Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You had me at Hola...

I am a woman of many quirks.

Among them, just to name a few, are: an impressive ability to remember the lyrics to every song I’ve ever heard (whilst also often not remembering to close the freezer door or let the dog back in the house), a bordering-on-creepy obsession with a certain late singer songwriter (I don’t want to name names, but his rhymes with “Fan Dogleberg”, a nearly pathological fear of mold (seriously, I would throw a dish AWAY before cleaning out anything of questionable or fuzzy nature), and a total inability to sleep in a bed where the covers are untucked from the foot of the mattress.

And those aren’t even the WEIRD ones.

I choose to believe that these tendencies fall somewhere to the left of the border between “charming” and “crazy” but I’m well aware that very choice might actually have tipped me over the line into crazy-town. I think we all have our own crazy, and embracing it makes life a lot easier to manage.

Case in point: For some reason, after any fairly prolonged bout with illness, when my appetite returns I find that there are only two things that sound at all appealing me:

1. Diet Coke, and

2. Mexican Food

The Diet Coke thing is a mystery, as I don’t particularly like soda in general and never have. Under normal circumstances the only time you’ll ever see me drinking a diet soda is if the restaurant in question doesn’t have fresh brewed iced tea (Unsweetened. Only. EVER!) or if an armed assailant has ordered me to do so at gunpoint. Yet for some reason my body craves—nay, DEMANDS—that my post-illness thirst can only be quenched by the Coca-Cola Corporation’s flagship diet soft-drink. It passes eventually, the craving wearing off slowly over a few weeks.

The Mexican food thing is less mysterious, as I have long been a fan of any food item that even vaguely sounds like it comes from south of the border. Burrito? Sign me up. Enchilada? Yes, I think I will! Taco? Sopapilla? Enchirtio? Quesadilla? You betcha! Basically if Alex Trebek would sound insufferable pronouncing it, then I’ll gladly eat it (with sour cream and a side of beans and rice!). But for some reason, post-sickness Sara wants to eat it—and only it—for every meal. Six years ago, after a heinous bout with the flu (and I mean the big daddy himself, the actual “influenza”, which kicked my ass so hard that it is maybe the only time in my life I ever thought to myself each night that I might not wake up the next morning) I ate nothing but taco salads for two weeks. Literally. I ate a taco salad every day for lunch, and nothing else the rest of the day. (Except for diet coke, of course. Duh.) Eventually my appetite becomes less laser focused and other foods begin to appeal to me and all goes back to normal. Or as normal as it gets with me, anyway.

After beating this latest viral foe back with a whip and chair, I find myself right back in diet coke & taco territory. I’ve managed it a little better this time around, choosing to embrace the diet coke-iness (sodium and all) and to only occasionally indulge in duly journaled and accounted for Mexican food. When I relayed this to my therapist two weeks ago (whom I adore, and whom I also had to explain my five-minute tardiness due to the hold up in the line at the McDonald’s drive thru where I had been forced to stop before our session in order to purchase a $1 large Diet Coke) she nodded and said that she was curious about whether there was a psychological reason that these things in particular seemed to comfort me after being sick. I responded that I was pretty sure it wasn’t the result of any long buried trauma. It’s not like I had once been accidentally locked in a dumpster where my life was saved because I managed to survive for a week on a half empty can of diet coke and a discarded chalupa. I think it has less to do with the type of food, than it does with food itself.

I have a long history of using food in ways that have nothing to do with nutrition. For as long as I can remember, food has been a comfort to me. I have used it as a reward for a job well done, for consolation for a broken heart, as a sedative to dull the panic that sometimes rises within me when my stress level soars out of control. Never mind that I know full well that it’s a fleeting fix, that eventually the same thing I reached out to for comfort will cause even more discomfort in it’s wake, because sometimes the need for temporary comfort outweighs the consequences. Spoken like a true addict, no?

Just today, after a long morning sitting in the ER with my 15 year old son (who it turns out is just fine, the shooting abdominal pains that sent us there with him doubled over and moaning have been explained and treated and all is well with the world), as I made my way into the office to salvage what I could of the work day, I rolled my neck to try and release the stress and worry accumulated over the last several hours, and out of the corner of my eye I saw two words that advertised exactly what I knew would make me feel better right then:

Taco Bell.

I found myself changing lanes and positioning the car to make the turn into the drive thru lane, my mind racing with the kind of magical thinking that only those of us acquainted with my level of food-crazy can understand. Yes, a $.99 chicken burrito make me feel better, I just KNEW it would. Mexican food makes everything right. Sure, it would cost me 11 points, and I would probably eat the lunch I’d packed that day when I got to work anyway, but I wasn’t going to get anything done feeling like this anyway, so valium via burrito seemed perfectly justified. As I made the turn toward the parking lot, I looked up and saw the golden arches next door and thought to myself “Maybe a $.99 double cheeseburger would make me feel even better. Ooh! Or an apple pie! Or….”

And that’s when I snapped out of it.

A burrito wasn’t going to make me feel better in the long run. What ailed me wasn’t going to be soothed by a burger, or pie, or even a $1 large diet coke. No, the only thing that would really bring me a little peace would be a few deep breaths, a few hours of catching up at work, and a few moments spent getting it out of my head and into words.

Guess I really am starting to feel better, huh?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Love, Bread Pudding, a viral near-death experience, and the “F” Word…

Hello Internet!

Long time no blog, friends. Did you miss me? I have REALLY missed you, and I would go the traditional route and spend this whole paragraph apologizing for the prolonged silence, but the thing is that I’m not all that sorry, particularly, and a long drawn-out mea culpa would be less than sincere. So instead, how about I just fill you in on the events of the last few months and then we pick up right back where we left off and pretend like nothing happened, ok?

So love came back to Sara-town last September, and guess what? It’s still here! The last five months have been quite a whirlwind around here (Hmm. Has it really been only five moths? Side note: that means that in one more month I’ll get to start appropriately quoting one of my very favorite movie lines of all time from Sixteen Candles when Sam and her Sister Ginny are discussing Ginny’s upcoming wedding to the man everyone refers to as ‘the bohunk’ and Ginny says very earnestly “Sure, there are other men who have loved me, but not for six months in a row” which always cracks me up whenever I see it, or even think about it. Can’t wait!).

It turns out that navigating the pleasures and perils of new love can really take a toll on a gal. It’s like one day you’re just living your life, finally confident in the balance of flavors you’ve struck in the casserole of your life when: BAM! A big old handful of boy gets tossed in the pan and all of a sudden it’s a whole different dish. One that seems like it might be a little heavier on the cheese than you’re used to, and that takes a lot longer to prepare. And bake. And eat. It even seems to leave way more dirty dishes in its wake. All that takes some getting used to. And it just might pack on a few pounds, too.

So I gained some weight along the way. 22 pounds, to be exact. To be fair, he gained some too, thanks in no small part to the veritable feeding-trough of our first round of holidays together. Leave it to me to fall in love with another foodie, but say what you want about him—the man can COOK. I may have filled the December air with the sweet scent of jam shortbread, pumpkin loaves, and the finest molasses cookies the world has ever known, but he in turn treated us all to some kick-ass Jambalaya, a Christmas Gumbo, and a bread pudding so delectable that everyone privileged to have eaten in on December 24th is STILL talking about it wistfully two months later.

As we headed into January, we both got back down to the business of weight loss, helped out on my end by a return to Weight Watchers and diving head first into the new PointsPlus program revision, a viciously contorted update photo shoot involving my conveniently forgotten about white pants (stay tuned, if you dare), and also by the contracting of a virus of epic proportions that treated me to a five week stint of mono-like symptoms including excruciating throat pain and debilitating exhaustion. On the plus side, it facilitated really impressive results at the scale due to the whole barely-eating-anything-and-sleeping-14-hours-a-day routine I got into for a while. It was just last Saturday that I woke up and thought to myself “Hey, I don’t feel like hammered crap this morning!” and it felt like I was (finally!) on the mend. Just in time for...


That’s right folks, on this past Monday the first digit of my age flipped over and I entered a whole new decade of my life. Interestingly, it didn’t bring with it any of the angst or wailing and gnashing of teeth that 30 sent my way (seriously, that sucker nearly killed me). In fact, it was a pretty great day. Since I share my birthday with Valentine’s day, the weekend was packed with celebrations. A romantic dinner out on Saturday, a family trip to the Japanese steakhouse on Sunday, culminating in the back yard grilling of perfectly ginormous steaks and baked potatoes the size of regulation footballs (and steamed broccoli, because that evens things out, don’t you think?) on my birthday proper.

I enjoyed every bite, tracked the points for them too, and was rewarded at the scale on Wednesday with a gain of 1.2 pounds, after which I shrugged, declared that it had been totally worth it, and got back down to business. When I relayed my weigh in results to the man I my life (who I shall refer to as “Tim” from here on out, because that happens to be his name and all), he agreed that it was a deserved, but temporary effect of the weekend’s festivities. He then said that he hoped I would start blogging again, so that he’d having something new to read on my website. And since I wanted to, I did.

So that’s what’s been up with me. You?