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The one with the food addiction and the holiday traditions

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I love food.

Yeah. I get it all of you "food is just fuel for your body" people, the ones who can like clockwork just take in some exacting amount of calories with perfect balance with little regard to taste, texture, or tradition. You are better than me. I get it. But still...

(a cross-fitter, a vegan, and an atheist walk into a bar. I only know because they told everyone in under two minutes)

I love food. I'm sicilian and it's sort of baked in from birth. In fact, birth is one of the many occasions that my family will go out of its way to cook. If you're on a diet, don't have a baby. Also, don't get married, have a shower, get christened, get confirmed, graduate from anything, or die. I suppose if you died, you'd no have to worry about the food, but if you're concerned about the waistlines of your friends and families, strike that from the list too. No dying.

And this means two things-- one, if I care for you, I want to cook for you. I want to spend the time in the kitchen making the whole place smell like wonderful delicious, and I want to indulge in the the act of breaking bread. Two, I view food as a sign that all is right in the world. It isn't just a coping mechanism when I'm down, it's a sign that I am up.

So, we're coming up against the holidays. Christmas eve I will celebrate the feast of the seven fishes -- which this year will include a tuna crudite, shrimp coctail, seared scallops, crab soup, salmon roll-ups, steamers and clams, and lobster. And, because I couldn't help myself, there will also be some squid panzanella (because I don't like crab, and want my seven). And, because some people might not like seafood, I'll make some other this and that to eat.

And copious amounts of white wine and champagne and whatever else I pour from my well stocked and high end liquor cabinet (although, alas, I am not officially out of my Pappy Van Winkle 23 year aged Bourbon, which last I checked the EMPTY BOTTLE was going for over 70 bucks on ebay).

The point is, this isn't emotional eating, this is life eating. This is how I celebrate life and this is a problem in some ways.

(you could say, it's only one night, but honestly, wait until Christmas where, by way of tradition, your primi is a pasta course and your secondi is some form of poultry or meat)

I don't exactly know the best way to deal with food. I know, again, all you "it's just fuel" people say just eat smaller portions or whatnot, but it's just that eating with family is such a big thing in my house and in my life. I am the guy who doesn't stand up from the dinner table until the entire family is done. This is my time to be with family.

I guess I should just be happy -- I'm a healthy guy (save for some minor aches and pains that tell me I'm approaching forty like a boss) and I have a healthy family. I am lifting like a beast these days and feel very strong compared to past years. I've been very good about my water and keeping my calories in range (though at the current time, at a surplus by design for muscle mass) -- but I don't want to live with ten pounds of gain over the next week. I don't want to deal with that while also not walking away from what makes the holidays the holidays.

Besides, who turns down a baked manicotti even if you know there is a whole beef tenderloin hanging around in the oven for after?

Food is a beautiful and wonderful thing. And most of all I eat is handmade and/or natural and/or organic. So I shouldn't be complaining, but this is a concern.

I love food.
I also love the body I'm building.
And that stuff just happens to be at odds with each other.

I know I can't outtrain my diet. So now, to figure out how to manage trandition and diet at the same time without doing anything crazy.

because I WILL eat my seven fishes on christmas eve. And I will eat my seven courses on Christmas day.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AERO_NERDETTE 12/20/2014 4:59PM

    My family is from south Alabama, so food is a big part of every family gathering. My grandmother (dad's mom) makes all that good southern comfort food whenever that side of the family gets together, and there's LOTS of it since there are near 30 people between my grandparents, dad and his brothers, wives, kids (my generation), and kids' kids. It's tough to rein in my eyes from getting too much bigger than my stomach, but I usually manage it pretty well...most times.

You're not the only one in the family + food = love boat.

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CRABADA 12/20/2014 3:10PM

    Holidays and celebrations in your house sound amazing, and so obviously full of joy and love. As always, thanks for sharing these glimpses.

As for thoughts, I think both Adarkara and Katiat325 give good advice about picking and choosing, portions, and being present. I would simply add that Christmas Eve and Christmas (and other holidays / celebrations) are special occasions, which by definition means not every day (paraphrasing -- don't go all OED on me!). It is rarely the actual holiday meals that are problematic for people -- Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's are only four days, after all -- it's more often the other 35 or so days in the "holiday season." Whether it's the constant presence of baked goods and candy over the holidays, or too much pizza one night, these are the calories that end up being the "problem" in my experience.

So, if food is how you celebrate, how you show and share love, embrace that wholeheartedly on these truly special occasions -- then simply be more conscientious and careful in your every day.


PS - Just checked pricing on that Bourbon. Holy cow! Needless to say, you will NOT be getting a bottle of that from me for Christmas! :)

Comment edited on: 12/20/2014 3:19:52 PM

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KATIAT325 12/20/2014 2:12PM

    Food for celebrating is huge in my Russian family. One thing I learned though, is to try everything, a bit at a time. Don't crowd your plate, but always have something on it for when someone offers you something, you say you're still working.

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ADARKARA 12/20/2014 11:39AM

    Food is such a huge part of most people's holiday traditions. It was a huge part of mine growing up. Around Christmas my dad always threw a party/open house for his side of the family, which wasn't a huge amount of people, maybe 20, but the house was always full of enough food for three times that. The spread often included a baked ham, snowflake rolls, my Godmother's homemade baked lima beans (which I've never been able to duplicate) and her infamous pineapple pudding (a dieter's nightmare consisting of sugar, butter, white bread, eggs and canned pineapple, but effing amazing nonetheless), ambrosia (which I've never really loved so that's easy to avoid), cheese, crackers, veggies, dip and of course, sauerkraut with pork and hot dogs. On top of this of course were cookies, cake, wine and spirits and a feeling of love and well-being. I think we associate all this food with the feeling of joy we feel at spending time with people we care about.

I still plan on indulging in latkes and kugel tonight. Uh, because they're delicious. But I don't need to try everything at the party. In fact, some of it I know won't be worth the calories, because I know who's making it (*cough* Watchmaker's Wife *cough*). It won't be easy to not go a little crazy with the stuff I do love, though, but I'm going to take my time, be present, chew slowly, and enjoy it all. Enjoy the conversation and the laughter and the warmth. Because to me that's the more important part. The connection.

I'm not really one who likes to give out advice, because different things work for different people, but instead of taking a normal portion of all those foods, you could take a smaller portion, a bite or two. And as you chew, think about it, enjoy it, and be satisfied with it. Because yeah, food is fuel, but it's also more than that, and that's okay. It's not just the food that makes you happy during these times, but all the other things that go with it. And warmth and love are fuel too, and if we fuel up on the feelings then the fuel from the food isn't needed as much, right? *shrugs*


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UMBILICAL 12/20/2014 11:07AM

  well said

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The one with the iron and the reflection on a good week

Friday, December 12, 2014

(This blog brought to you by Touch by Troye Sivan)

I watched people walking briskly, seeking shelter and warmth when the snow came down in large flakes. It clung to my jacket and hair and held onto the grasses, but left the walkway largely just wet. People moved so urgently, as if the sky were falling, and yet, I let my pace be my pace.

Beauty is worth enjoying.

And this week I had a few moments of absolute bliss. Small fragments of wonder and magic that seemed to fall from heaven and I could enjoy for all that they were. Some weeks do this to us, send us those wonderful moments that fall like snowflakes from the sky. And when they hang on your coat and brush through your hair, you just should enjoy them for what they are.

Sure, this week had a lot of things that were not nearly as wonderful. Six am meetings that were less than beneficial in terms of output, and internal issues of this and that to muster through.

But there were christmas lights, hanging from the trees in a way that was perfect. And there are poinsettias and trees. There was coffee and art. There was wonderful, and intense conversation. There were moments that mattered.

And there were workouts.

Monday, due to a meeting that was less beneficial than it should be, I missed my standard AM workout. I opted to crush myself with some kettlebells -- 5 minute tabata with two minute breaks. Five times. And abs. And sweat and smiles. Because, well, who doesn't love bells? And I was feeling it even then, this rush of joy and wonder and happiness. Because, well, who doesn't love bells?

And then on Wednesday, I hit my routine again. It wasn't perfect, but a big bench (even without my brother there to spot me) and deep squats and a wonderful sense of being back on track. I was smiling before I even left for the gym, still riding the high of earlier in the week. And by the time I was there, I knew I was going to rock it.

And then today, it was back to the bigs, weights that hurt and require all the work and wonder that comes with it. Squats. 215. All five sets, deep and wonderful. And then OHP, which wasn't perfect due to a small twinge in my front right deltoid, but felt so good at 115/105. And then DEADS -- which I hadn't broken 200 with since my back went about a month and a half ago. 205. And it felt good. All five reps felt great, and I was strong.

My mind was racing and my heart and the sweat poured off me and I couldn't contain my smiles, and that was what got me started today. I haven't stopped smiling all week. Honestly, it's been a good week.

I'll have bad weeks, I always do. Hell, I'm going to spend an hour later today rehashing my life with my therapist, a necessary, but sometimes overwhelming experience. I am sure there are going to be times where I feel disconnected, unable to feel the closeness with people I want to be close to or unable to communicate what I want to communicate well, sounding more like a dinosaur than a human being, but for right now, I'll just revel in what joy I live in. I'll try to remember this when the bad days come.

I'll simply enjoy the wonder of the world. Smile knowingly at those people who rush to the warmth of their normal everyday lives and just enjoy the slow, meandering walk through the infinite uniqueness that falls about me. I'll relish each and every moment and let it leave an indelible mark in my soul.

And I'll enjoy the soreness from the wonderful workout, just another wonderful reminder that I live, I breathe, I enjoy, I love, I care, I dream. Just another reminder that life is there for us to take if we choose to take it. Just another reminder that this world is a beautiful place.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AERO_NERDETTE 12/18/2014 3:52PM

    I just love your writing. You're like me: you focus on the small details that make each moment individual, like the snow hanging in your hair. You made me wish it would start snowing here, so I could watch it cover the imperfections of the world with a cleansing, uniform blanket of white. Untrampled snow is the essence of peace.

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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PHEBESS 12/13/2014 8:09AM

    YAY for having a positive attitude - it makes life so much more enjoyable to stop and enjoy each little bit, doesn't it?

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ADARKARA 12/12/2014 9:06PM

    I also had a pretty amazing week. You're so right: joy and beauty and wonder are all out there waiting for us. We just have to look for it.

And I absolutely adore bells. Like, love love. Maybe even lust. Bells are freaking awesome. emoticon

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CRABADA 12/12/2014 5:53PM

    I always love your blogs and your attention to small details. It makes your world come alive in wonderful ways. Grad school can be isolating and insular, so your writing always reminds me that I should peek out more often and enjoy the things and people around me. Thank you for that, and for so many other things you're kind enough to share with me.


PS - Literally.

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The One Where the Gym becomes a Teenage Nightclub

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I am a morning workout person.

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. Particularly anyone I've known prior to 2013. Those are the people who, when suggesting a discussion with me prior to 8:30am, came bearing coffee and allowed a minimum of ten minutes caffeine incubation period before talking to me. Those are the people who would say things like "if it's too early for you, we can come back in several hours" -- not "an hour" not "a couple hours" ... "several hours"

When I get to the gym, most days, it's just four or five people in the weight room. We're the same people every Monday and Wednesday and Friday and we're all there to pound the iron and get our workouts on and listen to our music and just lift.

So, I was a little weirded out when I had to work out yesterday afternoon.

You see, in the afternoons, the weight room is quite busy.

Not only that, but for some reason I am not able to comprehend, it has become a bit of a high school/college bar scene.

So I'm working my way to the back of the weightroom, around teenagers in lines curling dumbbells in the mirror and this group of girls around the row cable giggling and this one guy, muscles all flaring with a turned back stark white cap chatting them up with his arm up on the post of the machine. I'm trying to make my way to the Squat rack and I have to work my way around a group of guys talking with this one woman who is feeling the bicep of the kid as he's getting ready to do some preachers with what appears to be a 35 pound bar.

So, I know, they're kids, and all. And they are getting exercise and all. But... but...

When did my gym become the local place to flirt and flounce and all that? I mean, I get it. Young hormones and giggly conversation and half lifting half looking. BUT THIS FAT DUDE HAS GOT TO GET HIS SQUAT ON.

Thank god for good music in the ears and the ability to look directly ahead at the mirror to check my form and all those years in my brain to help remind myself that this is neither the time for me to say "oh to be young again with all I know now" nor to say "Kids these days".

So I pounded the metal and worshipped the iron and relished when the gym cleared out of this crowd before I was done with my overhead press and my deadlift.

Yeah. maybe I'm old now. Maybe I get a little miffed at those people doing half presses and squats that don't even come close to breaking the plane and "resting" five minutes between sets. Maybe I'm an old man who just shakes his fist and says "LIFT, DANGNABBIT, LIFT" while pushing pounds and pounds of iron into the air. Maybe I'm just too old to get it.

But I'm going back to mornings and am going to avoid the afternoon gym for as long as humanly possible. And I am going to enjoy the quiet, that solitude, that romance I have with the iron. I'm going to enjoy not having to navigate a meat market before saddling up to the weight. I'm going to enjoy my morning workouts when the gym is quiet.

So I'm a morning workout person.
Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

_MOBII_ 12/11/2014 5:27PM

    Four words come to mind.....
"Get off my lawn!"

Hehehe I find myself constantly shaking my head at youth these days about EVERYTHING! Then I wonder if my parents and grandparents felt the same, lol!

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-AMANDA79- 11/22/2014 10:46AM

    It is amazing the different atmosphere in the gym throughout the day. I'm a super early gym goer (5:30 a.m.) There are a handful of us that will visit quietly a little here and there, but we mostly just get the job done. I go to spin in the evenings and when I walk through the weight room, I barely recognize the place! So crowded and loud. Don't even get me started on the grunting! And why is everyone on their phone?!!??

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KATIAT325 11/20/2014 1:16PM

    Ugh, I know how you feel. The gym by my work isn't super busy at lunch, so I like going. I'm so not a morning person, and if I had it up to me, I'd be at the gym at 10-11 pm every night, at the financial district one. Walking 3 miles there first though. But now, with dog and SO, gym is early, after work, surrounded by selfish people who don't know how to return the dumbells, who just drop their weights, who make a mess and don't bother cleaning up, who sweat all over the machines, who take 10 minutes to text back/select music/browse the internet. Annoying really. But we've come to a good routine where most of that is avoided now and we can get our lift and cardio on.

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CRABADA 11/18/2014 4:46PM

    I'm not sure how it's possible, but my gym actually isn't really like that, even when it's crowded. Not enough women, I suppose. Or maybe the guys are too busy going gaga over themselves in the mirror (lift, flex, pivot for a better angle in the mirror, flex, lift, flex....) -- seriously, I see this all the time! Or maybe it is like that and I'm also too old to notice or care. But whatever the reason, I'm glad. Means I don't have to navigate a meat market and can just get it done.


PS -- You're not old and you're not fat!

Comment edited on: 11/18/2014 7:14:53 PM

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AERO_NERDETTE 11/18/2014 3:56PM

    I love my gym. Because it's associated with my office on a military installation, it's employee-only. Only adults, mostly military (which I am not, but I am thankful that their fitness regulations mean a super-nice free gym for me). Since I go in the afternoon, it's pretty empty; people tend to go in the mornings or over lunch break here so they can jet after clocking out. That's totally fine by me. It means I'm not standing in line for someone to finish on the squat rack or worrying about being in someone else's way.

When I went to a public gym a couple of years ago, it seemed like there were more "Lookie-Lous", girls in perfectly matching outfits who were there to look pretty and not sweat, and the weight room full of grunting jocks. It's safe to say, I'm being spoiled...

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ADARKARA 11/18/2014 2:59PM

    I do not like gyms. I like working out in my living room. I prefer to choose the people I work out with!

I also don't know why so many people pay good money to hang out someplace and not work out when they could hang out somewhere free.

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STEPH057 11/18/2014 2:45PM

    I love this post! I had to quit going to the gym with my two guy friends in the evenings because one was way more interested in social hour. I love my morning workouts!

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AUNTRENEE 11/18/2014 2:39PM

    I was like that but sometimes I prefer at anytime on working out.

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The one where I get all emotional

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

yeah. yesterday. ugh.

I mean, not ugh. But ugh. you know.

See, it was vetrans day, and I sort of just put that in the dark recesses of my brain and went about my business. That consisted mostly of spending my morning, to the extent I could amid the work, thoroughly enjoying the company of friends, playing a game of "made you smile" and trying to walk the fine line between trouble and outright distraction. The day wore on quickly, and then I spent the afternoon brainstorming. You know, that act of doodling on a board in public with others. It's like pictionary, only no one has a magic card with the answer on it. We just keep yelling and guessing and trying our best to come up with something we all agree on.

And then I found some time to escape to some alone time.

See, it's now 8 years since Jared died in Afghanistan. We're years from taps and twenty-one gun salutes. We're years from when we stood in the White House and watched as Obama gave my uncle a medal that we'd trade a dozen times over to have him back. It's been a few years since I Drive Your Truck came out and won song of the year and all the news media that goes with it. We're a couple years from when they named that bridge and that gym and that fire support center after him. It's only been a month since they renamed part of his old high school, though.

And, it still feels like yesterday.

So I'm a little raw.

And then I grabbed some Pho, and went to story slam. Hoping to hide in the audience and listen to a dozen people tell a dozen wonderful stories and really ride the highs and lows, the laughter and the tears. It worked, a little.

But then I went to the afterparty with the storytellers and my growing friend base there, and we drank a little and I got into a conversation with a judge, who is himself a published author and television writer and he's researching some army elements for his new book, and the group he's researching happens to be the 10th mountain division, Jared's division, and I sort of lost it.

In half frantic mode I told him everything, three hours of chatting while he considered signing his book for me (what started our conversation) and I just babbled on and drank more and we just kept talking. In my head, a small dream -- perhaps a book on my cousin, a story worth telling he is.

And I was all sorts of off. I sat in my car for almost an hour just... trying to get my head straight.

I skipped my workout, drank too much, ate too much and feel a lot bloated because of it. But, I guess these are the breaks.

A very good friend of mine here is particularly good at finding the right words for things. Recently, she wrote a wonderfully intimate, and very intense journal entry about the external struggles only accentuating the internal ones. That we have to try and choose to be better, but that we have much work to do beyond our flesh and bones.

I can lift all I want, get strong in body, but I am still quite weak at times, emotional and vulnerable. This is one of the topics that often grabs me. Veterans day. Memorial Day. The Fourth of July. When you have to look back and remember that a 30 year old kid they referred to as Grandpa went back into the rain of bullets a third time because he couldn't leave someone behind.

I don't know if I'll ever be that strong, ever able to go forth at such great cost with bravery and duty and honor as shrouds.

What I do know is he is an incredible lesson. That he was, is, and forever will be my hero. That I want my son to grow up to be like his fallen cousin (once removed).

I hope you all took some time yesterday to reflect on the sacrifice, on those who serve or have served. And if you have some time, say a quick prayer for my cousin Jared Monti, and for the hearts of all who loved him and are still broken, and for all the families and friends of servicemen and women everywhere.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

_MOBII_ 11/14/2014 3:33PM

    I am so sorry for your loss and I also want you to know that your cousin's sacrifice leaves me without words....just a swelling of gratitude in my heart.

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AERO_NERDETTE 11/14/2014 3:21PM

    Your description of your feelings about your cousin is beautiful. My family also is full of veterans: grandfathers, cousins, uncles. I pray for all of our servicemen and women every day. Because of their sacrifices, we are able to enjoy what we have.

I believe that love for one who has passed isn't past-tense. You still love that person, but being separated from them prevents you from acting on that love with a hug, handshake, or high-five. It is why those of us who mourn feel a "hole" left due to that person's absence.


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The one about Falling off the Wagon in Maine and not regretting it one bit...

Monday, November 10, 2014


I spent the weekend in Maine. I flew off to Manchester, NH on Friday and then got in a car and drove to this quaint bed and breakfast with my wife to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary.

It was expensive as hell and way over the top and exactly, EXACTLY the kind of way to fall off the wagon if you're going to fall off the wagon. I mean, if you're going to check out of your program, deliberately gain several pounds and do it in style, you really, just do it right.

Friday, we got to the airport early -- I have always been an early airport person. Even in my travel days when I was on planes every week I'd try to get there early. There are three truths about airports, for me. First, Airports bring out the absolute worst in people. So you have to remember that and be the good guy (or girl). It makes a world of difference when you smile, walk calmly, and act nicely. Second, there are few places in the planet where trashy and/or infrequent magazine reading is not just apropos, but almost encouraged, and it's airports. Third, if you enjoy window-shopping, any major hub will have a wonderful set of stores to do so.

One of my favorite stores in the planet is Johnston and Murphy. In honor of a fall off the wagon trip to a cold location, I bought a new outfit there. Shoes and all. The chukkas are so damn beautiful, and the sweater was big and fluffy and made me look like John Waters, less the ascot and the cigarette.

Maine was beautiful and cold. After checking into the bed and breakfast of the gods, we ran out to a hip little place on the water and ate Lobsters and drank wine and laughed as we people watched. It had been fourteen years since we had traveled to Kennebunkport, and it was fun to reminisce. We enjoyed the fireplace in our room and some complimentary champagne (note: saying something is complimentary given the price of the room is a little tongue-in-cheek, no?).

Saturday was the indulgence, really. We ate a tremendous breakfast. For me, poached eggs with sauce Cheron over a wonderfully complex corned beef hash. Between the grilled sourdough toast and the meal, I was set for calories for the day (had I tracked), because, well, salted butter and Spicy Bloody Mary.

But, that didn't stop me from shopping, and then stopping in the local coffee shop for a local Maine Blueberry crumb and an americano (hey, I was chilly) and then wanting a little something after our couples massage (Thank you Masseuse Meg, who took my "don't go easy on me" seriously) so I had fresh tea and finger sandwiches followed by a nice aged port.

And then, it was candied nuts and currants before dinner as I read by the fireplace.

Oh, and then, dinner. I mean, holy cripes on a cracker, people.

I mean, trio of foie gras preparations? Veal accompanied with sweetbread tortellini? Prmesean Custard? Five Cheese plate with all the accouterments? And that's what I ORDERED. There was also the Amuse Bouche, the petit fours, the post dessert dessert. There was the gourmet wine pairing, which included some of the best fruit of god's grapes I ever did taste. Plus more bubbly.

I felt so satiated and full of rich wonder, shallots and butter and cream and meat and, I mean, I mean, holy smokes, people. When I choose to have a real cheat day, I choose to have a real cheat day.

I did hit ten thousand steps though, there's that, right?

The point here is this -- I worked out today. It was tough, my body was screaming "what about the bloody mary and sauce choron, Rich. Seriously? this seems like work?" and yet, it was good for me. I felt encouraged and I felt like it was worth it. I let it get all in my head that I was going to be amaze. That a little falling off the wagon doesn't matter much (sure. I drank my way through a weekend accompanied by a sick amount of foods). That sometimes, you just have to go for it and indulge yourself.

Some days you have to say "yes" to the massage and the wine and the beer and the liquor and every dessert they bring even though there were more desserts than courses. Sometimes you have to say yes to wild maine blueberries baked into cinnamon and flour and butter and more butter. Sometimes you have to say yes to the most wonderful sauce cheron you've ever had. Sometimes you have to say "it's okay. I'm indulging"

I feel great today, not the least of which is the company of supportive people and beautiful people and inspirational people. I feel great.

I've got the biggest smile on my face and feel refreshed.

and again, at least I got my ten thousand steps, right?


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PHEBESS 11/12/2014 8:59AM

    LOL - happy anniversary, wonderful weekend you had, and yeah, if you're going to splurge, that's the way to do it!!!!

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    My jealousy is raging. I love Maine, I lived there for about a year. I learned there is nothing like lobster in any form and a great up of coffee in the middle of a cold day. If you're going to celebrate, do it well and don't regret it. It's also good to be reminded why you can't eat like that every day. Sounds like you nailed it.

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CRABADA 11/10/2014 2:53PM

    If you're going to do it, do it in style! Clothes, food, hotel, champagne. All good things. Sounds like a lovely weekend.
:) C.

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