Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Netflix Binge for the Month - Narcos

It's been a while since I've had a good Netflix binge.  And by binge, I mean watching episode after episode like a drug addict.  It's not too late - I can watch just one more.  Just one more!  (And then around 2am I finally go to sleep).  

I've done the binge with several excellent series on Netflix:  Orange is the New Black (all 3 seasons), Breaking Bad (all 5 seasons), House of Cards (all 3 seasons), and The Walking Dead (all 5 seasons), among others.  When I'm in, I'm in.  It generally takes over my life for as many days as it takes to watch the season (which I usually do in record time), and my husband has learned accept the fact that he will be ignored until I'm done.  

It's not a healthy way to spend time, to be sure, but it's oh so fun.  It's relaxing and mindless and entertaining.  This past month, when I was immersed in Whole 30 madness, I needed the distraction. Thank you, Netflix, for giving me Narcos.

Narcos is a Netflix produced drama series based on the life of Pablo Escobar.  Embarrassing fact - I didn't know who Pablo Escobar was.  I mean, I kind of knew.  Some drug king pin from the the 80s? I had no idea about his story or his rise or his fall or his impact on Colombia (and the world).

It's one of those stories that seems too bizarre to be true.  And notwithstanding the inherent dramatizations, the bulk of the story portrayed in the series is actually true.  I know this, because I found myself googling throughout each episode.  That can't really be true.  No kidding?  It is true.  

The story follows Escobar from his humble beginnings to drug lord to his virtual hijacking of the country of Colombia.  In the process, he became the 7th richest person in the world (in 1989), and subsequently ran and was elected to public office.  When his drug connections were made public, he was forced to resign, and subsequently waged war on Colombia - bombing airplanes, assassinating politicians, and holding prominent figures hostage (including the daughter of the former president of Colombia, who was killed).  Ultimately, he turned himself into the authorities and went to prison, but it wasn't just any prison.  It was a prison that he built for himself, where he was the only inmate, and Colombian authorities weren't allowed on the premises.  (Picture gambling, women, a soccer field.).  When Colombian authorities eventually stormed the "prison" (because two people visiting were murdered there), Escobar went on the run.  He was killed approximately 18 months later, after authorities were able to track him via his cell phone.  

Already knowing the history of Pablo Escobar doesn't make the series any less compelling.  In fact, the first season doesn't end at the "end," which allows a second season to follow, and will presumably end the way we all know it ends.  But the events were so unbelievable that watching them play out is fascinating.  It also does the really weird thing of, at times, making you root for the bad guy (a la Breaking Bad).  At certain points, my emotions got confused and I found myself questioning who is good and who is bad and if that determination can ever really mean anything. The mark of good television - it makes you think.  

As an aside, right after finishing Season 1 of Narcos, I decided to watch a documentary featuring Pablo Escobar's son, called Sins of my Father (also streaming on Netflix).  In it, Escobar's son tries to make amends with the children of two government officials whom Escobar assassinated decades.  Not only did it give a different perspective of the events portrayed in the series, but it was also strangely uplifting to see the power of forgiveness.  

Netflix has renewed Narcos for a second season (yay!), but there's no release date yet.  In the meantime, anyone have any books to recommend about Pablo Escobar?  I'm weirdly obsessed!



Disclosure: I received a free iPad as compensation for being part of the Netflix StreamTeam.  All opinions reflected are my own.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Healthiest 18 Days of My Life

This summer was one of excess.  Too much food, too much drinking, and too much fun.

It was absolutely fabulous.

We took trip after trip after trip, to see family, to go to the beach, to celebrate good weather and childhood and the freedom to be carefree.  I consciously decided to let go, and then some.  I didn't use my hair dryer once between Memorial Day and Labor Day (summer hair, don't care).  How freeing is that?

Freedom doesn't necessary lend itself to a healthy lifestyle, however.  My summer of leisure and nightly ice cream runs and daily cocktail hours left me feeling like a lazy blob.  I noticed the flab coming on, but I didn't really care.   I shall trash my body for the next six weeks, and then clean it up in September!

Trash my body I did.  And then September came.

After three months of creating bad habits, I needed something drastic.  Weight loss was not the only priority - though it would be nice.  What I needed was a complete cleanse.  A reset, if you will.   I wanted to be healthy.

Enter the Whole 30.

I had heard of the Whole 30 before, and was intrigued by it.  It's 30 days of clean eating.  There's no calorie counting, and you aren't supposed to weigh yourself at all (weight loss isn't the goal).  The idea is to eat clean, whole food, and see how your body changes.  The book makes the grandiose claim that this diet "will change your life."

As September approached, I started to prepare.  I bought the book "It Starts With Food," along with the corresponding recipe book.  As I read, I got nervous.  Turns out clean eating cuts out pretty much everything I like to eat.

There would be NO: sugar (of any kind, aka honey, stevia, vanilla, agave nectar, etc.), alcohol (AAAAAA!), grains, legumes, or dairy.  To break this down a bit, that means no butter.  Soy sauce. Most any salad dressing.  Cheese.  Corn.  Rice.  Bread.  Beans.  Yogurt.  Wine.  Did I mention wine? And did you know sugar is in pretty much everything? EVERYTHING?

That leaves: meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit.

This would be hard for anyone, but it was especially daunting for me for the following reasons - 1) It is basically impossible to go out to eat.  2) We always go out to eat.  3) I hate to cook.  4) Now I have to cook.  5) Did I mention wine?

But I was bound and determined.  I made a commitment, and when I commit to something, I'm all in.

The weekend of August 28th, I started planning.  I researched recipes and made a meal plan and went to Whole Foods and spent an embarrassing amount of money on foods I had never even heard of, like ghee and rutabaga.  On the evening of August 31st - my last "normal" night, I opened up a bottle of wine, ordered in Indian food, and spent the night cooking food for the upcoming week.

Days 1 and 2 were fine.  What's the big deal?  I thought.  I got this! I can't believe people think this is hard!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Lucky Number 7

Seven has always been my favorite number.  For weird, childhood reasons, like the fact that I was born on a day divisible by 7.  And that my first, middle, and last (now maiden) name all had seven letters.  Whatever the rationale, I just love 7.  It reminds me of happiness and aqua blue and daisies.

And now I love it even more, because my baby boy is 7.

In my 7 years as a mother, I have noticed that certain birthdays entail subtle changes, while others feel like huge leaps.  Obviously tons of changes happen between 0 and 1, but I've always felt like going from 3 to 4 is a huge step up, from toddler to little boy.  And now, I'm realizing that 6 to 7 is a huge step too.  From little boy to kid, perhaps?  I suppose the semantics don't matter.  Braden just feels so grown up to me this year.

He's now embarrassed when I sing.  He is learning that it's not "cool" to play with dolls.  He is learning to ride a bike and use public bathrooms by himself and order his own food at restaurants. He has lost four teeth and can easily catch a frisbee and write me a note.  When we were in Bethany Beach, we let him take the elevator by himself and he did it over and over again, so pleased with his independence.  He wants to do things on his own.

Yet, he still has glimpses of being a little boy.  At times he still cries when he doesn't get his way, and he throws the occasional tantrum (to which I usually say something like, You're too old for this!). He still sleeps with his Pluto and climbs into our bed in the mornings.  He still lets me put him to bed, and cuddles with me after I read him a book.  I still nuzzle his neck like I did when he was a baby.

Each night, around 10pm, my husband or I wake Braden to take him to the bathroom.  He is usually very groggy, and occasionally, I will actually carry him there.  A mirror faces us as I enter the bathroom, and last week I was struck by Braden's sheer size.  I can still hold him, but his feet dangle past my knees and his arms hang past my elbows.  This boy - my baby - is so big.

There's that saying - one day you'll pick them up and it will be the last time.  I've been a bit haunted by that saying ever since I heard it the first time, and yet, the last time I pick Braden up may well be very near.  There's the physical aspect obviously - soon he will be too big for me to lift.  But perhaps sooner than that will come the time where it's not something he wants.

On the evening of Braden's birthday, I told him that for a treat, I would sleep with him in his bed.  I would get in bed with him at his bedtime (at 8pm) and stay with him the whole night.  He was so excited all day, and we stayed up past 8:30 chatting about school and soccer and vacations and birthday parties.  At one point I started to get sappy and tell him that seven years prior I had done this very thing - slept with him next to me all night long, but he interrupted me to ask about the playground at his school.

Once he fell asleep I stared at his little boy face for a while, thinking about what I'd said aloud to him just minutes earlier.  Seven years ago I had slept with him by my side, all night long, marveling at his very existence.  Here I was, seven years later, doing the same thing.  And how lucky that I could do that, because how many more years will he let me?  

Braden is 7, and he's a little boy turning into a kid.  And while he is in the process, I want to soak up every moment of his little boy-ness that I can.

Happy 7th birthday to my baby, Braden.  I couldn't love you more.

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