The Sweet Season of Change

Grapevines / la vite

Did you hear something?

Every year at this time many of us talk about how September feels like someone has pushed the restart button and given us just a few more months to reach those yearly goals.

Of course this is linked to our “back to school” years when everything did change drastically from one year to the next, but even if you’re not headed back to school, the fall — the literal season of change — is the perfect time to take even one small step toward whatever new habit, hobby, activity, or whatever you’d love to pursue.

You already know that I began a new venture last month while letting go of a long-standing job as well. I’ve also taken on a few different, new projects, and I have to say, it’s all very exciting. Lots of changes in the air, for sure, but I’m also reflecting on a minor but huge change I made last year at this time:

I stopped putting sugar in my cappuccino.

Even though I’ve always had a sweet tooth, I never used sugar in American coffee. I’m not sure why I started using it when I moved to Italy — I guess just because I saw everyone else doing it, and darn it, it does taste pretty good with that touch of sweet.

Then one morning, last year around this time, I decided no more sugar in the cappuccino, iced coffee, espresso, etc. Nothing. Yes, the first few sips were a shock to the system, but by the third day or so, I didn’t notice anymore. Now I don’t even think about it.

I was able to succeed with the sugar, and a funny thing has happened along the way. My sweet tooth? It’s kind of disappearing. I no longer crave sweet — unless it’s a banana or handful of grapes. Who knew that the key to craving less sugar was eating less sugar? Huh.

But that was it. Just like that:

Decision to stop (or start) doing something + follow-through = new daily habit.

OK, so the follow-through isn’t always going to be easy. You’re going to have to make that decision to go forward many times over, every day most likely. Over and over. Again and again. Even when you don’t really *want* to do (or not do) whatever it is you decided was worth doing. Especially then, in fact.

So when it comes to those moments, remember back to the excitement with which you started your project. All those awesome reasons you knew this was something you just *had* to do. Think about what you’re working toward, and how great it’s going to feel when you’ve achieved that goal.

And then do it. Just. Do. It.

Sorry to sound like a Nike ad, but I’m really starting to believe no truer words have ever been plastered on the side of a bus.

And autumn is the perfect time to begin with that first step toward achieving your goal, isn’t it? I love fall.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~ George Eliot

Grapevines / la vite

Grapevines / la vite

I’m an autumn baby, so I think that has something to do with my attraction to this season, but even though the cooler weather hasn’t exactly kicked in yet in southern Italy, I’m already looking forward to sweaters, the stufa going strong with a fire, vendemmia, cuddling up with P again, and heck, I’m going to put it out there right now — I’m doing NaNoWriMo once again this year. Gah!

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month” and it’s kind of online support group in which participants strive to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time — November. I’ve done this in the past and technically “won” by reaching the mark, but you may have noticed I haven’t plugged my own novel yet. Boo.

So this year, I’m doing things differently — I can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, right? So instead of going in with only a vague idea of the story I want to tell like I’ve done in the past, I’ve already been outlining and mapping things out and will continue to do so throughout October. Over the years, I have learned that I find it much easier to sit down and write if I already have at least a rough plan in front of me. Some writers love flying by the seat of their desk chairs, but I find that without some guidance, I can quickly write myself write into a big ole corner. And that’s gotta stop.

Making changes in your life is all about discovering what works for you and what doesn’t.

Sometimes it takes a while, years even, to find that groove, and what you discover may not be what works for anyone else in the entire world, but that’s not your concern. Your concern is you, and finding what keeps you motivated and moving in a positive direction. Heck, even finding your positive direction can be a huge challenge. Are you up for it?

Are you making any changes this fall?

51 Beans of Wisdom to “The Sweet Season of Change”
  1. I so love this time of year. It’s still pretty warm in Rome, but the leaves are starting to change a little.

    This fall I plan to worry less. Already I see a positive change.

    Congrats again on your new venture. Molto excited for you. x

    michelle Reply:

    You know I love your “worry less” plan — words so easy to say, but much harder to put in practice. I’m cheering for you, carissima! xx

  2. 09.16.2011

    I love the idea of dropping the coffee in the sugar – not just for the health benefits but the symbolic gesture. And fall is a perfect time to get moving on a new project. Congratulations on yours.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much for coming by CCL; I’ve truly been amazed at how little I miss that sugar everyday…I eat plenty of pasta, so no need for more sugars than necessary, right? 😉 Hope you have a lovely, rewarding fall as well!

  3. 09.16.2011

    I’m totally up for it.

    *Sorry to sound like a Nike ad, but I’m really starting to believe no truer words have ever been plastered on the side of a bus.*

    I wish I had thought of that.

    It’s so true. All of the niggling, the thinking, the kvetching, the weighing, the assuming, the doubting . . . put it all in a damn box and let’s get busy. Time’s a wasting!

    There are so many things that you, my dearest anchor at the other end of this beautiful boot, are excellent at. So, in the spirit of that excellence, here’s wishing for beautiful prose typed into a Mac that’s balanced on your upper thigh in front of a warm and laundry-drying stufa while you multi-task by sipping on a cup of strong sugarless coffee and scratching a canine (or feline, as the case may be) belly with your wool cladded toes at the same time.

    michelle Reply:

    Time *is* a-wasting, isn’t it? Don’t know why I forget that from time to time, but I suppose that’s human nature. Canine-scratching only, btw, as our kitty went AWOL months ago and hasn’t shown up again 🙁 We like to think some other kitty lovers saw his beauty and thought, “He can’t possibly survive on his own!” But yay for cozy wool socks and typing by the stufa. Oh I’m ready for fall 🙂

  4. I am, Michelle. Resoundingly I am up for it! Your words ring so true. I feel like I know you, your heart, your struggles. Thank you for sharing, for your humour and passion. I absolutely loved this post and its got me ready to “just do it” when it comes to my novel, my health and my dreams. Big hugs from Canada!

    michelle Reply:

    Aw thanks so much, Katie! We just have to put one word in front of the other, and off we go! (Oh, is that all?) 😉 Thanks so much for coming by and commenting — hugs back at you from southern Italy.

  5. 09.16.2011

    My husband and I made the sugar out of our coffee change about 5 years ago…if I taste a coffee with sugar stirred into it I cringe. However I do like my latte’s foam swizzled with caramel but just on top! Changes I would like to change my weight and diet and get rid of drama in my life…but with a 13 year old daughter I can’t see that happening soon! lol…I love Autumn Fall, isn’t it almost like the spring of WINTER?
    Happy Friday!

    michelle Reply:

    Haha yes 13-year-olds and drama do seem to go hand in hand, but it’s always nice to at least *try* to reduce it 🙂 Best of luck, Lucy!

  6. 09.16.2011

    ha ha….amazing what we can get used too! Maybe I mentioned it before…I love stevia! I love the fall-time of year (from one Libra to another..hehe)! Good luck with the NNWM…sounds interesting! Has you very well know (and thank you for the Boo…lol!) I have given up Facebook (glad that I have your blogs to keep in touch), eating more real foods and using coconut oil, instead of butter, drinking more tea than coffee (but not giving this up all together….ha!!!!) Happy Fall to ya, Michelle! xo <3

    michelle Reply:

    Happy that I may still see you around the blogosphere at least, Pam 🙂

  7. Gil

    I like the idea of no sugar in coffee. Actually, we haven’t used sugar in many years, but use sweetener and the current one is Splendor. I might give up using any sweetener as when I don’t use it, by error, the coffee tastes more coffee like. On a major change I think I might actually start going through files and get rid of junk like the boxes of stuff I brought home after retiring many moons ago.

    michelle Reply:

    Oooh go for it, Gil; I tend to put aside way more stuff than I’ll ever actually need, so I have some of that kind of clearing out to do as well. Good luck!

  8. 09.17.2011

    Your posts always give me food for thought Michelle, thanks. All the best with your novel writing project. Unlike you I am not looking forward to the colder weather, so am making the most of the continuing heat, although I believe storms are forecast for tomorrow and Monday.

    michelle Reply:

    Enjoy the heat while it lasts! I’m ready for cooler (not cold, but cooler) temps…and yes, rain. Our olive trees are starting to pout!

  9. 09.17.2011

    “Are you making any changes this fall?”

    Yes, I am. I’ve decided to finish many things that I’ve started throughout the past couple of years– and then just left hanging. It’s a “just do it” approach to completion. Not quite the original advertising message, but applicable just the same. I need to make space for the new.

    michelle Reply:

    Best of luck to you, Ally; I have quite a few of those myself….

  10. 09.18.2011

    I’m almost down to zero sugar in espresso, but I wanted to eliminate the espresso! It makes for great concentration around eleven am, but any time in the afternoon makes me very jumpy and prone to too much thinking at night. Hard to find the right balance and I guess every organism’s coping procedure is slightly different.

    On the autumn front, we have our blissful mornings disturbed by hunters killing pheasants they actually free themselves! It is an awful thing, drives my dogs crazy, and often has me doing the screaming foreign witch at the window!

    I am also looking forward to the stufa, socks, less bugs and no sweaty fingers on the piano. Snow would be nice.

    ciao from the north-east, cat

    michelle Reply:

    Catherine, have you tried to do a mix of decaf and regular espresso while brewing, even if it’s just in your afternoon treat? We’re far enough from the hunters that they don’t usually wake us up, although the sounds are definitely noticeable throughout the morning. The dogs don’t seem to mind though, thank goodness. Buona domenica!

    Catherine Reply:

    Grazie! I will give it a shot. I forgot to confess my deep dark chocolate hit around 11am for revived writing. Hope all is going well for you. Are you going to Matera? ciao cat

    michelle Reply:

    Hi Catherine, no I won’t be headed to Matera — maybe next year (I say that every year, but *really* maybe next year haha) 🙂

  11. Ah Michelle – so much packed in a fall bundle here. Yes – love fall. Love the promise of a new “school year.” Having been an English teacher for years – and a student for even more – fall was always a fresh slate. And NaNoWrMo? Thanks for the heads up! I JUST finished a 63K word novel and submitted it to an agent – so at first I groaned at your mention of it – the November 50K push – but love the idea of mapping and thinking and composting in October to be ready to hit the keyboard Nov 1. Last year, in my writing group – those who completed and met the goal said they broke it down into daily goals – and I think it was like 1660 words a day or something…I’m an English major – not a Math. Good luck to you in November!

    michelle Reply:

    Yes, I think it does break down into about that many words — I did it a few years ago, actually at least two years in a row maybe three…so it’s doable! Best of luck with your MS!

  12. I appreciated the George Eliot quote that you included in your post, Michelle. In fact, I appreciate many of her quotes. You probably know that the same year in which women won the right to vote, George Eliot inherited a lot of $$$$$$ . This freed her up to write. When asked what she preferred of the two freedoms, she did not hesitate, of the two, it’s the money, she quickly stated because it gave her freedom to write. This reminds me of Jack Benny, the comedian who had a skit in which someone threatens him by saying, “Your money or your life” and Benny takes a long pause before answering . . .

    George Eliot took no such pause, she was clear, the money gave her more freedom (when it came to writing) than the right to vote. Of course she is also known for saying a writer needs money and a room of one’s own to do their craft. Ms. Eliot is in my head frequently because I go Tandem cycling on Tuesdays and we often ride “to the Lighthouse” — a quiet little spot on the Hudson River in Upper Manhattan which we get to by entering the greenway in Greenwich Village and riding north.

    There are so many beautiful quotes about the lovely season of autumn and as an urban gardener, nuances of the changing seasons are not lost on me, I recently posted something about this and if you’d like to see it please do so by going to the following link:

    But in spite of my love for the beauty of autumn , I do not want to rush it. For me, autumn begins at the autumn equinox, which this year will be September 23rd 2011, a fact I also discussed in the aforementioned blog entry. However, I realize that for most people the season begins after Labor Day, but for me that is akin to believing Christmas is tomorrow (which in retail stores it is). I plan to ring in the equinox with a small get together and to attempt making bees knees cocktails. I’ve been inspired by bees lately having had them arrive on my terrace to enjoy my hyssop plants. In fact their constant work (grabbing “ingredients” from my plants) is an inspiration to keep going. I actually managed to complete the redesign of my on-line brochure which features my new endeavor, virtual stories. The link to my blog entry announcing it is posted below:

    As you may recall, a few weeks ago, it seemed “the computer-based elves” were trying their best to take me off course and I appreciated your supportive comments on my endeavor as I indicated to in my comments on “answering calls” which I added to on September 12th 2011. I am not 100% happy with what I’ve created but it is enough to move forward and “just do it” as you reminded your readers.

    Continued good wishes for you in all your endeavors and since you are an “autumn baby” I assume that involves a birthday? Have I missed it? If I have Happy Belated . . .

    The Last Leaf Gardener Reply:

    OOPS! In my comment I got my authors confused! The quotes about “money and writing”, “to the lighthouse”, and “a room of one’s own” are OF COURSE Virginia Woolf’s ! And she was born two years after George Eliot died! What was I thinking? I did not realize my error until I hit the “submit” button! Humble apologies for the faux pas! At least I was right about Jack Benny, and, it gives me a chance to thank you for reminding me about National Novel Writing Month.

    michelle Reply:

    Haha no worries 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    There is certainly something freeing about money — or at least I imagine there to be. Glad to hear your project is moving forward despite some setbacks 🙂 Ah, my birthday is October 18, so you haven’t missed it, but I’ll take your wishes any time 🙂

  13. Loved this! I know exactly what you mean! I adore fall for the exact same reasons. This year in particular I feel like I am making about 5 new beginnings all at the same time: taking an intensive course, studying for an important concorso, starting the editing process on my first book and relaunching my blog. Oh yeah, not to forget getting back in shape! It can be daunting but there is something about fall that makes everything seem possible! Good luck on your new projects–looking forward to reading how they go!

    michelle Reply:

    Oooh such exciting times for you as well. Best of luck to you, too!

  14. 09.22.2011

    I’ve given up on giving up on sugar. In fact, we recently abandoned all efforts to make jam with less sugar and have returned to using pectin with lots of sugar. I just like it. I’ve tried to give up drinking tea, too (many, many times), since I love it with sugar, to no avail. But, I stand firm on not using anything but cane sugar. Good luck on the new ventures, though. It is so fun to start something new and to use all the little gray cells to be creative.

    michelle Reply:

    I think giving up on giving up is a perfectly logical decision — I mean I would never even try to give up ALL sugar. That’s just crazy talk 😉 Thanks for stopping in and for the good wishes!

  15. Kristi

    I loved this post.

    I have a few things I’m striving to reach by the end of the year, as well. I have been addicted to caffeine since I was little. Over the many years, I’ve slowly gone from 8 cokes a day to just 1 in the morning (coke is my coffee). A couple of months ago, I noticed that I wasn’t finishing my 12 oz coke. So, I bought the mini ones and I’m slowly trying to get rid of this habit. For me, slowly getting rid of the habit works for me. It’s how I quit smoking.

    I’m also training for a half marathon in December. It’s been a rocky road of heat and injuries. But with Fall now, it’s cooler to run, making me motivated. I need to break my cycle of only doing what I think I can do instead of what I know I can do. And since I’ve had probably one of the roughest years of my life, I’m working to “let go” as they say. It’s hard. I have to not let some of the things in my life effect me negatively.

    I have never wanted to put on a sweater as much as I have this year. We’ve had record heat days and weeks for Texas and it’s just been miserable. I’m ready for cooler weather. And Spring is my favorite season, because for a month, Texas is beautiful with the wild flowers.

    michelle Reply:

    Sounds like you’re on an awesome path, Kristi; I hear you on the hot weather — I know it was worse in TX, but I was *so* fed up with it here this year. Glad to get some cooler temps and rain!

  16. Kristi

    Wow, I just saw this article and it made me think of this post.

    michelle Reply:

    I saw that too…scary stuff indeed!

  17. 09.29.2011

    Good luck in your new direction, Michelle. The nice thing about life is that it is always evolving and changing, otherwise it would get boring.

    I am trying desperately to lose two dress sizes for my daughters spring wedding date, so I have been eating a mostly vegan diet to do it healthy. It was hard to give up cheese and eggs but except for two days where I had to slide, I’ve been doing well and enjoying it. It is a good thing I love beans this is a big part of this diet.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks Pat! Good luck to you as well 🙂

  18. 10.01.2011

    I haven’t decided if there are changes I want to make or not. Perhaps I’m content? I like my job, I eat well, I exercise. Hell, I even floss my teeth. I’ve got to think about it some.

    I do love fall, though. It was mid-90s here, and now it’s a much more lovely 60s and 70s. MUCH better.

  19. Suzaina

    I can’t imagine my coffee without sugar. It’s too difficult. But still maybe worth a try. And what an idea to start thinking new in September. Sounds so refreshing. I personally like walking on a road with the yellow leaves scattered on the path. That does signify that something’s changed.

  20. The chill hit us today and the kids are playing inside instead of outside. I’ve been hit with a huge sense of what is in front of me to be done. I think about staying indoors and with out a clear plan. I appreciate your words of wisdom though Michelle. I love the way you write.


    michelle Reply:

    Mwah Julie! I look forward to following your journey and all the wonderfulness that lies ahead for you and your family 🙂

  21. 10.11.2011

    love your blog. I will definately be back for more of your lovely perspectives on life. If your ever in Boston, check out its amazing…you’ll love it.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks Jen!

  22. 10.14.2011

    I really like your quote: decision to stop (or start) = doing something + follow through = new daily habit.
    So true!

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks Jason 🙂

  23. Nell

    Michell. I just joined NaNoWriMO, I have ben writing for myself and my blog on Bloggerdashboard “wife on the Run” for a few years, did start a novel , but had not saved on hard drive and when my son reconfigured to Windows 2007 it all got earased all 33 pages , but I managed to save the gist of the plot and some of the characters along with main theme ,a rug.On a scartch pad in long hand.
    Thanks for mentioning the site , I will now attempt to rewrite and complete it as a Novella, a gaol to work towards, am very excited. Thanks once again, From deverse corners a dream may reawaken.

    michelle Reply:

    Awesome Nell! Happy writing!

  24. d

    I LOVE your blog! i have NO IDEA how i found you – i must have bookmarked this pagesometime, just discovered it again now.
    i love fall too (its more like a mild winter here in india at this time of the year), but when i feel the first nip in the air in the first week of october every year, i go nuts. i buy things, i get rid of things, i clean up, i declutter, i embark on projects and i LOVE this season. also it is the most festive season of the year. here in india we start with dasara – diwali and go on until christmas and new year.
    oh and i dont take sugar in my coffee too.
    i will be back here more often now 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    So happy to have you here, D; glad you refound me 🙂

  25. Lorrie Carpenter

    Glad to get some cooler temps and rain! Thanks for the heads up! However I do like my latte’s foam swizzled with caramel but just on top! I plan to ring in the equinox with a small get together and to attempt making bees knees cocktails.



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake