A Meaningful Space.

There are seven, earth-sized planets around a star in a solar system named TRAPPIST-1 that would take our (current) fastest spacecraft 817,000 years to reach, yet people right this very second are trying to figure out a way to get there.

Simply because.

Cassini, launched in 1997, will make its final mission on September 15 by plunging to its death into Saturn’s gassy atmosphere because it’s finally run out of fuel.

I graduated college in 1997. I’ve done balls compared to this space robot.

(Look at its resume if you get a chance. It discovered potentially habitable moons!)

There’s a giant asteroid passing by us right now, closest it’s been since 1890, won’t be this close again until 2500. Her name is Florence. She’s enormous. You can spot her easily through your kid’s telescope in the backyard.

Yesterday I took two of my boys to see the 40th Anniversary rerelease of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We watched it on a big screen in an enormous movie theater. When we were finished, I told them one of my biggest dreams since I was a kid was to discover alien life. I wanted an E.T. like creature to find its way into my backyard. I still want that.

They called me crazy but agreed that if a spaceship should make its way to our house one night, they would nominate me first to go up with them.

So much has changed in 40 years.

I guess when you have cellphones, iPads, google maps, Wii U’s and Minecraft worlds, the idea of yearning for something bigger than ourselves becomes a little less immediate.

(I need to fix this for my kids. I think I fucked this one up.)

I comb through science magazines and websites every single night in order to escape the “real” news and also to keep myself in check because ultimately? We are all so unbelievably meaningless. I don’t mean that in a depressing way, but look up and out and oh my goodness.

We are so tiny. So small. So unimportant. So quick.

A blip. One pixel.

I find few things more terrifying, remarkable, unpredictable and beautiful than outer space. And I think sometimes I take it for granted and forget that it’s there and vast and terrifying.

Fall is here and that means opening the windows and listening to the chorus of crickets and letting all the moonlight in. It means reminding myself that my problems–while very real and genuine and sometimes all-consuming–they are temporary.

They have to be.

Because what a magnificent show this is.

Bats and Small Talk.

Last spring, I volunteered to chaperone a 4th grade end-of-the-year picnic at a local park. I do not normally seek out social situations where I am thrust into awkward conversations with people whom I have nothing in common other than the fact that we have kids roughly the same age, but when it comes to my kids and their education, I make exceptions. I’m also not suggesting that I couldn’t have made a wonderful, new friend that day. But lasting friendships don’t usually blossom out of conversations had while hundreds of kids hang from monkey bars and consume watermelon like zombies do the heads of the living.

The park is really close to where we live, but I drove because I brought with me one of those giant thermoses coaches bring to sporting events. I brought this behemoth of a thermos because I was told to bring a gallon of water and I loathe plastic. I figured I would bring our industrial-sized thermos, the kids would have their own little water bottles to refill, and any other volunteers who brought water could bring those bottles back home again, allowing them a little more time on land before they end up discarded and eventually polluting the bottom of the ocean.

So, yeah. A giant thermos filled with water AND ice. This thing was not too light and its owner not too bright. I was able to get it into the car from our house and then out of the car and onto the street, but there was no way in hell I was able to get it from the car to the park benches, which were roughly 50 yards up an incline, a small one, but still: an incline.

I stood there on the street, above my giant thermos trying to come up with a plan.

“Roll it?” I thought. “No, that’s fucking crazy. You can’t roll the damned thing up there like Sisyphus. The lid isn’t secure and you’ll look like a crazy person. Also, what if one of the CrossFit moms see you?”

I was just about to put the giant thermos back in the car and give up on the environment for the day, when a woman walked up. “Can I help you with that?”

“Oh, that would be AWESOME. I didn’t think this through too well.”

“Are you a coach?” She asked. “Why do you have this thing?”

“It’s really thoughtless that I brought it. I didn’t even bring cups. I was told to bring a gallon jug but no cups. That’s odd, right?” I said, giving her way too much information, which I do whenever I am nervous. But instead of shutting up, I went on. “My husband and I occasionally do this ‘misfit soccer’ thing at Farrell field, but we aren’t coaches. It’s just for fun. We got it for that and to try and cut back on using plastic water bottles. I hate plastic.”

“Misfit soccer?”

“Yeah, it’s kind of like soccer for kids who like soccer but are too nervous to actually play soccer because all the other kids who are REALLY into soccer are always telling them how bad they are.”

“That actually sounds kind of fun. Where is Farrell field?”

I start to answer this question, when she interrupts me, “OH! I know that field! WAIT A MINUTE! Are you the cake girl? Boudreaux? Is that your name? Do you live on _______ road? I’m Kimberly.” (Not her real name.)

I’m totally confused by this. I have no idea how she knows about my cakes and I don’t live on that road but I live close enough to it. I know nothing about this woman.

She goes on to explain who she is and where she lives—which house.

We drop the thermos off onto a picnic table and she continues, “You know, the one near the overgrown weeds? They’re a nice family, but I wish they’d do something about that yard.”

I have no idea what yard she’s talking about. I don’t know whose house she’s talking about. I still don’t even know where she lives yet.

I must have looked confused because she changes the subject and starts discussing our kids and whether or not our oldest children know one another. We decide that they do not. Other parents start to trickle into the park, kids too.

She changes the subject again to how dramatic her daughter can be and how she recently found a tick on her leg and totally freaked out.

“They’re really bad this year.” She said.

“Did you get the tick off of her? Like, the whole thing?”

“Oh, yes. Definitely.” She said. “But now she thinks they’re all over her all of the time.”

She changes the subject again. “You know what else is really bad this year? Mosquitoes. They’re absolutely awful. We can’t be outside for longer than a minute without being consumed.”

“I know!” I emphatically agree to this. “My husband and I just ordered a couple of bat houses for our yard—fancy ones, from Etsy! Some guy is hand-making these cool little bat houses. I am so excited. I love bats. I can’t wait to watch them devour the little suckers.”

“I’m sorry, but, bats.” She looks absolutely horrified, possibly even sickened by me. “Bats?

Her voice has now changed an octave. I can’t tell if it’s fear, anger, disgust—but something inside of her has changed. And we have reached the “abort mission” stage of small talk. But it’s too late. I said too much.

“You do know about rabies, right? You do know that the treatment for rabies is HORRIBLE and it has to be done on your ENTIRE family, right? You do know all of this, right? BATS?” And then, finally, she says, “Where do you live again?”

“Um, up the street from you? Many houses away, like 7 or 10, many, many houses away.” Thinking this might make her feel better because the bats are already there to some degree only not nearly as many as I would like, I quickly add, “Our neighbors have a bat house!”

“Who are your neighbors?”

“I don’t know their name.” I lie.

“Well, please keep your bats away from my house. I don’t want rabies.”

We were in Walt Disney World last week. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and every night at around 8 PM the bats came out in vast numbers. They dashed across the sky in a choreographed madness. It was a spectacular show, a silent, magnificent army working to protect all the pirates and princesses.

I was mesmerized.

For the first few days, Toby was skeptical with my numbers, but there seemed to be SO MANY BATS. I was certain this was planned, orchestrated in some way. I suspected that the reason I was able to sit outside every single night and watch these wonderful little creatures was because of these wonderful little creatures. Furthermore, I suspected that Disney planned for this. I suspected Disney had bat houses all over the property to keep the mosquito population low and the comfort level high.

So, I finally asked an employee.

They do, indeed, house these bats. They do know they are there and they want them there for the very job they do so very well.

Brilliant.

Two days ago, I was out for a run and I happened to run nearby to where Kimberly lives and I remembered the empty lot that sits on the same street but a bit further down and I had a thought that made me laugh out loud.

You see, a couple of weeks before we left for Disney one of the people on our local mailing list (Kimberly is also on that list) wrote to say that the plot of land is X amount of dollars and that’s quite cheap if anyone has extra cash and wants to build upon it.

When I got home from my run I told Toby my plan: we need to buy that plot of land and then hire the most talented, creative architect we can find and have him or her design the most elegant, kickass bat house anyone has ever seen. I mean, I want this thing to be in magazines. I want it to be world-famous.

And I want Kimberly to be able to sit outside for longer than a minute and not get any  mosquito bites.

Or rabies.

Like Swimming.

In December of 2015, my OBGYN put me on a dusting of fluoxetine (10 MG). I was having a rough time, not too rough, but rough enough to ask for help. I know she’s an OBGYN, but she’s been my doctor for over a decade and I feel particularly close to her. I trust her deeply. Plus, this medication was supposed to help alleviate period pain, which I experience a great deal of.

The dusting seemed to take some of the edge off, although given the low dosage, I have to wonder if I was experiencing the placebo effect. Who really knows. I was still a touch moody; felt socially inept and my anxiety was still ever-present. I still occasionally experienced periods of mania. While things were dialed down a notch, I was still very much the current version of myself.

The one thing that Prozac treated that turned out to be helpful for me was my inability to stew. All my life, since as early as I can remember, whenever something bothers me, I beat the living shit out of it, myself and all of the emotions involved. I investigate the situation from every angle. I replay it over and over again in my head. I mean, I put my thoughts to work! I abuse them. My brain doesn’t get a moment’s rest. I basically emotionally abuse myself. If I say something stupid at a party or respond foolishly during a social situation, I won’t let myself off the hook. I won’t let it go.

I immerse myself within the situation. Forgive me for the bad metaphor, but say every problem I have is a swimming pool, instead of recognizing that I can get out of the pool and approach the situation from outside of the damn pool. I stay in the pool and swim through the situation until I feel like drowning; or I become so exhausted, I have no other choice but to get out.

That’s not healthy and the dusting of prozac helped me with that. It didn’t get rid of it completely, but it definitely helped.

So I stuck with that dusting until late last summer when things started to take a turn once more.

Summer has always been a rough time of year for me. I do not enjoy summer. Even as a kid I didn’t particularly enjoy summer. I much preferred the continuity and safety of a school day. I liked to be with friends. I enjoyed having a schedule, I guess. I don’t particularly like the sun either. So the long days bug me. I don’t like the heat. I loathe pools. (Given the above metaphor, the irony here doesn’t escape me.) I can’t stand being on the beach. (I do like the ocean, however!) And the one thing I love doing most, the thing that helps me cope with my head and my issues is running. It’s my therapy. And running in the summer fucking sucks. (Although I do it! Every day.)

I am simply not a fan of summer. There’s apparently have a term for this, and I am by NO MEANS self-diagnosing myself here, but it’s called Summer-Seasonal Affective Disorder. I gotta say: just knowing that there’s a term for this; knowing that there are people who don’t particularly enjoy the summer and suffer from depression during said season, well, that alone makes me feel better.

Anyway, last summer hit me pretty hard. Things became bad enough that I ended up crying in front of my (brand spanking new!) primary care physician. I was lost. I was feeling suddenly so unhappy about living here. I couldn’t find peace. I was dreading the long days and the heat and the bugs. I felt afraid, like everything I was doing was some different color of failure.

She listened. She gave me the names and numbers of therapists. (Incidentally, I called every single one and not one person was taking new patients. I am by no means severely mentally ill, but I would definitely benefit from talk therapy. I can’t fathom what it must be like out there for someone suffering from severe mental illness when it’s so damn hard to find someone to talk to. We need to fix this shit, America.)

After we spoke, she decided to up my dusting of prozac to 40 MG. (I know, a rather enormous leap.)

I started taking it right away.

For the first week or two, I lost my mind to irrational levels of jealousy and fear. I felt like a teenager again. Even though people told me, “Give it time! You need to adjust!”, I panicked and had her call in a 20 MG prescription instead. This was all while we were in Disney. I would step it down again once returning home.

But by the time we got home, however, I felt better. In fact, I felt AMAZING. I entered some bizarre euphoric state. I felt like I could do anything. I hadn’t ever felt that secure and amazing in all my life. I felt sexy. I felt capable. I didn’t care what anyone around me thought about me, yet I worked to be positive and happy and to try and make others happy too. I wanted to be around everyone. Nothing bugged me. I felt like I could rule the world. No kidding, it was as though someone slipped me some ecstasy. Every single morning.

Toby was convinced my serotonin was set into overdrive and I was basically acting as though I was on MDMA.

I won’t lie: it was awesome. Toby was thrilled. After those initial first two weeks, I was golden. I was happy, outgoing. I made new friends. I started throwing parties—ALL the parties! So many parties! I was throwing parties for complete strangers. My goal was to overcome everything we’d experienced on the previous street and bring people together. And I loved that goal. I loved me. I showed up to events. I became a super version of myself, a version I hadn’t ever experienced before. It was outstanding.

During that time, I apologized to Toby repeatedly for having had to deal with my mood-swings all those years. I felt bad, but promised I’d continue to make it up to him. I felt worthy, excited. Guys, life was really fucking great.

I became the poster child for treatment.

Of course it didn’t last. By November, things had leveled out. I was no longer euphoric. I was still quite social. And I no longer stewed. There were no pools to mention. Instead I stood on the outside looking in and I was able to watch the problem and not give it too much thought.

I also totally stopped crying. Which is crazy. I cry ALL the time and have my entire life. But on 40 MG of prozac? Nope. I simply could not squeeze out a tear. They were gone. My brain just didn’t allow for tears.

Also gone? My disdain for the mundane. I no longer pined for something else or better or different. There were no real “ups” because the downs were gone too. Life became even.

And then my clothing stopped fitting. My face grew fatter. And I felt tired a lot.

I hopped on the scale in February: 163 pounds.

When I started taking 40 MG of Prozac I weighed 142. I had gained over 20 pounds in 6 months.

Yes, life was even. Yes, my periods were tolerable. But my hatred toward myself grew with every added pound. I was, and continue to be, miserable about the weight gain.

One morning I told Toby, “I need to lose this weight. I feel like the more I weigh, the more space I take up in the world so there’s more of myself to loathe. I don’t want to take up this much space in the world.”

Again: not healthy.

I am absolutely certain at this point that prozac ruined my metabolism. It explains why I would fall asleep at 8 or 9 PM and sleep like the dead until morning. (Well, whenever Walter wasn’t waking me up every hour.) I had such little energy. I still ran, but my pace dropped from 9-minute miles to 11 plus minute miles. It is not unheard of for me these days to run a 12-minute mile. I changed even though the only thing I actually changed in my daily life was medication.

About two months ago, I had had enough. I visited my OBGYN again. I topped out that day at 168.

We discussed tapering. She was shocked at how much that other doctor had upped my dose, but agreed that that much weight gain is likely linked to the medication.

She ran a my thyroid levels: all fine. Everything checked out as normal, the same.

I stopped the meds. I couldn’t take it anymore.

That was a little over 2 months ago.

My weight is SLOWLY going down, although nothing to write home about; I’m still considered overweight and I can’t fit into any of my clothing, which is heartbreaking for me. My running pace has moved up a minuscule amount, so I’ll take it. The bouts of insomnia are back, which admittedly sucks. I had forgotten about so much that the prozac had been treating. My periods are downright awful again. Those things I can handle.

But the biggest problem I see with the untreated me is that the insecurity is back. The fear of human interaction has returned. I am up and down and sometimes moody as fuck. There are days I can barely say hello to a person let alone have a conversation.

I know I come off rather shallow that I gave up a medication that was doing a lot of OK for me because it was making me fat. But it’s the truth. And now I am facing the fact that I am back and because I was someone else for a while, I am now very much aware of all the things I could be.

So that’s where I am now. I’m trying to mentally turn myself into that person regardless of how I actually feel. Fake it to you make it? Maybe if I force myself to rework my initial feelings, I can rewire the way my brain works? I’ve got to try something.

I don’t know why I’m writing today, frankly. I guess it just feels good to mark it down. Maybe since I can’t seem to find a doctor, and if I continue to pour my guts out online, maybe I will begin to feel better as I muddle through all of the bullshit.

Godspeed, friends.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.