laura packardI don’t mean to brag but . . .  I just finished my diet in only 3 hours and 12 minutes.
    I read that somewhere the other day and laughed.
     See, here at the Packard household, one of us finished in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 59 seconds.
    Try and beat that.

    And I am not even factoring in the one who listened casually to the New Diet Plan for the New Year, while playing digital pool, only to briefly look up from his phone and mime the words, “no way, José” as he dropped the 8 ball and a few crumbs of apple strudel.
    It all began December 26th, 2016 in a galaxy far, far away . . . That would be the mind of my oldest daughter the morning of her 16th birthday.
    “I figured out our New Year’s resolution for 2017,” she says in between soggy bites of Fruity Pebbles. “We are going sugar-free.”
    “If I were English, I’d say bollocks,” I tell her over a hefty cup of Joe. “But I’m American, so I say that is un-American. And don’t get me started on New Year’s Resolutions. If I can teach you anything in preparation for the real world . . . don’t make them. There is already plenty of heartache, disappointment, disillusion, and feelings of frustration and failure along this bumpy and well worn highway called life. The last thing you need is unneeded and unnecessary directions.”
    Eye roll.
    Then direct eye contact.
    With a single watery tear.
    “Alright, already,” I say. “We’ll give it a go.”
    Mom guilt.
    Now that’s American.
    Fast forward to January 1st, 2017, Publix, 3 pm. Good news, grocery shopping, for once, doesn’t take long. I linger reading a copy of People and prepping for a new sugar-free life by nibbling and sipping on a single stick of beef jerky and a 12 oz bottle of calorie-free, carb-free, dye-free Diet Sprite.
    “So, what’s for dinner?” My dependents descend on me and the brown paper sack I lugged in like two rabid raccoons diving head on into a trash bin, full sun, high noon.
    “A few sprouts of brussels, half dozen eggs and a slab of meat with the Styrofoam container it came in.”
    They back away now mirroring a pair of starved deer.
    “With Ketchup?” one of them asks. I have to look away, as I sadly, but stoically, whimper no.
    I can hear muffled cries and stomachs growling behind firmly shut doors and marathon reruns of Law & Order. Resisting the urge to knock and say I told you so, I instead take pause. This is probably because I can feel my insides slowly eating each other inside out. In survival mode, I drag the $20.99 1 lb. bag of unsalted, unseasoned but blanched almonds I just purchased into my room and take a bath.
    One hour and 2 minutes – and a wholesome snack of a pound of solid wood – later, I return to find husband, on phone, popping M&Ms.  One of the girls is eating Nutella from the jar with a mini-whisker, while the other is using my debit card to place an online order with Dominoes.
    Fifty-nine seconds later, I join the family on the couch, dipping a left over, half eaten Candy Cane directly into a tub of non-fat whipped cream eagerly awaiting a pepperoni thick crust over an impromptu game of Scrabble.
    But see, y’all, this is where we finally get to the really good stuff, not the diets and the fads, the unneeded and unnecessary pressures, the standards that are unattainable in an already pressure fueled rat-raced world.
    The real thing is . . .
    For generations and generations across all cultures and countries, sugar cane meant something way before the factory processed kind came to be. The same can be said about the old metal kettles, like the core of a family that did their job without fanfare, heated for hours upon hours that turned into days then years over hot fires carefully tended. Stoked and mended, the wood and ashes held their importance, too. Families, friends and neighbors made sure the kettles were hot enough to boil the precious juices from the stalks of the cane into syrup that would later be boiled down again and dried to form crystallized granules of sweet “raw” sugar.
    The “evil,” this sugar, we now want to eradicate from the face of the earth is actually the very reason we find pleasure, the joy in gathering, eating and being.
    Maybe it’s not just about the simple sweetness when sugar first hits your tongue. Maybe it’s about the guilt free experience of companionship, the shiver of the soul moving story of being still in place and time; enjoying not just the fruits of your labor but each other and the precious time spent as one figuring it all out.
    Maybe, just maybe, that’s all the direction we need for now.
    Wishing you a happy and super sweet 2017.