a requiem for diet coke

Subtitled: A Eulogy of a Love Affair

Like all classic love affairs, it began innocently enough.

A glance across the room in high school.  A night at the movies in college.

By the time I graduated from college, I didn’t really notice that Diet Coke had left a toothbrush at my place, started taking over a shelf in the medicine cabinet and began adding itself to my grocery shopping list. By the time I was working full time my insatiable need for Diet Coke had taken hold, seemingly without warning.

A can at breakfast. A fountain drink at lunch. A mid-afternoon pick-me-up. The discovery of Diet Dr. Pepper.

It didn’t hurt that the first office I worked at had a veritable pipeline of Diet Coke in the form of company-supplied-and-maintained soda fountains.

Assessing future employers based on access to diet caffeinated cola products became practically my top priority in my job hunt.  I was only stymied by the fact that most companies don’t include “access to coke” in job descriptions.

Fear not.

Directors who knew me knew that my productivity, when bolstered by diet caffeinated cola, was that of five semi-hungover employees.  Directors who loved me understood that Diet Dr. Pepper was my hands down favorite diet caffeinated cola.

See, I spent much time analyzing and rating my preferred diet caffeinated colas, resulting in Diet Dr. Pepper winning every time, followed by Diet Coke from McDonalds (has to be – nothing compares), followed by Diet Pepsi in a 20 ounce bottle or 12 ounce can followed by Diet Coke in a can.

I wrote a poem about Diet Coke.

At my first job.

My first grown-up job.

I did that.

And? My director thought it was a lovely poem and hung it on her wall.

It’s a disease, people.

Of course, as my love affair with diet caffeinated colas heated up, the buzz about the suspect ingredients also started building.  Around the time we started to try to have children, the diet caffeinated cola love affair was peaking, but it was nearly impossible to ignore the mounting evidence that some of the ingredients were not good for me.

I almost felt shame every time I heard the pop and the “pssshhh” of the can opening.

Almost.

Most doctors seem to agree that women trying to get pregnant and those who were already pregnant should cut the caffeine.

So, I quit.

It was easy to quit. Too easy.

I heard myself say these words, “See? I don’t need Diet Coke. I can quit at any time.”

You may have heard those same words on A&E’s Intervention or you know, any show about drug addiction.

I was “clean” for my entire pregnancy with the twins.

While in the NICU, Carrie had an apnea incident (basically she forgot to breath) and I heard one of the nurses mention that babies who have chronic apnea incidents are sometimes put on caffeine. And I thought, “what if I drink some Diet Coke, pump and give it to her via breast milk  Maybe that will help!” Mom to the rescue!

So I called my old flame Diet Coke.  I wondered what it would be like after all that time.  Would there be the heat and the passion that I remembered?

Oh, that first blissful sip.  It was so good. So bubbly. So cold.  So fresh and delicious.

Ahhh.

But the innocence was gone.  I knew better.  I knew the scandalous ingredients.  I knew too much.

I tried to keep my torrid affair out of the public eye.  I knew there were others who would judge.  Others who knew that I knew that they knew that I knew that Diet Coke has some pretty nasty crap in it.

When I went back to work, I started a bad habit of going to McDonald’s for oatmeal in the morning – and oh – a Diet Coke.  Only $1 for 32 ounces. I mean, why not?  The small, medium and large are all priced the same.

It would be tragic to pay the same as a large, but only get a small.

And then I discovered that the twins loved Oatmeal.  As a mom on the run, Oatmeal became the perfect breakfast food on the go.

And some Diet Coke… in a giant tub… with a straw.

After some time, I noticed that I was needing some more diet caffeinated cola around lunch. Plus, sandwiches always taste better with diet caffeinated cola.  We have a vending machine that sells Diet Dr. Pepper.  In 20 ounce bottles.

If you’re doing the math with me, you’re probably noticing that on most days I was drinking 50+ ounces of diet caffeinated deliciousness – often well before noon.

So this New Year, I decided to give it up.

Go cold turkey.

I challenged the part of me that said, too casually, “I can give it up at any time.”

And so I did.  I discovered tea and coffee.  A more “mellow buzz” if you will.

I sip. I try to drink water.

Today, I found myself thinking about lunch.  I usually think about lunch about 2.4 seconds after I finish breakfast.  So, there I was, thinking about lunch… and how delicious a large Diet Coke from McDonald’s would be.

I didn’t cave.

And just like that, I realized that I was over Diet Coke. We had our moment in the sun, but our season together was over.

One month, twelve days, 20 hours, 41 minutes.

Fair thee well, diet caffeinated cola products.  Fair thee well.

:: and scene::

hello? hello? is anybody home?

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for like, weeks.

I start.

I stop.

I think about it.  I remember I have an episode of Property Brothers or Love it or List it.

I realize the DVR is a hot mess and that once again, the girls have randomly recorded Telemundo.

I start again.

The dishes need to be done.  The laundry needs to be folded.

Work.

Life.

Snuggles.

Fights need to be broken up over the girls’ much loved baby dolls.

… and fake cell phones.  And crayons. And stuffed animals.

The list goes on and on.

And then one of the girls hides under a high chair, or screams at the ducks outside.

And I’m all like, “I SHOULD BLOG! This moment! Must remember it always!”

… and then I forget because just as soon as the twins are doing something cute, water is boiling over on the stove or they found my lipstick. etc. etc. etc.

It feels like writer’s block.

But it’s not.

It’s life block.

And, honestly, a little bit of self-censorship.

I mean, I’d love to go on a good old fashioned political rant.  Or a “what’s wrong with America” diatribe, but you know, this is not the forum for that.  And honestly, no one needs any more of that shenanigans.

I prefer lighter, more uplifting word fare.

I read this blog written by a woman namedGlennon and I love it because it focuses on love and friendship and working at life together in a team.  I appreciate what she does for the sisterhood. The sentiment of supporting and encouraging each other is something I believe in.

And, in much the same way, I think Ree builds up the sisterhood by reminding us that nothing cures what ails ya quite like homemade pasta, bacon and cheese. I believe in that, too.

Organic, of course.  (Unless no one’s looking, then I’ll take whatever bacon/cheese/pasta I can get my hands on!)

But my point is this: chocolate.

And, if I have an option, just in case I do, wine, too.

In closing, my new year’s resolutions are as follows:

  • Continue losing weight.
  • Try to exercise more.  Running after the twins does not count.
  • Blog more.  Like three times a month. Not like, never.

That is all. Candy.

stages of Weight Watchers

I was talking to my friend Ginger*, my on-again-off-again Weight Watchers (WW) buddy.  I have noticed a pattern emerging from our many trists with the evil dub-dub.

1. Grief. Right before you log on to WW.com to sign up AGAIN, I think “Did I have my last hot dog FOREVER? How about one more large cheesy beef with extra cheese, hold the veggies of any kind except for french fries (which is totally a vegetable) with extra cheese – make that orange cheese?” It is anguish and sadness that comes and goes when you least expect it.

2. Anger. Ginger is currently dealing with anger.

“Wait, how many points do you get?” she asked me on the phone tonight. “THAT IS TWELVE MORE THAN I GET!”

I could hear the rage pouring through the phone.

“Well, yay for me, Ginge, I’m fatter than you.  Woot!” I tell her enthusiastically, hoping to distract her.

“And I have to budget for JACK DANIELS!” she wails. “Do you know I ate a Smart Ones Cheeseburger snack burger FOR DINNER tonight?? It was four points.”

“Wait, four points?” I ask, concerned. “I counted it as five points today when I had it for a snack.”

I hear rustling in the background. “Wait. You’re right. Five. Hold on – that was your SNACK? I don’t even get a snack!” she continues hysterically. Then I hear gulping. I assume it is the aforementioned Jack Daniels.

3. Delusion. About partway into day three, I start telling myself that I really am not THAT bad off. Who cares if I have to use a rubberband to close my pants and I’m not even pregnant?? Whatevs. I can live like this.

4. Horror. This usually immediately follows delusion when I see a picture of myself now or step on the scale. Horror also has a lovely subcategory of shame-spiraling: I will never leave the house again! WHAAA!!!

5. Acceptance. This usually happens on a day when I’ve been distracted by reality TV long enough to forget to eat an entire chocolate cake.  And I think, “Wow, how do I have so many points left for dinner?  This is amazing and WW is an awesome program!”

The important thing when it comes to successfully participating in WW is to try to live in stage #5, until you can get your dear friend Ginger on the phone so together you can experience #1-4.

Otherwise, I usually just eat a chocolate cake and pour dark hershey’s syrup directly into my mouth.

And yet, I’m not really sure why my pants stopped fitting. Curious.

*name has been changed to protect the somewhat innocent…

… Also, Ginger would like you all to know she’s moved on to Vodka…

how’s it goin’?

Welp, I’m holding fast to my New Year’s Resolutions – sticking to the old Weight Watchers routine and working out. I was hoping everyone else at the gym would have less resolve, but apparently they are all just as resolved as I am.  Which means I have to park in overflow.

Which really, is probably for the best, right?  I mean, I’m going to the gym to WORK OUT, right?? It always cracks me up to watch people fight over parking spots to be closest to the gym door. (which I can understand if you have children/babies/etc to carry into the gym…)

So following Weight Watchers and doing the Couch-to-5K program is going alright, but I am finding it somewhat difficult to adhere when trying to juggle working full time, two babies, Frank and sleeping. Eating well requires planning and thought. Mindlessly popping food into my mouth is not going to shed the pounds.  And getting to the gym, even for a simple 30 minute work out, requires a ton of planning, too. Who has the kids? When will I eat? Do I need to go somewhere afterwards that requires me not to be a sweaty mess?? Ugh.

We use Cozi.com for all of our calendaring and tasks and shopping and meal planning needs.  It’s pretty awesome.  And they have an app – because – really – who doesn’t? It has been really helpful in getting us on the same page and it has been helpful in planning out our weekly meals.  But wowzahs. It takes a lot of coordination to keep this ship a-sailin’.

So there’s all of that.

I’ve also (foolishly?) agreed to run a 5K in May with my amazing friend Jamie because if she is going to go run a 5K and she has two kids, then by-golly, I am going to get on that bandwagon.  Plus, she’s responsible for inspiring me to do the Couch-to-5K program.  I blame her for all of this madness.

Smooches to Jamie!

And if that is not enough, Frank is probably going to run it while pushing the babies in the jogging stroller.  He’ll still probably beat me across the finish line because he’s a mad crazy runner, but whatevs.

The point is, I really have to do this Couch-to-5K thing every week because man-alive, I am totally not ready for the run if I have to do the run tomorrow. I could probably sign in for the race, get to the starting line and then dry heave from panic.  Too much info?

Yeah, probably.

Onward!

evolution

For those of you who were guessing that my post would be an announcement of another pregnancy – you are very wrong.

Frank would lose his ever-loving mind if we had another child barely a year younger than the twins.

Nope.  This is not a clever blog announcement about a pregnancy.

I started this blog the same month that Frank and I became engaged to be married.  I was 22 years old.

I had been out of college for less than one year.  I had been working for less than six months.

I am not even really sure why I started the blog, other than that I had a weird fascination with the idea of having a diary.  And I’m not even sure why I had that weird fascination.  I’m a terrible correspondent.  Ask anyone who has tried to correspond with me.  I found letters from my darling college roommate, Kelly, and nearly wept at the beautiful notes she would write me.

I doubt that she could make the same claim about the letters I wrote her. Because I didn’t write.  I was a horrible pen pal.

If you look at my blog from 2003, you will find that it was nothing more than a documentation of shopping excursions, what I ate and how I felt about it, and who could forget my rankings of area shopping malls?? (answer: just about anyone and everyone could and should forget it)

I don’t go back to those early postings very often.  Sometimes I do re-read various posts from our wedding planning.  But truthfully, my most pressing concern (if I’m being honest) was finding a tube top so that I would tan evenly.  Heaven help me if I had strap marks while wearing my strapless wedding gown!

I look back on those early years and I wonder at how Frank and I managed to make a life together.  I mean, considering how seriously the odds were stacked against us (under the age of 25, for starters) and then reading my blathering thoughts at the time, it’s a wonder that we managed to move across state lines, find full time employment and not critically hurt ourselves in the process.

But here we are.

I look back on those early years – my immaturity and my self-absorbed interests – and I am struck not by how much I’ve changed, but how much more aware I am that I haven’t changed as much as I should have.

Yeah, this post is not about patting myself on the back.

“Way to go, self, you managed to generally stay clear of the Emergency Room for most of your adult life. Bravo.”

No.

I think a lot of life is about peaks and valleys.  Peaks offer a moment of clarity where I get to see where I am going and where I have been – and realize that the road in both directions is long, winding and generally uncertain.

And valleys remind me of my own humanity.

I think that I am on a momentary peak.

The K-Fam, for all intents and purposes, is doing very, very well.  Frank is employed.  I am employed.  The girls are healthy and growing and developing and have clean diapers on (at the moment).  We have food and shelter and enough extra cash to afford a brand new Starbucks addiction (as long as I keep brewing at home…).

Our coffee cup runs over.

But in this rare moment of clarity, I see my life as it is.  I’m not sad about it or angry or hurt or feeling guilty.  I am just aware that I was young and like pretty much all young people I know, I was blissfully unaware.  And now I am approaching middle-aged.  Or, if I am honest, I am probably middle-aged already (I’m 30 – does that count?).

Whatever.

The point is that I see myself driving home from church, work, wherever – I see the sun shining and the wind rustling the leaves on the lush green trees and even though I have many responsibilities, I feel unburdened. I feel light.

And I am becoming aware that being unburdened is a rare, precious gift; I feel that while I am in the sunshine, enjoying the beauty of this world, there are people whose burdens are great.

Reading the news is a buzz kill.  You are bumping along in life all concerned about what is for dinner or wondering whether or not you remembered to pay the water bill, when all of a sudden a news anchor calmly, matter-of-factly explains that 32 girls in Ghana were rescued from a baby factory where their brand new babies were sold into slavery or as human sacrifices.

The juxtoposition of my life and theirs is hard to grasp.  How can my brain comprehend such disparity of the human existence?

God has been working on my heart, opening my eyes.

Am I going to end human trafficking in this world?  No.

But how can I do nothing?  How can I enjoy a warm summer day spent going for a walk or teaching my baby girls how to build sand castles, while other men, women and children are in such total darkness?

Many children find themselves sold into slavery because their families cannot afford to eat.  They are sold so that the rest of the family can survive.

And yet so easily, I can go to McDonald’s and enjoy a fruit and yogurt parfait, oatmeal or a warm cup of coffee.

While I am contemplating ways I can get involved (more to follow over the next few weeks), I cannot help but realize how mindlessly I eat.  I think very little about what and how much I put in my mouth.  After fertility treatments and a twin pregnancy, this is definitely starting to show.

I have a lot of weight to lose.  Fifty pounds to be exact.

Yeah, that’s right.  Fifty.

Not fifteen.

FIFTY.

Ugh.

What’s sad is that I’ve lost pretty much all of the baby weight.  The weight I have left to lose crept on slowly at first.  I slowly gave in to the weight gain.  “It’s just a pound.  Or two.  Or five.”

Or fifty.

Working out my body is just as important as working out my mental muscles.  The discipline I use for walking and running (and not eating dessert after every meal) helps me be more disciplined in other areas of my life, like time management or finances.

Getting involved in helping to stop human trafficking isn’t going to happen over night.  I won’t find a solution by writing a check for $5.  Big problems like this require persistent and unrelenting action.

In 2001 I started Weight Watchers.  I lost 60 lbs over the next 8 or 9 months.

I did not lose all 60 lbs in the first week.

Every week I lost a little bit and it all added up.

It’s that kind of discipline – making one more person aware, getting one more person to care – that adds up.

A little bit of kindling added slowly builds a big fire.

My goal is to become more disciplined and aware of what I eat, which will simultaneously help me work out the mental muscles needed in order to be dedicated to a cause as important as ending human trafficking.

It’s a weird way to connect two things, but it makes sense to me.

If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’ve always been annoyingly persistent. When I want something, I usually find a way to get it.

For every pound that I lose, we (Frank and I) will donate $10 to end human trafficking.  It’s a weightlossathon.

If you want to join me in this effort – either by losing weight yourself or donating money for every pound that I lose, please do!  Let me know in the comment section if you are “in” and what you are doing.

And if you aren’t interested in joining in, if you could keep me in your thoughts and your prayers as I go down this road – both weight loss and figuring out how to help raise awareness of human trafficking issues – I would be so grateful.

Thank you.

a new love affair

I have a new obsession.  A new love.  I think about it all the time.

No, it’s not Bejeweled Blitz (a terribly addicting game on Facebook).  It’s this:

Whole Foods.

I love it there.

The produce is beautiful and delicious.  The meat counter – Heavens to Betsy! – is unrivaled by our local grocery chain.  The cheese stand – oh, if only cheese did not wreck havoc on my digestive system – I would’ve eaten the whole stand. The. Whole. Stand. The gelato isn’t just gelato – it’s sexy gelato.  This gelato romances me from across the bakery, glowing all hot and sultry-like.  This gelato says, “Emily, please, just take a look.  Just a little look.

And then there’s the nut butter.  Fresh ground nut butter.  Nut butter the way that God intended.  Pure, unadulturated nut butter.

Heaven help me.

And let me tell you – this is true love.  I know a few of Whole Food’s faults already.  I know it is pricey.  I know the take-and-bake pizza is terrible.  I know that Annie’s Rice Pasta and Cheddar Mac & Cheese is nothing like Kraft’s.  Nothing.  Not even in the same ballpark.  It is sacrilege that they put this Mac & Cheese in a blue box as if to suggest that they are comparable to Kraft’s neon orange bliss.  Consider yourselves warned.

But these few faults are like finding out your husband is leaves the seat up.  You still love him, you just know to check before you sit in the middle of the night.

help!!!

Sooo.

We went nearly 3 months without sugar.

THREE WHOLE MONTHS.

Then we hosted a cocktail and dessert party.

Sounds harmless, right?

But the problem was that we made/bought TOO many desserts.  Even with 40 people attending, we have SO much left over.  I brought most of the extra desserts into work and pawned the rest off on anyone who had arms to carry them.  And STILL I have a 1/4 of a chocolate cake and a 1/4 of a berry cobbler and a 1/4 of an apple pie.

And all of them seduce me.

“Emmmmmily!”

“Yes?”

“I am a delicious pie/cake/cobbler.  You can give up sweets TOMORROW.  But right now, how about a slice/scoop?”

And I am weak.

So tomorrow, it’s game on.  No more sugar again.

It’s not like I feel good eating this sugar.  I feel TERRIBLE eating it.  My teeth feel sugary – I brushed them 3 times after the party and STIL felt icky.

Ok.  The clock starts up again.

I just wish broccoli spent as much time seducing me…