A bad idea idea.
A very bad idea.
And still, I couldnt stop myself.
Taken individually, of course, they are a good thing. Thin Mints are wonderful. Everyone knows that. And, so as not to offend the Paul Masson people, the inexpensive wine was pretty good (though I am anything but a wine connoisseur). It was the combination that was deadly.
Let me explain.
First you have to understand that I wouldn't last a SECOND on "Fear Factor." My misadventures with food and the resulting digestive catastrophes have entered the family folklore. Certain combinations of foods seem to combine in my system to create a toxic brew that several times has just about killed me. Oatmeal and green Kool Aid for instance. I tried that once.
It was back in the day when I was young, single, sharing an apartment with a friend, and apparently not very bright. I got up one morning, hungry for breakfast. A hot bowl of oatmeal sounded good - but we had no milk. We DID have a pitcher of green Kool Aid. Oatmeal is good (and good for you!), green Kool Aid is good, I needed something to wet down my oatmeal, so what would be so bad about putting the two together?
Well, the two got together in my stomach and decided they didnt like each other much. I picture Dr. Frankensteins laboratory, a beaker full of some bubbling green solution, smoke beginning to pour over the sides, fixing to explode at any moment.
And explode it did.
The pressure inside my gut begins to build, a nuclear power plant heading for melt down. This pain begins to rise up my chest and stab me in that spot right at the back of your neck. And then the pain begins to shoot down my arms. I am sure my head is about to blow off.
I pray that it will.
But eventually, the internal chemical disaster is controlled, things begin to equalize, and I survive to live another day, to make another foolish food choice.
Then there was the time at Chucky Cheeses. It is a day I still remember vividly. It began innocently enough, a small group of friends and I had gotten together for lunch. The pizza was good, the frosty glass of Pepsi was good (No Coke, Pepsi!). But that day, for reasons that remain a mystery, it was the combination that, I swear, nearly blew me apart.
We were all sitting there, innocently talking, laughing, having a good time, when all of a sudden I sensed that something wasnt good inside. That familiar pain began to assert itself between my shoulder blades. I could feel myself beginning to sweat. I smiled uncomfortably and squirmed a bit in my seat. Something inside of me wanted out.
My eyes began to dart around the room. I needed to leave. Quickly.
In mid conversation I inexplicably got up from my chair. There was an exit just a couple of tables over. My eyes focused on that, total tunnel vision. I pushed through the door and stumbled out into the blinding sunshine of a hot summer day.
Across the parking lot I saw a small convenience store, more like a little gas station kiosk. Bent over double, I pushed through the door...
I pleaded like a man crying out for water in the desert, my face pale and waxen, a desperate look in my glazed eyes.
No, Im sorry, we dont have any.
I stumbled back out onto the hot blacktop.
By now the pressure inside had built way past the red zone. I was sure that at any moment my internal organs were just going to blow apart. Could that really happen?! I was sure I was about to find out.
There was nothing to do but sit myself down on a curb and ride it out. And eventually the emergency crew inside my system managed to contain the disaster.
And then there was the legendary episode at the hotel next to the Ulysses S. Grant home in Galena.
Again a pizza parlor, a very cheesy pizza, and a frosty glass of Coke were the incendiary ingredients. I will spare you the gory details. Lets just say that it involves the bodily-noise sort of humor that adolescent boys enjoy so much.
We drive right past that hotel when we take the scenic route from here to visit my family in Minnesota. And every time, I have to retell the story of the Blast That Was Heard Around The World ...or at least by my wife (back when we were newly married, who was bent double outside the bathroom door), and likely the unsuspecting guests who were gathered in the dining room below our room.
Which brings us to the wine and cookie episode of last night.
It was a typical night. People needed rides everywhere. Marcela had soccer practice and Aracely had to work. Dani was working at Quiznos, the boys were playing X Box. Marcela wanted to go to the basketball game after soccer practice, which required another trip to the high school (and then back again to pick her up).
There was a day a week or so ago when I left the house around 2:00 to pick the kids up from school, and didnt get back home until 7:00, five hours later, running errands and driving kids here and there! With all the running around last night, I didnt get dinner going until almost 6:00.
I was having a frustrating day anyway (see the frog story of March 2), and really wasnt in the mood to make dinner at all. Nothing sounded good to me. When I asked for ideas, I got no help. Finally Aracely suggested spaghetti.
Works for me, I said.
Here is my gourmet recipe for spaghetti:
One jar of already-made spaghetti sauce, whatever is on sale. I add some browned burger, fried onions, a little Italian seasoning, a bit of sugar, and then melt in some cheese (whatever happens to be in the fridge). I used to make my own sauce, but even then, it was hardly Iron Chef stuff. But lately I have been getting already-made spaghetti sauce for a buck a jar. Thats cheaper than what I have to pay for a can of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste to make my own, so why bother!
Last nights effort was pretty good. Though we didnt finally sit down to eat until after 9:00.
After dinner the girls went to bed, and the boys went over to a friends house to play X-Box live (they have become X-Box junkies). Dani went upstairs to watch the TV show I had taped while she was at work, while I poured us a couple of glasses of wine.
I have been reading that a little wine every day is actually good for you. I have never been a big wine drinker, and all I know about it I learned from John Cleese on some wine show I saw on TV a while back. So the other day I picked up a couple of bottles of cheap stuff at the grocery store. I figured Id never know the difference. I guess thats the beauty of not knowing too much about anything; wine, Chinese food, jazz - you are pleased by just about anything that comes even remotely close.
So I poured a couple of glasses for Dani and me to sip while watching Lost. It was on my way out of the kitchen that I made my fateful mistake. I spied the box of Thin Mints that Dani had just brought home, sitting on top of the freezer.
They looked too good to pass by.
And so I grabbed a few.
Now we are lying in bed, watching Lost and I am sipping my wine and nibbling on my cookies. Even then I am thinking this is not such a good idea. While each was quite tasty on its own, I could tell that once inside my stomach, there was trouble brewing.
And this on top of a full stomach of spaghetti.
I am sure, as you are sitting there reading this, you are screaming,
I know the little voice in my head was making frantic phone calls to motor control to abort. But I couldnt stop myself. Even when things were starting to rumble inside, and I began to shift uncomfortably in the bed, I kept right on eating.
It will go away, I said to myself.
A couple of days ago I had seen a documentary on the Chernobyl disaster. Have you ever seen the control room of one of those nuclear plants? There are about a ZILLION gauges and switches. So this nuclear technician on the night shift is standing in front of this massive console, trying to regulate the incredible power of the plants nuclear reactor. At some point, he just lost control. The reaction got out of hand and crossed the point where anything could be done, and...
Thats what was going on in my stomach.
I began to moan. Moaning is very good. But even that wasnt helping.
I dragged myself out of bed and down the stairs looking for help, anything.
Alka-Seltzer came to mind (or in our case, store brand, bargain priced effervescent pain reliever). But the thought of drinking anything, even the thought of an Alka-Seltzer, made my stomach flip. So I chewed down a couple of antacid tablets. And waited.
It wasnt working. The pain was excruciating. I tried to go to sleep, but with all the moaning, that wasnt going to happen.
Finally around midnight I realized that things might possibly come up, and stumbled into the bathroom.
Remember that spaghetti dinner?
Not so good the second time.
So here is the mystery.
Why did I keep on eating those thin mints and sipping wine?
I KNEW it was going to be bad for me, I could feel my stomach protesting even as I was doing it - but I kept right on anyway.
I got to thinking about that this morning (feeling MUCH better, thank you).
The cookies tasted good. The wine tasted good. The bad stuff was off in the distance (unfortunately for me, the very near distance). And I was just too stupid to make the right choice. Or too human.
Once again, I am in the same boat with Paul the Apostle. I dont do what I know I should I do, and what I know I shouldnt do I do.
The day had been a very frustrating day. I couldnt seem to get focused on anything, I didnt accomplish a thing. And I knew exactly why.
Instead of looking to God at the start of my day, instead of asking him for guidance, instead of turning to him for all that I need - I turned to anything else. I listened to the radio, I put on a CD, I played around on the computer, puttered around in the kitchen. I WANTED to please God in everything I did, but I guess God sometimes seems so far away - he is off in the distance - and the stuff I like, the stuff I am comfortable with - is right here. It fills me immediately. Or I think it does.
But it never really does.
It never really satisfies.
For the moment it does.... but then, always, at the end of the day I feel something missing. Something inside knows that I missed out on what could have been. I missed out on the fellowship I could have had in living the day in the presence of God.
Yep. I am really stupid.
And I wonder, when will I ever learn?!
But just maybe the next time I am about to make a foolish choice, I will remember my little adventure with the Girl Scout cookies and cheap wine, and I will listen to that little voice inside that is saying, "It's not worth it!"
I learned another thing, though. We try to teach our kids the way to go, and to steer them from the choices that we know will hurt them. But now I see more clearly that its not enough to say, Dont do that, its bad for you. Knowing something is bad for you, when the choice at the moment is so enticing, doesnt seem to work.
If the choice at hand seems good, and the bad for you part is way off in the distance somewhere, it is just the humanness in us that makes the truth hard to see. Its been the story from the very beginning. The fruit on the tree in the garden looked good - the consequences of disobeying God some hazy maybe off in the future.
If something looks really good now, it seems to be our human nature to not see the negative consequences attached to it. Or not want to see them. Its like the consequences are invisible.
And really, there is a power at work in the world that is trying to deceive us. In the garden, it was the serpent who twisted things, who made eating the forbidden fruit seem like a better choice than obeying God. That same power is at work today, twisting things so people choose anything else but to follow after the God who loves them and wants so badly for them to turn to him.
Now I see that just saying,Don't do that, it's bad for you! is not enough.
We need to offer something better in its place.
And maybe even better still, to pray for the eyes and wisdom to see things as they really are, to really see what is good and what is not. Like I said, if I could have clearly seen just how bad cheap wine and cookies really was going to be.
...or how much better off I am each day choosing to follow God instead of going my own way.
© 2005 Paul Dallgas-Frey