Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's Time for Rehab Again :)

     Sugar rehab. Diet and lifestyle rehab. It begins tomorrow, again. I actually began a new way of eating back in November, for medical reasons, and did pretty well, despite the intrusions of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. But January first, I got serious about it. I did thirty one days with NO SUGAR. No artificial sweeteners. No natural sugars, even, like Maple syrup or honey. Nothing except the natural sugar found in fruits.  
      In  addition, I got rid of all grains, all dairy products, all potatoes and rice, all fast foods, and processed foods. For 31 days I ate "clean." For 31 days, I ate nothing but fresh fruits, vegetables, meats/seafood, eggs, and nuts. And my body LOVED me for it. From its beginnings back in November, which was when I first gave up most of that, most of the time, until the end of January, I lost 20 pounds without exercising a lick. Just from changing my diet. And, it's a "diet" that isn't a diet - it's really a lifestyle change for me. One I can live with forever, because I LIKE the things I can eat, and  - except for sugar - do not really miss the things I can't. And, medically, it has helped, as much as I had hoped it would. But in it's purest form, it is strict. When I'm not intentionally rehabbing my body, I will eat dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, etc. and will use honey or maple syrup and dark, dark chocolate (more than 70% cacao) to create treats for myself, and oddly enough, once you get rid of the sugar, those things are plenty sweet enough, even though if I were to have eaten them back a year ago, they would not have tasted sweet to me then.
     But, lately, it seems I have been slipping more and more: "there's no meat already cooked, and the scalloped potatoes and ham look really good"..... "there are no veggies cooked, but that bag of salt and vinegar chips wouldn't hurt just once"..... "I haven't had ice cream in soooooo long......"  and before I know it, I'm eating like crap again, and I don't feel good, nor do I feel good about myself, and the weight loss is at a standstill. Amazing it is ONLY at a standstill, and not inching back up again. So far. But that wouldn't last, I'm sure.
     So... for awhile I kept telling myself come May 1, I would do another "Whole 30," the strict part of eating the way I now eat, for another 30 days. Finally, after my laziness this morning allowed me to use artificial sweetened flavored creamer in my coffee because I was just too lazy to mix up the coconut milk/coconut oil/egg/vanilla concoction I use, I decided I was not going to wait until Thursday. I'm starting tomorrow, Monday. A fresh week, a fresh start, jumping back on the wagon.
Coffee creamer was the last straw, because that was the absolute HARDEST thing for me to give up, out of EVERYTHING. I love my morning coffee with flavored creamer in it, and I could find absolutely NO substitute that was allowed that even came close. In January, I had to drink it black for 30 days - that's all that's allowed, and I swear, that was very nearly my breaking point, even before sugar. It made me SAD to drink my coffee black, because I LOVED my morning coffee before that, and I do not like black coffee. But, once that was done, I did try the coconut milk mix and, after a month of black, I decided that was ok. I didn't love it at first, but I came to, eventually. It's a creamer with no sugar that I can live with, and still happily enjoy my morning coffee again. But in allowing myself to slip back to flavored creamer this morning, I'm afraid if I don't get ahold of myself now, that will be my undoing, my "slippery slope," my "gateway drug."  I have read that sugar is, to the brain, every bit as addicting as meth. While it obviously does not begin to compare in effects to that horrible drug, I do believe the analogy. And it also makes me wonder why sugar is in so much of what we eat - I found it in nearly everything, once I started reading labels: mayonnaise, salad dressings, meats like bacon and lunch meats, chicken bouillon cubes, milk. It is unbelievable.
     But I have some new recipes to try, and like I said, I don't mind the things I can eat. I love vegetables, and fruits, and raw nuts. I don't like milk much to begin with, don't like cheese, do miss yogurt and ice cream, but.... oh well. I love my banana pancakes, and pumpkin pancakes, found sugar free bacon,  and have come to tolerate water as an ok drink. I love that I've lost 20 pounds, and look forward to trying to rid myself of another 20 between now and the end of June, even if it means I actually have to do some walking to move the next bunch. At least it is nicer weather to do that now than it would have been last fall. And, best of all, it HAS had the health benefits I had hoped (i.e. it lowered my cholesterol significantly without having to be on statin drugs, which I hated), so in the long run, I think kicking white sugar and white flour is well worth what I HOPE will be a healthier life. It's all a crap shoot, I know, but... I'm trying.

Monday, April 21, 2014

10 Random Bits of Happiness

1. Too many cardinals to count, lately. Everywhere. A nesting pair in my back yard even, somewhere. Their song is so nearly constant I ALMOST take it for granted.

2. A nesting pair of Blue Jays in the Forsythia bush right outside my kitchen window. I removed the screen from the inside of the window today while they were gone so that I will be able to take pictures of the eggs and eventual babies in the nest.

3. Meeting, nearly 21 months after his birth, my great-nephew Bowen for the first time. He's every bit as fun and adorable as I have imagined him to be, and I got to spend quite a bit of time with him.

4. Getting to see both my nieces that I have not seen in also at least that long. They have grown from beautiful little girls into beautiful and wonderful women.

5. Spending part of Easter Day with 3 of my four kids, lunch with eldest daughter, early dinner with youngest daughter, and just hang-around time with second son. Eldest son was working too much overtime this weekend to be seen, but will see him tonight for dinner, I imagine.

6. Finally got all 10 of my elderberry bushes that I ordered last fall planted in the ground. All survived the winter on my porch in their shipping box, and still look very healthy.

7. It's been a week plus two weekends plus an extra day on each end of those weekends for spring break, and the weather the past two days here has been BEAUTIFUL. It is going to get crummy again tomorrow, as I head back to work. (yay!) (For crummy weather while at work, not for the 'heading back to work' part)

8.  Speaking of work, I'm in the homestretch now. We are officially in the last quarter, the last ten weeks out of 40, before summer vacation, and that usually is the quickest quarter of the year as well.

9.  I have read/finished two excellent books this week. Love having time to read.

10. We are FINALLY going to be replacing our ugly, beat up floor in the downstairs of our house, and I could not be more excited to finally begin some updating and work on our old, terrible house.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"We are such stuff As dreams are made on..."

     This year has been my worst EVER year of teaching in the 25+ years I have been in the classroom. Common Core is SO discouraging, so boring, so wrong. I hate it, and the kids hate it, and it is just plain bad teaching. And NYS's high stakes testing is also wrong, and makes me sick, on behalf of my kids. We have  just finished my subject's portion of that last week, and it was bad. But worst of all, or maybe just most visible of all, is this year's group of students. Never have I had a group like them.  Never in my life have I had a group that has caused me more stress, literally Every. Single. Day. There is no relief from it. Every day is just as bad as the one before. Thankfully (?), it is not just me... this group has caused the same stress to the other grade-level teacher who shares them with me, and to their "specials" teachers as well. One of those other teachers, who only has to deal with them for 40 minutes 3x a week, as opposed to all day every day, looked at me last week and said, "What is WRONG with this group of kids?"  I wish I knew. More importantly, I wish I knew how to fix it, for their sake, and for mine. The stress is adding up, and I although I only have one more quarter of the year to go til summer vacation,  it's winning. (Plus, I will have this exact same group NEXT year too - oh yippee. Talk about not excited to return from summer vacation next September...)
     The signs are there. I've been ignoring them. I've tried very hard to convince myself that it really isn't all that bad, that I'm fine, that I'm just making a big deal out of nothing, and that I should just continue to try to shrug it off. And, in fact, that all may well be true. But my body has a way of getting my attention, no matter how much I try to pretend. I internalize stress to the nth degree.  Two weeks ago my neck and shoulders and back were SO knotted up and tight and painful, I thought about seeking treatment. I always carry stress in my neck and shoulder area anyway, but this was notably worse. Then, last week, there was a burning sensation all week right in the middle of my back, like a muscle spasm. This weekend, I'm back to the knotted and painful neck and shoulder muscles. Grrr. I'm honestly not even sure a good massage could work out all the tightness.
     Somewhere, a week or two ago, I had a disturbing dream along in there as well, about my classroom kids, where I actually saw my real students and used their real names. Normally, in my dreams, I can tell what I'm dreaming about, but the people aren't actually the real ones, or have different faces, or different names; the places are different, not necessarily real, or not real for the situation. I might dream I am in school, but the school isn't recognizable as MY school, it might actually look like a shopping mall or a church but somehow, in my dream, I know I'm in school. But last week, and then again last night, I had school dreams that were way too realistic. They were my students, in name and face and actions, and I was yelling at them for their behaviors. SCREAMING at them in frustration. I never do that in real life, though every single day I feel like it. In both dreams, I was soooooo frustrated, just screaming and yelling and trying to get them to do what they were supposed to, and they would not. I woke up more stressed than I was when I went to sleep.
     It's not really a surprise. I'm smart enough to know that what I don't deal with in my waking world, my subconscious will try desperately to work out in my dream world. Earlier, I discovered, that when I was very worried about money, I would often dream about floors with holes in them I had to step over, or step around, worried about falling through. I had so many unsafe floor dreams it was crazy - I can even remember at least ten different unsafe floors - in a barn, in a log cabin loft, in several different vacation rental homes, etc. Once I figured out what the issue was, and dealt with it, the dreams quit. Now, clearly, these school dreams are not so cryptic. Clearly I am frustrated in my daily life to the point of wanting to scream, but knowing that is an unacceptable method of dealing with students, I sublimate it. Apparently it isn't even enough for me to be so stressed my back and neck and shoulders are hunched up like a troll. I need to vent in my dreams as well.
      The real problem, besides hating the smell of Tiger Balm muscle rub, is that I'm beginning to take my SCHOOL stress out on other relationships in my life. Because I can't seem to deal with the kids, or Common Core, or State testing, in any way that alleviates the stress, I yell at other people for what I feel, in the moment, are legitimate issues, only to realize later when I've calmed down, that, normally, I would have just let THOSE things roll off my back. I understand it, but the other people in my life don't. I don't blame them. "Sorry, honey, I created WW3 in our home last night over "that" - it's not you, it's that I'm stressed at work."  Yeah, I wouldn't buy it from another adult either. While it might be true, it IS completely unacceptable adult behavior.
     So, where does that leave me? Besides sleepless and in pain and frustrated?  Looking for solutions. I can't retire for 4 more years, so that's not one. My bathtub drain doesn't hold water, so a hot bubble bath isn't in the cards. I'm not much of a drinker, so drowning my sorrows is out. I don't have much time after work so a lengthy wander through the fields and forests, although soothing-sounding, isn't realistic. (nor do I have fields and forests at my disposal, so there's that, too, I guess, as a downside).And I no longer eat sugar, so I can't even binge on chocolate or ice cream and justify it as a stress reliever! Binging on broccoli just doesn't have the same allure.  I don't know. I don't KNOW what the solution is, or solutions are. No matter what I've tried, all the same shit is just there waiting for me the next day, so any solution is only temporary. I've always been really good at just "adjusting my attitude," and I guess I thought I was still managing to do that, but apparently my back, and my dreams, say otherwise.