Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hopelessly Addicted

The dictionary definition of addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

It comes from the Latin word addictiō meaning a giving over or surrender.

The medical definition of addiction is habitual psychological and physiological dependence on a substance or practice beyond one's voluntary control.

I am addicted. I have a problem that I don’t fully understand and can’t control and admitting it is a first step.

I thought I was past this but recently had a relapse. I’d been clean for months. I stopped thinking about it and the shakes and night terrors were long gone. No shamelessly ransacking the house looking for another score while my disappointed wife and children looked on. No more stashing away treasured caches for a later fix. I was clean. But then, like a crazy old high school buddy, it returned.

Sure, at first when Captain Crazy comes around you’re happy to see him. You’ve missed him because, after all, he’s lots of laughs. So the party is on and it’s like old times but you know that regret is just around the corner. Before too long you’ve had your fill of his depravity and are wishing he’d stayed away; wishing you hadn’t got sucked to the madness again. Soon you are left alone and in a hellish limbo between never wanting to do it again and mentally planning for the next time.
It started innocently enough like most addictions do. I was a child and couldn’t possibly have known the lifetime of yearning that lay ahead of me. I first tried it at a friend’s house and was immediately hooked.

As I grew older it only got worse. The more I had the more I wanted. I was never satisfied. I’d buy enough for five or six people and handful after handful it’d disappear. Before I knew it my stash was all gone and I was left to face what I’d just done and the shame of it.

Of course I’d try and hide what I was doing because no one could know. No one would understand. How could they? I was a full blown addict.

I finally confided in my wife and begged her to help me. She was sympathetic and agreed to do whatever it took to keep me away from it and it from me.

That worked for a time but all the while it was there with me. Lurking in the shadows; waiting for a moment of weakness, waiting for us to be reunited once more, to have me, to own me.

That moment came Thursday when my wife returned home from the store. As I helped her unload the groceries to my horror I found my orange nemesis staring up at me, taunting me. I questioned my wife on her betrayal and she very flippantly replied, “Come on, it’s been a while since you’ve had it.”

She didn’t know. She couldn’t understand what she was doing to me. No, if she knew she never would have brought it back in the house. How could I restrain myself? Doesn’t she know the power it has over me?

I could just have a couple, I told myself. Yes, a little won’t hurt. I’ll just have a taste and that will satisfy the craving. Yeah, no harm in having a bite or two. I can stop myself whenever I want.

Half a box later my sweet innocent children approached to ask if they might have some. I snatched the box out of their reach like Schmiegel protecting his Precious. I may have even hissed at them while baring my teeth. I don’t know what happened next as I’m sure I blacked out. I woke up in my room alone again with orange stained fingers and a box as empty as my soul.

Looks like I’m back to step one. I’m Aaron Blaylock and I’m addicted to Cheez-Its.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Proud Parenting Moments

The longer I live and the more I’m around people it seems the more I find that bothers me about them. I’ve long ago accepted that I may not be meant to get along with people at large. As a parent I try very hard not to pass on my contempt for humanity to my children and find that with a few (more than a few if you ask my wife) exceptions I’ve been successful.

One of those exceptions seems to be when I’m driving on the road, you know, with humanity. Don’t get me wrong it’s nothing close to road rage or anything but I’m beyond baffled by the inconsiderate and completely oblivious way people operate motor vehicles. On semi-frequent occasions I’ll verbalize my discontent towards a fellow motorist in front of my children. Of course there are two immediate consequences for my tirades. First is the inner guilt and shame for the poor example I’ve just shown to my children. Second, my sweet loving wife looks at me with both shock and horror for the manner in which I’ve addressed another human while simultaneously looking like she wants to hurt me for the aforementioned poor example.

As my children grew older and began to speak something funny happened. Thankfully due to the more prominent role their mother plays in their lives they took to her disposition and became quasi-deputized bad word police.

I’ll never forget one time while driving on the freeway I was cut off by a woman on a cell phone who never even saw me. After spewing several kind words in her general direction my daughter spoke up from the back of the van saying, “Dad, we don’t say idiot. Mom, is freaking a bad word?” After absorbing a long wicked look from the woman I love I resolved to do better.

Still I’ve found it nearly impossible not to backslide periodically because of the aggravating nature of my relationship with stupid people. That leads me to my proud parenting moment of the day.

Let me say in my brief parenting career I’ve had many proud parenting moments. Whether it was when my first born child was just a year old and said “Son of a” when he fell backwards on his bum or when my daughter raised her hand during a Sunday School lesson on making good choices and announced to the entire primary that, and I quote, “My daddy says bad words…all the time.” When I mentioned doing a regular ‘Proud Parenting’ segment my wife suggested that I might have enough material for a bi-weekly installment. She’s so supportive.

Anywho, I was running errands with the kids and had multiple unpleasant run-ins with people of below average intelligence. First up was a winter visitor from the great state of Wisconsin who was unable to find the gas pedal and put me in the uncomfortable position of squeezing in on a yellow light. I may or may not have muttered something about people not native to our state which my son apparently overheard. When he questioned me about who I was referring to I explained that Foreigner was a 70’s rock band. He sat in confused silence pondering why a 70’s rock band had upset me and we moved on.

Next up we were approaching the store and this punk teenager with his hat on backwards was doing 50MPH in the parking lot. My son asked “Why is he driving so fast” to which I replied, “Because he’s an idiot.” My distain for that delinquent at that moment caused the words to bypass my parental filter which even in the best of times only operates at sixty percent.

We next found ourselves waiting in line behind a lady and her daughter at a Redbox dispenser. She allowed the youngster to peruse the child’s section at her leisure before eventually selecting the movie of her choice. Then this discourteous wretch browsed through the entire selection in the machine looking at several movie descriptions and even took a phone call when her cell phone rang. I bit my tongue and kept my cool even when after all that she failed to pick a movie. I was able to shake it off because we only had one more stop to go and then I could return to my sanctuary away from, well, everyone.

We drove to our final destination and pulled in to an open parking slot. I started to get my toddler out of his car seat while the other two exited the van on the other side. As they were opening the doors I spotted a white sedan in the other aisle cutting through the open spot between our van and the car on the other side of it just a foot away from my children who were opening their doors. I yelled at them to stop and only then did they finally see the car whizzing past their faces. They were frightened as was I. I walked around the car to supervise their safe exit as the sedan sped away, no doubt off to spoil somebody else’s day with his thoughtlessness. I kept my children close as we walked in silence towards the store when my sweet baby girl looked up at me with exasperation and said, shaking her head, “Two idiots in one day.” I smiled to myself put my arm around her as we continued towards the store and said “Sometimes that’s the way it goes.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Progression

It’s mid-February and that means one thing, Valentine’s Day.

As a child Valentine’s Day was fun. You got to design your own little heart-laden box to accept all your classmate’s Valentine’s. Then you’d get to fill in the To: and From: fields on your G.I. Joe cards (because nothing says “Be Mine” like Snake Eyes). I remember each time taking extra special care when filling out a card for the girl who I happened to like that particular year. When the day arrived and cards were exchanged I would rifle through my haul finding the one from whichever girl it was and kept it apart from the others. It was special even though I’m sure she’d written the exact same thing on mine that she’d written on everyone else’s. No matter, love was given and received. Valentine’s Day was for a young boy not yet mature enough to express his affections and for him to hold fast to even a token expression from the object those affections.

As a teenager Valentine’s Day was a stressful time. Either I didn’t have a “girlfriend” and was forced to endure a day of hearts, cards and stuffed animals parading through my loneliness or even worse I had a “girlfriend” and felt pressure to provide just the right combination of cards, candy and stuffed animals to show the appropriate level of affection. Are flowers and a card enough? Should I get her balloons? Does she like balloons? If I don’t get her candy will she think I think she’s fat? Why did I want a girlfriend again? Valentine’s Day was a report card on how you were, or were not in some sad cases, perceived as “boyfriend” material.

As a young adult I became disenchanted with Valentine’s Day. I’d tell anyone who’d listen that Valentine’s Day was for rotten lovers to make up for their shortcomings and failures throughout the rest of the year. I firmly believed if a man was doing his job and caring for his companion then Valentine’s Day was just another day.

It was easy to take such a stance because as a newly married couple we of course had it all figured out. We had plenty of time and energy to heap affection on one another everyday and had vowed never to become disconnected like those old fogies no matter what circumstances life had in store for us.

Adding to my distaste for Valentine’s Day was the fact that the same dozen roses I’d bought for her the previous week cost $20-$30 dollars more on this love sanctioned day. Over crowded restaurants offered just one or two Valentine’s meals for a king’s ransom. And last but not least cards failed to provide an adequate expression of my love for her. Valentine’s Day was a needless day for a loving couple who felt no compulsion to share their affections with the masses.

Now as a slightly less young adult Valentine’s Day is an oasis of sorts. I’ve become one of those rotten lovers who didn’t keep his promise to stay connected no matter what life through at him. Between children and work and school and church each day just fills up. At day’s end when the work is done and the kids are safely in bed it’s time to unwind, decompress or just veg out. Sure we spend that time together but I forget to make time to take her in my arms and just stare into those beautiful eyes. I don’t always take every shot I get to hold or caress her hand and tell her I’ve missed her today. I neglect to mention that when I catch a glimpse of her from across the room my heart still leaps in my chest. I don’t remind her daily that she’s the reason behind everything I do and she’s given my life meaning. I fail to tell her that I smile every time I think of her or that I’m smiling right now as I type this because I’m thinking of her. Or that she’s just as beautiful today as she was the day we got married, or how lucky I am to share a life with her. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to break from the dizzying array of stuff that crowds our day to day and say “I Love You”.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leaves of Loathing

Of late my life has been infested with lettuce.

I have nothing against lettuce in its proper place. For instance, a leaf or two atop a ½ pound patty, a slice of cheddar cheese and three healthy pieces of smoked applewood bacon is perfectly acceptable. If you want to shred it and throw it in a flour tortilla with some steak, cheese and salsa I’m fine with that too. I won’t even object to using it to cradle juicy bits of chicken marinated in a garlic, onion, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil bath mixed with pine nuts and water chestnuts (mmmm, lettuce wraps). However, using lettuce as the prominent member of your main course is an abomination.

Normally I give no thought to such things; as a meat and potatoes man the only green want to see is the garnish that snuggles up to my pulled pork sandwich. Tragically, that all changed on my last business trip.

Being away from home I am forced to eat out every meal. Generally this means I can expect to see a slightly larger number on the scales when I return. This becomes more problematic when compounded by the holiday weight I’m already toting around. So I devised a drastic plan to at least slow my rapid ascension towards the 300 lb club; salads for dinner.

Day 1 of my descent into madness

We went to a Mexican restaurant. With a menu full of burritos, enchiladas, tacos, nachos and other meat and cheese based dishes I chose the tortilla chicken salad. Generally I find that I’m a fast eater. My entrée always seems to disappear before I know it leaving me a little disappointed that there’s not more to be had. With this lettuce packed horror, however, there seemed to be no end. I felt as if I’d been eating forever and still the green remained, mocking me. When I finally finished I was surprisingly full. I thought to myself that this might not be so bad. If I only knew what awaited me.

Day 2 the mishap

Being new to salad I learned quickly that all salads are not the same and it is crucial that you read all that is in them. We found ourselves at an uncharacteristically upscale establishment, after a brief perusal of the menu I selected the chopped salad. It seemed harmless enough at first glance. At the outset it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Then it happened. I bit into something that repulsed both my nose and my tongue. It’s what I imagine feet would taste like. As I delved deeper into the bowl I discovered these little balls of fungus were everywhere. I was so hungry though that I kept eating until the last bite. Unlike the previous night this salad did not fill me and now I was left with the taste of toe jam in my mouth. What horrible lengths people must go to in an attempt to hide the lettuce.

Day 3 the lone bright spot on my salad safari

We ended up at a sushi place. Getting a salad was easy as I only mildly dabble in sushi and have no real pull towards it. This time I read the descriptions carefully and once again selected the chopped salad being that I could find nothing that might possibly be foot fungi in the ingredients. The salad arrived with pieces of breaded chicken and bacon sprinkled about (remember you can improve anything with either bacon or chocolate). The dressing was delicious and I hardly minded the dense and diverse lettuce arrangement. In all seriousness I could actually envision myself ordering this on purpose at a future date. I worried that I may have become possessed by some salad loving demon turning me into one of those people who profess to love eating salad. That delusion was dispelled later that night when I became ravenously hungry just a few hours later. Oh the humanity.

Day 3 appendix

I discovered two things that night. A) Salad, no matter how good it tastes, can only momentarily pacify the beast inside of me. And 2) my body was so unaccustomed to such a diet that the beast inside of me began to reject it in, to be delicate, an unpleasant fashion.

Day 4 the finale

Coming to the end of our trip we settled on a nearby and familiar steak house. Surveying the menu I found only three salads. None of them were particularly appealing and my gut told me that none would quell the hunger pangs, so I settle on their house salad. I know that the nutritional and dietary benefits of a salad draped in two kinds of cheese, croutons and ranch dressing are minimal which is why I chased that salad down with a bacon cheeseburger. Finally satisfaction. That salad went down easier and faster than any salad I’d had all week. It wasn’t because of the delicious toppings either but because at the other end of that tunnel was bacon and beef.

Eating that much salad is just not right. Sure I finished the week down a pound instead of up two or three but the price I paid was my soul.

I have great respect for people who diligently watch what they eat and force themselves to eat lettuce. A short time ago I witnessed my sister-in-law, who keeps herself in excellent shape, eating what can only be described as a small animal habitat. It was lush with dark green leaves and what appeared to be, and I pray was not, dirt. She ate it without complaining as I teased her for the appearance of her meal. To her credit she did not claim to love it but was eating it because it was good for her.

I do not debate that lettuce is good for the body. My contention is that the inclination to consume it is not natural nor is it satisfying. Cases in point, my 3 year old was eating a hot dog one night and also on his plate were a couple of baby carrots and some lettuce. He ate the hot dog and carrots without a word. He then informed us that he was done and we instructed him to eat his lettuce. He protested, “That’s Gary food.” Gary is our African desert tortoise who eats nothing but lettuce. Out of the mouths of babes my friends, out of the mouths of babes. You see lettuce is not food, lettuce is what food eats.

Case No.2, my wife (who also keeps herself in fine shape) made a nice looking and fine tasting chicken salad for dinner a few days after I returned home. Later that night this kind, gentle, beautiful, delicate creature apologized for being grumpy. I replied that I was unaware that she was grumpy. She confessed that the salad did not hit the spot and she’d felt ornery the rest of the evening. See there, salad leaves even the nicest person in the world feeling unfulfilled and grouchy. Lettuce just makes you angry.

To maintain a certain body type you’ll have to subsist on this green crunchy vegetation and that’s your choice. But all efforts to convince me that you like it are futile. It’s a lie. Maybe who’ve told yourself that lie enough that you believe it but it’s a lie nonetheless. Don’t believe me? Okay, show of hands, you’ve got one meal left to eat before passing on; who’s picking a salad? That’s what I thought.

So choke it down if you must, just don’t tell me “it’s good”.

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