I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Month: January, 2017

Tart Cranberry Marmalade

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No Sugar-Coating Allowed

Did you resolve to quit sugar? Has your resolve devolved into stress eating? Do you worry that it doesn’t matter what you eat anymore because the end of the world is nigh?

Sigh.

As I was taking this photo this morning, my husband asked what I was doing. I told him that the only topic I could imagine writing about was food. I am overwhelmed with the politics of the day, of the week, so I am reverting to my comfort/discomfort zone.

Food.

Maybe if I control what I eat, I will feel some semblance of control over my world. This myth fueling my disordered eating still lingers.

The World Health Organization now recommends that we limit our intake of sugar to no more than 5% of calories. That works out to about 100 calories, or about 6 teaspoons. Yup. That’s it. That is not very much.

Sugar is in tomato sauce, breakfast cereal, bread, salad dressing, yogurt, granola, nutrition bars, low fat snacks. Oh, and soda. It is easier to limit sugar if you cook for yourself instead of buying prepared foods. I  find that you can get used to less and less sugar over time. As you phase out sugar, you will discover that foods you used to like now taste too sweet and that the flavor is diluted with sweetness, not pure.

This month, I have craved bitter and intense foods to match my mood, eliminating more and more sugar. I have replaced my granola with walnuts. I have started eating more eggs instead of cereal for breakfast. And I have replaced my strawberry jam and orange marmalade with homemade cranberry sauce. It’s not for the faint of heart. But then, neither is living.

Tart Cranberry Marmalade

Austere. Sharp. Perfect for these bitter bitter times.

  • ½ 12 oz bag of cranberries (freeze the other half)
  • ¼ cup of orange juice (or pomegranate juice)

Heat cranberries and juice in a saucepan until gently boiling. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Let cool. Refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup and lasts for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Use as you would jam or marmalade. I like it with whole wheat toast/bagel and goat cheese. I make peanut butter or almond butter or walnut butter sandwiches with it.

You’ve been warned. It is not sweet.

Not A Normal Day

Today, I am:

Working. Almost always an absorbing activity.

Noon-1:00. Pilates class.

Calling my senators to vote NO on Betsy DeVos.

Dinner and a show with my husband and friends to support the arts, now under fire.

Preparing to lead Circle of Peace meditation tomorrow.

#notanormalday

What Is A Leader?

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“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many years ago, a new boss of mine insisted that we read Jim Collins’ From Good To Great. It was a collective exercise to encourage us all to think about leadership and to develop our own “Level 5” leadership qualities, as we worked to transform our organization from good to great. The main take-away that I remember from that book is that leaders are humble and put their own self-interest behind what is good for the company.

On this day – honoring Martin Luther King Jr and anticipating the inauguration of someone I think is the antithesis of a leader (let alone a Level 5 leader!) – I am reminded of this book and the path it set me on towards clarifying for me what makes a good leader.

As a yoga teacher, an executive, a mother, a human – I have thought long and hard about what makes people successful and how I can embody the qualities that I value. I marvel at the teachers and bosses and friends who elicit the best from all the people they touch.

These are the qualities of a good leader that inspire me and motivate me.

  • They are teachers. They are patient and explain things well and have no judgment that you should already know something. They are learners, always curious.
  • They are listeners, willing to consider opposing points of view and to grapple with reconciling opposing points of view.
  • They have struggled and are not embarrassed by their struggles – because their hardships make them more approachable and more compassionate. More grateful.
  • They care, passionately, about something. They work hard and will sacrifice at great cost for what they care about. They approach their passion with joy.
  • They make mistakes and can laugh at themselves. They let you make mistakes and don’t make fun of your mistakes. Well, if they laugh at you, it is with affection and understanding.
  • They make other people feel special. Asking questions, listening, and honoring each person as they are, right there right then.
  • They are honest. They do the right thing. They tell the truth and say what needs to be said. Even if it is hard.
  • They are optimistic, confident in their purpose. They foster a team environment and celebrate the holistic gestalt of the team. They are cheerleaders, inspiring and motivating you to be your best.
  • They are inclusive. Every person counts and has a voice. Every one is invited.
  • They are generous. They are kind.

Image Credit: Used with permission from Dave Bowman at Design Turnpike. Thank you!

Choosing Peace

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Uttanasana

I am at peace with my not being at peace. This sums up how I feel this New Year’s.

Gradually, year over year over year, I have moved away from setting ambitious goals and resolutions and moved toward setting intentions – to choose to be more happy and open to love, to listen to my heart more than to my ego, to see what is good – not what is lacking.

Of course, I still want to have more money, achieve more success, eliminate meat and sugar, be a better citizen of the world, read more books, stop picking my cuticles, throw away stuff, get organized already, be a better mother, and so on. And on. And on.

I am familiar with these goals and make mild progress on them from time to time. Really though, it is exhausting. Bordering on boring.

But when you really stop and ask: what do we want from life? Isn’t it: To feel joy, experience love, reduce suffering.

Peace. Inner peace, if not world peace.

B.K.S. Iyengar says that Uttanasana is “a boon to people who get excited quickly, as it soothes the brain cells. After finishing the pose, one feels calm and cool, the eyes start to glow and the mind feels at peace.” Indeed.

When, at the height of my mid-life anxiety, I would do forward folds in yoga class, I would weep. Turning inward, calming down from my busy busy busy pursuit of not feeling, I would feel. My hamstrings. My breath. My sadness. Of time passing. Of rejections. Of goals not achieved. Yoga class was the only place I would let myself be still, still enough to feel.

Folding forward is private. You can be with your self. Feeling your body, your breath. Just feeling. Just being.

Now, on the other side of my mid-life anxiety, Uttanasana is a pause. A transition. A comforting place to breathe and reflect. Kind of like New Year’s. When I look back on the last year (or years), I see a woman who is happier, more open, more grateful, more able to laugh, more loving.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, can we focus on what we do have? What is good, not what is bad.

As this year has ended with great uncertainty about what our world will be like under President-elect Trump, I have to fight against anxiety, anger, panic, despair. It is easy to succumb to the swirl of anxiety.

I will not contribute to negative energy. I resolve to be a force for love, compassion, and positive change.

I will choose peace.

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