Chicken, bacon and Swiss sandwich… right?

At the end of a shopping trip last year, Mom and I decided to stop for dinner at an Arby’s. I’m not going to say the result was a comedy of errors, but only one of them was really comedic. Forgetting to ask for my name so they’d know whose name to yell out when our food was ready wasn’t a big deal. Neglecting to give us silverware so Mom could eat her salad wasn’t a big deal. Not very comedic.

Then I opened up the wrapper on my chicken, bacon and Swiss sandwich. It looked kinda small, flat and smooshed down, which reminded me of those commercials when you see really large and appealing menu items, but what ends up on your plate at the restaurant is really sad and pathetic in comparison. Then I took the top of the bun off and discovered that I had been given a bacon and Swiss sandwich. No chicken patty. Oops.

There were only two other people in the restaurant at the time, one of whom was the server. I flagged her down and pointed out the distinct lack of a major ingredient in my food. I thought it was kinda funny; I just wanted to make sure I got the right sandwich. That’s when she went to talk to that second person who was sitting in the corner. He was the restaurant manager. We didn’t know that at the time, but after the server talked to him, he went back to the kitchen and we heard him say loudly and firmly (not quite yelling, but he sounded pissed): “This should never happen again!

In the end, they made me a new sandwich with all of the proper ingredients (as you would expect, the one with chicken in it looked a lot bigger), the manager apologized for the mistake and gave me a little card for a free combo meal. Like I said, I was really only interested in the first part, but I wasn’t going to turn down free food. After all, accepting it could mean going to Arby’s again, getting another messed-up order and repeating the process for a constant stream of free meals. The only problem might be that each time it happens, “This should never happen again!” and they’ll eventually run out of cooks to screw up my food.

Share your stories

I went to a Thai restaurant last week and they gave us fortune cookies at the end of the meal. I opened mine up and was really disappointed: it was no good for the “in bed” game and seemed to imply that I’ll be developing Alzheimer’s Disease when I get older. It wasn’t until a couple days later during a long walk that I wished I had kept the fortune instead of leaving it on the table when we left. It said something along these lines:

Share your stories with others so they can remind you when you forget.

“Great, I’m going to forget everything when I’m old.”

But during that long walk is when it occurred to me how poignant that fortune actually was, given how much of my past I’ve already forgotten.

I know I’ve probably talked about this before and also probably mentioned that it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’m sharing nonetheless. This may be intriguing, it may be relatable, it may be nonsensical. I may be sharing it with you, I may be sharing it with others, I may be sharing it with “The Cloud”. (Given that the Internet is forever, that’ll help me remember just as well as telling other people.)

Anyway! The shortest and most likely explanation for the lack of memories is because of drugs. More specifically, medications to prevent epileptic seizures. And as a reminder, epileptic seizures are caused by excess brain activity, like neurons shooting sparks all over the place so that other neurons can’t fire properly.

As great as technology has become over the years, there are a lot of things we don’t know about brains and brain chemistry. Thus, when the doctors weren’t sure exactly what was causing my seizures (I’ve had CAT scans done on my head that show a very pleasant and non-damaged-looking brain), they tried a handful of different medications to see what would work.

I honestly don’t know how many we tried. I’d guess five, but that’s just a guess. One thing I do remember is that I was taking toxic doses of a medication at one time, but the doctor thought it’d be okay because I was “a big guy.” Turned out that wasn’t the winning combination for preventing seizures, so we moved on to a different kind from there.

Lots of different chemicals plus lots of brain cells, stir up the pot, see what kind of mixture we get and the result was a hack job on my long-term memory pre-2002. (I spent about a week and a half in the United Hospital epilepsy ward with a bunch of wires glued to my head and we were trying to induce seizures, figure out where the excess activity was originating. It worked well enough that we found two medications—lamictal and depakote—that have kept me seizure-free since April of 2002.)

As a side-note, if any of you has ever wondered why I don’t attend any of my high school (’95) or college (’99) reunions… there’s a reason.

Someone once tried to tell me that my problem wasn’t out of the ordinary, that a lot of people forget stuff from their high school and college years when they get older. I think an apt comparison to that conversation would be to tell someone with depression, “Hey, everyone gets sad once in a while.” Not at all offensive and trivializing, right?

I actually kept a journal for a while in high school. I found it in my desk one afternoon, opened it up and read what might as well have been someone else’s autobiography. Aside from my handwriting, there was nothing familiar about it.

When I was eating my lunch one day during law school, someone snuck up to my table and sat down. She was a sophomore at Blake (high school) when I was a senior and we were on the verge of being an item at one point. We talked for a couple minutes and at one point, she asked for my forgiveness. Apparently, she had done some really shitty things to me that year. As it turns out, it’s really easy to forgive someone for something when you have no idea what it was. (Conversely, it can make other people really pissed off when they ask for an explanation about something and you have no idea what they’re talking about.)

Will my memories ever come back? I doubt it, but like with any problem, you accept that it happened and move forward from there. Share the few stories I remember, share the new stories I’m experiencing… this could be like writing a new version of my autobiography. Except this time, I’ll be starting in the middle of Chapter 12.

I love myself, diabetes be damned!

I went to the pharmacy today to pick up some medications. Since it’s in a grocery store, I opted to cruise the Valentine’s Day aisle to look at heart-shaped boxes of candy that were priced at 50% off. Not having a Valentine has its benefits: I can buy discounted chocolate to show me how much I love myself that I don’t have to share.

I went up to the counter, the pharmacist went to grab my meds, then she pulled out a sheet of paper next to the register. The heading was Eating Healthy with Diabetes and she explained that if I got enough “points” on the risk factor list (age, weight, physical activity, etc.), I could get a free screening for Type 2 diabetes and, well, I didn’t follow all of what she was saying. I was too busy looking down at the counter at four boxes of discounted chocolate that showed me how much I love myself that I didn’t have to share.

Page 157 of #BeyondFlour

The official title of Marie Porter’s cookbook is “Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking”, but that’s way too long to use as the header for a blog post and the hashtagged version of the title (#BeyondFlour) means you’ll be able to find this post and said cookbook through Twitter. If you want to find it via the Interwebs, you can use this link instead.

I’m slightly regretful that I didn’t write something about this sooner because you can buy the cookbook through the Celebration Generation website for $24.99, but the pre-order discount price is $19.99 until October 1st. Not to rush you into making a purchase or anything.

The book’s funding involved a Kickstarter campaign, so by donating a certain amount of money, I got an autographed cookbook that arrived in the mail on Friday. It took me a few days to finally make something, in part because I needed to go shopping for ingredients like coconut flour and sorghum flour. Go figure.

Tonight, I finally decided to get out a mixing bowl, turn on the oven and try making something from the cookbook. This was kind of a big deal for me because I don’t cook. Sure, I can whip up a mean box of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese, but when it comes to combining separate ingredients like flour and eggs and butter without anything prepared ahead of time, I’m pretty sure this was a first. Gluten-free? Unheard of until now.

Thus, I was very deliberate. I set out the ingredients, the different measuring cups and spoons I’d need, the pan and bowl… time to make the recipe on Page 157: Double Chocolate Brownies.

I won’t bore you with the whole process, but even after some bits of advice from my mother before I got started, I learned one thing the hard way: “A watched pot never boils” may also apply to butter. I say “may” because I wasn’t watching it melting in the microwave, but I’m pretty sure it did boil because there was a pool of butter next to the measuring cup when it was done. Oops.

Aside from that, things went pretty smoothly. I mixed the ingredients together, spread it out in a pan, put the pan in the oven for just over 30 minutes, then sat around and waited until it cooled enough for the first taste.

The result? The brownies don’t suck. (Yay!) They actually turned out pretty good. (Double yay!) Which means that Beyond Flour has some really yummy recipes in it. (Triple yay!) Excuse me for a moment while I pat myself on the back for this first successful venture into gluten-free cooking.

Oh, and as a final note, I recommend making a batch late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. There’s a much greater likelihood that you won’t eat the entire pan of brownies right away if you need to go to bed soon.

Do you feel like I feel?

I know, I know, that’s not really a line from the “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Christmas carol, but that’s the tune that popped into my head when I was thinking about writing this.

I went to the eye doctor on September 15th, 2014. The date is only significant because it’s almost exactly four years after the last time I went: September 23rd, 2010. I got a new driver’s license a few weeks ago and I was pretty sure that the glasses I was wearing this time are the same ones I was wearing the last time. One point for me!

I didn’t have a reason for not going, I just never got around to it. I could see well enough, so why go through the hassle? Well, I got tired of not being able to see straight. I have a nifty form of astigmatism that makes my eyes focus in different places. If I let my eyes relax, everything splits into two. (Upon getting my eyes tested this week, I found out that one is slightly diagonal, too.)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very sensitive when it comes to my eyes. Or maybe “squeamish” would be a better term. It can be ridiculously hard for me to do really simple stuff. I’ve been in a handful of plays and I can barely put on mascara. I usually end up caking a bunch on the ends of my eyelashes, then use paper towels to pull off the excess. Eyeliner? Not gonna happen. I can’t handle letting stabby things like pencils get that close to my eyes.

The eye doctor had an assistant who did some of the initial testing. After some of the basic “What’s the lowest line you can read?” charts, it was time to put in some eye drops to dilate my pupils. Wonderful.

I’m not sure what’s happened with eye drop technology in the last four years, but thankfully, I didn’t need to keep my eyes open afterward: she just pried open my eyelid, dropped some liquid in there and it immediately ran down my cheek when I blinked my eye closed. In the past, that would have meant more eye drops, which would have led to more suffering. And I was suffering.

I think I took as many breaks as I got drops. She told me to look up at the ceiling, I could hear the surge of blood rushing into my ears, my eyelid would immediately try to close if anything got near it, then I’d have to stop and rub my eye for a minute. Then she said the most irritating thing I’ve heard in a very long time:

“I know how you feel. I’ve seen people have this problem plenty of times.”

My relatively polite response?

“No, you really don’t.”

I don’t remember where I read this, but one of the worst things you can say to someone is “I know how you feel” because you don’t. You can’t. My grandfather died while I was in college and I had to stay at school for a majority of a week until I could fly home for the wake. I think I told three people before I left. Back in 2005, we had a dog who had some nasty disease and we were going to put her to sleep. I went to the vet, sat down next to her with a box of tissues and bawled my eyes out for forty-five minutes. If any of you read through this paragraph and thought, “I know how you feel”, you’re full of shit.

I know people who are afraid of heights. I sometimes get a sense of vertigo when I’m looking down from the edge of a skyscraper, but that’s not the same as being scared of climbing three steps up on a ladder. Maybe I know that you feel afraid, but I have no idea how you feel.

It’s incredibly frustrating because it’s so simple. All I need to do is hold my eye open just a little bit. It’s a tiny drop of liquid, nothing more. I see people put eye drops in all the time, but honestly, it makes me cringe a little, thinking about how my body would react if I tried doing it myself.

Eventually, the assistant left to go get the doctor. He came into the room and even though it had been four years since my last visit, he quickly remembered me having the same problem back then, too. “Try to hold your other eye open and look toward the ceiling.” I tried as hard as I could, but the blood started surging in my ears again while the other eyelid stayed closed tight.

We managed to get through most of the tests that involved shining bright lights directly into my eyes. Not all, but most. He decided that was good enough. There wasn’t much point in trying to do any other tests if my eyelids were going to clamp shut every time we tried to keep them open. Ultimately, my eyelids would win. Thankfully, when my appointment was over and he handed me my new prescription, the only thing he said to me was “Say hi to your dad for me.” Much less irritating.

You searched for what to get here?

One of the plugins I use for my blog is NewStatPress, which shows a wide range of information about recent hits, recent referrers, recent searches, etc. The last one is what worries me the most sometimes. The easiest way to find this website (aside from typing in the web address) is to search for “Shawn Bakken”. (It’s up toward the top of the list if you Google “Joe Bastianich douchebag”, too.) Some of the other search terms, though… yikes. Take this one, for example (and I wish I was making this up):

“boy with a boner in spandex porn”

And that search led someone here.

The page viewed as a result was the first page of the “Journal” category and I was at a loss as to what Google might have found there. I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve joked about Shawn porn and I don’t look that great in spandex, so what’s the deal? I scrolled down the first page, wondering how it could have made such a tragic mistake, then found these entries:

What are you most proud of?
Marie Porter doesn’t make Canadian porn
Is that a franchise in your pants?

I’m proud of earning my Eagle award in Boy Scouts. Marie Porter doesn’t make porn and she has a website called Queen of Spandex. I got some junk mail about franchising “NHance” that I joked about being “boner medicine”. Add them all together and you’ve got a serious creeper who’s now stalking you online.

What’s worse, this also means that if someone searches for “Shawn Bakken with a boner in spandex porn”… please, God, don’t let any potential employers try to see what they can find out about me on the Internet like that.