There’s been a lot going on around here. Too much, really. First of all, a week and a half ago we made the heartbreaking decision to put down Tigger, our beloved dog who we’ve had ever since we moved to Vermont fourteen years ago. After years of struggling with arthritis and nerve damage, his back legs finally gave out and just wouldn’t work any more at all. The vet paid us a final visit; Steve dug a hole in the backyard for him and we buried him with his big floor pillow. Sigh.
And then… remember how miserably sick I was recently? Well, it turns out whatever-it-is hasn’t entirely finished with me yet- for the past three weeks its been coming and going- waves of nausea hitting me when I least expect it and throwing me down for the count. And then- after a few minutes or hours- I’ll be fine again. I leave half-finished projects and half-finished meals behind me everywhere I go. It’s really bloody annoying.
Between these two tough events, it’s been pretty challenging keeping my eye on the No Sugar ball. We’re doing it, of course, but my heart isn’t always in it. Frequently, I’ve been desperate to have a meal that didn’t make me feel ill, and having to ask a waitress if there was a teaspoon of sugar in the soup or the sauce really seemed beside the point. In fact, it struck me as slightly inane. Once, in a last-ditch attempt to calm my unhappy stomach I ordered a soda in a restaurant and suddenly realized I didn’t even know if this establishment carried soda- it had been so long since I had even looked at a beverage menu. Why, of course they had soda! Where did I think we were, Mars? True confessions: I drank a third of an RC cola as “medicine” that day. It did seem to help.
I’ve been craving other weird stuff that seems appealing out of the corner of my eye- stuff I haven’t even looked at in months like… like… candy bars. I know! Weird right? I might as well be craving soap chips for all the likelihood that I’m going to eat that. I’m not pregnant, but it reminds me a lot of that time, and feeling crazy to eat something- anything that would taste good and feel good in my system.
Cooking at home has been especially tough since I often don’t feel well enough to stand for a whole hour composing our usual protein-starch-vegetable. Instead, I crave convenience-comfort food- all that great, easy, ready-in-twenty-minutes stuff that’s laden with four-million ingredients- (preferably if someone else has gone out, bought it and heated it up and placed it before me on a nice clean plate that someone else has washed) and of course that’s not going to happen anytime soon either, is it?
I know, I know- poor me, right? The fact that our family project is self-imposed, (not to mention my idea) and that there are billions of problems in the world right now that our family is lucky enough not to have is something I remind myself of regularly. Still, when you can’t enjoy your food, it is amazing how quickly your mood turns sour on everything.
But the stars were shining on me yesterday and I felt good pretty much all day… which was especially nice since it was my forty-first birthday. In our house, not only did this mean I got to have the usual hubbub of presents and balloons and your favorite meal for dinner… it also mean I got to pick the dessert– the official October dessert. I had been looking forward to this.
I was ready. I knew what I wanted: Chocolate Peanut-Butter Pie.
Have you ever had this? The best one of these I ever had is made by Sissy Hicks who now runs Sissy’s Kitchen in nearby Middletown Springs… the first time I had it at her former restaurant I thought I would pass out from delight. My husband Steve and I went to lunch there over and over again hoping to find it on the dessert menu again, only to be disappointed. Finally, Steve called Sissy and ordered a whole pie for my birthday celebration, which was great! Until it turned out to be a problem since it was soooooooo good that I couldn’t stop eating it. I had NO self-control: I would eat it and eat it until I literally felt ill. Remember when Miranda from Sex in the City puts her homemade chocolate cake in the garbage and then pours dish detergent over it to make herself stop eating it? This was kind of like that.
So when my husband proposed contacting Sissy again for my birthday dessert I got a little nervous. Plus, shouldn’t I be the one to make it? After all, I’ve made all of the Desert Island Desserts we’ve had this year with the exception of Steve’s Father’s Day A&W Root Beer Floats…
This is the point at which my good friend Katrina stepped in.
“You can’t make your own birthday cake!” she exclaimed, “Give me the recipe. I’ll make it.” And that is what she did. Consequently, last night we had one of the cheeriest birthday celebrations I can remember. Katrina and her kids joined our family for a lovely dinner. It wasn’t big or fancy or elaborate or expensive. It was just my favorite meal (beef stroganoff- thank you Steve!) followed by my favorite dessert (made with gluten-free graham cracker crust so even Katrina could have it!) in the company of some of my favorite people in the world. The kids were running around trying to make water balloons and squealing at everything. The phone kept ringing with birthday wishes. I felt very celebrated.
So the next time I feel tempted to feel sorry for myself, when I feel icky or deprived or sad at the inevitabilities of life- illness, death- I should definitely remember this night. Sometimes happiness can be so elusive. Other times, it just shows up.