Sugar Math

It’s been six months since I decided to quit sugar and wheat and get my health back. I’m still at it and while I have not lost significant weight, just bloat, the most obvious signs of digestive distress are gone. Eliminating wheat has been a game-changer for me as far as how my body functions. That’s why I’m not often tempted by pasta, bread, cereal or other processed foods containing wheat. P.S. All processed foods contain wheat.

In “I Quit Sugar” Sarah Wilson admits to eating an occasional gluten free muffin or other low-sugar treat, and I admit to adding Saltine crackers to my homemade vegetable soup. The first ingredient on the Saltine box is “wheat” but I had a cold, then a cough, then bronchitis, for most of the month of October. So I needed soup. The first week we had vegetable soup and the second week, chicken noodle. A main ingredient of chicken noodle soup is pasta and sick as I was, I could not make myself omit the pasta.

I was too tired to fight with my better self, the one who thinks before she eats. There was not a lot of meal planning (or grocery shopping) going on in October. Whatever was easy, and could be made out of stuff in the pantry, I was eating. I wasn’t that hungry anyway, so the added wheat didn’t have much of an immediate negative effect.

I don’t know how to say this next part. Okay, here it is. When I’m ill, I go to a place where I want to be taken care of. I feel sorry for myself and I’m all I’ve got. So, like an indulgent parent, I soothe myself with sugar. Especially ice cream because it also soothes my sore throat. In October, I ate a lot of ice cream. Also chocolate and scones plus donuts. And apple cider. Because those are the “groceries” I could pick up at the drug store when I was buying another bottle of cough syrup.

Sarah addresses lapses in “I Quit Sugar.” They happen. We’re human. To her, a lapse means she’ll eat a gluten-free muffin or a chocolate chip cookie and in the moment she’ll check out how she feels. Does the cookie make her feel better? How does it taste compared to how she imagined it would? That’s Sarah. Now me. I will eat the cookie and of course I don’t feel better, because I have bronchitis, so I eat another and another and eventually the package is gone.

**When I’m not sick, I don’t eat sugar at home. If I am at a friend’s house, like my book club lunch or my writer’s breakfast, I eat dessert. At restaurants, I order salad or eggs. Sometimes I’ll get a burger and not eat the bun. I don’t even LIKE buns anymore. But this is the strong not-sick me. In the past few days I’ve been getting back to her.

It’s a bit of a misnomer about quitting sugar. Sarah did the research on how much sugar is absolutely OK to eat in a day. There’s a magic sugar number, and for women it is 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, or 26 grams. Men get 9 teaspoons (36 grams) and kids go just a bit higher. I probably got that much in my cough medicine, but I was too sick to check labels.

Now I’m back to checking labels, or, easier for me, just saying no to sweets, wheat and packaged foods. But I’ve been craving pumpkin, which has minimal sugar, 2 grams in a half cup, so I googled around for pumpkin recipes with no wheat or sugar. Found a few and made pumpkin-buckwheat pancakes yesterday. Recipe made 12 pancakes and I froze the leftovers because when you cook everything from scratch, batch cooking will save your life. When I got sick I had veggie soup batch-cooked and frozen waiting for me!

I can kind of tell how much added sugar is in foods I use now, but just to double check myself, I went through everything I put into those pancakes, and on them when I served myself, and added up the sugars in my meal. Came out to 25 grams of sugar, and that includes a bit of whipped cream on the pancake stack <1 gram, the sugar in the canned pumpkin <1 gram, the sugar in my syrup (22 grams, I use brown rice syrup, about half the natural sugars as that in maple syrup), and coconut creamer (1 gram) in my coffee. That’s it. Almost my at my sugar limit for today. Which is fine. I have a big salad, veggie burger, spaghetti squash, tomatoes and ground turkey on the menu for lunch and dinner. All that 0 grams of added sugar.

I admit, I feel good. (Part of that is just being so overjoyed to feel normal again). I’ll also admit, I’m scared. The holiday food season is upon us and I have a doctor’s appointment in December to check my sugar levels. I’ve had six months to lower my A1c. Can I keep off sugar (or stick to 6 tsp per day) until then? Or will sickness and the season spoil my success?

If you have any tips for eating sensibly during the holidays, I would love to hear them. Email me or drop a comment below. Thanks!

As Above, So Below

Important news from the stars for writers here on earth. Mercury will be retrograde from Halloween until November 20. I had to look at my calendar twice this morning because obstacles are already throwing themselves in my writing path. Luckily, I am in revision mode with the WIP, and Mercury Retrograde is an absolutely awesome time for revision.

Not such a great time for signing contracts or making new electronic purchases. Communication is a bit fraught during Mercury Retrograde, so watch your words, in manuscript and real life. That goes for delivery of mail electronically or through USPS, Amazon or any other kind of mail system.

Yesterday I was determined to get down to business on my WIP. I’ve been doing okay, more or less keeping up with my schedule despite some minor setbacks, but felt it was time to put all the pieces into one pile, read through everything I have, and see what needs to be cut and what still needs to be added.

Got all the various files into one master document and decided to print the whole damn thing out. I’m about halfway through my revisions, and know what still needs to be fixed and written. I even know how I’m going to do it. I have a plan plus notes and an outline. Not flying blind, here.

Was happily printing out my 62K words so far, when things started going !!!!! Literally. Laptop printer icon said !!!!! and printer flashed same !!!!! Also, the last twenty or so pages printed made it clear I needed to change the ink cartridge. Alas, my grand plan was foiled for the moment. And my tech guy (Al) was at the football game. He had recently ordered extra ink cartridges and so even though it was a new printer, and laser not ink jet, I figured I’d try to change the cartridge.

Things did not go well. I figured okay Al will eventually come home and when he gets time he will fix everything for me and I will be humming a happy tune once again. Also, I don’t use the printer on Mondays because I blog and everything is online. Then I remembered I was hosting my book group on Thursday and I needed to shop, clean, and cook before then. So…maybe I can finish what I started on Friday.

As long as things get sorted before Mercury appears to move backward in the sky, I’m good. For more on exactly what Mercury Retrograde is, see Susan’s post here.

Studying the Stars

Last night’s full moon was in Aries. The constellation is an actual place in the sky, so “full moon in Aries” just means that’s where the moon is located in the sky for the next week or so. Full moons are significant scientifically because the moon’s gravitational force is greatest at this time, affecting the ocean tides more than any other time.

The fact that the moon rules the ocean tides amazes me. How can that be? How can the moon pull the ocean waves around? The moon has its own gravity is the short answer. The long answer is like higher math, incomprehensible but also beautiful, at least to me. For a long time, I used science facts about the moon to defend my reading of the stars.

These days, I don’t try to convince anybody that astrology has merit. It’s the same with reading the tarot. I interpret tarot and astrology because divination is in my blood. My great-grandmother read the cards and tea leaves. During the Great Depression, her readings kept her large family fed. That impresses me. Having been a single mom, I know how hard it is to raise a family on a woman’s wage.

The taboo against astrology began with the advent of the One God. Astrology was a pagan tool from ancient times, which is why believers in the One God were schooled not to look to the heavens, not to look to the stars, for answers about the meaning of life, for predictions about what happens next, for a clue about which path to follow. Not looking to the stars seems ironic, because the One God is in heaven, right?

I use tarot and astrology to spark ideas. They’re starting points for me, and they’re about possibilities more than predictions. The more esoteric meanings of a full moon in Aries engages passion, energy and courage. It’s a time to take action, break chains that would hold us back, and savor the freedom and confidence that ensues.

This moon may see a sudden and drastic change in your life. Or maybe not. What I like to do is be ready. Just in case. So far, I’ve not had any sudden or drastic change in my situation, but I will keep you posted if it happens. 🙂

In general, full moons, and the two weeks after, are times of change. When events reach the fullness of their manifestation. Maybe what this full moon means for me is having the courage to lay some of my private inner practices out here on the page.

Renewing Writing Practices

Reading and journaling these past weeks with Colleen Story’s game changing Writer Get Noticed, so many of my writing plans have come into sharper focus, including how best to adjust my writing practices. Specifically, I’m looking at changing writing routines when my husband retires at the end of the year.

When I finish Jane in St Pete in December, I have no plans for a next novel. Al’s retirement is not the only reason it feels right to take a break from writing novels. Since I’ve been publishing books, I’ve steadily released at least one a year. I noticed a slow down with Lily White in Detroit, my tenth novel.

At first I attributed my decreased output to the added research that comes with writing crime novels, but after studying Colleen’s writer’s self-help guide, I realized I’ve come to a natural stopping point, at least for now, at least as far as writing novels.

As I worked through the illuminating exercises Colleen lays out in a genius step process, I learned that while adjusting to a new life passage that involves fun, travel and moving out of my home state, I still want to keep some portable writing practices. Writing a novel takes a big chunk of time, a room of my own and steady commitment, day after day, month after month.

My life is not going to have those long stretches of time in a writing room, at least not for a year or maybe even longer. Although…I start every day with morning pages, and have done for many years. I won’t give up my journal and gel pen. And I don’t want to give up my fiction writing groups and friends, either.

Short stories helped me fill the gap after Lily White and gave me something to bring to my critique groups. Stories kept my craft skills sharp. And eventually, they led to Jane in St. Pete. Like many writers, I started writing fiction with short stories. I published a few of them, but mostly they were a way to begin to figure out my voice and how to write a narrative.

Things can get stale for me if I keep doing them over and over without hitting refresh, and that happened recently with morning pages. I’d write a half page and sit there with nothing to say. Julia Cameron, who introduced me to morning pages, recommends three pages every morning. That’s still what I shoot for. Answering the questions Colleen poses became a way for me to write not just three pages every morning, but four, five, even six pages. All while discovering what to do next.

I was on fire as I got deeper into the heart of what I really want out of my writing life now. More flexibility. Less sustained attention. Writing I can finish in a couple of hours or days. Long before I began the daily discipline needed for writing novels, I was a blogger. I also published book reviews, personal essays, poetry and short stories. All things I enjoyed and could do around my teaching job.

With the help of Colleen’s therapeutic method of writerly inquiry, I was able to figure out how to keep the writing I love close while figuring out how this new adventurous phase of married life will look in retirement. I have so many new goals. I’m looking forward to finishing Jane and going through the editing process with my publisher’s guidance. I can’t wait to gear up for the marketing aspect of a new release–Colleen also helped me clarify how to do publicity my way.

I’ve learned what does and does not work for me as a writer. I love morning pages, social media, my blog. I especially enjoy giving my website a fresh design, which will happen in 2020 along with that novel I’ve been working on for a while now. 🙂 I’ve still got a ways to go with the novel, but the revision is coming together even as I decide what to pack and what to leave behind on this next great adventure.

Teenage Parents

Mom and Dad on far left, with aunts and uncles.

I had no interest in reading Demi Moore’s biography until a reviewer mentioned she’d had a tough childhood. The adjective was stronger than “tough” maybe “horrific” — something that made my ears perk up. To come so far from where she’d started, enduring some form of ongoing abuse as a child, was a story I wanted to hear.

As a scandal rag addict, I knew the public parts: the marriages, the movies, the Kabbalah. I didn’t know much about her childhood or how she got from there to stardom. I’d seen her on General Hospital back in the day. I remember she was on a bed typing on a keyboard with the laptop sitting in front of her. As an image, it was all wrong. Writers sat at desks, like I did in those days, or, like I’m doing now, they have their laptops in their…laps.

“Jackie Templeton” was no writer, but all these years later, Demi Moore has achieved that status. Her story touched me and kept me glued to my chair, my eyes on the pages until the end. I thought I knew about the marriages, but she went deeper. She did an emotional dive, revealing the lack of a strong intimate connection with Bruce Willis and her age-related insecurities with Ashton Kutcher. She talked about raising her three girls and the heartache of their teen rebellions. She was brutally honest about herself and her various addictions to alcohol, pills, dieting, and Ashton.

She looked at her childhood in all it’s messiness, without disguising the very worst aspects of her rocky road to growing up. It inspired my post today. Demi’s parents were 18 when they married, and she gave them lots of leeway because of that, but no way around it, they were about as emotionally abusive as you could get. Sure, they were young. Is that an excuse? Maybe so. My mother was 16 when I was born. Barely. She’d had her 16th birthday the month before I made my appearance. When she was barely 17, she had my brother, and then, not even yet 18, she prematurely had my younger brother. Finally, the Pill came and she scored a prescription as soon as humanly possible.

Like Demi’s family, we moved a lot. The difference was, my mom was always leaving my dad and bringing us with her. One year we went to three different elementary schools. My mom worked as a waitress and we hardly saw her, and my dad never visited us at all. He once came to the door and he stayed there, out on the stoop. I ran up to the door and said “Hi, Dad!” I was eight and so excited to see him. He said “Hi honey,” and a few weeks later we all moved back into the family home. It was a dream come true for me. I loved my dad so much. My mom? She was a heartache.

Of course I loved her, but I never felt loved by her. We kids were always told to go outside and play and we were not allowed in the house. If we wanted a drink of water, there was a hose outside. We came in for lunch and then were told to get right back outside. Before we were all in school, she would often say she couldn’t wait for us to be gone all day. She gave us grudging kisses goodnight, with no bedtime stories or any affection, ever. If we were sick, well, we weren’t allowed to be sick. She never believed in tummy aches or anything like that.

She did all the things a mom is supposed to do. She fed us three meals, washed our clothes, made sure we took baths and got to bed on time. She kept a clean house. But it was always abundantly clear to me that we were a bother and she couldn’t wait for us to be anywhere but in her sight. She used the line a lot “Get out of my sight.” My dad, when he was home, if they weren’t broken up at the time, was a loving presence. I knew why he stayed out at the bar. She wasn’t nice to him either. Mom was a screamer. She never talked if she could yell. And when she talked, her tone was never nice. Always nasty.

I knew there was something not right with her. She didn’t act like other moms. In my young mind, she didn’t love us, she didn’t really even like us. We still loved her. She didn’t physically abuse us other than a slap across the face when we talked back. She liked to say “Wait until your father gets home,” but my dad was a pussycat. He was a loving affection guy. One of the first things I remember him saying to me was in reply to a question I asked from my crib. “Are you going to spank me?” and he said “I never spank little girls.” He smiled at me and gave me a kiss on top of my head.

At the time, I thought that couldn’t be true. Because it’s one of my first memories, I never figured out why I thought that he wasn’t telling the truth. Now I realize my mom had probably scolded me and said Dad was going to give me a spanking. Well, he didn’t. And that wasn’t the only time he intervened when my mother was inflicting some form of punishment on me. She got more inventive and vindictive as I got older. I had to wear the clothes she chose for me, and the older I got, the less I liked her style.

When I was fifteen, the age she was when she got pregnant with me, she brought a few empty grocery bags into my room, told me to pack and leave the house. I was scared but I wasn’t sorry to go. Years later, it occurred to me that she’d been trying to live her life through me, and I was not cooperating. I smoked pot and refused to wear a bra. My boyfriends had long hair. She wanted me to be an airline stewardess, utterly impossible because I wore glasses and was too short. She wanted me to wear the clothes she thought were cute and have the boyfriends she liked. I was so much my own person we were in constant conflict.

And when I turned the age she had been when I was conceived, she shoved me out, no qualms. I tried to live on my own but I couldn’t even legally get a job at first. I bounced around with family and friends, finally I quit school for a semester. I wanted to finish with my class and graduate, so I begged her to let me move back. She agreed I could live in her garage. September was fine. October was chilly and finally by November that garage got too cold.

My dad, as he had so many times in my life, came to my rescue once again. He’d moved out and had his own house by then. He was getting back together with my mom (they were always breaking up and making up) and I could live in his house for my senior year of high school. I did have to pay the bills and buy groceries with my little fast food job, but he didn’t charge me rent. So my family lived on one side of town and me, the black sheep, lived on my own way on the other side of town. Somehow I pulled it together enough to graduate with my class.

When I finally had children of my own, Mom warmed up to me. She loved my boys. She was so angry with me when I divorced their dad, but cooled down when I met the man I’m married to still today. Everybody loves Al, including my boys. As you might expect, I’ve had a shitload of therapy. I’ve got more baggage than a movie star on vacation. But I’ve learned a lot, and always the hard way. These days my mom has been saying she never had a childhood. I do have sympathy for her, but I don’t tell her what’s in my heart: for some of us, childhood is just something to be endured.