This is a Story About a Girl and Her Sugar

Barbie on Sugar

I have been drinking a lot of sugar in my coffee for nearly two decades. When Noah was a baby back in 1997, my coffee of choice was General Foods International Coffee French Vanilla Cafe, made with skim milk.

French Vanilla Cafe

It’s not even coffee. It’s sugar, hydrogenated soybean oil and corn syrup solids, with instant coffee and artificial vanilla flavor. But it sort of tasted like coffee and it contained caffeine. It’s also manufactured by Maxwell House, and that’s coffee, right? I drank a giant mug of it every morning and another one in the afternoon while I took care of my little newborn first baby.

Thus, the story of my coffee addiction begins in the heart of Sugar Land, where residents enjoy a little bit of coffee to go with their cream and sugar. And black coffee only exists in their most bitter of nightmares.

In the early 2000s, my favorite Starbucks drink was a Grande Caramel Macchiato, with a whopping 32 grams of sugar, and I treated myself to one every time I went out. At home, I bought flavored creamers. The big giant artificial garbage that tastes so creamy and good and comes in seasonal flavors and pretty colors. Look how pretty…

International Delight

About 10 years ago, in an effort to be healthier, I started buying organic fair trade whole bean coffee, organic half and half, and vanilla or hazelnut syrup from Whole Foods. Because buying it from Whole Foods means it’s healthy, even if it’s syrup.

Finally, I moved from sugar/syrup to local raw honey. It wasn’t fake, and it actually had some nutritional value. But my coffee was still very, very creamy and sweet. Creamy and sweet brings me great joy.

That’s where I’ve lived the last several years and where I intended to stay.

I’d come to the realization that I really love sweet, creamy coffee. It is truly one of my favorite things. I look forward to it every day. In my gratitude journal, coffee makes a regular appearance. More so than people. I’m not joking.

I also love joy.

So, since I experienced such joy, I’d decided to stop worrying about coffee and sugar and all that, because I truly eat clean about 90% of the time. I’d decided, in the light of eternity, sugar in coffee was simply not a big deal. Loving coffee more than people could be problematic, however.

In January, I went on a fast. It was a spiritual fast, but I cut several things out of my diet, not the least of which were animal products (including half and half) and sugar. During that fast, I drank only water and black coffee.

For a girl who drinks whitish coffee with honey every morning, THIS WAS THE WORST TASTING THING EVER. I dreaded every morning of the fast and hated every single second of sipping that stupid joyless black coffee. However, I was unwilling to deal with fasting AND caffeine withdrawal, so I forced myself to drink the stupid joyless black coffee every morning and get on with my caffeinated day.

I did that for 21 days. I also lost 6 pounds in the first week.

(Not that the fast was about pounds, but spiritual things affect us physically, and vice versa—it’s just true. So, stepping on the scale during a fast is not all that crazy or carnal or whatever you might be thinking right now.)

I broke the fast with much fanfare and celebration, as I filled my coffee cup with lots o’ cream and honey and a little bit of coffee. I heard trumpets and saw beautiful unicorns and rainbows, too.

And that’s when a very, very weird thing happened: For the first time ever, it didn’t taste very good.

At least, not at first. I thought that first cup of Joy-Filled Coffee would be pure bliss. But it wasn’t. It tasted too sweet, too thick and kinda gross. But I just continued drinking it like that, and (surprise!) within a few days, it tasted normal again. I quickly regained my 6 pounds and moved on with my sugary, caffeinated life.

Then, a few weeks ago, with the majority of our move behind me, and bathing suit season before me, I decided to rein it in and focus on my health. I started with the coffee. I remembered how quickly I lost six pounds on that fast and how gross the Joy-Filled Coffee tasted when I drank that first cup. I decided to try to drink it with no honey or sugar at all, and also, cut my half and half down by half. So, now it’s like half and a quarter.

The first taste was a little yuck, but by the middle of that cup, it actually tasted okay. Maybe the joy is not in the super-sweet coffee after all?

The next day, it didn’t taste yuck at all.

And after that, it tasted good.

I have been doing this for about a month now, and I can honestly say, I LOVE my coffee without sugar!!!! I do. I really, really do. And I will drink it in a box and with a fox and on a train…

I have completely broken the sugar addiction and I no longer crave it, at all. In fact, I have also started drinking unsweetened tea, which I have never, ever enjoyed. Not only do I drink it, but I enjoy it.

No lie. It’s a freaking miracle that I enjoy these things unsweetened.

I have also lost 9 pounds. Which, for me, is also a miracle, considering I eat healthy and exercise every day, and I never accidently lose 9 pounds ever, ever, ever, ever.

I’m moving a little more and cutting back a little on portions, so I think there are more things at work than just sugar. But the main change I’ve made is cutting sugar out of my coffee and greatly reducing the cream.

So, all that to say, you if you are a person who thinks you would never in a bazillion years enjoy coffee without sugar, maybe this story will give you hope.

However, if you like it all sweet and creamy, and don’t want to stop drinking it that way, then never mind.

The End.

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I Wonder if Laura Ingalls Had Meltdowns (or three)

We are MOVED! I can’t find my new checks or the rug that goes in the entryway of our front door, but we (and all our stuff), as far as I know, made it to the new house.

Moving Elliana

This has been a month of C-R-A-Z-Y. It’s a blur, mostly. And I regret not being able to tell you about any of it in real time. But, lucky for us, I kept my journal current. So, I’m going to share the highlights, via the journal. I feel like I’m hearing a lot of this for the first time, myself. So, let’s get caught up together, shall we?

I left you a month ago, whilst I escaped to Panera during a home inspection. Immediately after that post, I had the biggest meltdown in meltdown history. I’m not even kidding. The stress of everything reached its peak, and I regret to inform you, I completely lost it. I believe this is where I screamed at Jon that I didn’t want to move and, in fact, never wanted to move and, by the way, all my stress and inability to handle stress is HIS fault and only his fault, forever, amen.

I believe I was deep-cleaning for the 700th time while I was screaming this.

For what it’s worth, Jon lost it, too.

(I believe his losing it came immediately after I blamed him for everything horrible in my life.)

(I mean, really, where is the grace?)

According to my handy-dandy journal, we didn’t speak to each other for 3 days. I don’t think that’s happened since our first year of marriage. It wasn’t pretty, considering Meltdown Weekend coincided with Rebekah’s 16th birthday party. Nice. Believe it or not, we actually pulled this off successfully while acting as if the other person did not exist.

Happy news: We made up, said our apologies, forgave each other for freaking out, and now we are good.

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Easter Sunday, Elliana came down with a 103.5 degree fever. So, I took the two older kids to church and Jon stayed home. First time we have not attended Easter service as a family. We had brunch reservations and an Easter egg hunt that we had to cancel, due to sickness. I tried to redeem the holiday by grilling steaks, and buying eggs and egg dye, or something lame and not-at-all festive. But with a very sick little girl and everyone irritable, Easter was a flop. Fortunately, as believers, we can celebrate the actual resurrection every day. And also, Easter is an annual event. We’ll try again next year.

Spring Break followed Easter. I announced to the kids that I could not/would not be their Cruise Director or their Chauffeur or their Cook. My job during Spring Break was to pack and run errands for the new house. And there was still Elliana’s fever. Thusly, this Spring Break became the Worst Spring Break of All Time, hands down. Fortunately, Spring Break is an annual event. We’ll try again next year.

We dyed the eggs sometime later that week. I don’t really remember doing this.

Because I was also doing this.

Then, near the end of Worst Spring Break of All Time, Sweet Rebekah asked for a ride somewhere.

This was a reasonable request. It was.

However, I was so fragile, you could touch my arm and I’d crumble.

I looked at everything I had to do and a definite timeline with which to do it. And I looked at my kids who, at the moment, seemed so severely deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The guilt I heaped on myself weighed a thousand pounds. I also assessed my ability to handle one more simple thing: my ability to handle one more thing was exactly zero.

Enter Meltdown #2.

Meltdown #2 was loud and ugly and messy and a little scary. This is when I wondered if my body was going to hold up. It seems so silly now that’s it’s over—it was a MOVE, for goodness sake! It wasn’t a death or an illness or a tragedy. But it in the moment, it was huge and hard and overwhelming. I lost it again.

Sigh…

When I was apologizing to Rebekah (I apologized daily, to everyone, at this point), she said, “I just want my Mom back.”

That’s when I realized three things:

a. It wasn’t the House Building I hated, it was the House SELLING and House MOVING. Moving stinks. It just does. In fact, if I’m ever asked to move again, Jon will have to pry my cold, dead hands off the kitchen counter to drag me away.
b. I had spent enough time on the Crazy Train, wigging out on everyone. It was time to jump off.
c. I wanted me back, too.

Seriously, I looked at the bundle of stress and anxiety I had become. My poor kids couldn’t even ask for a blessed ride somewhere without me coming completely unraveled and screaming and yelling like a raging lunatic. I made the decision that day that no matter what, I was maintaining my peace and I was preserving my most valuable relationships. If that meant we didn’t get other stuff done, slept on mattresses for a month, took a several weeks to move—whatever–then so be it.

I wish I had made that decision PRIOR to Meltdowns #1 and #2. Now my kids have the warm, fuzzy memories of moving with crazy mom.

Following Meltdown #2 and my subsequent decisions, I slept. And I cried.

Like, for two days.

I was pretty sure I was in full-blown depression, at that point. I was so sick of fighting it: the depression, the anxiety, the stress, the time-limits, my family. My body just shut down. The timing was unfortunate, because I had so much packing to do. But the one nice thing about depression (if you can even call it a nice thing) is the numbness and apathy that accompany it. I was incredibly unproductive, but I didn’t care.

I promise, this story ends well.

I decided to implement Operation Radical Self-Care. This is where I fill my body with wholesome food and fill my mind with life-giving books and articles and music. I walk outside. I do yoga. I take naps. I go to bed early. I pray a lot. I am gentle and kind to myself.

Again, probably would have been a good idea to do this prior to the Meltdowns, no?

Thankfully, Operation Radical Self-Care got me over the hump enough to physically move the contents of our house from one location to another. This process took for-stinking-ever. That decision I made earlier (sleeping on mattresses for a month or taking several weeks to move) helped in the short term. But living that out, driving back and forth for two weeks getting car loads of stuff? That was both miserable and exhausting.

We did hire a moving company to transport the bigger stuff. That was helpful. However, I was a little blindsided by the amount of packing I’d have to do. As in, all of it. I’ve relocated across the country twice, but both times the company paid for movers AND PACKERS. You guys…apparently movers won’t take things unless they are in boxes. Did you know this? I did not know this. I mean, I guess I did, but I didn’t.

So, when the movers arrived, I was frantically throwing things in boxes and saying, “Here! Take this!” It was insane. They left about 1/3 of our house contents in the old house.

Some sweet moments:

1. On Moving Day Eve, I made our last dinner in my kitchen and gathered my family around the table one last time, where we shared favorite memories. We celebrated 51 birthdays in that home. Elliana joined our family in that home, and took her first steps on that kitchen floor. Kids talked about playing in the snow and Christmases and family time. We lived in that home 11 years, which is the longest we will ever live in a home as a family unit. Rebekah goes to college in two years. And if I raised her right, she won’t be living in my basement until she’s 35. So, even though we are moving together to the new place, she only has a few years there before she leaves. We will miss our house.

2. Then about 10 pm on Moving Day Eve, as I was wrapping up, yet, another box of dishes, our doorbell rang. It was our neighbors with champagne and champagne glasses. We stood around our kitchen island, surrounded by boxes and packing materials, with a sweet combination of laughter and tears. Sad we were leaving the neighborhood, but happy we aren’t going far (In fact, I’m picking up their kids in a few hours to spend the night–not far at all!).

3. Moving Day, those same neighbors brought us a hot, homemade meal and gathered around our new table to help it feel like home. It totally worked.

The Gabskis

4. Our new next door neighbors (several acres away, but the closest thing to next door we will get!) stopped by with a cookie bouquet and let their sweet babies jump on our trampoline.

5. And another friend from church brought us dinner for the following day.

6. Moving Night everyone slept like a rock. The kids woke up the next day and saw the beautiful view from every window and said, “It feels like we are on vacation.” And it did…except for the work part.

7. My Sis-in-Law drove three hours to help me unpack for two days. She is about the hardest worker I know, so I cannot express to you the super powers she and I had as a team to unload and organize everything. (okay, not everything). It was fabulous.

8. My daughter’s first, second and third Real Car Dates were her and her boyfriend driving carloads of stuff to the new house.  It helped me buffer the whole, “Oh my gosh, my daughter is old enough to car date!” thing.

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The upside of living on a five-acre lot in the country is the view and the quiet. The downside, is trying to connect phone, internet and Direct TV. Apparently, new construction in the country poses a challenge for, well, everyone. I cannot tell you how many hours (hours!) I spent on the phone trying to convince someone that even though we did not appear on GPS, our home did exist and we did have an address. It was maddening. Then, we had to run lines all the way down this driveway.

the driveway

So, no technology, for days.

I wanted to embrace this short season of no phone solicitors, no fighting with kids to get off the video games, no blaring television. I really did. I wanted to channel my inner Laura Ingalls. Ever since I was little, I have wondered if God got me mixed up with a pioneer girl. I have often thought that I was meant to be living in a Little House on the Prairie, while some busy, extroverted girl, slated for a fast-paced technologically driven society, accidentally took my place there. So, this was my chance, right? To simply enjoy the week or two that we live like Laura and Pa and Ma and Mary.

But the world does not wait for Laura to get Internet.

House closings do not wait for Laura to get Internet.

School does not wait for Laura to get Internet.

Apparently, people are fairly dependent on the Internet, and they expect Laura and her kids to have it, too. So, rather than embracing Little House life, I spent days on the phone with electricians, technicians, and customer service reps trying to get a connection…and nights driving to the nearest free wi-fi so my children could do their homework.

That is so NOT pioneer-like.

So, the first two weeks in our new home, have largely consisted of me trying to get in and out of the shower before various contractors start showing up, needing access to my house. Yesterday was the very first day that absolutely no one showed up. It will be short-lived, though, because we still need sod and blinds and a light changed out and a carpet runner installed, etc, etc, etc…

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Yesterday we closed on our old house. But before that, I made one last trip there. Up until then, I had had small emotional moments about selling, but I hadn’t had THE moment. I know you’re thinking, “Wait, wait, wait. Only small emotional moments? Are you kidding me, Sandy? You’ve melted down twice, girlfriend.” I’m not talking about the stressful freak outs. I’m talking about The Moment where it hits you that you’re moving. You know? The one where you remember every precious memory and cry the ugly cry? It happened yesterday. Meltdown #3. Not in a scary, stressful way. Just in a sad, nostalgic way.

It was difficult and cleansing and necessary. I walked through every room. Remembered everything I could remember. Thanked God for 11 years. Sat on the steps and wept hard.

After that, I walked out of my beautiful home for the very last time, as the owner.

I heard James Dobson once say that for a woman, the home is an extension of herself. That is 100% true for me. I pour everything into making my house a home. So, with every move, I feel like I leave a piece of me behind.

I got into my car and turned it on, eyes still swollen and nose still stuffy from weeping, and this Matthew West song came on. God knew exactly where I was:

Well, I wish I had a short term memory
Wish the only thing my eyes could see
Was the future burning bright right in front of me
But I can’t stop looking back

Yeah, I wish I was a perfect picture of
Somebody who’s never not good enough
I try to measure up but I mess it up
And I wish I wasn’t like that

I wish I wasn’t wishing anymore
Wish I could remember that nobody’s keeping score
I’m tired of throwing pennies in a well
I gotta do something
Here goes nothin’

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

Well, every single day Your grace reminds me
That my best days are not behind me
Wherever my yesterday may find me
Well, I don’t have to stay there

See my hourglass is upside down
My someday soon is here and now
The clock is tickin’
And I’m so sick and tired of missing out

It’s day one
And here comes the sun

Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
Every morning, I will fix my eyes on You
Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
Sun’s coming up, the beginning has begun

Starting over, I’m starting over
Starting over, I’m starting over, starting now
I’m starting over
Starting over, I’m starting over
Starting over
Starting over, starting now
I’m starting over

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So, here I am, starting over.

With the selling, the moving and a majority of the unpacking behind me, I feel lighter today.

Ready to pour myself into a new house and make it a new home for however long God has us here.

New Office

Kids Jumping

What's Cookin

Dinner

New House

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