On Wednesday, the school year starts for the ThreeYears. The Junior ThreeYears start fifth and second grades and I return to my two school districts to teach ESL.
This is the second year that I’ve been off in the summer. We spent part of it on an epic road trip, then spent the rest of the summer enjoying how beautiful New Hampshire is in August.
I didn’t work this summer. Aside from writing blog posts 2-3 times per week, I did not write or do freelance work. I did not take online classes for my master’s. I just took care of my kids (ok, that is admittedly work, and a lot of it. But I didn’t do other work).
We had lots of beautiful time at the beach, the lake, and at home to hang out. I wasn’t particularly good at making the kids keep up with reading or math, or any other schoolwork. They mostly played. We used a lot of the strategies I wrote about here to keep ourselves occupied.
I tried to rest as much as possible, and think. I read a lot of books. I watched some TV. I wrote in my journal, something that’s gotten short shift since I started this blog. I followed links I read about on other blog posts.
Here are ten things I learned, or learned about, this summer, that I thought I’d share:
1. Quitting Social Media is Possible.
I watched this TED talk by Dr. Cal Newport, then read his book, Deep Work. This guy is not on social media, and he’s young. But he’s rejected it his whole life. He says the three common objections that people have for quitting are not true objections: it’s a fundamental technology. No it’s not, he says. It’s a form of entertainment that is addictive. It’s vital to my success as an entrepreneur, etc. Actually, he argues, doing work that is thoughtful and profound is rare and valuable in this day and age. And you can only do that type of work by shutting down distractions. What’s the harm? It’s no big deal if I’m on FB/Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat/etc. It’s more harmful than you think, he argues, as these technologies are designed to be addictive, and as you spend a larger and larger portion of your day on social media, your attention becomes more and more fragmented and you permanently lose your ability to sustain attention.
So what did I do after I learned this info? I haven’t quit social media, because I’ll be honest–that’s hard. But I have tapered my use some. I decided to quit Facebook as much as I could, and that has been lovely. I’m on Twitter every now and then, for the blog, and I’m on Instagram about once a day or less. His talk and book definitely made me actively decide what I’d be using and why, so it’s not so mindless. That’s been good.
2. The Best Things in Life are Family.
We spent a month with my family in North and South Carolina. Then, we had Anibal’s cousins come visit us in New Hampshire. If you ask me what my favorite parts of the summer were, it was time together with family. Hands down.
3. Fasting is a Really Healthy Way to Lose Weight.
What? Are you crazy? You might be thinking. Fasting is dangerous! You’re not eating. Well, let me give you some qualifiers. I was first introduced to the idea of fasting as a way to lose some weight by two friends who came over to dinner. They told Mr. ThreeYear and me about the 5:2 Diet, which is a method to lose weight by using one of the oldest methods around–fasting. Basically, you eat normally for five days, then do a modified fast for two (women eat 500 calories that day, men eat 600). People have fasted for religious and health reasons for thousands of years.
Ben Franklin said the best way to heal yourself was rest and fasting. In our modern era, though, we tend to think that fasting will cause our metabolism to slow down, or that we’ll have no energy to do anything. The truth is, our bodies have adapted to work optimally after a fast. When we had to hunt our food or die, we needed to be sharp and alert after not eating for awhile, so we could catch some more food and survive. And fasting is one of the only “dieting” methods that doesn’t make your metabolism go down, because it turns out that feasting and fasting is part of nature. That’s how we maintain healthy weights. Read more at this excellent site written by Dr. Jason Fung, who helps very obese and diabetic patients lose weight with fasting.
Here’s what I’ve learned: When I’m on a modified fast, I’m not super hungry, at least not after the first few times I’ve done it. I get 500 calories, so I generally drink coffee in the morning, then have a very small lunch and dinner. I track my calories with My Fitness Pal. I can exercise during a fast. I don’t have less energy when I run either after or before I’ve fasted. And I’ve lost about a pound a week with the fast, although I’ve just started, so I can’t report on long term results. I had never heard about intermittent fasting before my friends introduced it, but I’m so glad I know about it now.
4. Quitting Alcohol Was the Best Decision.
After months of feeling super tired, and having intermittent stomach issues, in June I decided to give up alcohol completely to see if I felt better. Boy, did that work. I was a 1-2 drinks per night drinker, usually wine with dinner, and didn’t really think that it could be having such a negative effect on me, but back in the Spring I started to notice that even with one drink I lost all motivation to do anything. It was also occasionally making me wake up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours. Quitting completely wasn’t easy, especially during vacation when everyone around me was drinking fruity drinks, but it was the only way for me. I’m such an all-or-nothing person that I knew it would actually be much harder to drink occasionally than not at all. Mr. ThreeYear still drinks as does pretty much everyone else I know, and that’s fine by me. But I’ve found, after a couple of months of no alcohol, that I haven’t had any stomach issues, I get much more done in the evenings, and I’ve got a lot of freed-up mental space. I always thought the only reason you’d give up alcohol is if you’re an alcoholic, but I’m realizing a lot of people don’t drink because it can actually affect your health a lot.
5. This is a Fascinating Series.
I read Leah Remini’s book Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology about two years ago. It was eye-opening. A friend turned me on to the A&E series with the same subject, called Scientology and the Aftermath. It is so good. And so sad. Church members who decided to leave have been cut off from their families for good. Many people suffered such physical and emotional abuse from church leaders, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they were required to spend to do “course work.” I’ve been riveted.
6. There are Compost Pick-Up Services.
Ever since being introduced to Bea Johnson and her Zero Waste lifestyle, I’ve tried to adopt a lifestyle for our family where we used less packaging and created less trash. Sometimes I do well and sometimes I fail mightily. This summer, I’ve been more failing mightily than doing well. Mr. ThreeYear adamantly vetoed the compost bucket that was under our sink because he said it brought fruit flies (it did not. The fruit on the counter brought fruit flies). I lost the argument and we have not been composting our food scraps this summer. Which has really bothered me. BUT! This past Thursday, when we went to the Farmer’s Market, I learned that a new company has started a composting service in our area. They give you a 5-gallon bucket (with a tight lid!) and you can put ALL your food scraps in it–meat, shells, sauces, coffee grounds, you name it. Then, depending on where you live, they’ll pick the bucket up or you can drop it off at a local grocery store. We’ll do the drop off service, since we’re outside of the pick up area. It costs $10/month. I’m really excited, because now we can compost everything (meat was off the table before because of bears. And I mean literally. A bear attacked our composter early on when we put meat in).
7. My Sister’s a Bad Ass.
Okay, I kind of already knew that, but after doing this interview with her on how she and her husband created an Etsy store that’s in the top 8% of earners, I really know it.
8. I Can Drink Coffee without Sugar.
I can. I really can. Or Stevia. I’ve been drinking coffee the same way since I was sixteen. I drink it with half and half (or that awful creamer stuff) and sweetener. About four or five years ago, I switched out the sweetener for sugar. Then switched to Stevia. Then back to sugar. After we got back from the Carolinas, I said, “I’m going to just drink it with cream.” And I did. And I’m so glad I now drink it that way, because when I fast, I can get away with adding a little half and half and my morning routine’s not disrupted. If I couldn’t have coffee, I think fasting and I would not be friends.
9. Not “Accomplishing” Anything is Okay.
I did not repaint the kitchen. I did not repaint the bathroom. I did not successfully train for a marathon (wasn’t trying to, just to clarify. But I really didn’t). We didn’t take a new and culturally enlightening trip as a family. We didn’t start a new business or reach a net worth goal. I didn’t become more adept at grocery shopping and decrease my spending there. We did put a new roof on the house, but that was all Mr. ThreeYear, while the boys and I were in the South. So I can’t really take credit. I didn’t have any mental breakthroughs this summer. I just rested. After a long year with two jobs, plus navigating one of my son’s learning issues, I was wiped. This was the season for rest and I took it.
10. I Love Summer.
If there is any motivation for becoming location independent but especially financially independent (something we haven’t been as focused on, but maybe we should), it is the summers. I get a taste of what it feels like not to work for ten weeks each year, and it is glorious. We can freely travel. There’s no schedule. We can spontaneously meet up with friends. We can host visitors. Summer has been glorious. It’s been a great chance to hang out with my kids, with friends, with my mom and dad. With Mr. ThreeYear.
Summer’s over, but I hope the lessons stay with me. Today, it’s officially back-to-school, as I’ll go in for a bit to get my room set up. Then Wednesday, the routines start up once more.
I’ve loved you summer. See you next year!