I Give Up. You Win, Squirrels.

Late last week, I put all the candy, snack bars and pop tarts in a giant glass jar with a super heavy lid hoping to keep all the squirrels out. I left a note for them that read: “For Humans. Not Squirrels” hoping they would get the point. I also left some snacks out for the squirrels in a bowl with a sign that read: “Eat this, Squirrels.” It didn’t work. So, I’m done. This fat bastard has officially won. I give up.

IGiveUp

This didn’t happen previous years so I don’t know what the hell is going on with the squirrels this year.  I will try again next year and hope for the best. This year, I will stick to beverages, hand warmers and tissues because they don’t seem to give a crap about that.

You win, squirrels.

Thieving Squirrel Videos.

Copyright © 2017 Michele Boudreaux. All rights reserved.
For licensing / permission to use, please email licensing(at)mihow(dot)com. Thank you!

Someone from NBC contacted me after I posted this story on our local Facebook page. They asked if could have the videos in order to put together a cute little segment for their website. Here is what they created. It’s cute! It also made the 11 PM news but that’s WAY past my bedtime, so I missed it.

Update: The lovely Ali Bauman from CBS New York stopped by last night for an interview. She watched the Boudreaux family in all its glory at our home here in Maplewood.

And apparently this squirrel is now internationally famous.

Canoe covered the story as well. And I sea that Sea Girt is experiencing similar issues.

The original videos with a great deal of my commentary.

Since I am clearly losing this battle, I left him a note and some treats so he came for the gum.

Day five. I think I’m just going to let him win. I give up. Eat up, squirrel.

BEWARE OF MY DOG, SQUIRREL!

I don’t even know what to say anymore.

Then he ate the pop tart in front of me.

 

Suburban Thieves Are Little Bastards.

Every year, we put out a tray of treats—water, soda, tissues, lip balm, hand warmers, chips—you get the picture. We do this for the many delivery people who come to our house during the busy holiday season. (Frankly, I’m not sure how my mother got through Christmas with three kids without the help of Amazon, but I digress.) We tip the usual suspects; the mailman gets an extra bit of love, the trash guys, too. But this is for all the outsourced work, those third parties.

Last year, I had it up for two weeks and replenished whenever things went low. Not once did we have an issue with anyone stealing everything or taking too much.

On Monday, I put out this year’s treat table and—NO JOKE—within a few hours, ALL the Ghirardelli chocolate squares were gone. I couldn’t believe it. Why would someone do such a thing? And why would they take the most expensive chocolate on the tray? Why not rob us blind of all the Reese’s and Mini Snickers since I can’t seem to stop eating them because holy crap, trash candy is so damn good and I totally don’t choose Us Weekly over Time while in the waiting room.

But, no. This thief took the good stuff. And I wanted to cry. It was day one and already two packs, like 25 pieces, of Ghirardelli squares had been taken from us.

My husband, being an anti-surveillance nerd who is aware of all the myriad ways HUMANS are tracked constantly, decides to set up a small camera. Not that we’d do anything about it, should we find the thief. We aren’t like that. The chocolates are free, after all. It was more about KNOWING who would do such a thing. Who can eat that much Ghirardelli?

So, the camera goes up yesterday and I head out with my husband to take the dog for a walk. It’s midday, right around 1 PM. The sky is overcast and we’re enjoying the weirdly warm weather. We walk for a while then return to the house.

That’s when we spot the FATTEST squirrel. I mean, this squirrel is so obese—a jolly ol’ chap—he must be prepping for a decade of winters. Even my rat terrier dog took one look and said, “Nope.”

So the fat squirrel is standing on our step stool, furiously digging through our wooden tray. He’s digging and digging and digging and then he TAKES OFF toward our backyard carrying whatever he possibly can.

“You don’t think… I mean, no way, right?” I say to Toby.

Sure enough, every piece of chocolate is gone.

Toby tries chasing the fat bastard through our yard to see where he’s taking all our goodies but the thief makes a successful getaway.

At this point, I am still not convinced that a squirrel ran off with THAT many squares of Ghirardelli. I mean, that’s insane. What is he doing with them? Building the most amazing nest, a rodent palace consisting of fine chocolate?

This morning, I head out to take the kids to the bus stop and I spot an unopened square of Ghirardelli on our driveway. When I return, I decide to comb the perimeter of our yard, because NO WAY.

Sure enough, I find three other unopened squares of Ghirardelli.

This squirrel went from being the biggest jerk ever to becoming the greatest fuzzy freak I’ve ever not quite met.

We now have our chocolate in a jar that requires opposable thumbs.

FoodForDelivery

Update: He cleared me out of chocolate. (All on video). Then the snack bars. Then the Ricola. NOW THIS!???!!

 

Watch more of this little dude in action here.

Copyright © 2017 Michele Boudreaux. All rights reserved.
For licensing / permission to use, please email licensing(at)mihow(dot)com.

Better Days.

Yesterday a friend of mine reached out on Facebook saying he’s hurting. And not the normal type of hurt everyone experiences. He’s become completely consumed by depression.

Comments poured in. Many gave virtual hugs, letting him know that unequivocally no matter how badly he feels he will never be alone—that our homes are open should he need to see a friendly face. Many of us explained that we also suffer from this type of depression—the all-consuming kind—and at times it can be downright debilitating.

Then someone wrote, “Better days are coming.”

And I cringed.

This is a perfectly reasonable thing to write. It comes from a kind place. It’s innocent. I have written this very sentence before. It’s been said to me before. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing this.

But.

I found myself thinking, “Are better days coming? What if they aren’t? What if we have to figure out how to deal with these days—the days we are currently experiencing, the right fucking now days? What if a “better day” is a day where you are strong enough to post on Facebook saying that you’re hurting?”

I realize that’s horribly upsetting for many people to read. Because why would anyone want to be told, “Hey, you know what? This might be it, dude. Your brain may try and make you feel this way for the rest of your life.”

I have stopped telling people to cheer up, not because I don’t want them to. I have stopped telling people that everything is going to be OK. Because I can’t assure them that everything will be. I don’t know what their brain is like. I don’t know how deep their sorrow runs or what their inner voice is telling them when they’re trying to find the will to get up and make all the necessary mundane life shit happen when all they really want to do is sleep or escape into that book.

I know at most what fits into the head of a match.

I think the best thing we can do for those suffering from depression is to listen. Maybe tell them that they’re not alone. Definitely let a person know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help, whether it be taking medication; seeking therapy; electroconvulsive therapy; meditation; training for a marathon; climbing Mount Everest; weed—whatever helps that brain—I say go for it.

Sometimes the quest for “better days” can become a little too overwhelming, like somehow we’re constantly failing at attaining the elusive better day.

I don’t know what to say about better days, but I do have something to say about bad ones. On bad days, I just want someone to sit with me at my empty lunch table in a cafeteria full of people. You don’t even have to talk me.

On a bad day, I just need to know I’m still orbiting another human heart.

Green

I was visiting NYC looking for a full time graphic design job. I was 24-years-young. I was invited to stay on the floor of a one bedroom apartment in midtown for one week. It was through a friend of a friend and that apartment couldn’t have been more than 500 square feet but to me it was perfect.

A few days after I arrived, I decided to go shopping for a new outfit, something special. Something hip. I had a suit I wore to interviews and portfolio drops-offs, but I was going to meet up with friends later in the week and I wanted something other than the jeans and T-shirt I rode in on.

So I picked out this cool black pair of pants, a bright green and black striped shirt—I think it may have even been a little shiny—and a long black sleeveless cloak. I purchased it in SoHo. Of course it was cool.

Thursday evening shows up and I’m off to meet my friends at a bar on the Lower East Side, three guys I’d known forever. We talk about the latest season of Felicity and our time spent together at Penn State and they tell me that living in NYC is awesome but difficult too. There was much laughter. It was an awesome night. I left feeling like I could conquer that damn city.

Heading to the subway to catch an uptown train to an apartment owned by a couple I would never see again, a car pulls up alongside me, beautiful people inside, New York plates, none of that Jersey bullshit.

“Hey! Hey you!”

I turn and look.

“Yeah! Yeah, you! You work that shirt, girrrl! You work that bright green shirt real good!”

They laugh and pull away.

I was, of course, mortified and could NOT have gotten back to that tiny apartment fast enough. I felt like every single person on every single street and in every subway car was looking at my green shirt. My stupid bright green shirt.

When I got back to Pennsylvania that green shirt and a chunk of my ego were discarded. (The cloak survived for a few years.)

Years later, age 33. Living in Brooklyn. I am having the “good kind of cancer” removed from my upper lip. They need to stitch me up and I’m alone and I need to take the subway home. I’m a little uneasy about this, having a massive wound on my face, black stitches running from my lip to my nostril. I ask the doctor if she can give me a bandaid or something.

“Oh, honey. This is New York. No one cares about your bloody face stitches. Not a soul here will even notice.”

I took two subways home that day, my many bloody stitches in full view, and no one noticed or cared or maybe I didn’t and I guess that’s all that really matters.

There’s something youthful and necessary about falsely believing everyone around you is paying attention and there’s something comforting and momentous about realizing it’s all bullshit and letting it go.

Botox.

I got Botox last week. I know. I am TOTALLY shocked by this. I’m even more shocked I’m admitting this online. But here’s the deal: I have had cancer treatments done all over my face for close to ten years. I have spent far, far too much time at the dermatologist having lasers burn my face; having MOHs done. I have had so many spots frozen I have lost count. I have had PDT done twice (which hurts like hell). I am so tired of it. I am so tired of going to the dermatologist for have-tos because of cancer. And I think one of the doctors at my clinic took pity on me or realized I’d be an easy target because she offered me a free, cosmetic procedure after my last PDT treatment. So I said, “Sure, what the hell?”

So, I got some Botox. She gave me three injections. It was simple, fast and it didn’t hurt.

She didn’t touch my forehead wrinkles because my forehead is very expressive (meaning it does a lot of work all the time every time I speak or breath or exist) so she didn’t want my eyes to sag. She didn’t touch much of anything, to be honest. But I do have a very deep crease between my eyebrows. I guess it’s from frowning a lot. Because I am an awful person. (Just kidding. I’m alright. I think.) Anyway, I can’t make that crease right now. I look in the mirror and I tell my brain to tell my eyebrows to frown. I’ll say, “Hey eyebrows! FROWN!” And they don’t listen to me! They just won’t do it! And I crack up every single time.

And then I show Toby. I say, “Hey Toby! Tell me to make a mean face!”

“Make a mean face!”

And I can’t! And I laugh (which looks weird to Tobyjoe because I was supposed to look mean). And that makes me happy.

I know that probably sounds pretty bad. Like, aren’t you supposed to be able to frown, right? (I still can.) And shouldn’t you be able to look mean? (Not a problem.) And isn’t it messed up that one of the most deadliest neurotoxins on the planet is used to treat wrinkles, migraines and backaches? Who figured that one out? Who figured out that small amounts of something so positively deadly can do such a thing? I can’t even furrow my brow at this person. At least not for a few months.

But here’s the crazy part. And the whole reason I’m writing today: Botox makes me feel really, really good. I don’t mean because it made a huge difference to my face. That’s not the case at all. You actually can’t really see much of anything unless you tell me to make a mean face and then I will just laugh. (Actually, come to think of it, I’m probably making new laugh wrinkles. This is how they make their money, isn’t it?) Honestly, no one has noticed. Not a one.

I feel good because my eyes are relaxed. Have you ever felt sleepy, like, when your eyes have that burning sensation and you shut them and it just feels wonderful? It’s like that, only my eyes don’t burn at all. They just feel relaxed. The tension is gone.

I read once that if you smile a lot, or laugh a lot, you will be happier. Similarly, if you hang out with people who laugh and smile a lot, you will as well—that it’s contagious. And I know this is going to sound positively crazy but the inability to make that mean crease in between my eyebrows over the last week? It has made me laugh more. It has made me feel more relaxed. I feel happier. Weird.

The brow muscles responsible for expressing anger and stress are on vacation for a few months after 25 years of full-time work and because of that, I feel more relaxed. It’s all very interesting to me.

Incidentally, I wish they could do the same thing for my brain. Pinpoint one wrinkle, the tense part, stifle it just a little bit and see how that goes for a few months.

Diamond Rain

I had a rough summer. I don’t like summer. Most of my friends know this and I think I’ve mentioned it here as well. I don’t know why I don’t like summer. I have spent far too much time trying to figure out why I don’t like summer. I have often said it’s that I don’t like the sun, but that’s not true either. A winter sun is something I love.

Last night I couldn’t sleep so I did what I always do and I read about space. I found myself reading about “diamond rain” which is created within the slushy oceans on both Uranus and Neptune. It falls in toward their rocky cores. This is why these icy planets are warmer than they should be even though they exist so very far from the sun. This phenomenon keeps them warm. That seems pretty clever to me.

If you can consider a planet clever.

I started taking Prozac again. I went off it in early spring because of a 30-pound weight gain and because I believed I had my shit together. It’s funny how being treated for depression can lead one into thinking they are no longer depressed. Funny how that works. Anyway, once the half-life ended—which took a while, something like 12 weeks—I found myself incapable of finding comfort in the seconds that hold together the minutes, which make up every hour and so looking ahead at years seemed horribly overwhelming. I found myself glorifying the past, even pasts I didn’t particularly like during their given present. I glorified those too. The future seemed impossible; the past was preferable; and so the now felt like a meaningless state of purgatory.

So I went back on medication and the minutes got better. The hours too.

I am not looking at the years just yet.

Uranus is on its side, which is a funny thing to say since it lives in space where there is no real top or bottom or edges, but they mean its pole faces (or doesn’t face) the sun. In other words, if Earth is on a 27% tilt, Uranus is on a 97% tilt.

(I don’t like giving out incorrect information and the percentages I gave you above came from memory, so excuse me for a second as I take a break from this stream of consciousness to check my facts.)

  • The Earth’s axis is tilted about 23.5 degrees
  • Uranus is tilted at an angle of 98 degrees

(Ok, so I was pretty close. I wish I could remember where Elliot’s library books are.)

There are four seasons on Uranus. But it takes 84 Earth-years for Uranus to orbit the sun. That means each season on Uranus is 21 years long.

During winter, the pole not facing the sun doesn’t see light for 21 years.

I guess summer isn’t all that bad.

People smarter than me are pretty sure Uranus got knocked over sometime right after it formed. Like, it’s hanging out all normal, one pole down and one pole up (in relation to the sun, of course) and some rogue object hit it so hard, it fell off its axis. What type of object could have done such a thing to such an enormous planet?

That object must have been huge.

Recently, I was among a bunch of other moms on a playground, moms I didn’t know. And I felt out of place and bizarre and foreign. I never know what to say to groups of people who seem to know one another or who know how to break the ice. And so I stood there hoping to blend in with the surroundings—blend in just enough to have my awkwardness not be noticed. And just as I start to feel like that’s working, like the place in which I’m standing is solid, I’m not being noticed and no one cares that I exist at all, my youngest child runs full force into my pelvic bone. A sound comes out of my mouth, a guttural sound, one I didn’t consciously mean to create at all. I think it was something like “oooooerulphurh”. I buckle at the waist, nearly fall over, but then quickly regain my composure, embrace gravity and stand upright again.

I am not sure what the years will bring me down here on Earth but there is diamond rain on a planet whose pole doesn’t see the sun for 21 years; a planet with 27 moons, rings and oceans; a planet so far from our galaxy’s heat source it’s forced to create its own diamonds in order to keep itself warm.

I hope I’m getting closer to my diamonds.

Finding Joy in a Sea of Trash.

Around 3 AM last night, I was startled awake. I don’t even know why I woke up. I do that a lot these days. And any hour close to the dreadful 4 AM hour, means lying awake indefinitely.

There’s something about 4 AM.

So I’m lying there thinking about all the ways I’m screwing up my life, my kids’ lives, their future kids’ lives and the lives of people who are not even born yet because that’s what 43-year-old suburban women do in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep, right?

(No? Just me?)

Anyway, I notice that our light turns on out back. It’s on a motion sensor and I think, “Well, it’s probably just Jon Snow.” (The feral cat we have living in our screened-in porch.) The light goes off after a few minutes. Then it flicks back on again. This happens at least four more times.

I know what you’re thinking: I should get my lazy ass out of bed to check on things. But I do really believe that it’s Mr. Snow and if I get up and feed him, I’ll have to feed the indoor cats and then the dog will want to go out and I’ll never get back to sleep again. So I decide to continue lying there watching the light go on and off until at some point right around 5 AM, I fall back to sleep.

This morning, as I return from my morning run (which was absolutely dreadful because it’s hard to run after being up most of the night counting the ways you’re screwing everything up) I notice our trash cans are on their side. I move closer and that’s when I notice the sea of trash. I mean, our driveway is covered in trash.

Then I remember the light show from the night before. This animal party must have been wild. And it wasn’t some lame ass pack of squirrels. Oh no. This was a party of raccoons or opossums or possibly even dingos.

I start coming up with a strategy for how I’m going to get all this trash up off the driveway. I mean there are coffee grounds, used diapers, bags of dog poop, cat litter, lettuce, beans, rice. And right as I’m about to burst into tears, I notice something that changes everything.

Among the otherwise catastrophic mess, the shrimp I had boiled and chilled a few days earlier hoping to kill the funky smell they had had before heating—the entire pound I ended up throwing out because I didn’t trust it after all—had been perfectly peeled and eaten, tails set aside in a neat little pile like someone with opposable thumbs might do at the local Red Lobster.

It brought a smile to my face. It’s hard to get mad at that. And I mean, that was a lot of shrimp. I’m glad someone enjoyed them.

Sixteen Years.

Two years ago today I wrote the following on Facebook:

“Today the kids and I found a dying baby squirrel out front on the street. It’d fallen from a nest in our tree. Its mother was screaming from above. I called every vet in our area and explained the situation, that the little fella was suffering and could they help? I must have sounded so desperate. I’d even pay them. Please? No. Because it was a wild animal. It couldn’t have been but a few weeks old.

So I ended up driving to Madison where a vet finally said they’d help.

He was too badly hurt, broken neck and head trauma. He didn’t make it.

And I wept like a baby.

Elliot came along (Toby worked from home) and as we were leaving he said, “Mom are you crying? Did he die?”

“Yes. And yes he did.”

“I don’t understand why he had to die. Why couldn’t they give him a bandaid and make him all better?”

I spent the morning writing about 9/11. I didn’t publish it because a falling baby squirrel brought all my intentions to a screeching halt, the punctuation mark equivalent to a brick wall.

Reality.

When I returned home from Madison, I looked up at the nest. His mother was silent or maybe gone and I noticed a hawk circling and I wept some more.

Today was a rough day and I’m not even sure I’m fully aware of what it is I’m not quite dealing with, but man I wish that squirrel had survived.”

………………………..

Two nights ago, someone wrote on our local Facebook page that a baby squirrel had climbed up her arm on the way home from the playground and so she took it home with her. She was writing to find out what she should do. Without thinking, I said I would take the baby squirrel, but it was late in the evening and it would have to wait until morning. She said that was fine.

The following morning the squirrel had been promised to a wildlife sanctuary where it could be bottle fed and then one day released. This made sense. I am not sure what I was thinking taking in a baby squirrel with three cats and a dog. But this wasn’t about thinking.

Last night, another friend posted saying she too had found a baby squirrel and that they would keep the squirrel overnight and I said that I would take the squirrel in the morning and figure out what to do with it.

When I spoke with her today, she told me that the squirrel had died at some point in the middle of the night.

This time, I was able to hold back the tears in a room full of people.

………………………..

On September 11th, 2001, I was 27. I was working in SoHo at the time as a graphic designer. And I watched the first plane hit the WTC.

“What a terrible mistake.” I’d thought.

But when a coworker ran in screaming saying that another plane had hit the other tower, it occurred to me that no one makes two mistakes like that.

Planes don’t just suddenly start flying into buildings.

That was the moment life went from “before the event” to “after the event”.

The hours would continue to unfold in such a blurry and terrifying manner. My brother had started his job the day before, a job down where the planes hit, down where the buildings would eventually fall. And so I spent most of the morning focused on trying to find him. Most of the phone lines were full or down and so you’d dial out and nothing would happen.

Dead air, a signal without a receiver.

When the buildings fell, massive clouds of dust pushed up Broadway. I’ve never seen anything like that, a tidal wave of destruction. People tried to escape it, running, like that alone might kill them. People poured up toward us, they went from clean to dust-covered to finally: white.

“There is no way he could have survived this.” I said and wept into the arms of coworkers and strangers.

Most of the communication antennas were on top of the Towers, so we didn’t have much in the way of getting through to anyone. And that would continue for weeks. But that may have been a good thing, because I didn’t want much to do with anyone living outside of NYC. At least not for a while.

On that morning, the National Guard was called and we were told that if we worked below 14th Street we shouldn’t yet try and leave. I guess they didn’t want a mass exodus and there really wasn’t anywhere to go anyway. Plus, many of us wondered if more planes were going to fall from the sky.

So we waited and watched the buildings fall and the office paper continue to move up broadway, white tides. I remember feeling terrible for thinking the paper looked like snow and finding it kind of beautiful.

We inhaled polluted air. And later, after a group of us were turned away from the hospital while trying to give blood, “There are no bodies.” She had said. That’s when we realized that our lungs were also full of the ashes of loved ones.

(I’m so sorry. I wish I could have held my breath and let them reach the sea.)

My brother eventually showed up at my office and we were invited to one of my coworker’s apartments in order to wait and see when we could leave and head home. He served us drinks as we watched the fighter jets circle ahead. Many of us sat in silence. Some of us cried. Others didn’t know what to do so they acted like it was just a normal Tuesday. That was the first time in my life I witnessed someone go into shock. She had just started working at one of the towers. She joined us hours later and as she sat on his couch, she just kept laughing, the kind of uncontrollable belly laugh you sometimes get after an all-nighter. It was the craziest laugh I’d ever heard.

And she kept saying, “WHERE AM I GOING TO DO MY SHOPPING NOW? THE STORES ARE ALL GONE? WHERE WILL I GET MY MORNING COFFEE? I HAVE NO JOB.” And then she’d maniacally laugh some more. “I NEED TO GO SHOPPING.”

Friends took turns hugging her.

We waited there until midday when the National Guard started letting people return home. I think I took a subway home but that seems almost impossible.

That evening and well into the night, I sat on the roof of my three-story walk-up with my brother and watched lower Manhattan burn. The smells were strong and acidic and burned our noses. I won’t ever forget the color of that sky. Everything was still and strange and nothing would ever be the same again.

………………………..

I still haven’t worked through that day and I doubt I ever will. Instead, it bubbles up to the top in the strangest ways and when I least expect it—like when I try and save a baby squirrel while also having an emotional breakdown on a suburban street in front of all my neighbors and their children. And at least two of those children have since mentioned the day “Emory’s mother cried really hard in her front yard because of that baby squirrel.”

Or like how I have to send the gift of an owl to a close friend who shares a birthday with today.

And I’m not sure where I’m going with this post. But I guess it felt good to write again.

What I want to say is, what I need to say is:

May you find love today. May you hug a stranger. May you cry if you need to cry. May you acquire an owl, pour yourself a drink and share something you haven’t yet shared.

May you save a baby squirrel.

May your air be clear and may whatever signal you send out, may it be met by a receiver.

And may you reach the sea.