Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Will to Keep Going...

I've been silent lately. I've been struggling again with the roller coaster of depression. Every time, I think it cannot get worse. Every time, I am wrong.

Stress triggers my anxiety and my anxiety triggers my depression. As husband and wife, Marc and I decided that we needed a change. We were struggling so hard in Florida to make ends meet. We worked so hard for so long and nothing was getting better. Our eight years of marriage has been filled with financial struggles of a continuous nature. We were working nights and barely seeing the kids. We were tired, frustrated, and fed up.

One night, after a particularly frustrating day, I was working at Roy's and thought to myself, "Maybe we should just MOVE. Out of town. Somewhere new and different. Maybe we should find somewhere else to start over." Five minutes later, literally, I get a text from Marc saying, "Maybe we should just put all our money together and get the Eff out of Dodge." To me, it was a sign.

Within a month, we had quit our jobs, sold what we could and packed what we couldn't, and uprooted our family to replant ourselves in New York State. We moved quickly so the kids wouldn't miss school. The feeling leading up to moving was almost an emotional high. I'd been struggling already with depression, and this gave me a brief reprieve. I know from experience that these don't last long, and I will inevitably come crashing down, which has led me to soak up every second and bit of happiness that I possibly can when I am feeling good. I knew it would be a hard emotional adjustment for me when it came down to it, but I also chose to cling to the HOPE that it would be better in the long run for us as a family. Hopelessness, I have learned, is another huge feeling that comes with my depression.

Things, in some ways, ARE better here already. Marc and I both have day jobs that allow us to have dinner as a family every night. This is my favorite part of this transition. I love sitting around the table with a healthy meal, talking with my family about our favorite thing that happened that day.

Marc's parents have allowed us to live with them until we can get settled and find a place of our own once we get stabilized financially. This is such a blessing to us, and the girls are loving having MiMi and PaPa around. We love that they are getting this time with family. It was a big factor in choosing this location.

This part of the transition is also a hard one, though. Things can get a little cramped with us all here, and we are trying to be especially good house guests so we don't wear out our welcome. It is not an easy transition for Marc's parents, either, but they are doing their best to make us feel welcome and comfortable.

Being uprooted from our friends has been an extremely hard thing for me, one that has brought my depression crashing back down on me on certain days. Thoughts of self harm have come crashing through, unbidden, and have been quickly pushed from my head with annoyance and anger. On especially bad days, those thoughts linger.

One of our goals is to save up money while we are here to open my own bakery. This bakery idea has taken many forms over time, but has landed recently on the continuation of Cookies for a Cause. My niece, Danica, was the initial recipient of the profits of Cookies for a Cause. Two years ago, this was Danica:

She had just come through her spinal fusion surgery and would be in a minerva brace for far too long.

Two years later, this photo of her dancing is the answer to so much love and thoughts and prayers and gifts. It is beautiful.

I thought for so long that Danica was the bravest person I knew. Through the last two years, I have come to realize that she gets it from her mother, my sister, my hero.

Through this heartbreaking process with Danica, it has come to light that my sister also had the need for a spinal fusion. This was ONE of the SIX surgeries she has had over the last two years. These six surgeries have been while she has been taking care of her daughter who was healing from her own surgery. She has been diagnosed repeatedly with things most of us cannot even begin to pronounce. Her family has remained glued together through these "trials"- a word that does not even begin to paint the picture of the reality they live every day.

Over the last couple of weeks, an idea has been forming. I was watching a show on Food Network recently and there was a woman who had founded Cupcake for a Cause. Her sister was in a similar situation, and this woman decided to start a business with a portion of the proceeds going to research to help her sister. This sounded like Cookies for a Cause, but the glaring difference was that 100% of Cookies for a Cause proceeds went to my sister. Cupcakes for a Cause got me thinking. One thing that held me back during Cookies for a Cause and eventually had me stop producing cookies was the lack of time I had to devote to it due to my other obligations- work, family, and previously school. I have the deep rooted desire to open my own bakery. I have been working on making this a reality. Then it hit me. Cookies for a Cause should BE my bakery. THIS is what I should do. I would be killing multiple birds with one rock, so to speak. It has been working in my head nonstop since then.

As I was sitting here this morning working on pricing out equipment and packaging materials and researching the licenses needed to start a business here in New York, my Will to Keep Going hit me. By this I mean, the thing I have to tell myself when the lies of depression start creeping in. These lies tell myself that the only way to stop the pain is to end it. These lies tell me places to go and things to do to make it all go away. These lies tell me that people will be better off without me and my darkness.

My Will to Keep Going is that I have the ability to help my sister and her family. I have the ability to help my sister and her family in ways others can't. I can use my gift and my passion to make things easier for them. As they have said, "Even if we had a million dollars, our life would still be hard." This is a deep truth, BUT maybe with someone to help share that load, it wouldn't be QUITE so hard. And in all reality, this truth helps lighten my own heavy load. A reason and hope are sometimes what it takes to keep on going and to silence the demons.

Many of you have supported Cookies for a Cause in the past, and I would like to thank you all for that. Cookies for a Cause will soon be a full time business for me with a portion of the profits going to my sister and her family so that I may use the rest to devote my full efforts to this cause and growing the business. My hopes and goals are to eventually be able to take a larger financial burden from Monica and Dan. I will be offering my Signature Sugar Cookies, as well as the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER, and other treats that will change over time. I will be ecstatic to take special baking orders of all kinds, including cakes, cookies, truffles, breads, etc. Whatever you can dream up and need, I will be more than happy to work with you on making it a reality!! The holidays are coming up, and I would love to be the one to supply the treats for the season. Ideas of all sorts are rolling around in my head such as teacher gifts, party platters, gingerbread houses, and SO MUCH MORE. I am so excited to get started and to make this happen ASAP!!!!!!

I can't wait to be able to start taking orders, so keep an eye out for news on the Grand Opening of Cookies for a Cause!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ain't Nothing Sweeter Than Georgia Peaches

We just put Peach Cobbler with a White Chocolate Brandy Ice Cream on the dessert menu for the summer. Every time I think about peaches, two things come to mind. The first is this song by Lauren Alaina, which is so catchy that it will get stuck in your head for days and make you start dancing absentmindedly. For the record, this can produce giggles and chuckles from those who happen to stumble upon you getting down to said song when you think you are alone. For this reason, I recently checked to make sure there were no cameras pointed at the pastry station. Ha! The second thing that comes to mind is this poem that I read in college the first time around. It struck a chord in my soul and I copied it into one of my many notebooks and have continued to revisit it through the years.
From Blossoms
From blossoms comes this brown paper bag of peaches we bought from the boy at the bend in the road where we turned toward signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands, from sweet fellowship in the bins, comes nectar at the roadside, succulent peaches we devour, dusty skin and all, comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside, to carry within us an orchard, to eat not only the skin, but the shade, not only the sugar, but the days, to hold the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing, from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
- Li-Young Lee
This Peach Cobbler is impossibly easy, and delightfully delicious. One of the younger male front of the house employees asked me for the recipe recently, and stopped me yesterday to tell me that it was one of the most simple recipes to follow and that it came out amazing. For this reason, I've decided to share the recipe here. The key is making sure that you use perfectly ripe peaches, and don't forget to let it cool for a few minutes before trying to take that first bite. That part is the most difficult since the smell of the cobbler as it bakes will tempt you almost beyond control, but resist or you will burn your taste buds off and not be able to enjoy the deliciousness!

Crisp Filling:
  • Diced Peaches
  • 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tb Flour
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 3/4 tsp. Regular or, preferably Saigon Cinnamon
  1. Mix all dry ingredients and toss with peaches a little at a time until just coated.
  2. Place generous scoop in shallow ramekins and make even, leaving enough room for topping.
Crisp Topping:
  • 1# 8 oz light brown sugar
  • 2 C. AP Flour
  • 1 Tb Cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 C. butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 C. panko
  • 1/2 C. oatmeal

  1. Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon with the paddle attachment.
  2. Add in butter and mix just until crumbly.
  3. Add in panko and oatmeal and mix just until combined.
  4. Spread over fruit in ramekins and bake at 375 degrees F until fruit is bubbly and crisp is browned, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove and let stand approximately 5 minutes. Served immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (Or Blackberry Brandy know. ;)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Well, obviously...

My first 90 day challenge ended a few weeks ago. I did really well on it, and stayed committed to it through the whole thing. At the end, though, I guess I decided to take a little break from it. "I deserve it." I started having bigger "tastes" at work again. I started having more "treats." Marc's work schedule changed so we started eating our meal of the day alone, which led to not planning it out, and trying to figure something out last minute or eating family meal at work which isn't always the healthiest.

My second challenge started on June 26th. Well, sort of. I haven't been following the program. Last night everything kind of clicked for me and I had a "Well...obviously!!!" moment. I have known what proper nutrition helped me with, but I guess I had just pushed it to the back burner again. I've been feeling so tired and lethargic. I've been drinking more and more coffee to get through the day again. I've been barely making it to naptime without collapsing from exhaustion. I've been slowly pulling back into my head again, thoughts whirling round and round. I've been feeling less happy, and needing to remind myself more and more of "probability/possibility." I've been feeling less motivated, less alive, less passion. My skin has broken out like you wouldn't even believe. I've been making poor choices in many areas of my life, not just nutrition, but it all STARTS with nutrition. Why in the world would I put myself through all that? I'm so sick of feeling like crap, and it's so obviously related to something I am choosing to do. Well, I've had enough! That moment of instant gratification of tastiness just isn't worth feeling this way. Starting today, I'm going back on the shakes twice a day and following the plan. I'm planning my snacks and my meal each day. I'm drinking more water. I'm getting ME back, dammit!

Marc's been pushing me and pushing me and I've been resisting so hard. He is doing SO amazing on his challenge. He's working so incredibly hard and it's showing. My lack of energy has been difficult for him to tolerate. It's put a little bit of a splinter between us lately. I was seriously sitting there going, "Why am I so tired? Marc, I'm SO TIRED. I don't want to go work out, I'm exhausted already, and I have to work later. I need to conserve energy." I can't wait to start feeling myself and have more energy again. I can't wait to catch up to Marc's results and have us working as a team again.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Latest Creations...

I haven't posted a food entry in awhile so let's give you a quick rundown of my latest works of food art...

We have added a Butterscotch Creme Brulee served with Homemade Peanut Caramel Popcorn. Mark Anders, the East Coast/Florida Joint Venture Partner of Roy's, loved it so much that he told Adam that it should be on every Roy's menu. Future Prix Fixe item, perhaps?

I've decided to make small steps towards Keepsake Cakes and Pastries, and right now I am making items and putting them on my Facebook site for auction to family and friends. This is giving me extra practice to try new techniques and get better at ones I have done before without added pressure. My first auction was for Devil's Food Cupcakes with a Peanut Butter Frosting, garnished with Godiva Salted Caramel Chocolate
I also made a 4" cake of the same flavors, but I added a square of fondant on the top and hand painted it. I love this technique and look forward to using it more.
I also made this cake for a bash we went to on the 4th of July. I covered it in marbled blue fondant, white royal icing dots, and white fondant stars. I topped it with my Signature Sugar Cookies baked into cookie pops and decorated with royal icing.
Here is the inside of the cake-It was a Vanilla Cake, Raspberry Syrup and Jam, Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ganache, Peanut Butter Frosting, with a layer of White Chocolate Buttercream in the very middle and covered on the outside with the same.
A friend had a baby shower recently and I made a diaper cake for her gift. The baby's room is going to be in an animal/jungle theme, so that's what I went with for the theme of the cake. Is a pastry chef creating a diaper cake too cutesy?
Now that I'm purposely baking once a week (at least!), there should be more food posts!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My husband recently asked me if I would want to go back to high school if I could and do it all again/over. Without hesitation, I answered, "Hell no." Don't get me wrong. I didn't have a BAD high school experience, necessarily. I made some close friends and didn't get teased or bullied except for the rare occasion from that student that is just a douche to pretty much everyone, but you can pretty much tell that it's because their life at home is terrible. I earned decent grades, was in choir and Teen Institute, babysat on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, and went to football games a couple of times a year. I was obsessed with boy bands and doodling my crush's name throughout notebooks. My best friend and I would spend almost every Friday night together at one of our homes. I didn't try a drink until well after high school was over. I was a religious fanatic, as I was raised to be. I asked people to please not swear around me. I went to a conference every summer with my youth group to gain leadership skills and, mainly, more biblical knowledge and renew the fire. This worked up to my last year.

I graduated high school in 2001. I was 17 years old. That summer I began to challenge everything I had been taught to believe my whole life. I began to search for myself. I remember being seven years old and standing in the bathroom at the church school I attended, staring into my own eyes in the mirror and just sobbing. I didn't know why. I remember throughout high school sitting in front of the mirror in my room, staring into my own eyes, blaring Reflection by Christina Augilara and asking myself, "Who IS this girl??" It felt like I was looking into someone else's eyes. I couldn't make sense of it.

I searched for such a long time for "myself." I wanted labels and I wanted to be able to compartmentalize myself. I wanted to be able to sit down with a clean piece of paper and write down WHO I WAS. As time went by, I realized I didn't have to do that. I don't have to limit who I am by words. I don't have to fit a mold. I don't have to fit into neat little boxes. I've learned, above everything, that every minute of every day I am only growing and changing and what I was yesterday, I may not be today and THAT IS OK. I like myself more every day. I am becoming more and more true to myself.

I have struggled immensely with coming to terms with how I was raised. It has been a part of my roller coaster. I will feel like I have finally accepted everything and let go of resentments and then something will happen or I will speak with someone and those feelings of hurt and anger and...grief, really...will punch me in the stomach again. I know that my parents, like most parents, did the best job they knew how to do. They did as much as they could with what they were given. Their childhoods were not the greatest, either, and they were from the generation where you didn't talk about it. You kept your head up and pretended everything was just great. As long as everything looks good to the outside world (read- church), everything will be fine. This is not me.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am emotional and I don't stuff that down. I say what is on my mind. If you hurt me or make me angry, I will take my time to think of how to express my feelings best, and will confront you about it. Things aren't always fabulous. Things aren't even always just ok. Sometimes things suck! I was raised where prayer can fix everything and anything and if it doesn't, then that is God's way of telling you "No." I prayed constantly through high school. I prayed walking through the halls at school. I prayed at the bus stop. I prayed laying in bed sobbing for no reason. I prayed while I wrote a letter to all my family and friends just in case I died. If I wasn't so religious and didn't think suicide was the ultimate sin, that letter could have been considered a suicide note. I didn't want to DIE, exactly, I just didn't want to be here anymore.

I don't blame my parents for missing all of the signs that I was depressed. They had their hands full with my autistic brother, full time jobs, and further education. The squeaky wheels get the oil, and I was silent. I locked myself away in my room most of the time. I don't know if they ever wondered what I was doing in there. I was usually sleeping. I slept a lot. I would come home from school, scarf down food and watch soaps until I saw my mom pull into the driveway or until I went to get my autistic brother off the bus, then I would head upstairs and go to sleep until dinner. Then I would talk to my best friend on the phone in my room, and get on the computer for the rest of the night.

On the computer, I met my now husband. I was fascinated by his attitude. The first time we "spoke", he asked my at the end of the conversation if he had made me smile. His goal in life was to make everyone he met smile at least once. That stuck with me and is what made me want to talk to him again and again. In college I was laying on the floor crying to him on the phone, and he told me that my happiness was the most important thing. That stuck with me. He still tells me that today. I had never really considered it before.

To that point I wasn't really making choices, officially, in my own life. I mean, I was, but not conscious ones. I was more reacting to my circumstances. As children and teens, there is only so much you can control. Your environment and your family is your environment and your family. I was such a thinker, I would see my schoolmates making these terrible choices to completely violate any rules. When I even thought about doing that, I could just see things getting worse and worse. I didn't even talk back. I was so used to being seen and not heard, any of my "childish" opinions being wrong, and adults being the ultimate authority that I never even thought about straying. I wrote letters to my parents about difficult things. I couldn't verbalize to them. I needed to organize my thoughts and not be present when they were put forth. By the time I began questioning things, I didn't feel I could speak about my doubts. I didn't know where to look for council. Everyone surrounding me would only be critical and aghast at my searching for my own truth instead of blindly accepting the "truth" that had been put upon me since conception.

As I searched, I felt a constant rage and turmoil inside of me to the point that I couldn't focus on anything else. My whole foundation was crumbling, and that made me extremely unstable. Since my own truth, whatever it was going to be, was no longer that of the community (again, read- church) my family and I were surrounded by, I was no longer fully accepted. I was whispered and prayed about. I no longer wished to be a part of that community but since I still lived with my parents, was forced to continue to be present in it physically. The only place I found solace at this point was in a relationship. At one point, I was so unstable and unhappy that my boyfriend and his family at the time realized how badly I needed to be out of my living situation. This was the beginning of me truly discovering my truth because I was finally truly free to do so.

The journey since then has been incredible. There were several more years of me trying to discover HOW to find my truth. My depression has had many ups and many lows. Once I moved to Jacksonville to be with my husband, I finally had some true sunshine and bright spots in my life. I found the perfect place to grow!!! I feel like I have blossomed. I am happy in my skin. I am happy with who I am and what I don't believe in. I am trying to create, with my husband, an environment where my children can express themselves and find their own truth. I see the relationships that friends have with their parents and I want to make sure that my children can have that with us when the time comes. I want to be supportive of their choices, even if they are not what I would choose. They are not me. They are their own people and I want them to choose their own path. I want to be able to be present for that. I wish I had that kind of relationship with my own parents. I wish they were my closest friends, biggest supporters, and greatest acceptors. I have yearned for that my entire life. I cannot change the things that are, though, and I have learned through time that the only person I can control is me. My sister often says, "You have to meet people where they are." I have come to accept myself and my family relationships for what they are, but I am hell bent on making sure that my own family dynamic is different.

I'm a wildflower, and my winds of change have turned me into the person I am today. I love myself (most of the time) and I love my life. I love the people I have chosen to surround myself with. I love that I have finally been able to chase my dream, and that I have proven pretty damn good at it. How much more will I bloom? I am enjoying nurturing myself and am excited to see the continuing changes and growth.

Monday, June 18, 2012


I've had so many posts that I have started to create in my head, but haven't actually sat down to write them. I need to get back into the habit of writing weekly. Summer is here (YAY!) so we are working on getting into a new routine. I am adoring having more time with Harmony and as a family. I am realizing more every single day how everything else is just a means to spend time with the girls and Marc. Even doing what I love at work doesn't even come close to providing me with the peace and fulfillment that I feel when with my family.

Recently, I had to make a choice when it came to work and family. I was scheduled to work the day of Layla's FIRST ballet recital and there was "nothing that could be done." The decision was a split second one, and as a mama bear, there was no moving me. I had to be at her recital. I couldn't miss it. That was that. I didn't, in that moment, give a damn about who I made upset or and repercussions. Even now, I don't regret the stance I took even one iota. Her performance was amazing and there was nowhere, NOWHERE else I was willing to be that night. The look on her face up there was just so full of happiness. I couldn't stop beaming. There were hundreds of people there, and she wasn't afraid or nervous even one little bit! She shone on that stage, full of little girl confidence and pride. I soaked up every second. The whole situation, and three days off last week, made me realize how much I want every second possible with these girls. It made me miss being a stay at home mommy. We went to the beach two days in a row and stayed until we were exhausted from the sand, sun, and surf. It was amazing. I felt so alive and happy. I love that feeling.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


It's been awhile since I posted last. There have been a few times that I have started writing posts in my head, but have failed to make it to the computer while inspired to actually type them. I, like many people, have always had a really hard time with changes. This complicates life because, as we all know, changes are inevitable, unpredictable, and frequent. Many times they come unbidden, and this lack of control scares the hell out of me. Again, as many people do, I tend to resist these changes with my whole being. If I pretend they aren't happening, or aren't soon going to happen, or if I refuse to change WITH them, it won't affect me! Right?! Well of course that's not right. Changes happen whether we want to accept them or not, whether we acknowledge it happening or not, and whether or not we change ourselves, as well. Recently, Marc and I were able to go to Orlando for a weekend without the children. This type of weekend getaway has not happened since before Harmony was born. It was long overdue, and very much needed. We had a fun afternoon together at Islands of Adventure riding roller coasters and thrill rides. We were just together doing something fun. We purposely left all things stressful behind and made our best effort to have some time experiencing something new and fun. I moved here from Ohio and we immediately were living together, got married a month later, and had Harmony a year later. We never really had much time to "date" and make those kinds of memories together. We have been through our share of extremely difficult and challenging things which has made us a stronger couple, but we need to even out the balance of fun things experienced together, too. We finally have a much broader support group in place here filled with people we trust to take care of our children, so this is becoming more possible. The next day, Marc had a conference to go to and Jenn, Marc's cousin that we stayed with, had to work. I had a rare day completely to myself. Since I was at someone else's home, I didn't feel the need to clean or be productive. I laid in the sun and read books, worked out, then went to the little "downtown" area in the development Jenn lives in. I parked and walked around, going into little shops that caught my eye. One of these was a little coffee shop filled with leather armchairs and a wall filled with books to browse.
I ordered a coffee and plopped myself into an armchair in front of the wall of books. I began to scan the shelves. I had plenty of time, and reading is one of those things that I have always enjoyed to the fullest since I was five years old. I collected a short stack of books to choose between. One of these books was "Who Moved My Cheese?" A former employer had given this book to a coworker at one point in time, which made me a little hesitant to dive in, but it was short and looked like an easy read. The cover spoke to me, as well, as it said that it was an "A-mazing way to deal with change". Well, hell. I definitely was having trouble with THAT. I figured I may as well give it a shot. I quickly made my way through the book, snapping pictures of certain passages that were speaking to me. One of the biggest themes that jumped out at me from the book was, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" Anxiety is one of my biggest stumbling blocks. I continuously assume the worst will happen, or think what the worst could be. What would I do if I weren't afraid? The list began to form in my head. The biggest, perhaps obviously, would be opening my own bakery. What is stopping me? Fear. As I reviewed the notes I had snapped on my phone, I started to get excited. I've just been floating through my life lately. Day in, day out, going through the motions, not expecting things to get better, and hoping they wouldn't get worse, but not taking any action to change things. Change is scary. But, "Whenever he started to get discouraged he reminded himself that what he was doing, as uncomfortable as it was at the moment, was in reality much better than staying in the Cheeseless situation. HE WAS TAKING CONTROL, RATHER THAN SIMPLY LETTING THINGS HAPPEN TO HIM." "When you move beyond your fear, you feel free." "Haw kept thinking about what he could gain instead of what he was losing. He wondered why he had always thought that a change would lead to something worse. Now he realized that change could lead to something better." I started to formulate a list of things I can do, RIGHT NOW, to begin moving in the direction of opening my bakery. I don't have a specific timeline, but I have an order of things to do to MAKE THAT HAPPEN for myself eventually. I can't just stand still anymore. If I want it, I need to write it down, not just have the dream floating in my head. A dream is something you wish for and think about. A goal is something you write down and have an action plan to achieve. My bakery used to be a dream. Now it is a goal. That weekend in Orlando was full of soul searching and reconnecting, not only with Marc, but with myself. It's amazing what you can relearn about yourself if you simply take the time to be quiet and listen. It had been so long since I asked myself, "What do I WANT to do today" not "What do I NEED to get done today." I was nice to have a date with myself. I had missed me.