Until next time, which I hope won’t be too long…..

E.M.