Happy new year, everyone! I know it's a little behind the times, but I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break.
Unfinished business: Life got crazy for me right around the time that my last giveaway ended and I completely forgot that I had a giveaway going until just a couple days ago. I apologize to any of you who lost any sleep due to the anxiety of wondering who won. As it would be, I have the winners now! Plus, I've added 1 more winner to the mystery selection cookbook giveaway because you all had to wait so dang long! Hannah M., Beth Cotler, and JoAnn Lakes will each be receiving a mystery selection of vegan cookbooks and Jillian O'Donohoe will be winning a copy of my book, But I Could Never Go Vegan!. Thank you to everyone who entered!
I often hear from readers that they really appreciate my honesty and when I allow myself to be vulnerable here. And when I'm reading other people's blogs or writing, I find that when someone is open and honest about what they're going through and what they're feeling, that is when I feel a connection with them. When I read something that makes me say to myself "Oh my god, I'm not alone!," sometimes that carries me through the rest of my day. Or week. Or month. What I'm about to share, I truly hope will give some of you that same feeling of knowing that you're not alone in this.
I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was 15 years old. I've managed it with and without medications for the last 20 years. For the most part, aside from majorly stressful situations, I know how to handle my anxiety. My depression, however, has always come and gone throughout my life. I can look back at different periods of my life and know which ones were shadowed by depression. And its schedule is so erratic- sometimes it's just a few weeks or months in between bouts and sometimes it's years. Up until last September, I hadn't been visited by depression for 8 or 9 years. I didn't even recognize it when it returned. I'd thought that somehow, I'd become so unbelievably happy that I scared it off forever.
The weird thing about depression is how much it twists your thoughts. I have an amazing life and I have been unbelievably blessed and I know this. I've achieved goals I never thought I would've, I've travelled and seen beautiful places, I have a wonderful family, and I'm married to my best friend and perfect partner. And I know this. But depression would have me believe that it's all fake, it's all a sham, and that, worst of all, I'm not deserving of any of it. He tells you don't really care about those things that you know deep down in your soul that you love. He's a tricky bastard, that depression.
But I've been dealing with it. Even when life throws me curveballs.
A few weeks ago, I ransacked my house. I tore through every storage box, emptied every drawer, dug through the junk in the garage, but to no avail. Over the summer, we boxed up everything in our office, remodeled, and then reorganized. During that process, I lost a framed picture of me and my mother. Way back in the day, the women in my family would all take a trip to San Francisco. On one such trip, my grandmother, all of her daughters, one daughter in-law, and all of her granddaughters descended upon the city, and while at the beach or the pier (my memory is fuzzy) someone took a picture of me and my mom. I was super 90's grunge (complete with a flannel tied around my waste) and my mom was just happy and smiling. It was just before she got sick.
My mother had a series of auto-immune diseases and for the next 20 years, she was in tremendous pain. She took loads of different medications over the years to numb the pain, to make life bearable. As it often happens with extreme pain, she became a different person from the fun-loving, happy person she once was. A couple days before Christmas, my dad took my mom to the hospital because she had a small cough and she seemed weak. He left to grab dinner while they ran tests. When he returned, she was unconscious and unable to breathe without oxygen. It was pneumonia. Because she'd been ill for so long and because she now had chirrosis, due to all the medications she'd taken over the years, she was unable to fight it. She passed away on January 6th, surrounded by her family. Today, it's been 7 weeks since I've lost my mother.
Her Celebration of Life (which was shared with her brother who passed away less than 48 hours after my mother, also from pneumonia) was on January 30th. I wore a necklace my mother had given me (she loved costume jewelry with a hot, fiery passion that borderlined on pure obsession) and I toasted her. She had always been The Fun Mom and I shared stories about the woman I knew before she'd gotten sick. The times when we'd stay up late watching movies and eating ice cream, when she would blare Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar," so loud in the car, I could barely hear my mom screaming the lyrics along with the music, the way she used cookie cutters to cut my sandwiches into hearts and bunnies. I talked about how fiercely she loved her friends and family with every ounce of her being. And the way she always told everyone she held dear how much they meant to her. Every single phone conversation with her ended with her telling me how much she loved me. She would even finish her voicemails that way. I cried my way through my toast, with my sweet brother rubbing my back the whole time.
So one afternoon, after pouring through the storage box with all of my old photos (where I'd sworn I'd put that picture of my mother and I in San Francisco) and only turning up one blurry picture of my mother (she hated being photographed), I lost it. With tears stinging my eyes, I set off on a mission to find this one damn picture that would show me that there was a time when I was with her when she wasn't sick. A time when things were normal. And so I ransacked my house. Unsuccessful, I cleaned everything up before Chris came home. The picture is still missing. Luckily, for the memorial, my cousins and aunt pulled together some pictures of her for a sweet slideshow that played throughout the afternoon. These are a few of my favorites.
So the last couple months have been particularly tough. Everything seems particularly overwhelming, even if it's just something like putting on make-up or answering emails. Sometimes, even scrolling through Facebook is just too much. I'm an introvert so naturally, I'm holing up in my cave as much as possible. This involves lots of cuddling with my dogs and re-watching every episode of Sex And The City (all of which I've seen many times, but interestingly, this is the first time I've watched it in about 8 years and I must say, it definitely stands the test of time!) and baking lots of chocolate chip cookies. The success of each day is judged first by how easily I'm able to get out of bed and secondly, by if I can make it through an entire work-day without a.) crying on the drive to the office, b.) crying at my desk, c.) avoiding eye contact and/or conversation with co-workers, and d.) leaving early to go home and watch SATC.
I'm working through my grief and my depression and it's going to be a process. I have good days and bad days. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I have an illness and sometimes, it makes life a little more difficult. But it's part of who I am. It's my normal. I'm learning to not be too hard on myself when I can't make myself do things. I'm learning to not be ashamed of my feelings and I'm learning to feel that I'm not less of a person for having them. Most importantly, I've begun reminding myself that it isn't permanent, that this depression will leave again. Chris and I are learning how to deal with each other's grief and how to be strong partners when the other is weak. We are getting really good at it. A friend told me that mourning a parent is a sacred experience and I'm trying to keep in mind what a special time this is. This time of remembering and missing and cherishing my mother is part of a passage into a new chapter in my life. I'm learning to relish the moments when I don't feel weighed down, when I feel free enough to laugh whole-heartedly, when I'm able to cuddle with my husband and forget everything for a few wonderful moments, when my heart feels like exploding when I see how happy and full of love my dogs are, when I'm able to look up from my thoughts and really, truly see and feel the world around me. It's because I'm feeling a lot of ickiness, that those moments of pure happiness are even more exceptional and exhilarating.
I don't know when I'll be posting another recipe here. I'm hoping that it's soon, and I know I will at some point, but I can't make any promises as to when. But if I've learned anything from my mother, it's that I need to tell you all how much you mean to me. Probably without realizing it, you've brought so much joy to my life. With every comment on the blog or on social media (Even though I don't have the energy to respond to the majority of them- I do read each and every one), with every picture you share of my recipes that you've made, you make my heart smile. I really love you and I look forward to sharing more good, kind food with you soon.
And because I don't want to leave this on a "Woe Is Me" sort of note, here's a few things that have made me really happy, or at the very least, gave me a really good laugh:
- On Christmas Eve, while watching Home Alone with Chris, the twins, Chris's oldest son and his girlfriend, I laughed so hard that I farted really loud. Which made me laugh even harder. And then I had to apologize to everyone.
- I turned my manuscript for my second book into the publisher. It was 11 days late, but I did it. This weekend, we'll be wrapping up photography for the book, and I'm really happy about that too.
- I got to meet my cousin's new baby at my mother's Celebration of Life. They live in Nevada and I haven't seen them in awhile. While I'm really more of a dog person (babies generally scare me to death), my cousins make tremendously amazing and beautiful babies and I was so excited to meet Baby Zane. I was even happier to learn that they're planning on moving back to California later this year!
- When I was saying good-bye to Adam, Baby Zane's brother (aged 3, I believe), I asked "Can I have a hug?" His response: "Yes, and maybe next time, you can have another one." See note above re: my cousins' darling children.
- On our drive home, Max told us "We need to hang out with Kristy's family more often. They're way funnier than I am." He has a point.
- I discovered Broad City.
- Buster (the formerly extremely skittish rescue from a hoarder) has been gaining confidence in spades and has actually become the alpha between he and Maeby! All of this confidence finally gave him what he needed to put his emotions aside (for a moment) and learn his first command: "Sit." This was such a HUGE accomplishment. I was a giddy, proud mama the rest of the day (and I still am. Who am I kidding?). And to finish this on a super happy note, here's a picture of the two of them doing what they do best: Being ridiculously adorable.