Thursday, September 4, 2014

I called the police because paw prints.

So here is something to talk about.

Four days ago I had a panic attack, for the first time in a good year.

I have talked here about living with anxiety before. On one hand, its a small part of my life and who I am, and I have no interest in whining about it to the internet at large. On the other hand, I think its important to talk honestly about who we are. Its how we relate to others, its how we learn that we are not alone, its how we pull each other up the ladder.

Because I am mostly good and getting better, I don't like to think of myself as a person with a mental illness - both because I don't like to give a little brain short-circuiting that kind of top billing in my life story, and because I feel like it takes away from the people I see as having "real" mental illness. The people who aren't getting along with their lives as usual, like I am.

There has been a time in my life that my anxiety was so debilitating that I couldn't leave my bedroom for days. I would cry and scream and shake and throw up and my hands would go completely numb and I would gasp for breath and think I was dying and my nose would bleed from both sides. That would be a low. Fortunately, it has been a very long time since then.

There have been times in my life, more recently I am happy to report, that I have been smooth sailing for weeks. Months even. That doesn't mean months of feeling happy and peaceful 24/7. It just means months of processing emotions in a healthy way - feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling excited, feeling stressed or frustrated but still in control of those feelings. Still "driving the bus" as my sweet friend Katie would say. Feelings proportionate to the given situation.

And speaking of feelings, that's the whole story. Part of who I am, something many people have told me they love about me, something that makes me especially me, is the feelings. ALL OF THE FEELINGS. All of the feelings that I am always feeling all of the time. Every news story, every photo you share on Facebook, every movie I watch and song I hear and story I read and story I invent about the person I just walked past on the sidewalk, each one feels like a squeeze on my heart. And it makes me feel very alive and warm and connected to life.

Until, sometimes, its too much all at once and instead of a gentle squeeze on my heart, its like an elephant sitting on my chest and I can't get up. And I want to scream and cry and beg someone to help me. But I can't because there isn't really an elephant on my chest. Not one you can see at least. So I have to fight my own natural urge to fight for my life. Tell myself to calm down and act normal. Act like nothing is wrong until it passes. And sometimes I can and sometimes, I just cant.

A big turning point for me a few years ago was when I decided to say to myself one day, instead of trying to not have anxiety anymore, or instead of trying to completely hide it from everyone, maybe you should just start with getting a little more understanding about it. And so I set my desire to be "cured" aside and went on a little psychological coming-of-age journey, where I learned many useful things about myself. Like what my triggers are. Some are obvious (coffee), some make sense just to me (relaying information over the phone) and some don't make sense at all (sleeping in a tent?) but now I know them. That doesn't fix anything, but it gives me a better understanding of myself, which translates to control. Control = less anxiety driving the bus, more me.

And while I have given up on the word "cured", gaining this perspective on my own life was the point at which I started to get better, comically, since I had thought I was setting "getting better" aside. I have also started to really become comfortable with the ebb and flow of it all. When I am feeling good I know that eventually I will feel bad again, but more importantly, when I feel bad, I know that I will eventually feel better. Every time I have collapsed, my heart feeling like baking bread expanding in my chest and trying to burst its way out, every time I have been certain it was more than I could take and I would never feel better- I WAS WRONG.

Right now the scoreboard is something like 293847293847 Angel - 0 Anxiety.

The ups and the downs feel natural to me now, like seasons, and each year winter gives way to spring a few days sooner than expected. It is getting better.

So then there was the "incident". I had been in a state of bad, bad anxiety all night. Being home alone, in a house especially (apartments I do okay) is a trigger for me. I am suppose it doesn't help that my mom had a magazine with a giant photo of Sharon Tate on the cover lying around the house, or that some random guy is suddenly living in an RV on the empty lot across the street, or that it was a holiday weekend so people were probably up later than normal, being louder than normal - all of this like gasoline on the anxiety bonfire.

What actually happened, the bare bones facts, is that I let the cats out at 4am (hadn't sleep a wink). About two minutes later, I heard a low, not-cat growl by the side door (the windows were cracked open to let breeze in). I ran to the door, flipped the outside light on & opened the door. One cat ran in, fur standing up, clearly spooked. When I stuck my head out the door to look for the other cat, I saw wet foot prints (too big to be cat) on the sidewalk. I slammed the door.

It may have been a neighbors dog or it may have been a coyote. Maybe El Chupacabra? I had a good reason enough to be worried about the other cat. Probably even reason enough to be worried about my own safety, in terms of going out into the dark after him.

Did I have good reason to call 911? Probably not. But I was home alone with my son and I could feel myself slipping into a very mentally unhealthy place and I knew I needed help but I just wasn't thinking clearly enough to know what kind. If I had been calmer, the kind operator probably would have just told me to keep the outside lights on and listen for my cat. But because I had already slipped past the cusp of reason, because anxiety had given way to panic, because when she asked me my name and address I couldn't breathe let alone force coherent words out of my mouth - an officer did come out, very begrudgingly (sorry sir). He got there after the paw prints had long vanished, and just in time to find the other cat hiding in a bush.

"Well, there is your cat. Alright bye" he said. And then I felt completely f*cking stupid, which was the cherry on the sundae.

The next day I was haunted by the residual panic. I went to Target, my happy place, a place with lots of distracting shiny things to look at, a place where I can be surrounded by people but I don't have to interact with anyone. This is my mental sweet spot. But, I just couldn't shake it. I shook the whole time I was there. I felt out of breath standing still. I had to go sit in the bathroom twice because my chest felt like a heart attack. When I finally went to bed that night, I kept waking out of nightmares. The kind where you cant talk. The kind where you are helpless.

It was rough, to be honest, to have such a low after feeling so good for so long. But I feel better now, as I knew I would. As Katie promised me I would, over the phone, while she sang nice, sweet, funny things into my ear while I drank bloody mary's.

I lived. I am still here. I know I am not the alone. I am very loved. I am very strong. I like who I am and I love who I am becoming. And of course, I love you too.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Letter To My Baby


I want you to know happiness. Happiness so big and full that your chest fills up like helium into a balloon and there is water in your eyes like before a sneeze – happiness like a revelation.

I want you to have happiness always. Not just after the promotion or on the vacation or when you unwrap the gift you were hoping for. I want you to have happiness in the thick hug of your blankets and the crisp air outside of them. Happiness in sublime moments and boring ones.

But also.

I want you to be sad.

I want you to know how it feels to cry so hard that you stop caring how loud you are crying and you wail at the top of your lungs wondering if the sound of it will heal you, and somehow, it does.

You can’t understand the value of happy until you have been this sad.

You don’t know how deep a bucket can plunge into the well of your heart until you have heard your grieving voice echoing from it.

Sweetheart, your well is deep.


I want you do be sorry.

I want you to fuck up, and know it, and I want you to feel wretched and small and like a coward in the face of blame.

Because I want you to learn the redemption of forgiveness.

The relief of being forgiven and forgiving and even just forgiving yourself. Like popping out of the ocean into the warm sun and taking a breath.

Sweetheart, you will float.


I want you to be angry.

 Angry until you shake. Bitter crushing angry like a lemon in a fist. Anger that will eat you up like battery acid if you don’t smash something innocent and fragile. Smash something.

If you want to learn something about yourself, look at your reflection when you’re angry.

Anger is the ankle-biting puppy of passion. It’s the bitter little seed you water until you have grown a garden of strength, and resolve, and personal values.

Sweetheart, tend that garden.

I've picked a thousand shards of my broken heart off the ground terrified I would never put it back together the same and sweetheart, I was right.

But the new shape is better, and stronger, and holds more.

I have cried and cried and I am so glad that I have cried because I know how deep my well is so I can lower you all the way down.

I have hurt and I have been hurt and I am glad for the hurt because I have sank so deep that now I float in my shoes.

I have screamed and smashed, a thousand times, and I am glad that I have because now I have a garden of passion lush around me.

To feel a feeling that isn't happy is to learn and grow and become acquainted with your humanity. And this is where that true happiness comes from. Not the gift kind or the vacation kind. The helium balloon kind that grabs a hold when you are walking down the street minding your own business.

I love you .

Monday, June 23, 2014

On being "BAD"

Imagine you woke up tomorrow in a strange land. You didn't speak the language and NO ONE spoke English. The customs were totally strange to you. Waving "hello" is seen as offensive. You are supposed to put your socks on over your shoes. Almost everything you try to do goes wrong.

You pick up the language as quick as you can, but because your speech is choppy or missing words, everyone treats you like you are stupid. People talk down to you. No one ever asks your opinion. People talk about you when you are in the room as if you are not there.

Every day is challenging and frustrating and tiring. A lot of times you feel invisible or ignored, and often the attention you do get is negative. People are frustrated at how long it is taking you to learn the customs. They lose their tempers and shout at you when you make a mistake.

In this new land, you have very little control over your life. Other people decide what and when you eat, what you wear, what you do during the day, when you sleep & more. If you act out in frustration or try to stand up for yourself, you are punished.

Now, imagine that everyone is at least twice as tall as you. Yep. Be nice to babies & toddlers & little kids. We joke that they have it easy with the naps and the toys and the no-jobs. But would you want that life? I wouldn't.


I am as guilty as any parent of getting frustrated with my child, losing my temper, etc. Sometimes I think for me, I know Cash is so smart and so capable, and he KNOWS right from wrong so I do get angry with him when he "strays the course" so to speak. And, aside from being a parent, when you live with someone, anyone, they start to annoy you. That's life. Jack & Cash & I all love each other to the ends of the earth, but it would be a lie if I said we didn't all drive each other crazy sometimes. I think wanting someone in your life who drives you crazy is at least partially the definition of love. Or should be?

So I am not perfect, not even close... lost my temper with him today when he asked me for a snack (15 minutes after lunch) while I was trying to watch a movie with my grandma. Okay actually it was the 17th time he asked in a two minute span (16 "no"s & he was undeterred...) that I snapped... snatched him up, took him to the other room, flopped him on the couch. He tried to squirm away so I held his face and said something like "YOU NEED TO CHILL OUT YOU ARE DRIVING ME NUTS NO YOU CAN NOT HAVE A SNACK RIGHT NOW IF YOU ASK ME AGAIN YOU ARE GOING TO BED BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE NOT IN YOUR RIGHT MIND" and he said "mama you're hurting me, you're hurting my cheeks." And I immediately felt horrible & guilty, though I know his cheeks are fine, because I probably was giving them a good squeeze. For no good reason.

AND... so much and... this is not my way of saying let kids run free like wild animals. We run a very tight ship around here, and while I NEVER "discipline" my child with physical harm or threat of physical harm, we have a whole lot of rules & boundaries and we hold Cash accountable for his actions. We expect him to conduct himself like a little gentleman in training, so far as can be expected from a three year old. I think that is way too important of a life lesson to miss out on.

All of this to say. I am not the worlds best mom. And I do think children need rules & boundaries. BUT. I am going to try to have a little more empathy. I look in Cash's eyes and see how frustrated (not crazy, not bad - FRUSTRATED) he is when I don't understand what he is trying to say. When he wants a toy to work but it won't. When he can't get his shoe off but he does not want my help. When he wants to do one thing and I want him to do another. When he just wants a freaking snack dammit why is that so much to ask.


Full disclosure is that Cash has been having some issues with hitting at school. Not his classmates (whew) but his teachers. And I just DO NOT GET IT. He loves his teachers. Seriously loves them, only has nice things to say when I ask. You know Cash, hes... Cash. Hes a sweet heart. Hes a lover. He is the one who tells me not to honk at other drivers because driving is hard... who tells me not to laugh at the people on Americas Funniest Home Videos. Because he thought they were doing a good job singing.

We have done everything. Bribed him. Punished him. We have sat him down and had heart to heart chats about it. We have had pep talks in the car on the way to school. Some times it helps, a little. He has more good days than bad now, but he is still having bad days and it sucks. This is my current mommy crisis. The one I will surely be looking back on soon, like the Speech Delay Crisis and the Potty Training Crisis. Someday it will be nothing, but right now its frustrating and sometimes I just need to collapse in my bed and cry about it because I don't know what else to do. Maybe you don't understand that.

Maybe I don't always understand why sometimes Cash needs to collapse on the floor and cry when the puzzle piece won't fit or the cup he wants isn't clean or I put the laundry into the dryer without asking for his help. But dammit that's frustrating, and he just doesn't know what else to do.

This frustration, it seems, can also manifest itself as taking a few good swings at someone. Which isn't right, and isn't okay, and isn't something that will ever be allowed. But is it "BAD"? Is he "BAD"? Are we "BAD" parents because its happening? Or is there just some communication link that's lost here?


Having reflected on it for some time, I just think being three is no cake walk. None of us have it easy. That's why we need each other.

Monday, June 16, 2014

More Lunch Boxing

More on the topic of packing lunches -

You know I *try* to stay away from processed stuff (not perfect by any means, just getting better!) and this extends to the lunch box. It gets hard though. We know the granola bars and mini bags of cheez-its are not the best for our kids health, but they are so damn convenient. Plus kids like stuff like that. Little things they can open & unwrap that are just their size.

So what do you do?

Well, I have two approaches. Tactic one (which I will just touch on briefly because it kind of speaks for itself) is prepping. Last post I talked about a pasta salad I prep for Cash's lunch. You can also do things like cut celery into bite size pieces, put a handful of pretzels or grapes into a few containers, etc. The upside to prepping is 1) its cheaper than buying the little individually portioned stuff and 2) less waste. The downside is well, you have to actually do the prepping. I am totally aware that working part time from home / being a stay at home mom to one measly kid gives me time to do this that other people might not have. Hell, sometimes I still don't have the time. Which brings me to tactic two:

Non-horrible lunch box stuff. Believe it or not there ARE options out there, that are just as convenient as granola bars & cheez-its. Here are some that go over well around here:

1. Emerald 100 Calorie Pack Almonds

These come with 7 little bags of almonds - they are the perfect size for tossing in a lunch box. Almonds are super healthy & protein-y, plus yummy & crunchy. The best part of these is if you read the ingredients they say "Ingredients: Almonds". No added salt, sugar, anything. I LOVE that. I actually brought these as a snack to one of Cash's soccer games, and I wasn't sure how they would go over (is this something only my little hippie child will want to eat, I wondered). They were a HIT.

2. Clementines

I've yet to meet a kid who didn't freaking love these. Its like a mini kid size orange. And like bananas, they come in their own "packaging" so all you have to do is toss it right into the lunch box. 

3. Squeeze Pouches

Or squeezies as they are known around here. There are a million kinds and flavors, just make sure you read the ingredients. For the vegetable averse, there are lots that have veggies in them but a prominent fruity taste. There are lots of healthy and organic options if you look. Personally I really like the Motts Natural Apple Sauce. Motts is a "common" brand so they aren't too expensive and there are sales/coupons for them pretty often. Just make SURE you get the ones that say natural (they are just apples & water plus ascorbic acid for freshness). Otherwise you are probably getting corn syrup.


4. Pickles & Olives

Cash loves pickles & olives. I know a lot of kids do, some don't. They make fun little lunch box packs of these now too. I have bought him the "Pearls Olives to Go" and he loved them. I don't *love* the fact that they have Ferrous Gluconate added (most canned black olives do, it makes them blacker), but by comparison, its not the worst thing. I saw online that they sell green & kalamata in the To Go packs now too, which I would LOVE to get my hands on. But they have not popped up at my Kroger yet. :(

I also tried the Mt. Olive pickle packs once too because I had a coupon. They disappeared fast.

5. Carrots

They make cute little carrot snack packs now too. I have seen a few different brands doing this, actually. And they aren't just regular baby carrots, they are super small mini carrots that are really easy for small kids to munch on. Cassius freaking loves these with or without dip.

6. Hummus

Hummus is the ultimate kid food. Its creamy and mild and savory, all kids love dip, and its super healthy. If you're a millionaire, Sabra makes these awesome little snack packs that come with pretzels & hummus. Cash loves them and we will treat him to one on occasion at the coffee shop. However, I could never afford to do them as a regular lunch thing because they cost like $2.50 each which is only about $0.50 less than an actual full sized tub of hummus thank-you-very-much. I actually like to buy a box of pretzels & a tub of hummus & prep home made versions of this for his lunch. There is a brand called Cedars that makes a smaller (more snack than entree sized) version that are only about $1.25 each, which is better, but I haven't seen them where I shop. Option B though, is they do make just the little hummus packs (sans pretzels) which are much cheaper and can be paired with anything you want (like baby carrots!) see below:

7. Salsa & Guacamole
On the topic of dip, they have been making cute snack packs of these classics too. Just remember to read ingredients! Some brands are definitely better than others. Wholly Guacamole & Chi Chi's salsa actually have pretty good ingredients.

8. Lara Bars
I will forever be singing the praises of Lara Bars. They certainly are not sugar-less, but they are waaaaaayyy minimally processed compared to a regular granola bar. For example, for Cash's favorite flavor "Cashew Cookie" this is the ingredients list: "Cashews, Dates". Like, that's it. They have no added sugars, nothing. And they come in a zillion flavors of which your child will surely find a few they like. At $1 each they're not crazy cheap, but its not something a kid needs every day either. I usually buy 3-4 for a week, and Cash will often eat half of one and finish it the next day.

Well, that's all of our favorites off the top of my head. I would love to know some of your favorites! Oh and last thing, if you have the time/energy to do a little prepping, these are the perfect size for whipping up some "snack packs" of your own. I will be making some "beet" ones for Cash, because he is awesome/loony and loves them.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Lunch Box Pasta Salad

Now that Casho is in preschool, I am officially a lunch packer. I am sure this is news to no one, but packing a lunch day in and day out... its kinda challenging. Especially because as you know I try to avoid processed stuff when I can. That's not to say that the kid never gets crackers or a lara bar, but I try. And you know I am not a morning person.

Anyway here is our latest recipe (yes I say OUR because this is a collaborative effort between Cash and I). Its pathetically easy to make, and this recipe is for a whole batch you can keep in the fridge and plop in the lunch box all week.

This recipe is also super flexible... I will explain what we put in and why, but you can substitute to your hearts content. Making this more of an inspiration than a recipe I suppose... anyway...

1. Boil Pasta, drain, rinse with cold water until cool, drain.

You can literally use ANY pasta here. I like short noodles like rotini or penne because they make good finger food (I would like to note that my three year old does in fact know how to use a fork. Unfortunately "ability" and "desire" are not one in the same). If this was purely my recipe I probably would have chosen whole wheat but, Cash chose "rainbow noodles" because, duh.

2. In large bowl, add a can of chickpeas, about 1/4 cup chopped olives, and about 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half.

Or you know, whatever. I put the chickpeas in for a protein boost. Who doesn't love chickpeas? Plus, all you have to do is drain them and dump. So fantastically lazy. The olives go in for some healthy fat, and because they are tasty. Cassius LOVES olives of all sorts, but kalamatas are his fave so that's what I used here. I know olives can be hit-or-miss with kids... chopped up pickle might be a good flavorful replacement. Avocado would be a good healthy-fat swap, but wouldn't keep as long, unfortunately. If your child eats dairy, a handful of cheese cubes is another idea.

 As for the tomatoes Cash likes them and they add a little bit of veggie-ness. Steamed broccoli or chopped cucumber would be great options too. Again, if this were all me, I would have stuck with red tomatoes. Yellow tomatoes weird me out. Cash however thought they were THE COOLEST thing he had ever seen and was completely inflexible about their inclusion.

Well anyway, stir it up, and that's it! I don't include a dressing of any kind because the olives and tomatoes add enough flavor and since I know he is going to eat this will his fingers, I figure I will spare his preschool teachers the mess (you're welcome).

I stick that in his lunch box with maybe an apple, and sometimes something else exciting he picked from the store (this week he wanted those mini cans of V8).

Happy Lunching!!!

*PS this works for grown ups too you know - I had this in the fridge for Cash and caught Jack making himself a bowl & sprinkling some feta on top*

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love was such an easy game to play

Have you ever traveled so far, that you feel like your past is not your own? I am uncomfortable visiting some of my own memories. Like a stranger intruding on someone else's life. I don't belong there.

I'm not welcome.