Me and Diet Coke

1777 1777_ () 1777 1777 My long, crazy love affair with Diet Coke began over eleven years ago, when I was pregnant with Elliott.

I had gained 45 pounds when pregnant with Ethan, thanks in large part to my great love of Sweet Tea, and when I found out I was pregnant again (a year later) I decided I would just skip that part of the pregnancy, the part where I ingest vast quantities of sugar. I had miraculously gotten that weight off before Ethan’s first birthday but I could not gain like that again.

So I started drinking Diet Coke. That’s when it all began. And I only gained 25 pounds that pregnancy. Me and Diet Coke were meant to be.

I LOVED Diet Coke. What is so remarkable about Diet Coke is so often when you hear people talk about that being their drink of choice, they rarely say “I drink Diet Coke,” or “that’s what I prefer.” It’s almost always “I AM ADDICTED TO DIET COKE.” That’s certainly how it was for me. I was fueled by Diet Coke.

It’s not that I drank it constantly. But every day, when I woke up, one of the first things I thought about was when I would get my DC for the day. I never bought it for the house (I only drink fountain sodas, not canned or in 2-liter). But I mapped out my day around when and where I would get my drink (usually at Sonic with my 99 cent coupon).

Okay, so all these years went by where I had my one-a-day habit. No big deal. But here and there I would have these thoughts that I should get “off” Diet Coke. I would come across a website devoted to the evils of aspartame and all the nasty things it could do. I would read for a while and think “yes, I should quit this stuff.”

But then I would convince myself it was crazy and people who preached the evils of DC were also crazy. If aspartame is that bad for you, how come it’s allowed on the market? (I do remember a conversation with a friend whose brother-in-law was in the Air Force. She told me their pilots aren’t allowed to drink Diet Coke because of aspartame. But maybe this is an urban myth? That’s what I figured.)

Despite the back and forth, there was always this underlying, nagging feeling that if I stopped drinking Diet Coke some of my random health issues would subside. Maybe I wouldn’t suffer from headaches so much, or maybe I wouldn’t get this sort of non-descript fevery feeling so often. None of these things were debilitating, but it just felt like it was not too uncommon for me to need Motrin for these aches and pains, for feeling run down and just not great.

Two summers ago, we were at the beach for our family vacation. I was complaining to my friend that Henry was coming up on his first birthday and I still hadn’t gotten the weight off. She suggested I quit drinking Diet Coke, pointing to studies that show intake of these “fake sugars” make you crave more sugar. I thought, what the heck. I already wasn’t having any DC that week because I couldn’t get my fountain version at our remote beach, so that would be one week down of detox.

We got home from the beach and I was so committed to losing these last few pounds that I just put Diet Coke out of my mind. (Unfortunately I started drinking Dr. Pepper, so it would still be a few months until I quit that and then really did lose weight). But I noticed something: I felt good. Amazingly good. All the time.

It’s a strange phenomenon, because so many of the things that I suffered while drinking Diet Coke I didn’t even realize until I started to feel better. Little ways of feeling that I figured were just life — they all disappeared.

The main thing for me was the underlying anxiety that I dealt with constantly — it was gone. This was huge and life-changing and this has been the absolute best side effect of being DC Free.

I never thought to treat my anxiety because I assumed this was my genetic make-up. My anxiety didn’t prevent me from doing anything I liked or wanted to do. But I never realized (until the feelings were gone) how very present anxious thoughts and feelings were in my life. Little things like getting on an elevator and just being very, very aware that what if this elevator gets stuck? What will you do? I didn’t avoid taking elevators, but I prayed the whole time it wouldn’t get stuck.

I’d have similar feelings when driving in traffic. What if all the cars have to stop and I’m stuck in some huge traffic jam and can’t move? What will I do? Again, this didn’t prevent me from driving, but I just never knew you could actually live without constantly worrying about that. Not everyone is afraid of traffic? Huh?

These kinds of thoughts, and just a whole lot of other similar, small little nagging feelings — this was the stuff of my mental state. No big deal, that’s how I roll, I’m a “little anxious.”

Except, two or three weeks after I quit Diet Coke, they were all GONE. Totally gone. Like the biggest load off my brain I could ever imagine or hope to experience or even think to pray to have lifted. I can’t even describe what it has been like to live without this fear, a burden and load that I had no idea I labored under until it was gone. Fear and anxiety, relentless overwhelming thoughts that I had learned to live with but did not have to be living with.

Now this is where I explain that I understand how absolutely crazy all of this sounds. I’m like all those people who I came across when googling “aspartame is bad” and reading all about people like me. All I can say is, this is my story and I am so happy it is.

A few months after that summer, I was talking to my godfather who is a psychiatrist. At that point, I was still so stunned from my new head space, how incredible I felt all the time, that I didn’t even want to talk about it. I worried it was a fluke and at any moment I could go back to feeling the old, run-down, head-in-a-vice grip way of all those years before.

“I quit drinking Diet Coke, and this is what happened,” I told him. “Do you think I’m crazy?”

His explanation to me was that he sees patients come in who can’t take certain substances or medications — people whose brains react adversely to something that all kinds of other people can tolerate just fine (this has also been my experience with Sudafed. It’s like I’m on speed and it is horrible and I will never touch the stuff again.). It’s strange and complicated, but all you can do is go from your own experience. It doesn’t matter if no study has proven any of this, he said. You found this to be true for you. That’s what matters — how your particular system reacts to what you are feeding it.

And then I just claimed it. For whatever reason, drinking aspartame made me feel like total and utter crud. Getting off that junk gave me incredible freedom and health — mental and otherwise.

I understand the world is filled with people who drink Diet Coke and don’t suffer any of the things I just described here. But I did, and I no longer do. I still have not taken for granted, every single day, how much better I feel. What a relief this has been. 1777″> .


Balancing, Spinning, Taking Deep Breaths

1776 1776_ () 1776 1776 Weekly column — also, is it just me or do I have this as an ongoing theme in my life?

A few years ago, my mom came over with a gift for my boys – two plastic plates and two long dowels. She had found the plates and sticks at an online magic shop where they were components of a plate-spinning kit (one she hoped she and the boys could master before that year’s family Christmas Eve Talent Show).

Sure enough, after a few days of practice, my boys were pros. They would pop the plate on the top of the stick, give it a few spins and walk around spinning that plate like it was every bit as natural as breathing air or pummeling a brother.

The thing about these plates, though, was that they were designed to spin – the concave shape made perfect-spinning nearly fool proof. That didn’t make the sight any less impressive – a boy wandering around casually balancing a spinning plate is something to see, magic trick or not.

Lately I feel like a plate spinner myself, only instead of those nice, inwardly-bent plates I am trying to finagle my fine wedding china. And instead of just one plate/dowel combo, I am juggling three (or four).

The last few weeks have been nice in that I’m feeling so much better, pregnancy-wise. I have gotten through those initial challenging weeks and it is always a joy to return to good health just when you began to doubt you ever would.

In our home, we’ve gotten back so much of that peace and order that I crave. I know these standards vary from home to home, and I’m happy that I have the energy to get things back up to what works for us around here.

I’ve also had the energy to crack the whip on our chore lists again, and there is something so wonderful (and necessary) about everyone pitching in to help. I have the unfortunate tendency of thinking, when children are slow to pitch in, that I’m better off just doing it myself anyway. Recently someone who loves me very much reminded me this is no way to live.

So feeling better combined with a new and energized chore chart has given me a fresh, joyous outlook on life. Things around here have been feeling peaceful and just all-around great. This despite having sick children home for most of last week, which slowed our pace and even that I saw as a very good thing.

Things were all well and good, that is, until Monday morning. After a relaxing, very fine weekend, we had five minutes until it was time to leave for school. Everyone was back to good health and going back to school, and I was looking forward to a walk with Henry and a much-needed trip to the grocery store.

And then, I went to load someone’s lunch and discovered two days worth of make-up work, forgotten over the weekend. And then another boy remembered it was the day he needed a costume for a school project. And someone else needed something signed, at the last minute, that really warranted further discussion.

I looked up from the newly-formed pile on the dining room table and suddenly my spotless, organized home didn’t shine quite as bright.

“Big deal you got everything in order,” I told myself, “because you really have nothing in order at all!”

Just like that, it all felt like a big, fat illusion. All the things I was working so hard to perfect were nothing in the face of this chaos.

I pushed those thoughts aside, mostly because the sound of my own voice taking people to task made it hard to think. This was not good, not good at all, and it was time to put one foot in front of the other, to form a solution (quick!) and start moving forward.

We made it through that morning and then another similar morning, and the bump in the road gave me a renewed sense of purpose. In this season, certain tasks are going to require more effort than before and, like my revamped chore chart and freshly organized home, it will be worth the blood, sweat and tears. 1776″ ,


Testosterhome, Year Thirteen

1775 1775_ () 1775 1775 On the way home from school, Augie is making a racket in the backseat.

“Charlie needs to cut his nails,” he complains. “He’s just growing them out because he wants to be like Hobbes.”

This last part he says in an emphatically accusatory tone.

“Too true,” says Elliott, staring out the window as we amble down the road.


It is Ethan’s thirteenth birthday today and I’m really just amazed. There are lots of thoughts and feelings and then all of the busyness that goes along with a birthday — grandparents for dinner, a party with family and friends tomorrow.

I want to have a few minutes to think and express how I feel and yet, well, I’m not even exactly sure how I feel. I am excited and melancholy and totally in awe of how time goes by.

Thirteen years ago I was having my first day as a mother. I started to use the word “celebrating,” instead of “having” — and yes it’s a wonderful, joyous day. But I’m not sure if describing myself as “celebrating” would strike the right tone. The day you have your first baby, there is a lot of shell-shocked awe, a disbelief mixed with overwhelming joy, a sense of “yes, this is exactly where I need to be.” It is wonderful but it is mixed with a wide range of other emotions as well.

The oldest child ushers all those feelings into your heart — and it is indeed a very special place in your heart.

How do I feel about my boy turning 13? Lucky and happy and blessed to be on this journey with this boy — and all the boys who followed him.

1775″> .


Quick Mid-week Check In

1774 1774_ () 1774 1774 First off, I want to say thanks to all of you for your kind words concerning my poor parking job (and for sticking up for me. I am not an environmental terrorist, and I might even post a picture of me hugging a tree just to prove it).

I especially like the insight of the commenter who noted that perhaps it was the car to my left that had parked poorly, thus forcing me to park further to the right. Yes! This does in fact make perfect sense. I have no idea if it’s true, but I like it. I like it a lot.

I’m sorry to leave you hanging with the Diet Coke story but I promise within the next day or two I will post. I have had boys home sick these last few days and also trying to get ready for a birthday party while watching to make sure the birthday boy will be healthy enough to celebrate. I think he will.

Also, Happy Veteran’s Day! Both of my grandfather’s were veterans and on this day, I remember them with love. One grandfather died tragically when I was two weeks old, the other when I was four. The older I get, the more I miss all of my grandparents. Today, I’m especially grateful for their service to our country. 1774″>