Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Confessions of a Chocoholic

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles M. Schulz

On a beautiful spring evening when the temperatures reached the low 80's, my wife and I decided to treat the Peanut and go out for ice cream after dinner. Some of the best ice cream you will ever taste is made fresh and sold about two miles down the road from our house... at a place called Applegate Farm.

Applegate's: The best I've tasted
As we stood there surveying the myriad of flavors, my wife asked me, "What in the world are going to order?" This question carried more significance than normal. I had given up chocolate for Lent.

Chocolate. My weakness. My vice. My precious.

Two great tastes that taste great together
My favorite flavor - chocolate peanut butter - was clearly off limits. As was any other flavor containing any of the following words: mocha, chip, fudge, brownie, cookie, black, forest, or crunch. I ordered vanilla peanut butter, which is fine. But vanilla by definition is boring. I realized then, just a few days into Lent, this wasn't going to be easy.

The Peanut sat there on the curb, enjoying her ice cream. She is ultimately why I do these things. To set an example. To show her what I'm capable of... what she's capable of.

Each of the past two years I gave up Facebook for Lent. That may sound trivial but if you're on it as much as I am, it is quite difficult. But I never missed Facebook. It was simply a matter of changing a habit. As my daughter gets older and more aware, I want to share these traditions with her. There is no explaining Facebook to a four year-old. Nor should there be. Thus, my decision to sacrifice chocolate.

Reduced fat, but still tempting
For the first two weeks, I was jonesing. Yearning. The Devil Dogs made me do it... almost. They were literally calling me from the pantry. I heard them. Tempted by Devil Dogs.

One night I subconsciously went to the refrigerator because I had a random hankering for chocolate milk. Never do I drink chocolate milk. Ever. I am lactose intolerant for crying out loud. When I snapped into reality I realized that my body was telling me to feed it chocolate by any means necessary. I was in detox.

No chocolate for 40 days. Actually, it's 46 because Sundays don't technically count as part of Lent. When I was younger, I would give up candy knowing that all I had to do was make it to Sunday every week. That's not a sacrifice to me. At the risk of turning this into Bible study, I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't take Sundays off during his 40-day journey in the desert. I can endure the 6 extra days. Barely.

The Bible also tells us not to announce our charity "with trumpets" (Matthew 6:2), that God will see what we've done in secret and reward us. Yet here I am... blogging about it.... and telling anyone else who will listen to me.

So I go wall to wall... Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. No breaks. I have slipped up twice. Once, coincidentally, with chocolate milk. I sipped one of the Peanut's chocolate milk boxes to make sure it didn't spill after I had put the straw in (parenting habit). And once I grabbed a chocolate Munchkin from a box that someone had bought for the newsroom where I work. Also pure habit. Newsrooms are notorious for free food that's bad for you, making my sacrifice even more challenging.

delicious... but not chocolate chip
It really is amazing how chocolate permeates so many facets of my life. Chocolate chip pancakes are a regular Saturday morning treat my wife will make. During Lent? Banana pancakes. Cue the Jack Johnson. One weekend we went out to breakfast and without even thinking I nearly ordered French toast stuffed with Nutella. That is until my wife - my Jiminy Cricket who herself doesn't give up anything for Lent (convenient) - subtly reminded me that Nutella is chocolate. "Oh," I said disappointed, "I guess that's why it sounded so good to me."

My conscience is my guide
Even my daughter knows. She taunts me. She'll eat a chocolate chip cookie and say, "Daddy, you can't have a bite." But that's mostly why I did it. First, to challenge myself. But most important, I want her to see that you can give up something you love and still be happy. Ok, maybe not happy but you can still function. Ok, I'm barely functioning... but I'm alive. You can survive without something you love. There's the lesson. That's something.

I'll join you in 3 days, Augustus
Who am I kidding? When I went food shopping for the week on Monday afternoon, I bought two 1/2 gallons of ice cream... both predominantly chocolate flavors. Just last night my daughter asked for some for dessert. I told her no... we're saving them for a chocolate feast that would make Augustus Gloop blush.

These three days can't go by fast enough.

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