Anxiety Cakes

Life. Motherhood. Liquor. Baked to Imperfection.

Life only sucks if you let It

I am not a strong believer when it comes to certain things – but last night while talking through my reasons for wanting to make another life change, it occurred to me that I have been given so many signs that I have chosen to ignore. So many it’s ridiculous. But I guess the reason they were so easily overlooked is because it would have meant “big” change, and “big” change brings on the kind of anxiety that I choose not to deal with. This time it feels different. As I sit here with my deteriorating spine and crippled fingers, I realize that NOT making this change could eventually wreck me both mentally and physically. (Please note that while I am no longer in denial over my anxiety, I still haven’t learned how to fully manage it. I had moved onto the stage of acknowledging it then politely ignoring it, but now it seems I’m moving onto another stage – we’ll call it the “revelation” stage – the whole process is exhausting – and whoever said that ‘admitting you have a problem is the hardest part’ was full of shit.) I guess part of it is, at 40 years young I am finally realizing that there is always an end to the destructive behaviors that we choose to ignore, and it’s never good. There is nothing wrong with realizing and accepting your weaknesses and limitations. The real tragedy is when you keep doing things that make them worse.

So after 22 years of sitting at a desk, I have made the decision to find another way to help support my family by doing something that keeps me active. Something that will allow me to earn a paycheck while improving my conditions and challenging my flaws – rather than helping me down the wrong path to the point of no return. I desire the support of my friends and family in my new ventures, but the hard work and courage it will take to make this happen is solely on me. I’ve got to own this one all by myself.

And now that I finally like beans, the idea of eating them out of a can no longer scares me.

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Rainy Days and Mania Always Get Me Down

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Rainy days. Some people love them. I am not one of them.

But today was going to be different. I was going to make the most of being stuck indoors. I would make this rained-out weekend a productive one. I’d work on one of my many, long overdue projects. I decided to start with my disastrous recipe book – something that’s been mismanaged for years. My friend has a nice, neat one that I would model mine after. I would start with a trip to Staples. I would buy a binder and plastic sleeves. I would go home and type up the recipes that are scribbled on paper. I would print them out and neatly assemble my new recipe book. Piece of cake. Let’s get started!

While I’m roaming the aisles at Staples, I notice that charcoal pencils are on sale. That reminds me that I want to start sketching again. I think of my first new sketch – a picture I took of my daughter a few years ago. She was sitting at a booth in a restaurant, and the way the light came through the window and shone on her face made for an amazing photo. Did I still have my pencils? Should I buy more just in case I don’t have any (or can’t find them)? I see they have composition notebooks on sales for ten cents! I should probably pick some of these up too because my kid always needs them for her Math class. But I’ve already bought them for this year. And she won’t have the same teacher next year. And where would I store these? That reminds me that I had planned to start a school supply bin at home. I would buy standard supplies when they’re on sale and store them for the future. I should check the website for good deals and buy everything on-line. I’m sure I can find a code for free shipping. And I should buy a bin. But really, I already have so many bins! I could condense my two picture bins down to one, and use one of those. That reminds me that I need to sit and sort through those bins that I brought in from the garage two months ago. I will get started on that tonight – right after I finish my new recipe book. How fun! I’m finally getting organized!

I arrive home with my binder, plastic sleeves, 10 composition notebooks and a bottle of wine (for my picture project later). I tend to the dog, check my e-mail, and remind myself to stay FOCUSED. I’m ready to go! I sit down with my recipe book and open it slowly. Papers fall everywhere. Publix recipes that my daughter brings home, recipes from Doctor’s office magazines that I scribbled on the back of receipts, print-outs from the computer, etc. What a mess. I come across a recipe my Mom finally gave me for a bundt cake she made when I was a kid. That was the whole reason I went out and purchased that bundt pan months ago, and I still haven’t made the damn cake. I start reading the ingredients and realize I need at least half of these things. I remember that I really need to make a shopping list. And I need to plan meals for next week. I really wish I had gone to the market yesterday for fresh veggies. I promised myself that I would start going to the market every Friday morning. Or maybe on Saturday mornings, because that’s when the fish lady is there. And I really need to start getting fresh fish from her again. Okay, FOCUS. I grab a piece of paper and write down the ingredients for the cake. I’ll get to the rest of the grocery list later when I am done with my new, state-of-the-art recipe book. And the picture bins. But first I have to get some lunch because so far today I’ve only had coffee and I am starving.

By the time I am done with lunch, it’s time to take my daughter to the dance studio. A quick 30 minute round-trip and I’ll get back to my recipe book. I can’t wait to get to it!

I get back from taxi-Mom duties, respond to a few text messages and decide to start a load of laundry. That reminds me that there is still a load in the dryer. I turn that on to reheat and fluff the clothes (possibly for the 4th time in two days). I’ve got ten minutes or so to kill. I’ll get started on my recipe book again after I fold clothes. I see I have a missed call from a friend that I haven’t spoken to in months. I’ll call her back when I am done with the laundry. Ten minutes isn’t enough time to catch up.

I sit down and start going through my recipes. I come to the baking section and see a recipe for snickerdoodle cookies. Shit. I have to make those for an upcoming bake sale that the dance studio is having. I can’t remember what day it is scheduled for, so I start going through my e-mails. I notice that my inbox is overloaded with old e-mails, so I start deleting some. I spend the next twenty minutes deleting e-mails, and when I am done, I am disappointed to see that I still have over 5,000 emails to go through. Obviously this is another project that will have to wait. I go back to my recipe book. I flip the page and see two recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies. This reminds me that I promised a friend – a new Mom with a craving for oatmeal cookies – that I would bake her some cookies. But I need to get the recipe from another friend, and I know she’s not home right now. So I search Google for the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe. Looks like I have most of what I need – except for the rolled oats. I’ll stop at the store later when I am out again. I text my friend and inform her of my intent to make her cookies. She asks if I’d like to come over on Sunday, and I accept. She informs me that, coincidentally, the friend that called me earlier will also be there. I’m reminded again that I need to call her back. But first I need to restart the dryer. But not now, because I have to go pick up my daughter.

I arrive home with my kid after stopping to pick up some oats. She reminds me that we have to leave in an hour to go back to the studio for her second rehearsal. I restart the dryer and take the dog out. I slam myself down on the couch with my recipe book, pissed that I have so much crap stuffed into this little book. I don’t know where to start with this mess. I guess I’ll start by typing up all the recipes that are handwritten. I flip through the book, pulling out recipes as I go, and come across the instruction manual for my pizzelle maker. What’s this doing in here? I flip to the back, and there’s a half dozen more instruction manuals! That reminds me that I have a folder in the the file cabinet full of instruction manuals for all of our electronics. Clearly that’s where these should go. I go to the office to retrieve the folder. I start sorting through an assortment of manuals and find one for the first computer we ever bought – a Gateway desktop that we purchased in the year 2000. The next manual is for a television we purchased in 2001. Obviously I need to clean this folder out. And there’s no time like the present.

“Mom, it’s time to go!” my daughter yells from the living room while jingling my car keys. I am sitting on my office floor, surrounded by piles – a pile to keep, a pile to shred, a pile to throw away, and a pile to look through again and redistribute to other folders. Some folders I already have labelled, and some I will have to create. Which reminds me that I need more folder tabs. I wish I would’ve started this before I went to Staples.

Back home again. I have 30 minutes to kill before I have to go back to the studio. I realize now that I should of just sat in the parking lot and waited. I decide to call my friend and remove my nail polish. And now it’s time to go again.

So glad I am home once and for all. No more trips for the day. I start the dryer, feed the dog, and put dinner in the oven. I pour myself a glass of wine, and decide to relax on the couch until the oven timer goes off. And then I see it. That goddamn recipe book.

Fast forward to an hour and a half later. Dinner was served and the dishes are done. I grabbed a quick shower and finally folded the clothes. I’m settling down to write this blog, and then I’m going to read a little David Sedaris and sip some more wine. Meanwhile, there are still piles of manuals on the floor in the office, the picture bins remain untouched, I have cookies to bake, and my old, overflowing recipe book has been moved to the dining room table – right next to the pretty new binder and a package of plastic sleeves. There’s always tomorrow. But probably not, because now I have plans.

And when my husband finally gets a break from his work out west, he’ll call home and ask me what I did today and how I’m feeling. And I’ll let out a big sigh and respond dramatically with “everything” and “exhausted”, because after all, my brain has been super busy multitasking and procrastinating all day, and I really am quite tired. It truly seems like a perfectly reasonable and truthful response to me, and I am certain that someone, somewhere out there will read this and understand completely.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…

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Apparently there are two kinds of claustrophobia – and I’m lucky enough to suffer from both of them.

I Probably Love my Dogs More than Most People

And you probably read the title wrong. I didn’t mean that I love my dogs more than most people love their dogs, I meant that I love my dogs MORE than people. Not all people, but most.

I am aware that the above statement further supports the opinion that I am highly dysfunctional, but you should also know that I don’t care. My dogs don’t judge me. They love me everyday, no matter how I look or what I say. Fat or thin. Happy or sad. They love me in whatever condition I may be in. My husband once said that if we were to put our dogs in a suitcase, and let them out an hour later, they would still love us. In fact, they would even be happy to see us. That was his argument as to why dogs are the best. You simply would not get the same outcome with any human being. (Please note that we never tested his theory. I’d never do that to my dogs, and my kids are all too big to fit into any of the luggage we own.)

But in the last few days, I have been able to prove one theory: it is entirely possible that I love ALL dogs more than most people. Since the whole Beneful story fell into my lap, I’ve been on a mission to reach out to as many people as I can to get them away from this product. I’ve started doing research and writing letters to grocery stores. I’ve called my vet, my Mother, my friends, and posted my story on public pages all over Facebook, all in hopes that at least one person would walk their bag of Beneful to the trash after hearing or reading what I had to say. I’ve researched foods until late in the evening, and eventually decided on a new food for my last surviving dog (more natural – and twice as much as the food I buy now). I found myself wanting to avenge the death of my dogs. I wanted to call Purina and scream at them until I was blue in the face. I wanted to seek justice for others who have lost their dogs to cancer that was caused by constantly ingesting tainted dog food. I wanted to call Erin Brockovich. I didn’t want another dog to go through what the two of mine did – and I didn’t want another dog parent to go through it either.

So, before I continue on with the calls, the letters, and the internet posts – I thought it best to take a break from my first-ever crusade, and focus for a moment on the joys our fur babies brought us. Here are a few photographs that capture some of the happiest moments we’ve had with them. I love all of my dogs, but the first two were just that – they were the first two that stole my heart. They were my babies. And I will never forget them.

Casey ay the beach
Casey was all about chasing the ball at the beach

King at the beach
King was all about chasing EVERYTHING at the beach

shaking in LA
Shaking off after a swim in the pound with a friend

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King running through the fields for hours

Casey's pups
Casey’s litter of pups

Chicken pox
King nursing my daughter through chicken pox

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King’s 9th birthday

I'm 8
Casey’s 8th birthday

Birthday party
Yes, we had a real party for our hedgehog’s 1st birthday. (And yes, those are treat bags filled with milk bones. And yes, we get a little carried away sometimes.)

indy adoption day
This is Indiana, a rescue we adopted after King died

indy out the car window
Indy doing his most favorite thing in the world. (This was his first good day after Casey died.)

Is Purina Beneful Toxic?

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Today was going pretty good. Light work day, low anxiety, a little exercise, and I was almost finished with a humorous post about Florida drivers when I received a text from a friend.

It read: “Hey, not to bring up a sore subject, but what did you feed your dog Casey?”

My first thought was: why would she want to know what I fed my dead dog? I told her, and waited her response. I read her response two or three times. I was frozen in place. Then came tears. Then came disbelief. Then came hysterics. And now I realize that I am going through the grieving process all over again. When I’m done being sad, I’m going to be mad as hell. And that’s when I will become a terrible nuisance to some local and national companies – because I want answers. I plan on starting with my veterinarian first thing in the morning.

Turns out my friend was doing some research on the internet about Beneful (Purina Dog Food), and came across a post from a woman who had lost her 7 year old dog to kidney failure. She blamed Beneful as the cause of her dog’s illness and death. My friend shared the link with me, and I started reading the hundreds of comments made by others. It was all about dogs that were thriving and full of life and then suddenly became sick – some were full of tumors, while others were vomiting and dying of kidney disease. All of them had been on a Beneful diet.

Sadly enough, I fed both of my dogs Purina Beneful (Healthy Weight Formula) for the last 4 or 5 years of their lives. They both got sick fast, and had to be euthanized just a few months after diagnosis. One died at the age of 10 (thyroid cancer) and the other just a year later at the age of 8 (kidney failure/lymphoma). After my last dog died, I found myself searching for a common denominator – since they weren’t from the same family, what were the odds that they would both end up with cancer? After speaking at length with my veterinarian and finding nothing, I chalked it up to nothing more than horrible luck. But now I have every reason to believe that their food may have been the cause of their illnesses, and eventually, their deaths. While there is no official “proof” that this food is bad, I don’t believe in coincidence among hundreds of people. So please, if you are feeding your dogs this food, do the research, talk to your vet, and switch to a different food. It’s too late for my babies, but others still have a chance.

You Don’t Have to be Crazy to be My Friend, but it Helps

Did you ever have one of those days where you feel like the whole world is against you and nothing makes you happy? I hate them. They don’t happen very often, but when they do, I am acutely aware of what I am feeling and that there is nothing I can do to stop it. It usually has to run its course. And I can’t wait for it to end.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a friend or two that can help you through these episodes (if you let them). I’ve been through enough of these to know that wallowing in self-pity and being a reclusive never helps, so instead I try to stay active and reach out to people. Sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned, and I am stuck with myself. My ugly, miserable self.

But when all else fails, the one thing that keeps me going is experience – I know it will pass. And throughout these dreadful days, I remind myself of all the things I have to be grateful for. And how much I am loved. And how lucky I am to have my health. And how much worse it could be. And I get through it. (And now matter how cliché this sounds, these constant reminders really do work.)

And when it’s all done, and the sun comes out again, I look back on it and accept that most of it was in my head.

Most of it.

The other part of it is a normal human belief that exists within all of us. It’s called expectation. Expectation is cruel. Expectation is the root of all disappointment. My husband told me years ago that one of my biggest problems is that my expectation of others is too high – that I expect others to feel as much and care as much as I do. That’s mostly true, and he’s partly right, but only to a certain degree. I believe that when you stop expecting human compassion and reciprocated love and friendship from others, you are compromising who you are and what you deserve. So instead of giving up on all, give your time and attention to just a few. The few that support you and help you get through all things, real or imaginary, without judgment or betrayal. The few that love you on your worst days. These are your people. These are your true and unconditional friends.

And the Categories Are…

I was having trouble getting started, and then all of a sudden, I found myself wanting to write about all things! So I started one thing, then another, and another. Next thing I know, I have six drafts saved and not one thing posted. Make that seven.

So, I decided to slow it down and start with a list of things I want to write about. I love lists. One time I made a list of lists I had to make. That’s as far as I ever got. I want it to be different this time.

I also decided that I should start using a thesaurus because I tend to use my favorite words over and over again. Especially the word especially. So you should be glad that I’m overly concerned about this – otherwise reading my posts would be like…like when you are talking to a person that says “um” a lot, and as soon as you notice, you stop listening and start counting.

I also need to disable the “Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level” grammar feature in Microsoft word, because their opinion doesn’t really matter here. I’m writing a blog – not a thesis. It always tells me that my finished product is shitty and I’m a 5th grade failure because there are so many fragments in my posts. And there always will be.

Ok, I got off track there for a minute. Back to the list.

Here we go:

The XanaX Files (see what I did there?) – A compilation of writings about the anxieties I suffer from. Everything from debilitating claustrophobia to the bizarre behaviors of entomophobia. They’ll be like science fiction stories, but with medication. Except for they’re true, and I don’t take any meds for these disorders – though I probably should. These stories may bore some readers, but I’m convinced that there are other people out there that agonize over the same things, and I’d like to find them. Misery loves company.

The Vodka Diaries – Alcohol-related misadventures. Sometimes the best drinking fun ends with the worst decisions.

High School Suckage* – Sure, it was decades ago, but horrible memories last forever. I was in trouble a lot, I was the only one dating a guy with a baby, and most of the girls hated me. *All names will be changed – unless you’re still an asshole and you deserve the recognition.

Parental Hovering – I’m an expert at this. My daughter sincerely believes that she won’t have a private life until she’s 30, and I’m okay with that.

Feeling 42 – It’s like a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “22”, but replace the carefree fun and dancing with bitching and moaning, and make it all about the not-so-fun changes we go through as we get older. I’ll try to add humor when I can.

You’re Doing It Wrong – I’ll complain about education, health care, personal experiences, and current events that don’t make sense to me. Or possibly anyone else.

Special Guest Stars – My favorite posts from others – friends, family or strangers – famous or unheard of – with or without commentary. Basically, anything that I can totally relate to or find outrageously witty – and definitely some whimsical stuff from the best co-workers on earth.

No matter what I write about, I know this is going to be a worthy and freeing experience. I look forward to writing brutal truths and uncensored opinions with reckless abandon.

Having trouble getting started? Welcome to my life.

I was really excited about this whole blog thing. I created a half-ass page, wrote one half-ass blog and then poof! My dream of blogging slipped quietly into the abyss of unfinished business – where my other 352 dreams sit patiently waiting to be reclaimed.

This, like many of the other “Oh yes, I am going to do that and it’s going to be great!” moments, came to a screeching halt because of the two things that always stop me: an attention disorder and something that I’ve appropriately named “unfounded fears anxiety”. These two problems would be cumbersome enough by themselves, but when combined, become a giant obstacle for me to overcome. Daily. Most days I am scattered and riddled with anxiety, so if I am lucky enough to get my thoughts together on a day that I am feeling brave, I need to seize the moment. This only leaves me with tiny windows of time to do great things – while the rest of my time is spent in an eternal loop of wishing and wanting. And worrying.

Citing ADD is self-explanatory: sometimes I can’t concentrate long enough to produce anything longer than a Facebook status. Ironically enough, I felt my status updates were becoming too long (and too frequent) and that’s what led me to the idea of blogging. I have always loved to write, but I let my anxiety take over and seemed to develop some sort of writer’s (and reader’s) block that left me in literary silence for the past few years.

When it comes to writing, if I can get into the zone, then half the battle is over. The easy half. I still have to get past the fear part. Not just with writing, but with most things. And let me tell you, I worry about some of the dumbest shit imaginable.

For example, I wanted to write about some of my experiences with people and alcohol (or drunkenness in general) and publish them as “The Vodka Diaries”. The ideas were flowing. I was ready. And then it started – I call them the what-ifs. What if I offend people? What if I am judged by people who don’t drink at all? What if I am glorifying the opinions of others who already think I drink too much? What if real vodka lovers send me hate mail? And if I can get past those, then I still have to deal with the smaller (and more ridiculous) fears that spawn from my obsessive-grammatical disorder. (Like how I name my own disorders?) What if I misspell something? What if I use the wrong word – like past instead of passed? (I may have just done that). What if I use too many parentheses? (I always do that. In fact, I’m doing it right now.) And most importantly, what if no one reads what I write?

On and on it goes, and where it stops…oh wait, it doesn’t.

I guess the best news I have to share in all my ramblings is that after a lifetime of coping with these issues, I’ve started to circle back around with the intent to turn the what-ifs into why-nots. I start by tell myself it’s total bullshit to feel this way. I remind myself of all the things I’ve already missed out on in life because of the what-ifs. I don’t need to figure out WHY I am this way – I just need to learn how to work around it. I need to push past the faulty brain wiring and just do things without over-analyzing them. I need to stop focusing on the possible (and totally improbable) outcomes and worrying about everything that could go wrong. Fear really is the thief of dreams.

So, I’m going to start writing because it makes me happy. I consider this to be my introductory post (even though it’s the second one) and a general disclaimer for the written episodes that follow. I will write a lot about the things I know – anxiety and bad decisions – and it wont always be pretty. And if no one reads what I write, sobeit. It will still feel a thousand times better than wondering if I should and wishing that I could. It makes me a little better. It deflates my anxiety a bit. It builds my confidence. It keeps me going. The fear will dissipate. The thoughts will keep coming, and I will keep writing them. I have always been my own worst critic – now it’s time for me to be my own biggest fan.

I am not gay. I am not straight.

I am not gay. I am not straight. I am human.

As human beings, we have a lot of choices in life. Who we connect with is not one of them. I believe that a person should be able to openly love and commit to another – wholly and completely – regardless of gender. If you choose not to embrace homosexuality because of your own personal or religious beliefs – then that is your choice.  People living freely – outside of your own opinions  – shouldn’t be “punished” for who they love. The gays are not out to get you, the bisexuals are not confused, and the transsexuals are not trying to be anyone other than the person they are on the inside. They are not trying to change your life – they are just trying to live their own. You have no right to confine or alienate others simply because they live their lives differently than you do.

It’s not about what the bible says or what your local politician thinks. It’s not about practicing tolerance and acceptance. It’s not about embracing and understanding another persons lifestyle. It’s about respecting basic human rights and knowing when to mind your own fucking business. It’s really that simple.

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