Pass the bubbly, it’s finally over!

It’s that time again. Everyone say that dreaded word with me, if you dare…

Resolutions!

I think we all know when we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Most of us have come to our senses as adults and abolished the idea of resolutions, or at the very least, we make small resolutions that are attainable. After all, it’s the little things that count, right?

A year is a looooong time, folks. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes. You know how they say to make every second count? Well, in just one year, that gives us 31,536,000 chances to muff it up. Most of those seconds are either spent sleeping or stressing about things beyond our control. (Or, worse yet, stressing about things within our control, like the resolutions we broke.) It’s no wonder so many of us die young.

I’m proposing a new plan: daily resolutions.

Just one thing, every day. Doesn’t have to be something big. Doesn’t have to be life-changing. Doesn’t have to extend beyond 24 hours. Do yourself a favor and don’t tell anyone what you’ve resolved each day. Don’t plan your resolutions ahead of time. If you wake up in the morning and dread doing the dishes you left from the night before, resolve to do them the moment you hop out of bed. Then just do it. Bam. Resolution accomplished. You’ve set a tone of success for your entire day.

I’m probably the worst when it comes to practicing what I preach. I can come up with all sorts of ideas and yet never put them into practice myself. But I promise you, I’m going to try to do this. There’s no reason not to. It’s the unwritten law of accomplishment – once you’ve started the ball rolling, it’s amazing how much motivation and what an overwhelming sense of pride you will find, and the positive spin you will inadvertently put on everything else in your life. Maybe you’ve been feeling like a Negative Nancy lately, and you resolve to compliment two people tomorrow. I guarantee that if you dole out those two compliments, dozens more more will roll off your tongue. I’ve experienced it myself.

So no, I’m not putting any long-term resolutions out there for 2012. If I were, I suppose I’d call it “make 2012 better than 2011”. (Not hard in my case, and the cases of many of my friends/family. 2011 was a roller coaster with more lows than highs for a lot of us. If it was for you, too, I send hugs.)

I played the victim too much in 2011. I let bad things get the best of me and allowed good things to seem mediocre. I only saw the long haul ahead of me, not the little things I could do to make right now count. Maybe you did, too.

Tomorrow’s a new day.

Heck, it’s a new year.

Let’s go crazy. 🙂

“Happy New Year, may we all have a vision now and then, of a world where every neighbour is a friend. Happy New Year, may we all have our hopes, our will to try. If we don’t, we might as well lay down and die.” ~ ABBA, ‘Happy New Year’

Face, meet palm.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is The Writer Of This Blog, and I am an addict.

Not an addict in a cutesy, I really-love-shoes way (though anyone who doesn’t like shoes is officially crazy in my book), but in an actual, chemical, I-need-this-substance-to-feel-normal way.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. Substance abuse.

Such an ugly term. The mental images it conjures are frightening, and with good reason. Substance abuse is no laughing matter.

Luckily, for me, the substance I’m addicted to is both legal and socially acceptable. It doesn’t affect my cognitive functions, or cause me to have serious lapses in judgment. My addiction doesn’t sever my relationships with other people or affect my ability to live a normal life. I can go days, on rare occasions, weeks, without needing a “fix”.

Doesn’t make it any less of a struggle, though.

In a world where people love to condemn others, the condemning of an alcoholic, a smoker, a sex addict, or people who live an “alternative lifestyle” have become old hat. No, nobody wants to hear those old condemnations anymore, so we have had to move onto something else.

I’m a walking poster child for the new condemnations. I love red meat, salty foods, refined pasta, ungodly amounts of cheese, and…oh you betcha…diet soda.

Gimme, gimme the diet soda.

Okay, those of you who are rolling your eyes and about to click the little X in the top righthand corner of your screen, hear me out. I mean no disrespect to addicts by lumping myself in with them. On the contrary, as someone who has studied addiction extensively and considered a career in substance abuse counseling, I have a deep and abiding respect for the warriors who face their addictions every day.

And, somehow, within the past 24 hours, I think they have gained my respect more than ever.

Rewind to 5 weeks ago.

I really wanted to quit Diet Coke. I could say I wanted to quit it for all the right reasons – my health, the cost, the four zillion cans I could never seem to keep up with recycling. But truthfully, I was just sick of hearing about it. I was sick of the comments from friends/relatives/random-people-in-the-store about how bad diet soda is, sick of the news stories and health articles that constantly proclaimed its evil, sick of the twinges of guilt that came along every time I chose to disregard them.

Diet soda has become the new smoking.

No, I really just wanted to quit so I didn’t have to hear about it anymore. But I’d tried to quit once before, and made it exactly 34 days before I found myself having a fit of body shakes in the soda aisle at Safeway. (I wish I were kidding.) My husband, being the endlessly supportive angel he is, told me to start drinking it again. His reasoning was that if a soda here or there kept me from total meltdown, it was worth the possible health cost. So, Diet Coke and I became besties again, and almost a full year later, I found myself consuming far too much of the stuff.

Finally, I decided it had to stop. It seemed I was incapable of moderation. If I gave myself permission to drink “a can or two a day”, that somehow became “two or three cans at home, several glasses while out to eat, and another can at Mom and Dad’s house”. Some days I didn’t have any, but the days when I did, I drank like a fish.

So I proposed a plan to my hubby. If he’d quit soda, I’d quit too. I knew if there was any cold-turkey partner I could count on, it was him. He once gave up soda for a year, just because he felt like it. And considering he loves it almost (almost, almost) as much as I do, that had to have taken some serious willpower.

The deal was on.

November 8, 2011, we quit cold-turkey. No soda, diet, regular, or otherwise. This also meant no energy drinks, a realization that horrified both of us and made us question “What have we done?!”, but we stuck to our guns. It was for our health.

I’ll be honest. It wasn’t that hard.

For the first few weeks, anyway, I didn’t have so much as as twinge of a craving. When out to eat, we’d share unsweetened iced tea, something we felt comfortable letting our girls drink too, so it was a win-win situation. At home, I’d drink my usual water and tea, or if I needed a particularly big boost, coffee. There wasn’t much of a change at all in my daily routine. I’m a beverage chick by nature – I drink and drink and drink. As long as I always had a beverage in hand, Diet Coke was practically the furthest thing from my mind. I started feeling better; more energetic, peppier.

Fast forward to this week.

The good feelings were gone. In fact, I felt worse than ever. I was bloated. My skin had broken out in monster zits the likes of which I hadn’t seen since high school. I felt as energetic as a slug. And I was cranky. Oh God, was I ever CRANKY!

It didn’t make any sense.

How could I have gone from feeling great to feeling like I’d been hit by a truck? I’d been off of Diet Coke for 5 weeks, without so much as one relapse. I hadn’t even had a craving for it, and as far as I was concerned, DC and I were done for good.

So what the heck?!

It was then that I finally took a good, hard look at how I’d felt those past 5 weeks. I’d had more energy, yes, but at times it was an almost frantic energy. I found myself feeling hungry all the time, so I’d compensate by eating more. Then the sweet/salty stuff kicked in. If I ate something salty, I’d crave something sweet. It would go back and forth. I hadn’t even noticed! I was eating all the time. I was eating more than I was drinking, because I never, ever felt satisfied. My body was searching for something, but I, in my infinite pride, refused to accept that I was craving diet soda. That couldn’t be. I was too strong for that.

It wasn’t until my husband all but begged me to drink a Diet Coke last night, citing my absolutely insane crankiness as the cause of his plea, that I finally accepted the truth.

I am an addict.

I couldn’t tell you if it’s the carbonation, the colored syrups, or the (gasp!) deadly aspartame that my body is physically addicted to. It could be that it’s a 99% psychological addiction, but the signs my body was giving me seem to indicate it’s more serious than that. I wanted to be off Diet Coke. I thought I had done it, was over it! But my brain and my body were not in agreement.

I drove to the store at 10pm last night, resolved and feeling like an utter failure. There was also part of my brain that tried to reason I was just in the dumps thanks to other factors, but I’m never in the dumps this time of year. I’m practically Mrs. Claus. So the sudden change in my skin, my body, everything, showed me the truth.

I bought one Diet Coke. One blissful, beautiful 20 oz bottle.

I drank half of it in the car. I sat there expecting to feel nothing, anticipating a letdown and sure I’d realize that I’d broken my soda ban for no reason.

Then, sparks flew.

There’s no other way to describe it.

I sound like a fucking commercial for this stuff. It even makes me sick.

But there it is, folks. I am an addict. I had one Diet Coke last night, and all day I’ve felt like my old self again. I haven’t had crazy urges to eat a huge piece of pie and wash it down with a handful of potato chips. I haven’t felt the need to soothe my nerves with a piece of a…I mean half of a…I mean a whole Ghiradelli chocolate bar. In fact, I feel just fine!

My husband was right.

If it keeps me from a total physical and mental meltdown, the occasional diet soda is probably better than adding strain to a time in my life that is already rife with stress. I’ll just have to work on the “occasional” part.

So, welcome back, Diet Coke.

On occasion.

P.S. I made it 38 days.

What’s your addiction?

Dear Oz, all I want for Christmas is…

You know that part in The Wizard of Oz where they’re all asking for the things they most desire? The Tin Man wants a heart, the Cowardly Lion wants courage, blah blah blah. And wittle Dorothy just wants to get home. Nobody seems to realize that the poor Scarecrow is stuck without the one thing that makes all of those other things possible – a brain.

Dude, I sympathize.

I lost my brain a few years ago. I’d really like it back.

Don’t get me wrong. I mean, having children and suddenly becoming a prime candidate for the Airhead of the Year Award has its perks. It gives me a sort of quirky charm, and people let me brush off a lot of the dimwitted things I do with nothing more than a shrug and a smile.

But come on.

Being brainless is also a massively underestimated pain the ass. Just tonight, I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth (about 3 hours after I should have been ready for bed; I had spent those erstwhile hours reading inane news stories online and being nagged by the sensation that I had a really great blog forming somewhere in the back of the ol’ gray matter). After going through my bedtime routine – which involves gathering my current reading material, setting alarms (yes, plural…you try waking me up!), moving one kid out of her sister’s bed and the other kid out of mine, etc, I settled into bed feeling quite bushed. As I ran through a mental checklist, I nearly burst with pride. I had somehow managed to complete everything I needed to do before shutting my bedroom door, a feat which I might add, almost never happens.

So I got comfy, still shaking my head in disbelief, and picked up one of the four books I’m currently reading. (Yes, four. Calling me ADD wouldn’t be entirely uncalled for.) It was at this moment, perhaps in salivatory anticipation of the reading goodness I was about to delve into, that I ran my tongue over my teeth.

NO. WAY.

How was it possible, after everything I had accomplished and, recalling a vivid memory of entering the bathroom with the sole intent of brushing my teeth, that I had somehow not brushed my teeth?

The wonders never cease.

I can’t honestly recall a time in the last five years when I shut my bedroom door and didn’t have to go back out again. That’s over 1,800 failed attempts to get ready for bed. Minimum. Likely many more, considering the nights when my failed attempts topped out at 3, 4 , or 5 in a single evening.

So, yeah. What I’d really like for Christmas is a brain. Maybe my new brain could remember exactly why I sat at the computer for three hours tonight, convinced I was going to blog. (Don’t call it a premonition. That’s giving me far too much credit.)

Something tells me Santa doesn’t really dole out brains in peoples’ stockings, though. (A general glance at society should prove that theory correct, am I right?) So I suppose I’ll just ask for something much more attainable – like a book, a new bottle of perfume, or a nice scented candle. My husband would tell you I have too many of those things already.

He’s right. I just can’t remember where I put them.

Merry Thanksmas. (Happy Christgiving?)

There is a recurring debate among friends and family as to when is an appropriate time to pull out the Christmas decorations and start celebrating the season whole-hog. I am notorious for being one of the earliest pro-Christmas folks. I guess I come by it naturally; my mother is the same way, and some of my favorite childhood memories involve dancing around the living room with all the “normal” lights off, giddy in the glow of twinkling Christmas lights. It seems that every year, I can’t wait for an excuse to pull out gallons of green and red stuff, sparkling garland, and absurd knick-knacks, crank up the Bing Crosby, and bake until my oven dies of exhaustion.

But what used to be such a joyous time of year in my childhood has never really been the same as an adult. Perhaps the reason I’m so anxious to start this time of year is because I feel absolutely overwhelmed at the thought of cramming it into just under 4 weeks. If we really wait until December 1st like so many people would prefer, that gives us 23 days to decorate, shop, wrap, party, bake, and execute every tradition that remains important to us. (In my case, 22 days, since my youngest’s birthday falls on the oh-so-inconvenient day before Christmas Eve. I firmly refuse to be one of those Scrooge Moms who does a holiday/birthday combo celebration.) Where’s the time to relax? To just chill and enjoy? To dance around the living room beneath the twinkling lights?  

I know, I know. I should throw out a few of those “must-dos”, forget some of the less important traditions, take more time to relax and enjoy. But that’s easier said than done. Especially since every year, I end up feeling like I failed at doing the Christmas thing to my own satisfaction.

See, there’s this thing called burnout.

Most people probably experience it right about when they should – as soon as the presents are opened, the wrapping paper disposed of, and the bellies full of Christmas dinner. But I experience burnout much earlier – somewhere around, you guessed it, mid-December. By the time holiday preparations and celebrations are in full swing for everyone else, I feel deflated and overwhelmed. I realize how little I’ve accomplished; my house is still half-decorated, I’ve barely picked up a few filler presents and wrapped absolutely nothing; I’ve managed to watch exactly 2 Christmas movies of the eighty million I own.

I spend so much time forcing myself to wait, to hold off for a couple more weeks, that by the time I should be in the ultimate Christmas spirit, I’ve lost my mojo. I’ve never figured out the solution to this problem, and I’m not sure if I ever will.

But I’ve come to realize that my kids are never going to enjoy the magic of the Christmas season if their only memories of it are frazzled Mommy complaining that half the decorations never made it out of the box. My whining about it feels like a disclaimer – as if by letting everyone know that half the decorations never got put up, I’ve taken responsibility for being a holiday failure, so we can all move on and enjoy a mediocre Christmas. Yet, as a child, I never could have told you if my mom left half the Christmas decorations in the box; all it took was one glorious string of lights to turn our living room into a magical wonderland.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that this is true for my kids, too. Each time I pull out a new string of lights, it’s a chorus of amazed gasps all over again. To them, the Christmas season was in full swing from the moment I let them have a candy cane. What they take with them into adulthood as their favorite part(s) of the Christmas season isn’t for me to decide, anyway. It’s not going to be the fact that Mom baked every type of Christmas cookie, watched Miracle on 34th Street four hundred times, and hung decorations until the house looked like the North Pole threw up. It will probably be the little things, the things that are beyond my control.

So I’m letting go.

To the best of my ability, I’m accepting the fact that there will probably never be a holiday season when I achieve my insane Martha-Stewart-meets-It’s-A-Wonderful-Life goals. I’m not sure why I have them, anyway. If I delve into the psychology of it all, I could say it’s because Christmastime was the only time growing up when I felt my family really come together – the one time when my dad could manage to shut his mouth on a hurtful comment, a time when my mom’s smile was more genuine than forced. And even if things became less than pleasant, I could always escape to the living room and lose myself under the Christmas lights. So the holidays, for me, represent a chance to right all the wrongs of the year, to Band-Aid all the times when I lost my temper with my kids (or my husband), to make sure positive memories far outweigh the negative before the calendar starts anew.

Perhaps there’s a similar realization for all of us at this time of year – a way in which we need to either let go or step it up. We owe it to our loved ones. We owe it to ourselves. It doesn’t have to be something big or life-changing; it can be as simple as forgiving someone (perhaps even yourself), moving on, or resolving to change an attitude that needs some work. There is no better time of year to appreciate the little things, yet I know perhaps better than anyone just how easy it is to get wrapped up – pun intended – in the big things.  

Forget starting over in January. Let’s start in December.

…or, in my case, November.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

It’s the snark of the day!

NOTE: Here is a fun little mini-screenplay of something that happened to me today. Yes, this really happened, just this morning. Bitchy has become a recurring character in my life, and as she is a fellow mother at my child’s school, there is almost nothing I can do to avoid her. The best I can do is to dish her Bitch right back! (Sub-note: I am not a screenwriter, therefore I do not know the technical requirements of writing a screenplay. This is just me, explaining in what I hope is a humorous way, a not-so-humorous encounter.)
Our main character – let’s call her Kimberletta – is standing in the parking lot of her daughter’s school, talking to her own mother – let’s call her mother June. They are having an animated discussion as Kimberletta reenacts a scene from the night before, when Kimberletta’s 4 year old daughter (let’s call the daughter Alex) threw a fit of epic proportions at the local public library.
Kimberletta: “She literally jumped down every single stair, going ‘I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!'” [imitates jumping]
June: [shaking head in disbelief] “Wow…”
From across the parking lot enters the character known as Bitchy. Bitchy is holding the hands of her two presumably perfect little children, and when she calls out to Kimberletta, it is in a high-pitched, smartass voice, as if she is addressing a mentally retarded person who also happens to be hard of hearing.
Bitchy: “Oh Kimberleeeee!”
Kimberletta turns to the sound of the voice, and her heart drops. She contemplates running and hiding, or possibly throwing a grenade across the parking lot and then ducking for cover. Unfortunately, there is no time. She also has no grenade.
Bitchy: [still in smartass sing-song voice] “Which child are you talking about?”
Kimberletta: [adjusts her voice to match the absurd sing-song tone] “Alllllleeeexxxx!”
Bitchy feigns a look of utter disbelief, as if this is the most horrific thing she has ever heard. Meanwhile, June’s smile has become frozen on her face, as she clearly struggles to maintain a pleasant facade. It is highly likely she is imagining drop-kicking Bitchy across the parking lot. If she were young enough to understand the term “drop-kicking”, anyway. Which she is not.
Bitchy: “Really?!? Sounds like she’s acting like this one.” [Points at her own 2-year-old, with raised eyebrows, in a clear implication that Alex’s behavior is not up to snuff.]
Kimberletta: [raising voice even louder, with a terrifyingly large smile on her face] “Sounds like she’s acting like A FOUR YEEARRR OLLLLLD!”
Kimberletta’s smile is almost maniacal at this point, as is June’s. Bitchy, as wrapped up in herself as she is, takes these smiles as a sign that they have recognized her superiority and are moments away from falling at her feet in worship.
Bitchy: “A four year old? Really?!? When mine does that, he gets in BIG TROUBLE.
Kimberletta: [her eyebrows are raised so high that they have disappeared into her hairline. She feigns a look of surprise at Bitchy’s words and even gasps a little, putting her hand to her chest] “SO DOES MINE!!”
Kimberletta then turns to June and speaks very rapidly and firmly.
Kimberletta: “Sorry, I’m leaving. Bye!”
Kimberletta exits the scene by jumping into her car (which is actually a car borrowed from a friend, but that is a story for another time) and driving out of the parking lot before either June or Bitchy has a chance to speak again. There is a short exchange between June and Bitchy, during which time June’s frozen smile looks positively painful on her face, and then the event is over. Kimberletta makes a mental note to inquire as to what was said between June and Bitchy, at a later time. Right now, her only priority is getting home and crying a little over her inferiority as a mother. Or blogging this encounter as fast as she can, before she forgets any of the details. Whichever. 
 

END SCENE

 

Pippa Middleton in IV form, stat!

Okay, confession time: I love entertainment news sites.

It’s not so much the content of the news…because, let’s face it, if you’re searching for nourishing, intellectual information, “OMG” and “E!” are not going to provide it. Rather, what I love about these sites is what most entertainment-news-fans love: the ability to study – and be fascinated or repulsed by – other people. New pictures and articles are uploaded so frequently, it’s like sitting in front of a window that overlooks L.A., New York, and London all at the same time.

This neverending wealth of useless information fulfills an addiction that many of us are finding harder and harder to resist – instant gratification. With smartphones and everything from Facebook to Twitter to Skype, there is never a moment when we are unplugged. (Unless, like me, you make it a point to purposely unplug several times a week.) The more we get used to the instant gratification that comes with technology, the more we crave it. There’s something about logging into a social networking site or a celebrity news site that – I’m willing to bet – triggers all of the same neurotransmitters as a narcotic painkiller or a box of Godiva chocolates.

That said, I only enjoy these sites in small doses. While the fascination comes from my ultimate interest in psychology (it’s like getting to study the choices these people make on a daily basis, without any repurcussions!), after a while, the news gets boring. There isn’t much deviation. A celebrity’s pregnant. A celebrity overdosed. A celebrity said something on live TV they shouldn’t have, and issued a public apology before an overzealous activist group could tear them limb from limb. Blah, blah, blah.

That’s why I find it funny that the most common recurring comment on celebrity news stories is, “Why do we care?”

Well, that begs the question – “why do you care?” I hate to point out the obvious, but every one of those comments is posted by someone who physically clicked on (and presumably read) the article. Yet this happens, again and again and again. Every article. Someone can’t understand why we’d care that Jessica Simpson wore unflattering boots on a stroll through LAX. Which, I must point out, is a valid complaint! It’s not the most stimulating news story ever. But then, Unhappy Commenter probably shouldn’t have clicked on a headline that read: “Jessica Simpson wears unflattering boots at LAX”.

You get the picture.

The other discrepancy that is blowing my mind lately is the brouhaha over Pippa Middleton. (Yes, I’m talking about Pippa again. Get over it, folks. It ain’t gonna stop any time soon!) E! Online features a new photo of Pippa almost every single day – sometimes, more than one. The pictures are inevitably snapped as Miss Middleton strolls through London on her way to work. If I were asked my own opinion, I’d say the pictures are lovely – Pippa is always snappily dressed, classy and coordinated from head to toe, often in pieces that can be identified as coming from midlevel stores. No designer diva complex here! She puts up with the paparazzi, without directly telling them to bugger off, and without going to the other end of the spectrum by mugging for the cameras like a Hilton/Kardashian wannabe. It must be insanely annoying to have your picture snapped eight thousand times as you do the same routine every day – coffee, then work, and back again. Yet Pippa handles it all gracefully.

What I see on every one of these photos is a barrage of complaints about, “who cares?” and “why is it Pippa again?” and “why don’t you post pictures of the ACTUAL PRINCESS?!”.

Mmkay, let’s take a little looksie at the facts here: (a) Millions of people care. She’s the sister of a princess, she’s gracious and lovely and impeccably fashionable, and she’s (to an extent) relatable. She leaves her home every weekday to head to work. (b) It’s Pippa again because of all the people who post on her pictures complaining about her! The content of comments or the emotions behind browser hits do not matter, folks. Numbers are numbers, and this chick’s numbers put her popularity through the roof. You fuel the fire the more you complain, so by all means, keep it up! (c) Do you really think, if it were that easy to snap photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, we’d be looking at her non-royal sister all the time? Kate doesn’t exactly waltz through the streets of London every day. I’m sure E! is salivating for pictures of Catherine Middleton, but if Pippa’s who you’ve got, she’s better than no Middleton at all.

So why am I blogging about this?

Honestly, there’s no big moral to the story. I’m simply so amused by how predictable the comments on entertainment websites are. And I think I’ve finally figured it out: every one of these people is in denial. There’s no way around the fact that they sought out the article/photo they’re complaining about. “Lindsay Lohan struts her stuff in a bikini” isn’t sly jargon for “Brain bending algorithms”, nor is “Miranda Kerr takes baby Flynn to the park” a secret code for “Heavy-hitting political discussions”. All of you Unhappy Commenters know what’s behind those links. And you all click on them.

So, why bother denying it? Are you so ashamed after looking at pictures of Beyoncè’s pregnant belly (is it real? is it prosthetic?) that you have to assuage your guilt by posting a derisive comment? If so, I suppose I say more power to you. It’s not going to hurt anyone.

I, for one, am not in denial. I love my celeb-sites. I find no shame in getting an emotional gratification out of pseudo-spying on celebrity lives. (Though when paps clearly cross the line, like taking pictures of celeb children on school property, I become livid!) I peruse for a few minutes, get my fill, and my instant stalkerish gratification is complete.

Isn’t it all the rage to “come out” in Hollywood these days? Admit your every deep, dark secret? Well, I’m out.

And I’ll be back for a Pippa refill in a few hours.