Stories About Nothing

I’m getting older. And the wrinkles are calling their friends and those friends are calling their friends and it’s a wrinkle party on my face and I’m trying to embrace growing older and on most days it’s ok. Most. But then the metabolism slows down too and the brain starts to deteriorate after all the years spent dealing with hormones and emotions and sleep deprivation and some days? Some days it’s just sad knowing the past is gone.

Reminiscing finds me both joyful and melancholy.

But mostly joyful.

Recently I had the cancer spot frozen on my right eyebrow. You can see it below. And at first it turned brown and then pink and then it healed and it’s still there. Damned spot; probably needs to be cut out after all that. And so I’m starting to think I’ll have another scar in my future, which is what my doctor and I were trying to avoid.

18527630_1367432323336976_6661701250169305077_n

I went off antidepressants recently after 9 months of pretty OK-ness. I went off because they were making me slow in too many ways.

Life is hard, my friends. It’s beautiful and it’s worth it but it’s pretty hard too.

Today I spent $92.00 on bird paraphernalia because a blue jay recently built a nest and had her babies (yesterday) right outside my window. I was kind of hoping to attract more and so I spent hours setting up a makeshift bird sanctuary outside my window and wouldn’t you know! A few showed up and they called their friends and their friends called their friends and before I knew it, there was a small bird party outside my window.

But at some point during my bewildered awe, my sheer gleefulness at the spectacle outside my window; at some point as I watched the birds chase away the squirrels and dance among the greenery; at some point my beloved cat, Murray, came running into the house, right in through the screened in porch. He came running right up next to me and so I looked down at him hoping to share my joy with him and that’s when I noticed that he was holding a bird between his teeth.

And I screamed. I screamed loud and long and without a blemish of shame. And I’m pretty sure I aged a little more. I’m certain I’ll have more wrinkles after today. But at least I will still age. I can’t say the same about the bird.

Star Wars Half Marathon

I’m supposed to run a half marathon on Sunday and I am NO WHERE near capable of doing anything remotely close to what I have done in the past. I suffered from a stress fracture and broken toes back in January and stopped running/training for 8 weeks. I stopped everything, except for eating. I did a lot of eating. I have been running a bit again lately, biking a lot more, but nothing like what I should be doing at this point. I ran four miles yesterday in the heat and had to walk a great deal. It was rough.

I’m not sure what to do. Do I “run” it anyway and just have fun and walk whenever I need to? Or skip it entirely and just know that one day I’ll be back to where I was before?

I wish I’d had the wherewithal to have signed up for the 10K. That seems much more approachable. I’m nervous as hell right now.

I’m also 15 pounds heavier than I was in December. I need to change my ways.

Rambling. Hoping I’ll look back on this down the road and be in a better place.

Latest Cake: Sweet Sixteen

I had SO MUCH fun making this cake for a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for twins.

The cake is vanilla pound cake made with all organic ingredients as well as free range eggs. The filling is swiss meringue buttercream icing. I used Satin Ice Fondant for the outside as well as gum paste and numerous different edible food colors. (Please see all my cakes here.)

IMG_7826 3

S Town

This podcast changed my life. It was beautiful, tragic, heartbreaking and life-changing. If you haven’t started it, you should. But be warned: you can’t ever unlisten. Made many guttural sounds while out running. Tears streaming down my face. Heartbreaking and wonderful.

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 12.38.16 PM

Praise the Lorde

I can’t dance to save my life. I mean, I can dance. I dance just fine. My body moves in relation to however my mind feels. Sometimes, I find a beat. But most of the time I just flail around a lot. I used to not dance. I used to be embarrassed to dance. I was once told I had no rhythm and while that may be true as far as what a dance instructor desires, I could still dance. I just chose not to for too long.

I’m 43 now and I have three kids, two of them will dance with wild abandon. The oldest one is entering a stage in life where kids are being kids and they’re starting to tease one another and that sucks, but I think he’ll make it out on the other side still dancing.

Here’s the deal: even if you’re not Beyonce good, even if you’re not Lady Gaga good, dancing feels and looks fantastic. Dancing is like laughter. I think we need to do it. I think we need to seek it out. I believe dancing could save people.

Hell, even animals dance.

Anyway, I love Lorde. No, I did not misspell the other name for Jesus. I love the singer Lorde. I have for years and years. Her music is top on all of my running set lists. I put her on during our parties. I listen to her on road trips. I sing along to her on the top of my lungs in a minivan with three kids in tow while they roll their eyes. I have become that mom.

Lorde brings me a great deal of joy. I find her music to be layered and difficult and perfect and imperfect and offbeat and on-beat and danceable and nearly edible. Like, if my ears had mouths, I would eat her beats. I think she is a wonderful singer, one of the most talented artists alive today. The fact that she’s 20-years-old is downright mind-blowing. At 20, I was working at a video store. My biggest claim to fame was having the best “Employee Pick” movie shelf.

Guys, this post isn’t going to be pretty. Forgive me in advance for all the swear words, because I think there are going to be a lot of them.

I wrote this pissed off.

This is about Lorde’s dancing on Saturday Night Live and how the Internet backlash she received was downright stupid offensive. People made fun of her, saying she doesn’t know how to dance. They suggested she hire someone to teach her. Some people ridiculed this amazingly talented artist, a person who emits more creativity in a single fart than most of us create over an entire year.

I watched her dance. I found it refreshing—normal, beautiful. I found it real. I found it powerful.

My husband put it well, “I don’t understand the big deal. It just looks like a person dancing.”

Lorde’s dancing was inspirational. She made me want to get up and dance. She set an example for every little girl and boy: you don’t need a team of choreographers in order to dance. You just have to fucking want to dance.

Lorde is an inspiration. Again.

So: fuck the haters who made fun of this female artist for the way she danced on SNL. Had she been some indierock guy, you damn well know everyone would have suggested how “cute” and “trendy” and “adorable” his dancing was; how the dancing was unlike all the rest.

But she’s female and for some reason she is held to some stupid standard, some bullshit norm created by a bunch of fucking insecure douchebags.

Who decided what dancing is supposed to look like? People don’t ridicule the sound of laughter. Why would anyone make fun of another person for dancing? What the fuck is wrong with people?

One of my biggest regrets in life, and something I am trying desperately to teach my children to avoid, is that I spent far too much time comparing myself to others and feeling insecure about it. I was afraid to be different. I was afraid to do something new. I was simply afraid. That changed over time. Once I hit college I started to get it. I started to find myself a bit more. But I do wonder: had I realized this sooner, who would I be today?

I do know this much: I definitely would have danced more.

 

Alas, Babylon: A Book Review.

Back when I was planning what books to read and in what order, I skimmed some of the reviews for Alas, Babylon. I was surprised to see that SO MANY people reread this book every year. I figured they were exaggerating. Why would one do such a thing when there are so many books to read and so little time?

38169

But I get it now. I get why this book is one to reread. I think it’s possible to take away something new every time you read it. The subtleties are abundant.

Thus far, out of all the books listed here, Alas, Babylon sits comfortably among my top three. It is such a captivating story. Every character exists, all are believable. They are all flawed. And they are all perfect because of those flaws. What I found truly remarkable about this book, however, was that it was written in 1959 and still stands up today. It is timeless.

I was also surprised by how hopeful this book made me feel, and how positive it is. I know that seems a little unbelievable. How can a book where millions of people die due to a massive nuclear war between Russian and the United States end up leaving a person feeling hopeful? But it did. Life went on in the most subtle and sometimes beautiful manner.

Life persevered.

Alas, Babylon brought me back to my sophomore existentialism class. I hated my sophomore existentialism class. I was so excited going into it, and it just failed miserably at giving me the rich thoughtfulness I so much desired. The books we read fell into the cliché category. The topics we discussed became a bore. I never experienced any enlightenment. I never left chewing on any new thoughts. It was just blah, which is kind of ironic actually.

However, during that same semester, I also enrolled in a literature course taught by a woman in her 70s. She brought a Yorkshire terrier to class with her every single day. She wore the most elaborate and colorful outfits—long shawls and flowing scarves—and moved around the room like one of those unique deep sea creatures. She taught with her entire body. Her jewelry clanged and jingled as she moved. She was so full of life! And she went on the most spectacular tangents about the books and poems we read. Class discussions were so much fun—never a dull moment—and when class ended you felt as though you UNDERSTOOD something momentous. New ideas shot out of the back of your mind like paint pellets, coating the inside of your head like a Jackson Pollock painting.

That was the class where I learned the most about existentialism. Life stands in the most glorious, clear, and beautiful manner when it appears to be over. Everything is amplified and crisp and cherished when you’re not given the guarantee of a tomorrow. Suspended from fear, hovering within a now.

What a necessary and important concept. And Alas, Babylon touched upon that once more.

Sometimes, amidst death and destruction, compassion and appreciation swell. People start to pay attention to what matters most.

When a forest is burned to the ground, new growth often flourishes.

Alas, Babylon, a book about nuclear war, turned out to be one of the more positive books I’ve ever read.

 

Dystopian Book Reviews

I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian – even apocalyptic – literature lately. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I take comfort in this dystopian literature. I used to read a great deal of science fiction as a kid and in my 20s but in the past decade, I’ve avoided genres with too much gravity. I’m not sure what changed – or when – but I’m sure it was a side effect of becoming a wife, mother, homeowner, baker, suburbanite, news-junkie, and a couple dozen additional roles or personalities.

One must wonder, though, if there’s more to it. After all, most people grow up and take on crushing amounts of responsibility and they don’t stop enjoying uplifting titles like The Road or Breitbart News.

And why has it pivoted recently?

Mental Health is Weird

I suffer from a great deal of generalized anxiety. I never realized how much it affected me until I began working with a doctor.

Sometimes, my anxiety goes into overdrive and invites my imagination over and the two spin in an echo chamber, making each other stronger, and I’m dragged along for the ride. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does this type of shit takes place.

Let them bring out our old pal depression, and the party quickly looks like The Garden of Earthly Delights.

The instant relief provided by certain medications can be a real eye-opener. For example, a  beta-blocker or benzodiazepine like Klonopin – when taken at the appropriate therapeutic dose – doesn’t really seem to do anything (aside from being a bit lazy or sleepy at first). It isn’t like medications or drugs that get you high or have undeniable effects.

Compared to things like PCP, crack, and magnesium citrate, the power of anti-anxiety medications for people with chronic, generalized anxiety is that those substances remove symptoms you may not have even noticed.

Imagine taking a pill and, an hour later, you realize not only that you’ve had fire ants biting you constantly for the past three decades but that they’re gone. The discomfort you’d gotten so used to as a baseline is zapped and suddenly, feeling neutral is much better than even the best high.

It reminds me of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and the shock their bodies must feel when they go from a hot tub to the icy Atlantic.

Meds can be useful (especially in early therapy), while learning cognitive behavioral therapy (changing thought patterns), new coping skills, and mindfulness.

Because of Three Mile Island and 9/11, there is a section of my brain that believes it’s only a matter of time before the human race suffers from something colossal and terrifying. Part of me believes a plague could knock out a large chunk of mankind. I believe a nuclear mishap could take down entire continents. I believe climate change and extreme weather patterns will eventually wipe out cities and towns. I am better now that I’m being treated for anxiety and depression in the sense that I can now stop my brain from going to insane levels of delusions and worry. (Like the time I was CONVINCED we had a meth lab next-door to our apartment in Brooklyn? I had the maintenance come out twice, and begged Toby to come home from his business trip early. I moved the kids into the far end of the apartment. We all slept in one huddled mass in Emory’s room for two nights. And I posted all sorts of shit on twitter about it.)

It’s not that bad anymore, but it’s still there. And I suppose I read these books because it’s nice to sit with likeminded weirdoes at the book table. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. It’s also kind of nice to be prepared should the apocalyptic shit hit the fan.

Just kidding.

There is something beautiful about science fiction and the amazingly intricate worlds people create. This form of escapism appeals to me. When it’s done well. it’s truly remarkable, like hallucinogenics (not that I know a THING about that). Anyway, it’s good to be back here, to be able to thoroughly enjoy it again and not enter some other delusional dimension.

All that said, I think I’m going to start doing some short book reviews about all the books I’ve been reading lately. I was trying to read a book a week, but I’m finding that rather difficult given some of these books are 700 pages long and I have a family to care for. But I’m doing pretty ok!

SINCE JANUARY 1, 2017

Books I’ve Read:

Normal
Alas, Babylon
The Library at Mount Char
Man In The High Castle
On The Beach
The Wolf Road
Station Eleven
The Girl With all the Gifts
Dark Matter
The Last Tribe  (Didn’t finish.)
Wool
What Alice Forgot (Vacation Book)

I am trying to stick with dystopian and science fiction, but I’m finding that I’ve needed a few vacations here and there. What Alice Forgot was a vacation, for example. A much needed, and quite enjoyable one, I might add.

Currently Reading: Next To My Bed: 

Homo Dues: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Nonfiction)
Before the Fall

Upcoming: On My Shelf: 

Divergent Series
The Giver
The Handmade’s Tale

So, I will start tomorrow. It’s going to be a bit difficult as I haven’t made any notes on the books I read months ago, but they are still there. And down the road, I will write reviews and thoughts right as I finish, perhaps even while I’m still reading. I hope you will stick by and help me out. I would love to get your point of view. I will desperately try and avoid spoilers in the body of a post but may add them in the comments. If I do add any spoilers, you will be warned at the start.

I think this may help me to focus some of my misplaced energy lately. (Also: I still can’t run so this seems like a decent/healthy enough pastime.)

Thanks for reading, friends. Please feel free to drop me some suggestions. I love suggestions.

Goodie Bags, Plastic and My Ass.

Many of my friends on Facebook are aware of the intense hatred I hold toward all things goodie bag. Given what happened on Sunday, I think it’s time for me to vent in long-form.

Now, this might become heated and I might upset people and I can already see the retro comments I’ll one day receive, but I don’t care. Goodie bags must be stopped.

As you already know, most consumer plastics don’t biodegrade. Instead, the plastic merely breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces, if anything. Sometimes, tiny plastic bits end up in the stomach of a sea creature or a bird. Sometimes it washes up on beaches and covers the sand with garbage.

It’s horrible. I am a hater of plastic. I try desperately to cut back on how much plastic we use. Since having kids, my hatred for plastic has amplified because kids are the most wasteful creatures in existence. I am trying to teach my three boys that they don’t NEED a drinking straw and they can use a glass instead of a plastic to-go cup when we eat out. But glass cups are rarely brightly covered in cartoon animals. Glass cups don’t usually come with red curly (plastic) straws.

Plastic sucks. Most of it. Obviously, it’s also wonderful and has amazing uses. But the economics, lobbying, or perhaps the evergreen popularity of The Graduate (“One word: plastics!”) has led to an overabundance of its use – from excess packaging to drinking straws to… Goodie bags.

Goodie bags. Most of the time, they just a massive waste. We should stop handing them out at parties. Kids don’t care about the shit that comes inside a goodie bag. Ok, that’s not true. Kids care about it for like 30 minutes, maybe three hours. They may care about it in the car on the way home and then lose interest. Some care about it for an hour or two AFTER they get home. But it always ends up in a drawer that looks like this:

img_9433

That’s if you’re lucky. Most of the time, mine don’t even make it out of the car.

Let me back up here. Because I don’t want to come off as a total asshole. My kids LOVE goodie bags. They get excited about them. They think they NEED them. Something about the anticipation of another set of plastic teeth gets them giddy with excitement. I will often say to them: do you really need another set of plastic teeth? And they will explain that this time, they will wear the plastic teeth, they will love the plastic teeth. The plastic teeth won’t end up in a landfill.

img_4775

I am by no means above this. My kids are as materialistic as they come.

Yesterday, we held Elliot’s sixth birthday party at a place called Pump It Up. It’s a great place to have a party, a bit pricey, but whatever. The kids get to jump around and bounce and climb and wear themselves out before we stuff them full of pizza and cake. It’s a win for everyone.

I planned this a few weeks ago. When I was asked about goodie bags I politely declined.

“But they’re included.” She said.

“That’s OK. No offense to you, but all that plastic drives me crazy and it just ends up in a drawer.”

“I understand. How about a piñata?”

“Does that come stuffed with plastic toys?”

“Yes, and candy.”

“Let’s have more candy, less plastic toys.”

“Done.”

We would try and come up with goodie bags on our own. Something useful. Something that wouldn’t end up in a landfill. Toby and I came up with this:

img_3400img_8491

It’s an empty comic book. We purchased 13 of these to give out. We included a nice pencil and some cool comic book -like stickers. Every kid likes to draw, right?

We ended up with 16 kids. I agreed to a few siblings and someone forgot to RSVP. I didn’t have enough goodie bags. So, through gritted teeth, knowing there might be a riot among 6-year-olds, I had no choice but to buy a few of the plastic ones from Pump It Up. But who would get the plastic ones? And would they be OK with that? Would they care? And then would the kids who got the comics, would they freak out? AND WHY AM I EXPENDING SO MUCH EMOTIONAL ENERGY WORRYING ABOUT THIS?

Again, because I have kids. And I’ve seen what happens when one of them doesn’t feel they were treated fairly, I knew that this might end poorly.

So, I took the woman managing our party aside and told her the situation. She suggested we give the girls the plastic goodie bags (there were five girls) and the boys the comics. Which, I found weirdly sexist, but I had split my pants earlier on the bouncy slide and I wasn’t wearing any underwear.

Oh, wait? I didn’t mention that part? Yeah.screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-9-46-56-am

It was actually at Pump It Up, but everything else is accurate.

I split my pants – right where it counts – on the bouncy slide at and had to work the rest of the party feeling more than very vulnerable. It helped I was wearing a long shirt, but I made the mistake on telling Toby about it, and so I became the butt of Toby’s jokes for the remainder of the party (pun intended). “Hey, Michele, you to get up there with the kids and dance, it’s FREEZE dance.”

Bastard.

“You can wink at everyone!”

Asshole.

I was in no mood to come up with a solution to goodie bag politics with my ass hanging out.

All I was worried about was making sure I didn’t accidentally flash any children (the adults would shame me – the kids would get me arrested). So, the official Pump It Up Party Planner and I agreed: I would buy five plastic goodie bags. I would give the boys the comics and the girls the Pump It Up goodie bags. The party planner would throw in a “special ticket”. A “special ticket” allows you to pick out MORE PLASTIC GARBAGE at a prize counter before you leave the premises. Given the circumstances, it sounded fine. Arbitrarily gender-based, and cheap and sloppy, but the math worked and the single brain cell that wasn’t arguing with its peers about the date of my last waxing could handle no more nuance.

You can see where this is heading, I’m sure. The girls were totally ok with the plastic goodie bags. No tears. They were a little confused as to why the boys weren’t getting the same thing (as a kid who spent ALL OF HER TIME drawing, I would have started throwing punches, but whatever). They took it in stride. The boys? They were OK, more or less. Except for two kids. Two kids LOST THEIR FUCKING MINDS. Tears were streaming down their faces. They wanted the plastic goodie bags. They wanted the special ticket! THEY DIDN’T WANT A STUPID COMIC BOOK.

Hold up for a second: I need to explain something. I am, by no means, judging these kids. Again: I have three kids. They can be right bastards. If this hadn’t been a BOUDREAUX birthday party, if they had been at another birthday party and they had gotten the comic instead of the cool goodie bag from Pump It Up? They would have been the kids freaking out. I am not sure if they would have cried, but I would have heard about it later. They would NOT have been happy. Elliot may have even burned the place down.

All this to say: I don’t slight the kids for feeling this way. I get it. And I felt super badly for the parents of these two boys because in an alternate universe, I was those two parents with the screaming kids. So, please don’t think I sit here in judgement.

Anyway, I walked up to the one kid with my ass hanging out and said, “Are you upset about the goodie bags?”

Snot is coming out of his nose, tears streaming into his mother’s lap. He is distraught. “YES!” He sobs. “I am HEART BROKEN. I wanted the special ticket!”

His mother is  looking at me with the saddest, most apologetic, embarrassed look. And I give her one back that says, “No, this is on me. I am so sorry.”

And then we both tried to explain to the child that we weren’t even sure what the special ticket even was and that I bet he could pick something out up front if he wanted to. And that we were both sorry things ended up this way. I explained to his mother what had happened—that siblings showed up and I didn’t have enough. She understood. He didn’t care. I can’t say I blame him.

I tried. I tried, Mother Earth, to help keep the plastic at bay. I failed, I’m afraid. Because somehow even my youngest ended up with one of these bags. He was SO EXCITED. Took everything out of the bag in the car.

“YOOK WHAT I GOT!” He said holding up the fake teeth. “AND DIS!” He said, grabbing the plastic glasses.

It took us 30 minutes to get home. Everyone piled out of the car and ran into the house, ready to play with their friends out back while Toby and I began getting everything out of the car. There, discarded in between the carseats sat 75% of the plastic goodie bag that Walter had managed to nab.

Brain Vomit: MRIs, Overdoing it and Failing at Moderation.

I had an MRI done on my foot last week. What a strange experience that was. Those machines are enormous. Why does all medical equipment and hospital furniture have to look so similar? The equipment, the chairs, the wall color—even the blankets are the same. Is it because they’re all designed by the same people and then shipped out to every medical establishment? Is there a single monopoly on the design of everything medical? Wouldn’t it be nice to get some creativity in there somehow? I know designing hospital equipment and hospital furniture doesn’t seem very appealing to a designer, but IT COULD BE. Because right now, it’s so damn depressing and much of the time you’re going in and you’re already not there for fun, so why add to that with incredibly drab medical equipment?

But I digress. I’m good at tangents.

The building where I had my imaging done is devoted specifically to imaging machines. There are two floors and rooms line those floors with many of these drab looking, but colossal machines. I was just having my foot done, but the machine that did the work was the size of a NYC apartment. (Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here. They are large, but if you put someone in an apartment that size, they’d freak out within minutes. Granted, I’m sure people have done it—after all, those Tiny House shows are wildly popular. Hey! Wouldn’t it be weird if someone turned an MRI machine into one of those tiny houses? There’s a design challenge I could get behind. I’d watch that.)

So, yeah. MRIs. Weird. And of course the information came back as I’d expected: I have a stress fracture on the third metatarsal, which is the middle toe, so it’s kind of like my foot is telling me to fuck off every single day.

I can’t run. I haven’t run for 26 days.

Running clears my head of all the leftover bits that I can’t do away with by sleeping or contemplating. When I run, I empty the trash, so to speak. I clear my head of all the clutter.

I can’t run the D.C. Half on March 11th, so we’re canceling our annual trip to Washington and that thoroughly bums me out. Even if we did still take advantage of the hotel room, I can’t really walk around to see the monuments and museums with the kids, so, I guess we’ll have to wait until next year.

The Star Wars half is on April 21 and I’m crossing every unbroken toe I have left (7 of them) in hopes of being healed by then.

I was doing so well for a while. I was running every day. I was eating healthy enough (minus the ice cream every night), I wasn’t drinking, and I was getting a ton of sleep. I felt good. So good, I overdid the good and then the good turned bad really fast and I got injured. I hit a wall. I couldn’t walk and when I tried to walk, I walked differently to accommodate and so my lower back started to hurt as well. I am not sure why I have trouble approaching things with some moderation. I moderate nothing. When I approach something, it’s all or nothing. Why can’t I run sometimes and cross train on other days? Or take the day off? Why can’t I have ONE bowl of ice cream instead of two? Why am I not satisfied with ONE bowl of Raisin Bran and instead I have three? Why do I have to finish the entire bag of BBQ potato chips? Why do I have to finish the whole bottle of wine? Why do I need to fill all the flower vases every week? Why do I need to overfeed the birds outback? Why do I need ALL the cats? Why does my brain not stop at enough?

I know all my faults. I wear them every day.

Anyway, I finally called a psychiatrist and I hope to discuss all these things with someone who knows stuff about things. Medication has helped me a great deal, but I need some talk therapy. I need to get to the root of it all.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this. It seems that lately whenever I share something personal, it backfires somehow. A family member may use it against me. Someone may look at me differently. But here I am, likely making yet another mistake with my writing out too much personal information, blogging like it’s 2003 all over again.

Did I mention that I have trouble with moderation? ;]

I’m so far from perfect. I have all these insecurities and every day is a challenge for me to some degree. I am a work in progress. And I have a tendency to overshare my progress—like I’m keeping a public timesheet of all my insecurities, failures and emotions.

Something makes me think people aren’t supposed to do that.

But, again. Moderation isn’t my strong suit. But I’m trying.

I’m trying to fail forward.