Thursday, March 3, 2011

Or Not...

It’s weeks like this one that make me feel ashamed to blog. Let’s start out with my sacrifice of dairy. I mean really, how weak is that? For one thing, there is a completely acceptable substitute for milk in soymilk (the vanilla flavor is my favorite). And sure, giving up dairy precludes me from eating a lot of yummy desserts and all cheese but let’s be frank, it just ain’t that tough. And on the blogging front, a life without dairy doesn’t really lend itself to compelling stories or earth shattering revelations. Remarkably, life goes on much the same way with or without milk.

So as one might imagine, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday went off without a hitch. I hardly felt like I was fulfilling my Lulu Lent because the sacrifice was so easy. But then Wednesday night happened. I am lucky enough to live in the same place as a multitude of my cousins and a few of them happen to have little, young families! Wednesday night I had plans to babysit my cousin and his wife’s three darling boys. I had taken care of them before and the boys could not have behaved better. They were sweet to each other and to me and the only meltdown was brought on by their parent’s arrival back home.

Wednesday night was a completely different story. The two younger boys in particular were having a rough go of it. The three year old would spontaneously burst into inconsolable tears which in turn, caused the 10 month old to wake up in a sour mood. I was able to get the two older boys to bed while simultaneously dealing with the unhappy baby. I felt certain with two down for the night it would only be a matter of minutes until the youngest followed suit.

Boy was I wrong.

I consider myself to be somewhat baby adept as number four of seven children. I grew up with babies around and was often enlisted to help take care of them. But every trick in my fairly, well-stocked book failed miserably. Food, singing, rocking, swaying, bouncing, swinging; none of it could stop this baby boy from crying. After forty minutes I knew I had one last hope… my mom.

As the mother of seven children, calling her a baby expert would be a gross understatement. I am still kicking myself that I didn't call her sooner because after hearing all the things I had already tried and listening to the baby wail in the background my mom said without hesitation, “try walking up and down the stairs and call me back if that doesn’t work.” Guess what? I didn’t have to call her back. It still took another thirty minutes until the baby was truly asleep enough for me to lie him down in his crib but after my first three steps up the stairs he ceased to cry or utter a distressed sound.

So what you may ask, does all of this have to do with dairy? Well quite simply, after a busy day of work and the three long hours of babysitting, there was obviously nothing left to be done but eat a large slice of pizza. And no, I did not remove the cheese. I wish I had stopped there but the dairy binge bled over into today when I ate more cheese in the form of a delicious Mexican casserole and baked brownies with large amounts of butter and ate them with ice cold milk.

I guess I could take some solace in the fact that my only notable slip up thus far came during what I deemed an “easy” sacrifice. And honestly, I don’t feel that terrible about my failure to endure a life free of dairy. But what I’ve learned from this lapse in resolve is that going easy on yourself in the beginning makes it more difficult to be hard on yourself in the future. I never felt invested in giving up dairy in the first place, making it easy just plain give up after dealing with sobbing babies for hours. So for better or for worse, next week’s challenge is truly going to push me and hopefully will spark a little more determination.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Back on Track

From the look of my blog these past two and a half weeks it might seem like I gave up blogging for my year of Lent. It’s an idea that I will definitely keep up my sleeve for an especially busy or sluggish point in my life, but in this most recent case, the lack of new posts was really only a result of negligence rather then concerted and directed self-restraint.

The truth is, I’m new to this blogging world and the whole premise behind it - writing about personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences for anyone to see – is in direct opposition to my natural disposition. I’m not really one to divulge to whoever is willing to lend an ear and it takes even more time, energy, and nerve on my part to do this in a written and open forum. I haven’t stopped giving things up- I went the majority of these three weeks without facebook- and plan on sharing some of my thoughts about my three weeks absence from the social network. And of course, I plan on introducing my next mini-Lent for the upcoming two weeks. So for those of you out there who were wondering what happened to Lulu’s Year of Lent (aka my sister and mom) don’t worry, Lulu is alive and well and ready to share the joys and struggles of going without!

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some Oscar Night thoughts, especially since I’ve seen an unusual amount of the nominated films; seven out of ten. The one I hope will win best picture is the King’s Speech. The acting was stellar (I’m going with Colin Firth for best actor) and the story wonderfully real and uplifting. Like any good movie, it made me cry, laugh, and left me wanting more. There were a lot of fantastic films this year and I’d be happy to see a number of them do well (The Fighter, True Grit, Toy Story 3, and the Social Network). I’d like to see Christian Bale win for The Fighter and will go out on a limb with The Fighter as a possible best picture winner if The King’s Speech doesn’t get it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An 85 Year Old Woman Trapped in a 22 Year Old Body

Sometimes, I complain about “kids these days.” You know, like an 85 year old grand ma reminiscing about the good-old times? And though I’m certainly not technologically inept like most elderly people, I often find myself shaking my head at the inundation of technological devices and websites provided to supposedly make our lives simpler. In short, I’ve always thought that I was better suited for another era. On one special occasion, my family even helped me forget the unfortunate timing of my birth by throwing me a Pride and Prejudice themed birthday party, complete with costumes and a Mr. Darcy.

More recently, I had the chance to be transported to a simpler time when I visited the National Portrait Gallery’s Norman Rockwell exhibit. His paintings took me back to an idyllic and magical world through his masterful portrayal of ordinary people and ordinary scenes. They depict a kind of America that evokes the phrase Garrison Keillor quotes at the end of his Prairie Home Companion show: “Lake Wobegone, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Walking through the exhibit I began to wonder what Norman Rockwell would choose to paint if he was alive today. What would be the simple moments that capture and encapsulate today’s society? I tried to imagine a painting with three little girls crowded around a computer with Facebook on the screen… charming, to be sure. Or maybe a girl and boy sitting across the room, texting one another secret messages like: “u buzy 2niteletz hang” or “my frend sayz u lyke me.” With these images swimming around in my head I began to feel even more convinced that not only would I be better off in Norman Rockwell’s America but maybe we all could stand to spend a few days in that charming and lovely world.

But I’m not so naïve to think that Rockwell’s America was all peaches and cream or that I would even make the switch if given the choice. But I am quite sure that despite all our virtual “progress” we’ve somehow managed to disregard the simple moments that make living so real. So in honor of Mr. Rockwell and in the absence of time travel, I’m doing away with the infamous and ubiquitous Facebook in hopes that my extra minutes and hours over the next two weeks will be spent away from the computer in more honest, ordinary, and intimate pursuits.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Goodbye Football, Hello Chocolate!

The Super Bowl is my favorite sports day of the year. It has the celebratory feeling of a holiday, like the Fourth of July, without the fuss. The day is filled with hearty, all-American food, entertaining ads, and hulk-like men ready to pummel each other- what’s not to love? But Super Bowl Sunday is always a little bittersweet for me.

For starters, it marks the end of the season. There’s something about the one game per week schedule that makes the NFL season feel both traditional and unique. There is none of this eighty, ninety, one hundred game business- just a short sixteen game regular season with a few more if your team makes it to the playoffs. The week leading up to a game is almost ritualistic; devoted to studying the opponent and calculating the ramifications and stakes of the game. It’s like a chess match trying to figure out how the players and coaching staff will scheme to outdo their adversary. In truth, the game played is just a small part of the story. At the end of the day, football season is probably the perfect length- not too long and not too short. Regardless, I always find myself wishing there was a little more football to be enjoyed.

Super Bowl Sunday can also remind you how your own home team came up short. Take this season for example. Not seeing my own beloved Patriots in the championship brought back the sting of defeat when we lost to the dreadful Jets. And of course, if your team makes it to the Super Bowl there’s always the chance your team will lose on the biggest stage in sports. Take the Patriots vs. Giants 2008 Super Bowl. That day will forever go down as the worst sports day of my life.

But enough with the negativity because let’s be honest, all in all the Super Bowl is sweet. And this year’s Super Bowl was extra sweet because it marked the end of my sugar fast. I spent Saturday night loading up with desserts- five cartons of Haagen Daz and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, in addition to homemade chocolate peanut butter bars. As I reacquainted myself with my favorite food group while cheering on the Green Bay Packers I thought about how it could be to my benefit to experience candy, chocolate, and ice cream in the same way I experience an NFL season. That is to say, in a measured and balanced quantity.

I really think I underestimate how much of an impact the NFL schedule affects my love for the game. The anticipation leading up to each week’s contest builds a kind of awe and reverence for the game watching experience. And the brevity of the season makes me relish each game all the more. As I bit into my first chocolate peanut butter bar on Sunday it tasted so rich and delicious. I truly savored the different flavors: peanut butter, caramelized brown sugar, chocolate, and cocoa powder. And just like a football game, it was really more about the time leading up to that bite and not the bar itself that made the experience all the more enjoyable.

It might seem a little ridiculous the manner in which I am talking about football and dessert but these past two weeks have been a step in the right direction for me. While I’m not ready to adapt a diet as strict as the one I followed for the previous two weeks, I want to continue cutting back on my sweet intake and allow myself the time to build up my expectations. It’s cliché, but absence truly makes the heart grow fonder and makes the reunion all the sweeter.

Oh, and by the way… yay Packers!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Two Loves

Today, sweets entered back into my life. It was a glorious occasion and a happy reunion that I plan on writing about at length. But for now, I will share this commercial featuring two great and enduring loves of mine.

Introducing: Chocolate and RFed

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Halfway Test

My, how time flies when you are having fun! And the truth is I am enjoying myself thoroughly. Life is full of good friends, exciting possibilities, entertaining activities; who knew life could remain so sweet even in sugar’s absence?

Sunday marked the end of week one, the halfway point, and without sounding too self-adulatory, I’ve been pretty much perfect. I’m happy to report that my sugar cravings have diminished significantly and my food choices have become overall healthier. That isn’t to say each day is free of alluring enticements. I spent Sunday evening with my grandmother and my cousin’s family; a wonderful affair filled with incredible food and even better conversation. But when dessert came around it couldn’t have been more seductively sweet- freshly baked, homemade chocolate chip cookies with ice cream. I think my hosts felt worse about my situation than I did as they assured me they wouldn’t think less of me if I decided to indulge.

The thought definitely crossed my mind as the cookies baked and their sweet aroma filled the air. I rationalized (aka: made excuses) by thinking “I’ve been so good. And it’s true; no one would think less of me for one slip-up.” As I tried to come up with a better reason for eating the cookie I remembered that most observers of traditional Lent don’t count the six Sunday’s during the forty day period because it is considered to be a mini-Easter. “What if I made Sunday my day off” I thought. Then my experiment would be more authentic and in line with this blog’s name.

But when those cookies and ice cream hit the table I didn’t even want them. This was just another test of will. I could eat a cookie, feel a little guilty about it, get back on track and remain sugar-free the rest of the week. No big deal. But I could also eat a cookie, feel guilty about it, eat another cookie, feel guiltier about that, go home, and continue to drown my guilt in more treats and call off the whole thing. In the end, skipping dessert seemed like the least emotionally complicated option and furthermore, an opportunity to recommit to my goal at the crucial halfway juncture. Once I made my decision seeing everyone else eat their dessert wasn’t even difficult. Surely, there will be plenty of chocolate chip cookies over the years and it was definitely worth it to miss out now and keep my resolve, conscience, and dignity intact.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Good Things, Bad Timing

I like:
  • Being healthy
  • Free things
  • Snow
I don't like:
  • Clear nasal passages and an appetite that make me realize just how much I miss sweets
  • Platters full of free cookies and brownies that I'm not supposed to eat
  • Snow when it means I lose a bet
After two days of forgoing sugar I was feeling impressed with my ability to abstain with relative ease. Physically, I was actually feeling pretty under weather with a nasty head cold but was happy to learn that as long as I was sick, all I would be craving was soup, tea, and Ricola. So when I woke up this morning and could breathe in through both my nostrils, I knew this would spell bad news for my sugar-free diet. Sure enough, by 10:30 I was browsing the Internet admiring sumptuous pictures of delectable pies, cupcakes, and cookies.

Ricola, great for sore throats, not for deprived sweet teeth.

My craving grew even stronger after lunch so I resorted to popping Ricolas in my mouth, desperately hoping the natural Swiss herbs would soothe not only my soar throat but also my unsatisfied tummy. The need for sugar was beginning to subside when a co-worker walked in with a plate full of baked goods, informing me there were left-overs from a board meeting and I was welcome to any of it.

And then it started to snow. Now, I owe a colleague lunch.

I won't lie, it's kind of a bummer when timing is off. If I had been sick one more day refusing free brownies would have been a cinch, or if the free goodies had shown up last week I could have stuffed my face full of chocolate to my hearts content. But I learned a few things by missing out today.
  • This one is obvious, but being healthy is always preferable to being sick. Plus, if I can't taste sugar I'd like to taste other yummy things... like a delicious salad with shrimp, tomatoes, cucumber, and avocado.
  • I've been a little envious of my family in New England and all the snow they've been pummeled with this winter. It was wonderful to finally see the fluffy white stuff falling from the sky and collecting on the ground. But more importantly, it's really nice living in a city that doesn't know how to deal with the snow, resulting in a two-hour early dismissal from work for me.
  • Finally, it was hard refusing the free dessert. But it also felt good to stare them in the eye and say (in my head, of course) I don't need you! Kind of liberating, just in a restrictive way. And don't worry I didn't let those free cookies go to waste. I located a Ziploc bag, grabbed five or ten goodies, and shared them with my grandmother, cousins, and their delightful children.

Here's to hoping for a snow day from work tomorrow!