The Shrimp Dish

Kyle and I both had long, trying days at work. We got home and I debated whether I was up for cooking or if we should get takeout. Kyle was dutifully quiet, agreeable to whatever I chose, and I decided that maybe cooking would help. So I got out some freezer and pantry staples and I set to work attempting (yet again) to recreate my Uncle Hal’s famous shrimp dish.

The recipe was lost years ago (the story here varies…Aunt Steffi thinks he burned it because he was tired of making it, and we’re all pretty sure Poppa was an accomplice: the Steiner women requested it for every gathering/birthday/holiday. Pops and Uncle insist both of their copies just *poof* vanished). I’ve tried a couple times over the years to find comparable recipes online, and have brought them to the table with varying degrees of success: they all tasted fine (except that one time I put in WAY to much dill 😬 sorry, Kyle) but it was never just right.

Tonight, while sharing stories back and forth of our “everything went wrong” kind of days, I tried again. I had all the ingredients, and a basic recipe I’d found years ago, with notes I’ve made each time I’ve attempted it. I said to Kyle half way through making dinner: “Yes. Cooking is helping. Thanks for not just letting me order in.”  (His ability to know when I need one kind of encouragement or another grows more impressive every year.)

If you’ve ever eaten my cooking, or watched me cook, you know that I use my recipes as a very loose guideline for what I’m doing. (It makes me a pretty terrible baker, but most friends will attest that it makes me a decent chef–albeit one who will never make a dish the same way twice.) Today I followed the vague recipe I had written and adjusted as I went, heeding the TOO MUCH DILL and ADD MORE WINE notes in the margin. I threw some crescent rolls in the oven to go with it, and served everything up when the timers went off.

I took my first real bite (I tasted along the way to add more salt/pepper/garlic/other spices, of course) and I looked at Kyle and said “I did it.” And then I promptly burst  into tears.

It’s been…I don’t even know…a decade since I tasted the original? So it’s entirely possible, even probable, that I don’t remember the taste precisely. That being said, I’ve never made it so well or so close, and I’ve never been more proud of myself.

Kyle confirmed that it was the best iteration I’ve made, and he liked it so much he’s taking it for lunch. (Kyle never packs lunch.) And while I normally add more spice to my own servings, and I got the hot sauce out to do so, I didn’t end up using it. The dish brought back so much nostalgia and happy feels that it was perfect just the way it was.

I was going to just post a quick Instagram post or story, but I had too many words to commit to the page (screen? Whatever). So here we are, two blog posts in as many months. That’s more writing than I’ve done in years, in case anyone’s counting.

This is all to say that even on the really shitty days, where everything feels like it goes wrong for no damn reason, there might be something left out there that can make it better. (And I say that with the caveat that I can find some good because I am appropriately supported, well-medicated, and attending therapy regularly.) After feeling incredibly defeated all day long about my time management, my lesson plans, my library setup, the barcodes of books, etc., etc…. I’m ending my day feeling so damn proud.

The other day, I read in a poem from “Fortunate: Tarot Poetry” by Kim Rashidi to “do what makes you feel bright.” I put it on a post-it to add to my desk at home; it sits opposite one I’ve had for years that reminds me to “Stop expecting YOU from people”. So tonight, instead of continuing to stress about today, instead of sulking in my failures, I did something that made me feel bright. I cooked a dinner I’ve been trying to perfect for years, I worked on The Office Lego set with my husband, I wrote THIS, and I intend to go read my new book when I’m done.

So that’s what I’ll leave you with here. Do what makes YOU feel bright. (And it’s okay if you cried first, or took a Xanax, or considered giving up. I did all three at some point today.) And if you’re not ready to find the thing that makes you feel bright? Do whatever else you need to do to make it through. Tomorrow might be better (fuck toxic positivity….it might be just as bad, too, maybe even worse!) but with any luck you’ll find a few moments for you: not for self care or meditation or yoga (unless those things are your jam, in which case, go for it) but for something that makes you feel whatever you think of when you hear the word bright. (I think engaged, shiny, or thoughtful, successful–your definition might be entirely different, and that’s perfect.)

Cheers to YOU if you made it this far. I hope tomorrow is brighter for all of us. ⚡️🌈🥂


In retrospect, the last 12 months have been a pretty intense emotional rollercoaster. And tonight, I’m finally starting to feel some consistent peace (that is accompanying the uptick of joy I have found in the past few months).

In the summer of 2021, I (accidentally) quit my anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication. (My daily routine goes out the window when summer starts and somehow I kept missing the pills I was supposed to take every day…my allergies also suffered.) When I realized I was feeling sick because I had essentially cold turkeyed myself off a prescription med, I called to set up an appointment with my doctor, ready to talk about the fact that I didn’t think the pill I was on was actually working well enough anyway.

Medication for feelings is HARD you guys. You don’t know what will work unless you try it, and to try it, you have to give it time to settle in, and then also to…settle out? before you can try something new.

When we went back to the drawing board (because my doctor and I agreed that I would benefit from SOME kind of meds), he asked me “if you had to pick one or the other, depression or anxiety, which one do you feel is the most pressing?”, and I didn’t hesitate before answering “ANXIETY 10000%”.

So we decided to try a daily pill for generalized anxiety. I knew that a lot of my issues came from worst case scenario planning, and feeling like everyone was mad at me all the time, and if that’s not what anxiety is…well, I mean, that is what it is.

Long story longer, the new medicine worked wonders. (Buspirone, if you’re curious.) It helped my brain insert logic into my overly dramatic and emotional thought process, and helped me practice the coping mechanisms my therapist taught me authentically. (Yep, even with appropriate medication, I still need therapy, too. And not because something is inherently WRONG with me, but because it is incredibly helpful to have an impartial audience who can offer problem solving techniques specific to my brand of neuroses.) I felt so much better, AND I started being able to set boundaries to protect my feelings.

I’ve read so many articles (read: instagram posts and tiktok videos…don’t judge me…or do! I don’t worry about it so much anymore!) about how women who learn to set boundaries as adults are often viewed as aggressive or selfish, and that is 100% some of the feedback I received as I started to make space for myself to be happier. Because my medication helped move me out of the “everyone has to like me or I’m a failure at life” mindset, I decided I was okay with that perception. I stuck to it, had brave conversations, and felt so damn proud of myself when it was done.

Step 2 (or realistically, step…587? Ish? There’s so many steps, you guys, and it’s such a process to figure it all out, but damn if it isn’t worth it, I don’t know what is): hearing from several women of a similar age who had been diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication to address it. Then I found out that a friend who was also on the same anti-anxiety med as me was also prescribed Adderall. I took the information to my doctor and said I felt like I often experienced the symptoms I’ve heard described as how ADHD presents in women. (Easily distracted, quick to anger, can’t tell a straight story, can’t finish one task at a time because there are 17 other tasks that get noticed in between, etc.) He told me Adderall can be helpful for anyone in a cup of coffee kind of way, but if I *needed* it, I’d know after trying it. We agreed that I’d try the lowest dose and see how it went.

You guys. Buspirone was so helpful, but ADHD medication was life changing. Instead of starting a task and having to pause 11 times to get something I need to complete said task, I’m able to look at what I need to do and get all the things I need ready before I start. I am still a “needs a checklist” person, but now I’m capable of actually prioritizing the things on the list (whereas before I struggled to figure out which thing mattered most, or which would make sense to accomplish first).

AND it helped EVEN MORE with my anxiety. The Buspirone allowed me to set boundaries and to be okay with some people not loving me. Adderall has helped me manage high stress situations (crowds of people, presentations, traveling, etc.), not because it has made my worries go away, but because I feel like I’m properly prepared if things go awry. I’m able to more logically understand that the worst case scenario probably won’t happen, and I’m also able to feel confident in the way I’ve prepared myself for if it does.

If you’ve made it this far…woof. This was long, and honestly, it was cathartic for me to put into words. The point of me sharing it, however, is to encourage anyone in the process of finding their correct medication to not give up. I know meds aren’t for everyone, and maybe there are holistic things that would work for me the same way these prescriptions do. To each their own. What is working for ME is the combination of appropriate medication, therapy, and support from my family and friends.

If you’re struggling to find the things that give help you find balance, peace, and joy? Know that the thing is out there. Maybe it’s clean eating, or acupuncture, or natural vitamins and supplements. Maybe it’s medications, or therapy, or, I don’t know…quitting your job and moving to Alaska. (I still REALLY want to live in Alaska…or at least visit.) Maybe it’s all of those things combined, or maybe it’s a combination of stuff I haven’t even mentioned.

The point is, there IS something for you, and it might (probably does) suck, trying to find the “just right” thing. But I’ll tell you what: at 36, I have never been more at peace, more satisfied, or more confident in who I am as a person. I finally feel like I’m being my authentic self (with the caveat that sometimes my authentic self changes based on my current interests….I’m a 4 enneagram, so I’m pretty sure that’s normal for me).

I’ve been wanting to share my journey with meds for a while, and kept…not? Not finding the right time or the right words to make it feel…authentic?

After two full days of teacher work at school, including Open House where I got to see so many kiddos who were so happy to see me, I decided tonight was the night. And then, after changing my evening plans because I felt like Eloise needed someone to be home (we’ve been so damn busy and not necessarily present in August…and also she is big enough to rip down corn stalks and gorge herself on feeder corn and got REAL FAT, REAL FAST and has as a result been relegated to her harness and the lead…and it has all led to her being grumpy and aggressive) I was able to find so much peace in my home tonight.

This summer, because I’ve found a balance, I was able to donate 9 boxes of books to a very worthy cause. On Tuesday, I spent 6 hours organizing the remaining books aesthetically, and I actually went through piles of nonsense that haven’t been touched in over 11 years. And tonight, I was able to enjoy the peace in my home library, with my suddenly much more content pig (because yeah, she just needed us to be near her to be happier). And now here we are. I’ve written a billion word essay, I hope it helps someone, I know it’s helped me.

Cheers to knowing the hard work is worth it. Cheers to my friends who stuck by me while I attempted to manage these major shifts in emotions and thoughts. Cheers to Kyle, who has taken the brunt of my emotional outbursts as I have tried to navigate all of this. Thank you to all of you who loved me before and love me still. Thank you, everyone, for the grace as I continue to grow.