Bad Mouth

So, I started a fad diet. A friend of mine talked me into it. I like her a great deal. She’s one of my favorite people. My husband calls it a pyramid scheme. And I’m not sure if he’s right because I’m not actually sure what it is I’m doing. But I am going to try it for 21 days and see how things shake up. But just to make sure I don’t unwittingly end up spending hundreds of dollars on plastic containers and shakes, I set an alert for August 30th that reads:

CANCEL FUCKING BEACHBODY.

Yeah. It’s that Shakeology thing. You know, the one where middle-aged suburban women in yoga gear walk around with plastic Shakeology cups. They discuss portion control, whole grains, good fats (that’s fats, not farts, all farts are good), workouts and waistlines. That’s me. Only I don’t have a waistline and I don’t yet own any yoga gear. Also: I like cheese and I don’t think it’s a good fat.

I broke two toes on Sunday night, ironically mere hours before my 21 Day workout was set to begin. I fell down the last few steps heading to the kitchen to get something for a screaming Walter (night terrors). It was kind of funny. And I didn’t really care at the time because it was 2 in the morning, and Murray had come home a few hours earlier. So I was happy. I did say the work “fuck” a lot which apparently woke my 9-year-old and he was not too pleased because he hates bad words. I apologized a lot for that the following morning. Sometimes I have a potty mouth.

Anyway, here is my foot. It’s gross even when it’s not broken. But I am a runner so I don’t give a shit. Feet aren’t meant to be pretty.

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But it hurt. It still hurts. And I can’t run.

But I did start the diet and the workout, with some modifications because I can’t jump too much. After 30 minutes of that work out I wanted to punch the shit out of people. The word “fuck” doesn’t come close to what was going on in my head. “Lunge” is another word for “I’m going to murder someone” and “burpee” may rhyme with “slurpee” but they are not nearly as fun as they sound.

(Sorry, Em, for all the bad words.)

So, that’s where I am. I’m in a much better place than I was a few days ago. I started taking antidepressants a couple of months ago and then my doctor upped my dose recently and I think that’s helping. After years of saying I would never go that route, I decided it was time. I needed some help. No shame in that. You see, when I’m up, things are fabulous and I am pretty sure I can conquer the world. I feel indestructible. But when I am not up? I feel like there is absolutely no reason to do anything; complete anything; start anything; finish anything. I just want to watch Netflix, drink wine and wait until what? I don’t even know.

Right now, I’m up.

Sunday, I was not up.

I will continue to write here and share my thoughts and what I’m doing to try and make myself a better, more likable person. I hope that you will stick around and share your thoughts as well. Because over the years your comments and emails have meant the world to me. As I navigate growing older, and try and accept the fact that I can’t change who I am or go back in time, I will try and make my route a public one.

You can’t be what you were
So you better start being 
just what you are
You can’t be what you were
the time is now is running out 
is running out 
is running running running out
You can’t be what you were
So you better start living the life
That you’re talking about
You can’t be what you were

Thank you for reading.

First My Cat Disappeared…

First my cat disappeared. Then I started praying. I pray sometimes but only when it’s convenient for me, like when I’m on an airplane and I think I might fall from the sky. I pray for that not to happen. I prayed when my aunt got breast cancer. She’s still with us. I prayed when Emory was in the NICU and we weren’t sure what was wrong. He turned nine last week. And I prayed when my niece’s best friend, Erin, got sick even though I’d never met Erin. I prayed for her a lot. And even though I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, nor do I answer to any other religion, at the time I felt like my track record for being a foul-weather prayer was pretty good. So I prayed for Erin.

She passed away two years ago last week. And I was so angry at the time. I was so angry that all my praying, my silly routine, didn’t work. This little girl died and I became angry at a God I stopped believing in a long time ago.

On Sunday a mother of one of Elliot’s classmates killed herself. At the time of her death, I was baking a cake. She had three little boys, one of whom was just 5 months old. She must have been in so much pain. And I went back and reread all of our emails and I hated that I wasn’t a better friend to her. We continually did the “Let’s get together this week!” Missed that. “OK, next week!” Nope. Maybe if people had been there for her more, she’d still be with her family.

Then Murray disappeared. I was away for two days at my mom’s house so the boys could see the beach for a day since we had to cancel our beach vacation due to Toby and work circumstances. I left Monday with the kids. Toby stayed home. Murray was last seen Tuesday afternoon. And it damn near stops my heart that it happened on a Tuesday—his day.

Let’s see: I put up fliers. I put fliers in every neighbor’s mailbox. I knocked on some doors. I posted on every local message board. I posted on every local Facebook page. I called the vet. I called our animal control center. I even called the police. And then I called a plumber. You see, we moved into a new house (yes, I went back to the old house, many times) and there are a lot of little crevices in the eaves. So I paid a plumber to come with a fibrotic camera and comb through all those spaces making absolutely sure he wasn’t in the house. My words to the dispatcher, who is also a lover of cats (thank goodness) were, “Listen, if I don’t rule this out and then one day the flies come or he starts to smell, I’ll never ever get over that.”

They showed up later that day. Bless their plumber hearts. And gained a customer for life.

We set up cameras. Brought out his favorite blanket. Combed the streets again calling his name. Checked the gutters. We put out food. We put out a litter box. We exhausted every option. We still don’t have Murray.

So, the other night I prayed again. I told God, or whomever might be listening, I said, “God, I will stop drinking forever. I won’t touch another drink if you bring back my Murray.” I made this prayer well into my nightly bottle of wine.

I gave God an ultimatum. I would quit self-medicating with alcohol, something I’ve been doing for months, if God brought my cat back.

Some people hit a rock bottom. They do something devastating like drive drunk and kill someone. They get a DUI. They fight with the wrong person and get the shit kicked out of them. Some folks end up in prison. Some folks simply grow tired of saying so many stupid things every single night and then forgetting about it the next morning but still having to reach out and apologize for all the stupid things they don’t remember saying.

Me? I gave God an ultimatum. I tried to make a deal, negotiate.

Murray isn’t back. And I am starting to feel a darkness around me, a void that he is no longer with me on this planet and my heart hurts. I may never know where he is. He may never return. He may be dead somewhere. He may have been taken in. But this morning when I woke up at 4 AM to the faint taste of last night’s wine in the back of my throat, I knew he was gone.

And I cried.

I miss him. And I am not a very happy person these days. I don’t particularly like myself these days. And I’m not going to wait for my cat to come back to stop self-medicating with alcohol. And I’m putting this out there, perhaps irresponsibly, maybe this will backfire and people won’t hire me; or neighbors will judge me; they might look at me differently. But I need to look at myself better. I need to like myself again. So I’m holding myself accountable this time. Out loud.

God doesn’t have to bring my cat back for me to take care of myself. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would give anything to have him home again. I miss him so much. But not drinking and my cat? These two things aren’t mutually exclusive. They’re absurdly unrelated.

I mean, I do want my cat back. God, please bring him back to me.

But I’m going to stop drinking without him.

I need to like myself again.

He Turned NINE Last Week.

Remember when he was born? I don’t usually get sentimental about these things. I don’t cry when my kids go to kindergarten or graduate from pre-K. Overall, I think aging is a glorious thing—growing up, adding years, growing wiser—there’s nothing sad about that. It should be celebrated. But my goodness it’s the time involved! How has it gone by so quickly? Nine years.

He’s a deeply emotional child. He’s exactly as he’s been since the day he was born. I can’t wait to watch him grow up.

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A Laboring Cow

I heard a podcast once about living in the moment verses letting your mind wander and how across to board when people allowed their minds to wander they reported feeling unhappy. They reported feeling most unhappy while commuting to and from their jobs because that’s when their minds wandered the most. It wasn’t the job making them feel miserable; it was the time spent getting to and from it.

I find this oddly funny.

This made me think of Sisyphus and his punishment of pushing an immense boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again. He was sentenced to do this for eternity. But Sisyphus’s punishment wasn’t the intense physical part. His punishment was watching it roll back down each time. It was during the downtime, the time spent letting his mind wander, that’s when he felt his punishment the most. That’s when he felt his unhappiest.

I know. That’s not real.

But.

I live in a suburban town in New Jersey, just outside of New York City. And I spend a lot of time letting my mind wander. Sometimes, I feel like the suburbs are my commute to and from life. Not that I know what life is, or what that even means. I know that I rarely have adult conversations anymore. I turn on WNYC and listen to other people talk about shit so as to not let my wander too much.

It helps.

I make dinner for the kids. I shorten the stems of flowers hoping to keep them around longer. I light candles. Sometimes I scratch Walter’s bug bites for him. I run a lot.

I pet my cats.

I count my kids’ fish every day because one time I stopped and then one disappeared and I know the other ones had to watch it decay.

I felt bad for the surviving fish even though they probably ate him.

I give baths and I do a lot of laundry.

When I was 23 I applied for a job at a dairy farm. It was in the middle of Pennsylvania. It was old school, not one of those big industrial factory farms where cows are treated like cogs in a milk machine. I’d spent my teens working in the food industry. I enjoyed waiting tables. But then I graduated with a college degree and did what one does with a degree: I got a job in an office with air conditioning and windows that don’t open. The kind of job that doesn’t require the punctuation of a hot shower.

The farm didn’t hire me. I was turned down because they wanted someone who had “physically reached into a laboring cow and helped deliver a calf.”

I do not have that on my resume. I didn’t have it on my resume at age 23. I still don’t at age 42. I will likely die not having that on my resume.

But I can’t imagine a mind wandering too much with both hands inside of a cow.

Murray Loves Homemade Pancakes

Our kitchen is much bigger than the last one, which means I’m spending nearly all my time there. It also means I’m cooking a lot more. I’ve been getting up and making the boys chocolate chip pancakes every morning. And Murray usually joins them at the bar, especially since pancakes are involved. Not sure what it is about brown tabby cats and pancakes, but they were Schmitty’s favorite as well. (May he RIP. Still miss that cat, 9 years later.) Anyway, here’s the recipe. These pancakes are awesome if I must say so myself.

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HI! We MOVED. And it’s glorious.

Quick update! Not that anyone reads blogs—or maybe just this blog—anymore!

Let’s see: I kind of got depressed. Got help. Felt better. Started running a lot. Started baking a lot. Got caught up in my kids and the summer and the fact that they are all home with me.

I lost my password to my site and I forgot the URL to login.

And we moved! Same town. But we moved into a new house, which is glorious. The kitchen is perfect. Also: I have an office! AND a laptop! So I will be writing more.

I can’t wait to write more.

Hi.

Two Birds

After I picked up Elliot from school today, two birds flew into the side of my car. I couldn’t not know the outcome, although I don’t deal with these things very well.

I decided to drive around the block and park on a side street to check on them. One was dead. The other was dazed. I brought Elliot’s sweatshirt with me and bent down to have a talk with the little guy, the one who survived. He just looked up at me.

Meanwhile, a construction worker saw me bending down and thought I was sick. He walked over to check on me and noticed the bird, who, at that point, had taken refuge on my wrist.

“These two birds flew into the side of my car.” I said teary-eyed. “I love animals and I couldn’t let it go. So I drove around to check on them.”

The construction worker walked over to the other bird. “This one is gone. And that one doesn’t look so good. I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to do that,” he said pointing to the bird perched on my hand.

“Do you have a box?” I asked.

“I think I do.”

He left me standing on the road with a bird perched on my hand, cars passing wondering what the crazy lady with a red-breasted robin perched on her hand might be doing.

The construction worker showed back up with a box and I tried to place the fellow inside. But the bird crawled up my arm, then up his arm, and then onto the top of his head.

“You’ve got a bird on your head,” I said.

“I do. Don’t I? I have to take a picture of this. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.”

He took a picture and then I slowly cupped my hands and my son’s sweatshirt around the bird, but instead he walked up my arm and onto my shoulder.

“You’ve got a bird on your shoulder,” said the construction worker.

“Do you think he’s ok?” I asked.

“I dunno. I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to do that.”

We stood there. Not sure what we should do. We exchanged names. And I said my son was in the car and I wasn’t sure if I should take the bird with me for help. Meanwhile the bird stood on my shoulder, tilting his head, listening.

And then, just like that, he flew away.

I thanked the construction worker for being a kind person. And we parted ways.

I’m not sue if he’ll be ok. But the construction worker seemed to think so. And so do I. And I hate that I inadvertently killed the other bird. But I feel compelled to thank nature and this small bird for making today a touch different than every other day in a week, a month, a year. It gave me pause. Life can be both sad and beautiful all at once.

HUMAN ORGANS ON BOARD.

Last week I had two cakes to complete and deliver. I was nervous because one of them was a three-tiered wedding cake which included a 30-minute drive. Every single bump and turn, every pebble matters. I get so worked up the days leading up to delivering a cake. It’s not pretty. I’m not pretty.

There was that one time I drove a wedding cake from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Red Hook along the BQE. And that probably took a good 2 days off my life. For those unfamiliar with the BQE, it’s riddled with potholes—massive, horrible potholes. Partly because they can’t ever shut it down to fix it. It’s a major thoroughfare. So it’s in terrible shape. And there I am driving a three-tired wedding cake with handmade, gum paste flowers over its impossibly bumpy surface. I had both kids in the car and my husband was holding it–cradling it–like it was the Holy Grail. The cake got there in one piece, my nerves did not. There’s a reason we dowel each layer and then literally nail in a dowel, piercing the entire cake. But still. So stressful.

On Sunday, I went this one alone. I had to drive it from one small town in New Jersey to a place called Montclair. Now, Montclair is only about 7 miles from us, but when you factor in the reservation and a bunch of stoplights and winding roads, it takes about 25 minutes on a good day without traffic. It took me 35 minutes to get that cake from door to door and I panicked the entire time.

The guy in the blue corvette didn’t help matters. He was a real jerk. And the tiny blond woman in the ginormous Escalade, the one who threw her hands up at that railroad crossing, the railroad crossing I inched over, she was enraged. Like, red beams shot out of her pretty little eyes. She wanted to kill me, blow me up with her imaginary grenade launcher. She hated me and my stupid life. I was in her way.

I could go on. People were so very upset with me for doing the speed limit and slowing down at railroad crossings or around sharp curves. At one point, I considered making a sign for my next delivery, a sign that reads: “WEDDING CAKE ON BOARD” so that people might show me a little mercy. But then I pictured that angry blond woman, the one in the Escalade. Maybe she’s going through an ugly divorce after discovering her husband of 15 years has been having an affair. She’s already sold her wedding dress, the ring is next. SHE IS PISSED. And so, the next time I’m inching over those railroad tracks and she’s in a hurry to get to her next therapy session, I picture her reading my sign and flooring it.

Not everyone likes weddings.

So then I thought, “Maybe I’ll print a sign that reads: HUMAN ORGANS ON BOARD.” because everyone likes human organs. But that could get me arrested for being über creepy.

Instead, I have a plea: don’t drive like an asshole. Assume the person in front of you is doing what they’re doing for a reason. They’re not an idiot. You don’t have to hate them. They’re just trying to do the right thing, carefully and well. Plus, your rage? It’s making you ugly. You’re aging prematurely.

Yoga breaths.

But in the end, things went very well. The cake was a huge hit. The bride was happy. The groom was happy. But most importantly, the bride’s mother was happy.

Here is the wedding cake.

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The bride wanted an all white, rustic cake. She didn’t want fondant and instead wanted buttercream. This cake is a vanilla cake, with Swiss meringue buttercream between each layer. There’s a thin layer of lemon curd as well. The outside is a crusted buttercream, which is very sweet, which is why I filled the cake with a Swiss meringue.

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I also did a quick cake for a little, sweet girl named Mia who turned four and loves Frozen. Given the amount of time we had, we chose to use two plastic dolls.

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I was told everyone was quite happy with not only the way it looked, but the taste as well. Often times a pretty cake means sacrificing flavor. And I hate that. So, I am always happy to hear that people like and eat the entire cake.

That’s all for now! Over and out.

The Leftovers

I said I would write about about The Walking Dead and I will. But right now I simply must declare my love for The Leftovers a show that kills me once a week.

Now, forgive me for a second, but I’m going to come off as a selfish ass and make this all about me. Ok? Ok. But it’s as if Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta sat down and said, “What is the general emotional state of Michele’s brain? What show will give the usual sorrow swimming through her head something to cling to? What will continue to haunt her for days?”

BAM! The Leftovers.

Even the title song by Iris DeMent haunts me. I’ve since downloaded her music and I listen to that song when I run, which does, at times, depending on the mile, make me weep like a baby. (I can still become very emotional when I run. Since 2009, not much has changed when it comes to that.)

The credits are such a perfect introdcution to the show. Yet alone they speak for themselves.

But what I love most about The Leftovers are all the secondary, subtle parts that take place between the bigger acts and all the main dialogue. The parts that, should you look away for a second, you will miss. It’s such a smart show, so layered and complicated. The Leftovers is a deeply personal experience where each viewer is given the opportunity to interpret the subtitles differently. And the actors and directors do such a phenomenal job making sure that that works.

So. If you haven’t had a chance to watch The Leftovers, and you’re looking to pair the woebegone you feel every day with something real (instead of just feeling that way because your brain is all wonked up—hello!), I might suggest The Leftovers. It’s troubling, beautiful, dark, painful and alive. And it gives you something tangible to hold onto on the days where the sorrowful undertow of everyday life leaves you feeling a little lost.

Go now and binge.