Category Archives: Alcohol

Happy New Year!

I admit that I’m a little smug about resolutions now. As I read the Facebook posts and e-mails about 2012 resolutions I catch myself thinking, “Oh yea? How about making 12 resolutions? Then I’ll be impressed.”

It may not surprise you that I have a bunch of possible resolutions in mind for 2012. The conference room of Shelbies in my head has been having a three-day retreat to consider the options and make some final decisions.

Just a few of the early contenders are

  • 10,000 steps a day December
  • Scanning September
  • Organizing October
  • Nothing New November
  • No Meat May
  • Canning August

Some favorites from 2011 will likely be revisited, with some extra twists. I’m currently planning No Alcohol for February again, for example, but this year I will invent new Virgin Cocktails each week.

Who knows what shenanigans are in store? I certainly don’t.

What I do know is that somehow, this process of making resolutions and blogging is helping me to live a more present life, and to have more fun with every day challenges and the small but meaningful goals I have for myself. I find humor in my failures as much as I find delight in my successes. And I also now have great dinner party conversation available to me at any time.

So, now’s your chance. What monthly resolutions do YOU think 2012 should include for me?

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Filed under Alcohol, Organizing, Resolutions, The Meaning of Life

What a STUPID idea!

Over Thanksgiving weekend, one of my family members asked me what my final monthly resolution would be for 2012.  I optimistically said that I was going to try to do a little bit (or a lot) of every resolution from the year.

Gee!  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful capstone to this year-long project!  Wouldn’t it be FUN to revisit my resolutions and to combine them into one fabulously enhanced life?

Um, no.  It wouldn’t.

For those who can’t remember (I couldn’t) or who just haven’t been paying attention, here is the list:

January  – Eat Five Fruits and Veggies a Day
February – No Alcohol
March – Stretching Every Day
April- What Would Elvine Do? Take Care of Yourself
May- Stop Thinking about the Future and Just Relax
June – Get into the Woods, Implement Finishing Touches
July – Clean Underware
August – No Cheese!
September – Get Out the Funk
October – Clean the Basement
November – Um, Keep Cleaning the Basement

When I started really thinking about doing all of these at once it quickly became clear that I was setting myself up for failure.  On a massive scale.

I mean, seriously, WHO on EARTH could go a whole month with NO ALCOHOL and NO CHEESE?  And why, WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU?

And, if you were sick enough to try that resolution, WHY would you EVER do it in DECEMBER?

Yea, that idea is RIGHT OUT.

I still liked the idea of putting the resolutions together in some way – just not by doing them all at once.  So instead of that crazy scheme, I’ve just been reflecting on them, pondering how they worked (or didn’t), how they changed me (or didn’t), and what this little project has done for me.

One of the first things I did, of course, was re-read all of my posts.  One post in particular caught my attention.  Back in January I wrote a list of potential resolutions that were vying for my attention.  These rejected resolutions are fascinating now.

  • Some of them actually became resolutions later in the year (stretching every day and going without alcohol for a month).
  • Some of them happened, even though I didn’t make them an official resolution (going to the gym five days a week and going back to London).
  • Some of them have become larger goals that I do work on, though I wouldn’t call them one-month resolutions (saving six months of my salary).

I’ve had lots of insights, actually, from this re-reading and pondering.  So many, in fact, that I think I’ll add a new resolution to the rest of my month.

I’m going to post once a day – a short post – with thoughts on the year, and possibly ideas for the next one.

And you can be sure, while I’m writing, I’ll be sipping a lovely glass of wine and eating some cheese.  Snap.

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Filed under Alcohol, Cheese, Fruits and Vegetables, Health, Relaxing, Resolutions, Stretching

Cheese vs. Alcohol

This morning, a friend asked me if I miss cheese more than I miss beer.  It was not difficult for me to answer – YES!  I miss cheese more!

(In case you forgot, I gave up all alcohol this February.)

First of all, the act of abstaining from alcohol was just a lot simpler.  You just don’t order a drink.

But cheese, my friends, is EVERYWHERE.  It’s hard to avoid it even when you want to (and I use the term ‘want’ loosely here).  Foods that don’t even need cheese have cheese in them.  The less time you have, the more likely it is that cheese will be included in your meal.  And when you’re not cooking for yourself, the non-cheese options are often even less healthy.  I have actually found myself ordering fried food instead of the salad that comes with cheese.  Seriously.

After February, I realized that being more intentional about alcohol was important to me.  Just because I’m out with friends doesn’t mean I need to have a drink too.  Just because I’m on my porch and it’s hot out, doesn’t mean I need to have a gin and tonic (ok.  It kind of does.  But let’s pretend it doesn’t).

Similarly, I am finding that I need to be more intentional about my cheese intake.  I don’t miss cheese in my deli sandwich.  I don’t miss cheese cubes at a reception.  I do, however, miss the opportunity to order cantaloupe gazpacho with goat cheese when I am out to dinner in a new city.  I miss tomatoes at their peak with fresh mozzarella and goat cheese.  I miss fennel cranberry bread with locally made Camembert from our grower’s market.  I know that I can’t go back to eating cheese in September without some guidelines for myself.  “Eat less cheese” is just too broad and in a few short months (weeks?) I’ll be back to my old habits.

Instead, I think I’ll focus on high quality cheese moments – the opportunity to try a really good cheese, or a favorite dish – should not be missed.  But it also shouldn’t be something I do without thinking.  Late night cheese snacking, no-no.  Tipsy cheese appetizers, no-no.  Cooking and eating six ounces of feta while I do it, no-no.  But a cheese course?  Cheese fondue?  Macaroni and Cheese on a cold winter night?  Hell, yea.  I can’t wait.

 

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Filed under Alcohol, Cheese, Food, Health

Please Stop Asking Me

My May Resolution: DON’T THINK TOO MUCH.  Relax.  Enjoy Life.  Give yourself at least another 17 days to unwind before you try to figure it all out.

There’s only one problem.

PEOPLE KEEP ASKING ME WHAT I’M GOING TO DO NEXT.

Please, I beg of you.  Stop asking me.  I can’t take it.  I try to answer, but then I get stressed out that I don’t know the answer.  But when you ask me, YOU MAKE ME THINK.

SO, To facilitate the elimination of this conversation from my life (for at least another 17 days), I am providing answers to those frequently asked below.

Q: What are you going to do now that you have a master’s degree?

A: My job.

Q: But you have all this extra time now?  How will you fill it?

A: My job.  Oh, and hiking a LOT MORE.

Q: Will you get a big raise?

A: NO

Q: Not anything at all?

A: No, really.  No raise.

Q: But what about that non-profit cooking class for women on food stamps you want to start?

A: Yes, that’s there in the back of my mind.  Ask me about it in June.  or maybe July.

Q: Won’t you be bored?

A: No.

Q: You could go anywhere now, couldn’t you?

A: Yes.  Please, PLEASE, PUH-LEEEEZE shut up.

Let me make it clear that I love you all for caring.  For your support and excitement about this accomplishment.  But my resolution is to relax, remember?  This is NOT HELPING.

To make this easier, here is a recommended set of ALTERNATIVE questions I encourage you to ask me as well as the answers you can expect from me.

Q: Want to go on a hike?
A: Yes, I’ll meet you in 10 minutes.

Q: Can I come for a visit?
A: I’d love that! As long as we don’t talk about what I’m going to do next!

Q: What are you having for dinner?
A: Something awesome, want to join me?

Q: Want to go out for a drink?
A: Yes!

Q: Want to walk your dog?
A: Yes!

Q: Want to help me paint/clean/shop/cook/take care of kids?
A: Sign me up!

Q: Where is the beer?
A:  In the basement.

Thank you for your cooperation.

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Filed under Alcohol, Relaxing, Resolutions, The Meaning of Life

No more thinking!

I am happy to report that my wardrobe selections for last week worked perfectly.  I used everything I packed and successfully managed a trip which included work, vacation, five different cities, and three different suitcases, and about nine different dress codes.

Seriously, what IS the difference between ‘semi-casual,’ ‘business-casual,’ ‘outdoor-casual,’ and ‘country-club-casual,” WHAT ?

As of yesterday  I am back at home – not refreshed really – but rejuvenated a bit and excited about finishing my coursework (tonight), a graduation party (this weekend) and graduation itself (next weekend).

They call graduation “commencement” here, of course because it’s a ceremony primarily for undergraduates and because it’s supposed to mark ‘a beginning.’  I can’t quite get my head around the beginning that is in front of me – perhaps because I feel more like I am in the middle of my story.  Either way, this is a logical time for me to think about my life, my career, my goals, and my next steps.

And so I am.  Thinking that is.  DANGEROUS.
It feels like I should be pondering my biggest resolution yet.

Truthfully, I never really figured out what I was supposed to do with my life.

I got married, which made me happy for a long time.  I found a job I liked and made a career out of it, almost by accident.  I focused on working to support my husband’s dreams because I never figured out what mine were.  Now divorced, I find myself happy with my location, my work, and my life in general.  I never planned on this path, but I’m on it and content.

Part of me feels that I should be looking for something more – perhaps just because I’ve never asked myself the big questions.

* What do I want to do with my life?
* What legacy should I leave?
* How can I make the most of the time I have?

Part of me feels I should just be relaxing and enjoying the time ahead.  Summer.  My porch.  Friends.  My Dog.

The juxtaposition of these  forces (what’s next?  vs. just relax!) sums me up right now.  I’m thinking ALL THE TIME about the future, the world, my values, my options.  It’s EXHAUSTING.

And I don’t want to do it any more.

So, 11 days into the month, here is my resolution.  I am going to stop thinking about this stuff.  For the next 20 days.  I am going to give myself a break from big ideas, life goals, and what if’s.  I’m just going to be.

Or at least, I’m going to try.

So, if you’re in the area, come join me on the porch for a drink and a visit.  I’ll be hanging around, NOT thinking about what’s next, but focusing on what’s in front of me right now.

A gin-and-tonic.

(P.S. I’m noticing a theme here.)

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Filed under Alcohol, Life, Resolutions, The Meaning of Life

Hi, Ho the First of May

When my brother and his fiance (now his wife of 17 years) selected May 1st for their wedding day, my parents simultaneously (and cheerfully) recited a rhyme from their college days.

“Hi, ho the first of May
Outdoor …. starts today!”

This the first time I had ever heard my mother utter that vulgar (her emphasis) word and I was shocked.  Totally, and completely shocked.

But in my family there is a song or a rhyme for everything, and this was no different.

I was pleasantly reminded of this memory last night when I gathered with my brother and his family, my parents, and one of my Godmothers (yes, I have two, and they did an excellent job in spite of the fact that I am now an Atheist).  My mother started with the traditional family anniversary song (I wasn’t kidding – song. for. everything.) and then both parents started to quip

“Hi, ho the first of May…”

But as my nieces (15 and 12) were in the room, they stopped there.  Apparently you have to be 23 before my mother will say that word in front of you.

The beautiful day and relaxing evening were enough to convince me that Spring is, indeed, here.  In spite of the very cold weather, the flowering tress are in beautiful, spectacular bloom and May has finally arrived.

So I need a new resolution.

Yes, I’ve finished my thesis.  And I will submit my last ever graduate paper by the middle of next week.   So no new goals related to school (yay!).   I need something else.  I have some top contenders, but I’m a bit stymied by my next eight days.

They look something like this:

South Carolina, South Carolina, South Carolina, Philadelphia, Ocean City (NJ), Vineland (NJ), Philadelphia, Lancaster, DC, Lancaster, HOME.

The packing enterprise for this trip included three separate suitcases and four different types of something-casual (semi-casual, business-casual, outdoor-casual, and club-casual) attire.  (NOTE: I had to call a friend for advice on which of the outfits I have that fit me right now (ahem, thesis weight) actually meet the various criteria of these dress-codes.  Pray for me.)

So, while I could just make my May resolution about being dressed appropriately for the next eight days, since it will certainly be hard enough for me, I would like to come up with something more meaningful or fun than that.

At present, the contenders are:

* Walk my dog every day.
I need to enjoy her while I can and we could both use the fresh air.

* Decide what trees/plants to add to the yard.
I keep talking about adding dogwoods and hydrangeas, but not doing it.

* Research and plan hikes and camping trips for the summer.
If they are planned, they are more likely to happen.

* Do a home inventory, schedule repairs and update my insurance.
This is something I need to do, but it may just be too responsible for the first month after I finished my thesis.

Which one will I choose?  Probably none of these.  It seems that my pattern is that I lean towards three to four top choices until the last-minute when I pick something completely different.  And yes, I realize May has already begun, thank you very much.  This is relaxed Shelby, here.  The one who embraces the moment, goes with the flow, and does NOT get stressed about schedules and things like CALENDARS.

Shortly, assuming I haven’t died of embarrassment because I incorrectly wore close-toed heels to an outdoor casual event, I will let you all know what I’ve chosen.

Until then, have a gin-and-tonic for me.  I’m going to need it.

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Filed under Alcohol, Family, Resolutions

The light at the end of the tunnel?

I’m three days away from finishing my month of voluntary abstinence.  About 4 days into February I was already imagining the glass of wine I would have with dinner on Monday the 1st of March.  On about day 10 I was considering abandoning my resolution altogether.  At day 25 I find myself surprised by my complete lack of caring about it one way or another.

I’m not saying that I didn’t crave a glass of red wine tonight while I ate my Beef Bourguignon, because I did.
I’m also not saying that I won’t bother to have a glass of wine on March 1st.  I just might.  What’s strange to me is that I also might not.

So far, I’ve been fascinated by the reactions of others to my resolution, curious about when my cravings come and what triggers them, and underwhelmed by the alternative beverages I can choose from when out with friends.  I haven’t, however, made any deeply insightful observations about myself, or even our culture.  I suppose I was expecting something, well, just something more.

This resolution turned out to be a very easy one for me to keep.  Could I keep it for a year?  I don’t know.  For now, I don’t intend to try.  I think what will be more interesting than this month of abstinence will be to observe and consider how my relationship with alcohol will or will not change once this month is over.  Will I drink less often?  Will I abstain when I’m out on occasion, even when I am not the designated driver?  Will I return to my old ways (responsible, not particularly indulgent, but fairly routine) within a few weeks?

What do you think?

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Hold the Hurricane

Until this weekend, my alcohol free month has been fairly simple.  I have been in a terrific mood.  Work, school, and life have been running smoothly.  While January brought some real sadness (the sudden death of a colleague) I was grieving by becoming more involved in LGBT causes which were her life’s mission.  I felt good about how I was honoring her memory so even the sadness was ok.

And then came Friday.

Enter one terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.

For those who are confused, here is a visual for you.

Quality of Day Bar Chart

After my work responsibilities were done on Friday, around 7:30 PM, I made dinner with a friend and desperately tried to relax. Usually cooking is a soothing activity for me, but I was completely out of sorts.  My craving for a cocktail was loud and strong.  I didn’t want to Drink-with-a-Capital-D, but I DEFINITELY wanted to take the edge off.  The conference room inside my brain was working overtime and I wanted to shut them up.

Saturday arrived and I had a full work day plus a memorial service to attend.  The service was incredible, possibly the most moving tribute to a person’s life I have ever witnessed.  It was hard, though, and not just because I was sad about this loss.  Sitting in that church and listening to my friend’s partner talk about their love triggered some grief of my own.  I thought I had a partner like that and it turns out I didn’t.   Well fuck.

Enter terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day number two.

Saturday night I was to attend a Mardi Gras charity event at my local non-profit theater.  Music!  Dancing!  Masks!  Beads!  Hurricanes!

Oh wait.  NO HURRICANES FOR ME.

It was one thing to go out and about last weekend, in a great mood, enjoying my friends and family while I sipped at my seltzer with lime.  But I was in NO MOOD for a party.

I had less than two hours to get ready.  I had to change my mood and quick.

Step 1: Initiate Party Hair.
For those of you who haven’t witnessed it, I have awesome party hair.  Curly and fabulous, it takes about an hour to make it happen but it’s totally worth it.

Step 2: Cocktail
Oh wait.  I can’t do that.

What could alcohol do for me that I couldn’t do for myself?  Is it terribly unhealthy that I wanted to prepare for my night out with a pre-event drink?  What does this say about who I am and how I use alcohol?

As I debated the possibility of breaking my resolution – and believe me the pro-side of this debate team was very strong – I remembered a line from a movie I saw recently.

“Don’t drink to feel better, drink to feel even better.”

I can’t remember the movie, but I think this line is a perfect motto for me.  I don’t want to use alcohol to self-medicate, to cope with a stressful situation, or to ignore a problem in my life.   I want to use it to enhance an already fun evening, to bring out the flavor of a perfect Beef Bourguignon, or to celebrate a friend’s achievement.

And so, out I went.

I recovered nicely, though not completely, and if I do say so myself, my hair was fantastic.

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And Not a Drop to Drink

This weekend was the first real test of my Abstinence Month.  Full of social evenings from Thursday through Sunday, I had four days in a row where having a cocktail or a beer would be typical behavior for me.  From ‘drinks’ out with a grad school friend, to live music in a bar, to a wine-tasting art school fund raiser, to Super Bowl Sunday, I had many opportunities to explain my 2011 approach to resolutions in general and my February plan in particular.

I’m happy to report that I did not have a drink all weekend, nor did I have any difficulty abstaining.  I admit that there were a few moments when I thought “gee, it’d be nice to have a drink right now” but they passed quickly.  Of course I think I was as charming and entertaining as usual, but you’ll have to ask around to hear if others agree.

Here are some observations I made this weekend:

* People react much differently to “I’m not drinking this month” than they do to “I’m driving.”
When I decline a drink because I am a designated driver, everyone I know consistently says “good for you” and that is that.  As I declined drinks this weekend, however, people initially wanted more explanation, and then consistently tried to convince me to abandon my resolution or pick a different month. It was all in good fun, of course, but it was fascinating to experience ‘peer pressure’ since (a) I’m over 40 and (b) so were they.

* I made much more responsible food choices, sort of.
There were no late-night nachos this weekend.  Also, no late-night hot-dogs with cheese, no latenight Twix bars, and no late-night chocolate cake.  In fact, there was no late-night food.  That being said, the lack of beer during the Super Bowl party did not keep me from being responsible for the demolition of at least 1/4 of a party-serving of awesome chili/nacho/cheese dip.  Thanks  a lot Leslie.

* There needs to be better alcohol-free choices at bars and restaurants.
I have had more water and seltzer with lime over the past three days than I care to discuss.  For fun, sometimes I asked for a splash of cranberry juice!  CRAZY!  I would definitely like to think of some better non-alcohol options, for variety if nothing else.

Did my abstinence change much about my weekend?  Not really.

I still went out and about – quite a lot actually.  I still got up at about the same time, did about the same amount of chores and school-work that I would normally do, and went to the gym once (sadly, typical) over the two days.  I did notice that I woke up with headaches on the mornings when I’d been up past midnight the night before.  

Apparently, part of the reason I might wind up with a headache on a Saturday morning is because I haven’t gotten enough sleep. Oh right, and I’m 41.   (It certainly wasn’t because I was dehydrated.)

If I’m honest about it, I admit that I also went home a bit earlier than I might have otherwise, but leaving a college-bar at 11:45 is a good idea anyway.  Between 11 and midnight the average age in a college  bar goes from 30 to 21 and the average length of a skirt goes from 24 inches to, oh, seven.   Drinks or not, it was time to leave.

The highlight of my weekend might have been meeting up again with George, the friend who inspired my February resolution to begin with.   Alas, he was rooting for the Packers, but we toasted each other throughout the evening with our Pelligrinos anyway.

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Filed under Alcohol, Food, Football, Resolutions