So apparently the Iowa caucus was on Monday, and yesterday Rand Paul dropped out of the race. That surprised me, since I understood he was expected to do well in New Hampshire. Well, now we’ll never know, will we? Rand Paul has never been my guy, despite the internet quizzes that tell me we are very much in alignment on several issues. I appreciate that Rand Paul is the only Republican candidate with a robust understanding of the Fourth Amendment, but on the other hand, well, it’s difficult to take him seriously. That might be a personal failing of mine, but that’s neither here nor there, since we won’t have Rand Paul to kick around the rest of this primary. Maybe he ran out of money. Or maybe he just has better things to do. He is a senator, after all.

And this morning I read that Rick Santorum is also calling it quits. It came as something of a shock, like when Yogi Berra died–up ’til then I’d had no idea the cat was still alive. It’s good news, though (Santorum quitting, not the demise of Mr. Berra), since we could use fewer Republicans running for president. I appreciate his contribution to this cause. If only more of them would follow suit.

I have not been paying a great deal of attention to this race because a) I haven’t been paying much attention to the world in general since 2012, and b) nothing interesting ever happens anyway. Well, with the exception of Donald Trump’s campaign, which has been not so much interesting as horrifying. But it’s too easy to sit here and make snide remarks about Donald Trump. I prefer to work on pretending he isn’t there. If I ignore him long enough, do you think he’ll go away?

Historically, I have advocated that we choose presidents based on who would win in a fistfight. I thought Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were rather evenly matched in that regard, so I can’t say this method would have served me any better than the traditional one in 2012. This year is a little easier. For the Democrats, Hillary would win, hands down. Probably with both hands tied behind her back (with handcuffs, as they probably should be). For the Republicans, it’s a much closer call. For one thing, there are about 47 of these guys in the ring (plus Carly Fiorina). I didn’t even realize Rick Santorum was there until he wasn’t anymore. One thing’s for sure: Trump would be knocked out fairly early. He acts like he’s all ruthless and crap, but push comes to shove, he’s just another multi-millionaire who probably can’t be bothered to pick up his own socks, plus he whines whenever he doesn’t get his way, and that’s when someone–probably Jeb Bush–is going to sucker punch him. Jeb Bush doesn’t look like a tough guy, but I find it hard to believe he could grow up with W and not learn how to hold his own in a brawl. But he would probably get knocked out by Chris Christie.

Speaking of Chris Christie, I remember when he was a conservative favorite and people actually wanted him to run for president. Was it only four years ago? That part I don’t remember. What I do remember was Frank J. Fleming’s assertion that Chris Christie “would eat your candidate for lunch. Then he would eat his normal lunch.” Presently, Gov. Christie does not appear to be eating anyone’s lunch, normal or otherwise, but that’s just in the real presidential race. In the hypothetical take-it-to-the-octagon presidential race, Chris Christie would acquit himself rather well. Size matters in the octagon. But I reckon we’d find him surprisingly agile for a candidate of size. He’d probably dominate for a good portion of the contest. Lost opportunities.

But that’s not actually what I meant to talk about. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted this thing on the Facebook. For those of you too lazy to click, it’s the Presidents of the United States ranked by hotness. Oh, sure, now you click. Anyway, I could quibble here and there–Bill Clinton is ranked way too high, and there’s no way Jimmy Carter is hotter than Gerald Ford–but it seems more or less legit. So I wondered, what if we chose presidents on the basis of hotness? It’s an interesting question because a) what is hotness, really? and b) it’s pretty slim pickings in the political realm, as far as hotness goes, so you really have to use your imagination.

Again, I think it’s easy to decide the winner of the Democratic primary: it’s Martin O’Malley. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with me there.

I mean, come on.

Martin O’Malley

Right? I mean, before I looked him up on the internet, I would have said Hillary was a shoo-in. Because seriously.

Bernie Sanders


Hillary Clinton

Hillary looks great for 70, or whatever she is, but she’s no Martin O’Malley–sorry, girlfriend. I say he wins the primary and the general, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Republican primary is much, much trickier to judge. It’s a shame Rand Paul dropped out because he’s probably the best looking of the Republican candidates. (Believe me, I was surprised as you.) But let’s be scientific about this, i.e. gather some data.

Jim Gilmore

Yes, Jim Gilmore is still running for president. I checked. Not a bad-looking guy, by any stretch. Definitely doing better in this poll than in others. But what’s the competition like?

John Kasich

Also still running. You know, he has decent features, but something about him reminds me of the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files. It may be clouding my judgment.

Jeb Bush

Say what you will about the Bushes, but you can’t argue with the DNA. They’re an attractive family. Jeb’s looks have improved with age, and fortunately he’s not competing with his brother here (or his father, for that matter). I see a lot of Bar in him, actually. Overall, not too shabby. Don’t count Jeb out.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson is also a reasonably handsome fellow, though the glasses give him kind of a nerdy, mild-mannered look.

But while I was looking up photos of him on the internet, I came across this younger, smoother version of Dr. Carson.

Hello, ladies! Too bad this contest wasn’t being held 30 years ago, amirite?

Chris Christie

When you’re looking for “small” images of Chris Christie, the pickings are pretty slim (no pun or particular irony intended). Gov. Christie is an imposing figure, and he does have that teddy bear thing going for him, but I can’t pretend he’s in my top three.

Ted Cruz

I have tried and tried and tried to like Ted Cruz, mainly because a) he seems to be Trump’s main competition and b) he’s Jay Nordlinger’s guy, and I love Jay Nordlinger and want to love his guy, but I find I just can’t. There’s something about him that just rubs me the wrong way. He gives the impression that he finds a significant percentage of the electorate to be morons, and at the same time he keeps pandering to said morons (cynically, and I don’t mean that in a good way). There’s something slippery, almost Clintonesque about him. I’m probably being unfair. I can’t claim to be paying the closest of attention to everything that’s gone on in this race, and to call a Republican “Clintonesque” is pretty rude. At least he’s better-looking than Clinton, but admittedly, that’s not saying much. Most of the time he looks kind of goofy to me.

But this picture I find very flattering. I like his nose. He reminds me a bit of Jeremy Northam here. If he could just always be shown from this angle, he’d make a very fine President indeed.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina has either an advantage or a disadvantage being the only woman in the group. Male hotness and female hotness are such different balls of string, if you know what I’m saying. (I’m not sure I do.) Carly’s an attractive woman, but can she go head-to-head with Martin O’Malley? I just don’t know.

Marco Rubio

Then there’s Marco Rubio, who is exactly eleven days younger than I am, but I always think he looks about fourteen years old. (It seems weird to vote for someone younger than me, even if it’s only by eleven days. It seems especially weird when I could probably pass for his mother.) Aesthetically, he appeals to me more than Ted Cruz does, most of the time, and unlike Ted Cruz, there is no angle or lighting that is especially beneficial to him. He pretty much always looks exactly like this. Does that make him more trustworthy, or just sort of a freak?

After eight years in the White House, he might finally look as old as I do. He will either have matured into greater handsomeness, or we will find a portrait of his withered visage in his attic. Meanwhile, I just can’t decide how I feel about him.

And then there’s this guy.

Donald Trump

Yes, that is the most flattering photograph I could find of him. I’m just going to say he looks very wealthy here.

Frankly, I just can’t decide. In the nice-guy-with-glasses category, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are about even, with maybe a slight edge to Ben Carson because he makes that goatee look good. Personally, I have to say I’m partial to Jim Gilmore. I can’t explain why. But for someone to compete with Martin O’Malley, I may have to go with Carly Fiorina or Marco Rubio (his youth has to count for something), or possibly a cardboard cutout of Ted Cruz from that very flattering angle. But I’m not confident about any of these choices.

What do you think, gentle readers? How would you rate the presidential candidates, according to hotness? Feel free to offer your assessment of historical presidential hotness as well. Could Walter Mondale have beaten Ronald Reagan? Of course he couldn’t have. But what about Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson? That’s a much tougher call.

So it’s January. Crazy, huh? 2016. The year my oldest child graduates from high school (knock on wood). Hard to believe, especially considering that when I was her age, I thought for sure the world would have come to an end before now. Funny how life works.

I believe that when last we spoke—I use the term “spoke” loosely—I had just come from an appointment with the doctor who had bloodied my toe and prescribed me an antibiotic that I had to take for three months to kill a fungal infection in said toe (and wherever else it might lurk). Three months is actually a rather long time. I’m on the third month now. I was supposed to get my liver function checked once a month while I was on this antibiotic. Guess how many times I’ve had it checked. That’s right, zero. I would probably know if my liver were failing, wouldn’t I? I mean, by now I certainly would. If it were failing. Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe on the day I take my last pill, I will just keel over from liver failure. I suppose that’s not the worst way I could go. But I reckon that won’t happen. I really enjoy not having a fungal infection. At least I hope the fungal infection’s gone. My toenail hasn’t really grown back yet, or really grown at all, frankly, but the doctor did say it would take about a year. In the meantime I have a somewhat awkward pedicure. Good thing I do my own pedicuring.

Anyway, that was November. Let me tell you what happened in December. First I got my braces off. No, I’m not kidding. It actually happened. That makes my time in braces a mere 4 years and 10 months, rather than the 576 I was afraid it was going to be. It was a Christmas surprise. I went in for an adjustment and my orthodontist said, “Well, you still have this one millimeter space that hasn’t closed yet. I’ve tried everything I can think of, but I can keep trying, if it’s bothering you.” I said, “Of course a one millimeter space bothers me. How could it not? It’s a whole FREAKING MILLIMETER. What the hell am I paying you for?” Just kidding, I didn’t say that at all. I told him the truth, which was that I wouldn’t know a one millimeter space from a half-millimeter space, and in fact I had not noticed this gaping chasm at all. So in that case, he said, we could go ahead and take the brackets off and make my retainer that very day. America!

I was hoping I’d look different when the braces came off, but it turns out I don’t really. I look pretty much the same. That’s okay. Better than looking worse, I guess.

Well, the second thing that happened in December was I got in a car accident. That’s neither here nor there except that it means we had to get a new minivan. Yes, I totaled another car, but I swear it wasn’t on purpose. Of course, if I’d known what a nice minivan my husband was going to buy… Just kidding. I totally wouldn’t have totaled the car on purpose. Car accidents are horrible. I’m beginning to feel like I just shouldn’t drive anymore. I’m sure my insurance company agrees. On the other hand, if I have to drive—which I do—I don’t mind doing it in a new minivan. (Except for that crippling paranoia I feel every time I go out on the road.) It’s much fancier than our old minivan. For one thing, the windows roll up and down, and all the doors open. Not only do the doors open, but they are automatic doors. I even have one of those fancy key fobs that will open the doors remotely. Of course, I am constantly opening the wrong side of the car because I can never remember which simple diagram represents what, but I figure I’ll get the hang of it eventually.

The bad news is that the check engine light went on about a week and a half ago. The good news is that the car’s still under warranty. The bad news is that the part that has to be replaced is hard to find, so the car’s been in the shop since Monday and will probably stay there for a while. In the meantime, we are making do with Sugar Daddy’s car, which, I have to say, does not seem nearly so fancy anymore next to the new minivan. It does have heated seats, though, which the fancy new minivan does not. SD’s always depriving me of these little things so I don’t get too spoiled. Speaking of spoiled, we are not really making do with just SD’s car, but we are relying heavily on my mother-in-law being willing to drive him to and from work. Proximity has its privileges, that is fo shizzle.

I said “fo shizzle” the other day and Princess Zurg thought it was really lame. Well, duh. Of course it’s lame. I’m 44 years old, obviously I am saying it IRONICALLY. Also, because it’s kind of fun. Because I’m 44 years old and I don’t give a crap anymore about sounding lame.

Or being lame, for that matter. You might say that I have finally embraced lameness as a way of life. I wouldn’t say that I endorse lameness as a way of life, but I probably could fool a lot of people into thinking I do, what with how intimate an embrace lameness and I are currently entangled in. So maybe the “fo shizzle” isn’t ironic. Maybe it’s whatever it has to be.

Currently, I feel like a day has been a success if I didn’t take a nap during it. By that standard, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have all been successes. I think. I don’t remember taking a nap yesterday. If I don’t remember it, it probably didn’t happen. No, I’m sure it didn’t. So, yes. Unmitigated successes, all three days. Can I make it four? Only tomorrow will tell.

I used to feel like a day was a success if I’d a) not taken a nap, b) exercised, c) did enough housework to make myself upset, and d) taken a shower. Showering can seem like such a burden sometimes, although in the end I’m always glad I did it. I have never regretted taking a shower, as far as I can remember. I have oft regretted the shower not taken. Let this be a lesson to you, kids: there is no substitute for personal hygiene. This paragraph has inspired me to slightly raise the bar for a successful day: a) no nap and b) at least one shower. Actually, (b) can compensate for want of (a) in a pinch, as far as I’m concerned. But by this standard, two of the last three days have been double successes.

It occurred to me the other day that I am probably depressed. I’m not sure what to do about it. My depression is sort of like my teeth—it used to be horrible and untreated. Now it is treated, but there’s still this one millimeter space I can’t seem to close no matter what I do. Actually, it’s more like a three or four millimeter space because I do notice it. I notice that I don’t write anymore, and I don’t have aspirations or plans, and I don’t have any close friends. If I wanted to be social, who would I call? If something wonderful happened to me, who would I tell?

I don’t like to complain about these things because it seems pretty douche-like to have a comfortable lifestyle and a minivan I don’t deserve and say that it’s not enough. I’m sure 95 percent of the world would like to be as unhappy as I am. There’s an old Far Side cartoon where two cows are in a sitting room or parlor or whatever; Mr. Cow is reading the newspaper and Mrs. Cow (wearing pearls, as I recall) is holding a martini and she says, “Wendell, I’m not content.” That is me. That has always been me, actually. I used to expect more from myself—or rather, I expected that eventually I would produce more, or contribute more—to my family, to my community, to humanity in general. But I seem to lack a certain essential quality—the quality that causes people to accomplish things.

I’ve tried to look at myself in a more charitable light. My mother, for example, was not a person of great accomplishments—I mean, most people aren’t, when you come right down to it—but you wouldn’t call her life a failure because what really matters in life, I think, is relationships, and she was a people person. I am not a people person. Even when it comes to my kids, whom I love—and who I think love me, most of the time—I feel like I don’t measure up. I mean, I’m not a failure as a mother. I’m not ridiculous enough to think that. Although I might be a failure on some level—I’m afraid I haven’t instilled the value of work in them, and it’s probably too late to make a difference on that front now. My credibility is completely shot. The ladies at my church have a book group, and every year they get together and pick the books they want to read that year, and there are always tons of suggestions in the self-help genre. This is where I differ from most Mormon women, I think. Self-help books don’t inspire me, they just depress me. Really, is there any hope for a woman who is depressed by good advice?

Well, this blog took a turn for the dark at some point, didn’t it? It’s a good thing I don’t have anything to prove. That I have embraced my lameness, as it were, because this post is lame. On the other hand, I did not have to take a nap in the middle of it, so SUCCESS.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

Isn’t that a loaded question? For a long time I’ve dreamed of writing a novel. Pretty much since I was a kid, in fact. As a kid I started many, many novels. Well, they were children’s books, but they were chapter books. I even finished a few. There weren’t any good, mind you, but I did finish them. They weren’t very long, either–more like novellas, really–but I did finish them. But the last novella/chapter book I finished was when I was about eleven years old. What happened after that? I’m not sure.

Well, as a teenager I became interested in screenplays and television writing. That lasted for several years and was probably my downfall. I didn’t start writing stories again until college, and that’s when I started thinking about writing a novel again. But I didn’t actually try to write a novel at that time. I continued writing stories, or at least trying to write stories. I wrote stories through two (failed) attempts at graduate school. And then I got married and had kids, and that was the end of everything.

Not really. When I was pregnant with my third child, I took a writing workshop class through the community college, and I wrote stories again, for the first time in…I don’t know. I should say that I actually finished stories for the first time in a very long time. Then that class ended and I gave birth and more life happened and then I started a blog. I used to blog pretty much every day, even when I wasn’t getting any other kind of writing done (and I mostly wasn’t).

About…five years ago? Six? It couldn’t be seven, could it? Or could it? Maybe six or seven years ago I started writing a novel. I wrote several chapters. There might be thirteen or so altogether. I don’t know. There are a lot of files and some of them are re-writes or alternate versions of other chapters, but I think thirteen chapters is about right. It’s not more than fifteen. I don’t know what happened to that novel. I couldn’t decide what happened next, I guess. I got stuck. Maybe I lost interest. I decided a novel was too ambitious, considering my circumstances and level of productivity, so I started writing stories again. “Started” being the operative term. How many whole stories do I have to show for that period of writing? Definitely one whole one, possibly two. I spent a lot of time re-working old stories I had written while in college or while pregnant with my third child–stuff I’d done during my productive times that wasn’t very good but at least had been completed once and could possibly be good if I completed them again.

About a year or so ago I got an idea for another novel, and that’s what I’ve been working on–“working” being a relative term, because now I’m in the same place where I was with my last novel, i.e. I don’t know what comes next, and not knowing what comes next leaves me with little to do except re-read what I’ve already done and realize that it’s crap. Last week I went back and re-read all the chapters of my old novel and realized that a) it’s actually promising and b) I shouldn’t have abandoned it but also c) I still don’t know what comes next.

It’s hard for me to move forward with either novel right now because a) I don’t know what comes next, but also b) I can’t quiet the voice in my head that says, “You’re a good writer, Mad, but you’re not that good. If you can’t figure out how to write this thing, it’s probably because you can’t. Maybe your calling in life is to be an excellent albeit obscure blogger.” I do think I’m an excellent blogger, when I actually take time to blog. I’ve tried not blogging to make more room in my life for other writing, but it seems like I don’t really need the extra room after all. Nothing’s coming.

That’s why I’ve never written a novel.

I was just kidding.

Wow, it’s great to be here. By now all of the friends I’ve made in the blogosphere have either succumbed to Facebook or dropped off the face of the earth, so now it’s just like it was in the beginning, before I had any blogging friends and it was just me typing to myself all the time. I don’t suppose I mind that too much.

Maybe I will make all new friends! Just kidding. Seems unlikely. But that’s not what I’m here for.

What am I here for? No special reason. Just because. Just because I’m me and I do random stuff. Today I went to the doctor. I didn’t really want to go to the doctor, although I don’t ordinarily mind going to the doctor. For years and years I hated going to doctors, and I’m not sure when that changed. Probably when I left California. The doctors in Oregon have been a lot better, in my experience. That’s not to say there aren’t excellent doctors in California. I just never met any. Ha ha, no, that’s not exactly true–I did have one doctor who was very nice, but he retired, and that was the end of that. But that’s not why I didn’t want to go to the doctor today.

Today I really, really wanted to take a nap. You see, I was very tired because I was up half the night dealing with a very troublesome retainer. This is how much has changed, dear Internet, since we last spoke. On Friday I had my bottom braces removed and I am now the proud owner of a retainer. (My top braces are not coming off in the foreseeable future. I’ve stopped asking, and my orthodontist has stopped telling. I may spend my golden years having my wires tightened every 6-8 weeks.)

Anyway, I have this removable retainer–they gave me the option of a permanent one, but after four and a half years in braces, I’m not about to sign up for a permanent anything else. I want to floss my teeth like a normal person (i.e., occasionally, but without a big production). I want to eat leafy greens and and not discover them in the crevices of my dental appliance three hours later. No, it was strictly removable for me. And I have enjoyed the removable aspect. It’s amazing how much does not get stuck in my teeth now (at least on the bottom ones). I have not enjoyed the taking-out and especially not the putting-back-in processes.

Question: is inserting my retainer supposed to feel like I’m stapling it to my gums? Because that’s been my experience so far. At first it was only painful when I first put it back in; after a few minutes I’d get used to it and be fine. Last night as I was trying to go to sleep, this surprisingly sharp piece of plastic was disturbing my calm. I tried to be all mind over matter because I was super, super tired and thought if I lay still long enough I would just pass out, but it just wasn’t happening. I kept getting up and taking it out and putting it back in and maybe trying to put some wax between my most sensitive tissues and the most sinister plastic edges, but that didn’t work–I didn’t really expect it to because this sucker fits tighter than vinyl gloves that are a size too small. (That is the comparison that comes to mind because I also happen to be the proud owner of a box of ~75 vinyl gloves that are a size too small. I bought them for when I color my hair and I’m too proud to admit I made a mistake and throw them out and buy new ones. But I digress.) No, not at any point did I consider not wearing my retainer. I have been wearing braces for four and a half years. I am not jeopardizing my long-term oral alignment now. Anyway, I eventually remembered that I had some Orajel in the bathroom drawer, and I used some of that and it actually helped. Happy ending! Except that I had to wake up five hours later and that sucked.

So I really wanted to take a nap, but it was Princess Zurg’s late arrival day, so I couldn’t lie down until almost 9:30. Once I lay down, I was in a prime position to fall asleep, except that our neighbor is having a new roof put on. Let me give you a list of things you shouldn’t try to do when your neighbors are replacing their roof: 1) Take a nap. 2) That pretty much covers it. Well, in between hammering sounds I somehow managed to fall asleep, but much too soon my alarm went off and I had to take a shower.

I might have considered not taking a shower and taking another 20 minutes to sleep, except that I was going to the doctor to see about this thing that’s been growing under my toenail since, like, May (or possibly earlier, I can’t really remember, it’s such a part of me now), and when you’re going to have something disgusting looked at, you at least want to be clean. Well, I do. I mean, I like to be clean most of the time, but there are priorities and there are priorities. Anyway, I’ve had this disgusting thing since May and I hadn’t really been sure what it was. At first it hurt like the son of a motherless goat, and I thought that I had just bruised my toe really badly somehow–maybe I stubbed it, maybe my clogging shoes were too tight, I don’t know–because it looked and felt like my toenail was going to come off, and I resigned myself to that and just waited.

Well, it stopped hurting, but the toenail never came off even though it was obviously doing something super weird. Plus there was that growth-thingy. Now that it no longer hurt, I could see there was something under the toenail that ought not to be. I considered that it might be a fungal infection, so I got some anti-fungal whatever and applied that for a couple weeks or whatever, but it didn’t seem to be making any difference, and it occurred to me that the thing was starting to look an awful lot like a wart, and since I have about 12-15 plantar warts between my two feet (long story, also probably disgusting), it was not inconceivable to me that I could have some weird under-the-toe wart virus too. So I tried some wart remover, which was similarly ineffective, and then it occurred to me that when something is under one’s toe, one cannot really get any sort of application where it most counts, so one should probably get some professional help. It only took me six months or so to come to this conclusion.

Actually, it only took me about four months to come to this conclusion, then another two months to make a doctor appointment. Have you ever made a doctor appointment and the person on the phone asks what you need to be seen for, but you have no idea how to explain it? “I’ve got a weird thing growing under my toenail and I don’t know what it is.” I wonder what they type into the computer. “Weird thing growing under toenail.” There’s probably a diagnostic code for that. I said I didn’t know if it was a wart or a fungus or toe cancer, but I just wanted to get rid of it and that’s why I needed to see the doctor.

Well, the good news is that it is not a toomah. The bad news is that it is a fungal infection and //SQUEAMISH AVERT YOUR EYES// the doctor had to cut off most of my toenail, which hurt like a mother pusbucket when she got to the part where crazy-fungal-infected toenail met skin. I don’t want to brag, but I was very brave. I only screamed a little bit. (For real.) //SQUEAMISH MAY LOOK AGAIN// Anyway, she bandaged up my toe (with Donald Duck bandages–because that was all she had, but I didn’t mind) and sent me off with this prescription that I have to take for twelve weeks and I also have to get my liver function tested every month until I’m done, and my toenail should grow back in about a year. Awesome.

Also, I got a flu shot.

So after the doctor and nurse were both gone, I hobbled over to the chair to put my sock and shoe back on, and I noticed //SQUEAMISH AVERT YOUR EYES AGAIN// there was a drop of blood on the floor. “Huh. Curious,” I thought. That is seriously what I thought, even though I HAD JUST HAD PART OF MY TOE CUT OFF. Then I looked at my foot and saw that I was still bleeding quite a copious amount, Donald Duck bandages notwithstanding. (“Copious” being a relative term, of course.) So it was then I noticed that in the course of my aforementioned hobbling, I had dripped blood all the way from the examination table to the (aforementioned) chair, and naturally there were no doctors or nurses or medical professionals anywhere in sight. (I thought at the very least, someone should be aware that my bodily fluids had not been properly contained. Biohazard, right? Anyway.)

So I wasn’t really sure what to do because I had this bleeding foot and I didn’t want to hop out to the nurses’ station, but I had this bleeding foot and I didn’t want to put it in my sock because it was one of my favorite pairs and while bloodstains are not difficult to remove if you get to them quickly enough, I didn’t want to take any chances, and also I really needed to go grocery shopping before it was time for me to pick PZ up from school (early, for a therapy appointment).

Long story short, fortunately for me, I had recently had a head cold, so there were several (still clean and relatively sterile) facial tissues in my purse, so I used those to apply pressure and wrap them around the insufficiently absorbent Donald Duck bandages, and somehow I was still able to fit my foot into both my sock and my shoe with not too much difficulty.

Then I casually informed a nurse about the blood-soaked examination room before putting on my hat and hobbling to my car. //SQUEAMISH MAY LOOK AGAIN// Then I drove to the grocery store and hobbled around there for an hour before heading back home and hobbling around the kitchen putting the groceries away, and then I went to the Target to pick up my prescription and also hobble around the store looking for Avengers cereal for my ten-year-old. Then I got a bacon cheeseburger because I needed to replenish my iron stores after all the blood I lost. Just kidding. I got a bacon cheeseburger because I was hungry because I hadn’t had the will to endure the discomfort of removing and replacing my retainer so I could eat that morning and I also got it because I’m a pig.

But I am giving blood (on purpose) Thursday, so iron is important too.

The good news is that when I removed and replaced my retainer this afternoon, it only hurt a little bit. Possibly because I wasn’t trying to sleep. We’ll see how it goes tonight.

Remember several months ago, when I started answering a series of 36 questions found in this New York Times article? If so, I bet you thought I’d just given up on that. Well, I haven’t! I just decided to take a half-year-long break. Or something. But look, we’re already on question 13:

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

This is a tricky question. I would not want to know the future. I’ve read/seen too many of those time travel books/movies; I know that nothing good can come of knowing the future. That’s the Monkey’s Paw law. Call it Monkey’s Law. Except it’s Monkey’s Paw, so you may as well call it that. I suppose there’s always the idea that you can bet on the World Series or something and make a killing, but to me that doesn’t seem very sporting. So forget the future.

As for the truth about myself and my life, well, what is there to know? I feel like I’m pretty self-aware. I suppose I would like to know what I could do with my hair to make it look better. I might ask, “Is it even possible to make my hair look better?” Or “Should I just get one of those short haircuts like Janine Turner used to have that first season of Northern Exposure, not because it will look good but because it won’t look any worse than what I already have and I’ll finally have a low-maintenance hairstyle?”

Along those same lines, I might ask it which lipstick shade is right for me. I’m having a lot of difficulty with this issue right now. I had the perfect shade of lipstick, and I ran out of it and they don’t make it anymore, and I’ve bought, like, fourteen shades of lipstick since then, and none of them is right. It’s incredibly frustrating.

I might also ask, “What do I need to do to get rid of these plantar warts?” I’ve had them since the summer of 2002, and the last time I went to the doctor to have them frozen, she basically said that it was pointless because they would just come back again. I’ve considered going to a podiatrist or something. I mean, a podiatrist wouldn’t tell me it was pointless to treat my plantar warts, right? He or she would at least try to get some money out of me. But if I had a crystal ball that would tell me the truth, I would know if I were wasting my time (and money–well, the insurance company’s money, probably).

To be honest, my plantar warts don’t bother me most of the time, possibly because I’ve gotten used to them, but the fact of them bothers me a great deal. What I’d really like to know is what is this thing growing underneath my toenail on my left foot because that is a real mystery. It’s probably a wart or something, and yes, I should probably just go to the doctor and have it looked at. At first it hurt like a melon farmer–I thought I’d bruised it somehow, maybe my clogging shoes were too tight, who knows–and I thought my toenail was going to fall off. But then it stopped hurting, and my toenail never fell off. It just got hugely misshapen and there was obviously this thing growing there that had never been there before. I know what you’d like to ask the crystal ball: Why in hell’s name has Mad not gone to the doctor yet? Is she some kind of idiot? Answer: maybe. Actually, I have nothing against going to doctors. I just have something against making appointments for going to the doctor. It’s the same reason I haven’t had a haircut in eleven months. (No, it’s not because my doctor cuts my hair. But I also have to make an appointment to get a haircut. I hate making appointments. That’s my problem.)

I did manage to make an appointment yesterday for a haircut. On Wednesday I made an appointment for a mammogram. I hope both turn out equally well. I hope I do not get the haircut equivalent of cancer, in other words. Or the breast equivalent of a bad haircut. I’m not sure what the latter would be, but it seems like something to be avoided.

Did I ever tell you about the time I had to get a breast ultrasound and the technician was a man? That was unexpected. I mean, it was okay. Having my first baby sort of destroyed any preciousness I had about the sanctity of my body, and I’d had three more babies since then, so my capacity for embarrassment had dwindled to almost nothing. But, you know, it’s unusual, isn’t it? The Breast Health Center skews pretty heavily female, like a maternity ward. I’ve never even met with a male radiologist. But this ultrasound technician was a dude, and he was a relatively young guy. I can just imagine that looking at middle-aged breasts all day had always been his dream job. Anyway, he was nice. (As one would hope anyone who touches your breast would be.)

I seem to have gotten off the topic. I can’t think of anything else I would like to ask the crystal ball. Oh, except maybe “what career should I pursue?” It doesn’t have to tell me whether or not I would be successful. As I said, I don’t want to know the future. But I could use some ideas.

I found this article through STFU, Parents that tells about a mother of five who is pursuing a master’s degree and brought her infant with her the first day of class, only to be told that bringing infants to class was against college policy. “I just didn’t even think it would be a problem,” she said–so imagine her shock when it was.

The STFU, Parents lady (whose name I forget) pointed out that the mom in question was a BYU graduate, “so that explains a lot.” Ha ha, yes. Yes, it does. Even so, this mom said that back at the BYU, there were “occasionally” children in class. She didn’t say children were a regular feature of BYU classrooms, and yet she showed up her first day of class with an infant and all her baby gear in tow, not because of any childcare emergency, but because she just “didn’t even think it would be a problem,” implying that she was just intending to bring her infant to class every time–presumably because she’s breastfeeding, and that would be more convenient (for her). (And the baby, of course.)

I have mixed feelings about this because on the one hand, it’s nice when people accommodate mothers, particularly breastfeeding mothers. It’s nice when women are able to get some work done along with caring for their infants, who don’t always need intense, one-on-one attention. I learned how to do a lot of things one-handed (including diaper changes) when Mister Bubby was an infant because the little dude always had to be held. I had to hold him always. I call him the “little dude” because “little bastard” seems a little harsh, at least in retrospect. At the time he was pretty much ruining my life. Well, anyway–point being, he was happy (i.e., quiet) as long as he was being held, so in theory I could have gone to a college class and taken notes (I only write with one hand anyway) while holding him. I can see why maybe a mom would think it would work to take a baby to class, especially if the baby in question were one of those “easy” babies I’ve heard so much about. It’s nice when people see babies and children as just part of normal life–rather than the part of life that has to be walled off from all the other parts of life. Say what you will about Sarah Palin (for example), but I loved seeing pictures of her carrying her baby in a sling whilst carrying on the business of being governor. (I often wonder what might have happened in an alternate universe where Sarah Palin remained governor of Alaska and John McCain just picked some random white dude to be his running mate. But that’s getting off the subject.)

So there’s that, on the one hand. On the other hand, I’m hip to the fact that there are some places babies just don’t belong. I’ve never been one of those people who gets upset when folks have adults-only events, for example. (I don’t mean “adults-only” like an orgy or something, but every time I write or say “adults-only,” I feel like I have to clarify that I only mean that just adults are welcome.) Frankly, I have always been the type to prefer adults-only events to bring-the-whole-family events because so often bring-the-whole-family events turn into manage-your-kids-in-a-novel-environment-until-finally-it’s-time-to-go-home-THANK-GOD events. When I couldn’t get a babysitter (which was often), my attitude was “doesn’t it suck that I can’t get a babysitter,” not “doesn’t it suck that people won’t let me bring my kids.” When given the choice, I always opt not to bring my kids. We’re all happier that way.

In general, I think people could stand to be more patient with kids, and also with parents of kids, because kids happen and that’s life. I don’t think people are entitled to a child-free environment at all times. If you want to live in society, you should be willing to put up with some babies and kids, even the ill-behaved ones, because we all start out as kids, some of us were ill-behaved, and most of us grow out of it but not until we learn to behave better (or just get older). Parents shouldn’t be expected to keep their kids at home until they are perfect. Not only is it unrealistic, it wouldn’t result in raising good, productive citizens. Kids need to be out in the world and exposed to different situations, and the rest of us just need to suck it up and deal with some occasional crying, whining, or other disruption.

HOWEVER, parents do need to be considerate of other people’s needs. There are situations where bringing your child(ren)–who are apt to cause some disruption–is just plain rude. Sometimes people bring their babies to movie theaters, which I guess I don’t have a problem with provided the baby sleeps the whole time. (I do wonder about the effects of the Dolby Surroundsound on their little ears–movie theaters can be loud.) I myself would never have dared to bring an infant to a movie theater because a) there was no freaking way a baby of mine would sleep the whole time and b) assuming I did have a baby who slept all the time, it would be just my luck that the one day I choose take them to the movie theater would be the one day they decided they had colic or something. That is how my minds works. In general, I don’t think babies belong at movie theaters or concerts or plays or other entertainment events that are intended for adult, i.e. able to sit still and not make noise, audiences. If they just sleep the whole time, awesome. Congratulations, your baby is awesome! I am retroactively jealous of you. But if they start crying and you don’t leave, you’re being rude.

(None of this applies to a family-friendly movie, concert, or play or whatever. Unless your baby is really really super loud and you don’t leave. Then you’re being rude to all the other babies and kids who are trying to disrupt the show in their own ways.)

Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid disrupting other people’s lives. Sometimes you just have to take a baby or young child on an airplane. I know, I’ve done it. Lots and lots of times. And believe me, karma has paid me back SIXTEEN-FOLD for all the times I, as a young childless adult trying to sleep on red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Greensboro, NC, resented all the babies who were flying (and not sleeping) with me. Sometimes babies cry. Sometimes children throw fits in stores. Sometimes they make messes when they ought not to. Blah blah, I’m cool with the fact that sometimes babies and children just suck. Let me tell you: now that I no longer have young children of my own, there is no greater feeling than to witness a child misbehaving in public and being able to say, “Ahh, not my problem.” IT’S AWESOME. But back to the point–I get that disruption-by-child is a part of life. No one is entitled to escape, even if they never had or don’t plan on ever having children. If you were once a child, you owe some kids and their parents a little slack. BUT if you don’t anticipate the possibility that your baby or child might be disruptive or otherwise somehow inconvenience others, and your attitude is always “they should just suck it up,” you’re being inconsiderate and narcissistic. The world doesn’t revolve around you or your special snowflake.

I don’t doubt that the mother in this article had planned and prepared to make class time with her baby go as smoothly as possible. Maybe it would have gone smoothly. And the more women are allowed to keep their babies with them (and not have to hire a sitter), the more opportunities women will have. So my inner feminist is very sympathetic to letting moms bring their babies to class. But I’m also sympathetic to people who argue that they paid to be in this class too and they don’t appreciate someone just assuming they can bring a baby–an obvious and predictable distraction–to class. (Everyone who commented on this article was sympathetic to people who have childcare emergencies and maybe have to bring their kid to class once, but no one liked the idea of just routinely bringing kids to class, which is the issue the above article and this blog post are addressing.) So I’m conflicted.

Would a baby distract me? Eh, maybe not. I’m used to that sort of thing. Would it have distracted me back in the day when I was not yet used to these things? Not sure, but possibly. I honestly don’t know. I went to a Baptist college and no one brought their babies to class. On the other hand, I go to church with Mormons every Sunday, and say what you will about Mormons, but we’re very accepting of babies and young children. As a result, our services all have a generous amount of background noise. (Unless you’re in one of those rare congregations that is short on young children, in which case it’s like being at a funeral, only less interesting.) I’m not usually distracted by anyone’s children not my own. They have to be really, really loud. But I know other people are more sensitive. (My childless teenage daughter, for example–not that she has any room to complain, as she has historically been the most disruptive individual in the chapel, long after the time when such behavior could be excused as youthful exuberance. But that’s another story.)

So I’m ambivalent. What do you gentle readers think? Is it cool for someone to bring their baby to class, as a matter of course (ha ha, get it, COURSE)? Or should they suck it up and get a sitter, just as common courtesy? I can’t quite decide.

In the United States, there are 321 million people, and (it is estimated) about 347 million guns. In case you were wondering, that is a lot of guns. Other countries don’t have that many guns. One thing that helps a lot, if you don’t want so many guns in your country, is not to allow citizens to own guns. When it’s illegal to own guns, fewer people own them, and strangely enough, fewer guns are in circulation. (Because who’s going to buy your illegal guns? Criminals? No, the criminals will probably just steal them.) Fewer guns also translates to less gun violence, because the fewer guns there are, the harder they are to come by. You can’t use a gun if you can’t get one.

In the U.S., people are allowed to own guns. They’ve always been allowed to own guns, so this has resulted in a lot of guns being produced and sold in the U.S. (Because who’s going to buy your legal guns? Hint: not just criminals.) Although there are laws about who can buy guns and who can sell guns and where and how, etc., in many places it is relatively easy to buy a gun legally, if you want one. Regardless of where you live, however, and what the gun laws are in that jurisdiction, it is always easy to get a gun illegally because there are so many guns. All you have to do is be willing to break the law. Studies have shown that murderers are more willing to break the law than non-murderers. If there were fewer guns, it would be harder to get one, legally or illegally, and therefore harder for murderers to obtain and use guns. So murderers would definitely end up opting for different weapons–in many cases, less destructive weapons–and there would certainly be less gun violence.

So the solution to the U.S.’s gun violence problem is actually quite simple. You can’t just make guns harder to get legally. You have to make them hard to get illegally. That is, you have to make them hard to get, period. The way to do that is to reduce the number of guns in the country. I have an idea of how to do that. It’s actually here in this status update. I’ve already said it. I’m not going to bother to say it again. Suffice it to say that regardless of their personal feelings about guns, most people are reluctant to endorse this simple, obvious strategy because it will require a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments are non-starters, politically, but also, advocating for them makes you look like an extremist and very few people think of themselves as extremist. But is it wrong to be an extremist on the side of reducing gun violence? That’s the question Americans have to ask themselves. Not “how can we prevent mass shootings?” We already know the answer to that one. We just don’t like it.

Well, I missed blogging on Tuesday, but I posted something at BCC and I’ve decided that counts. But guess what I did today. Actually, not much. I didn’t do much yesterday either, but I suppose if I’m going to blog every day no matter what, it doesn’t matter what I did when.

Actually, I’m trying to remember what I did yesterday. It seems so long ago. I can tell you what I meant to do but didn’t: clean the house. I mean, I never meant to clean the whole house, but some of it, sure. But I didn’t clean any of it. I barely unloaded the dishwasher and washed a load of towels. And yet I managed to kill six hours while my kids were in school. Well, some of that I spent writing the BCC post, but surely not all of it. Surely not! (If I can’t knock out a mediocre blog post in less than six hours, I may as well give it up right now.) Hm. There appears to be more than eighteen missing minutes on this tape. Maybe I should redirect your attention somewhere else.

Something I absolutely do remember from yesterday, for I still bear the scars, is that in the morning I went out to fetch something from the trunk of my husband’s car before he drove off to work with it (again), and I slipped and scraped my knee on the driveway. It sounds minor when I put it that way, but I assure you, it hurt like a melon farmer. Still does, actually. It looks gnarly. Fortunately, I don’t have to look at it as much as I have to feel it. Unfortunately, it has made me even less inclined to get down on my hands and knees and sort through the many layers of debris that have accumulated on my downstairs floors. I can’t vacuum or sweep again until I clear the debris! I would actually prefer to clear the debris with a backhoe, but that’s probably not the right attitude. I should have an attitude of realism. What that would involve, I don’t know. Aside from getting on my hands and knees and sorting through it systematically, which of course I can’t do because I am such a delicate flower right now. (Seriously, you should see the size of this bandage. It’s hardcore.)

Today Sugar Daddy took me to lunch and I ate too much and then I did some dishes and folded some laundry and washed some more laundry and I took Mister Bubby to Taco Bell before taking him to his four-hour band practice (really) and then I made dinner, of which I ate very little, and then I went to the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe and had a milkshake because I wanted to and I wrote some crap that may or may not be any good and then I came home and I’m writing this.

SD and I might go watch Hannibal now. I’m tired.

Somewhere in the middle of writing that rambling screed on Saturday, I decided that I should try blogging every day, even if it’s stupid, just to get back into the habit of writing again. Well, I didn’t blog yesterday because I didn’t have time. I mean, I was kind of legitimately busy during most of my waking hours. But that’s just one day I’ve missed so far. See, it’s only Monday, and it’s still Monday, and here I am blogging. Even though it’s stupid. You know what’s really stupid? Trying to blog on your phone. I did that earlier because all the computers, including my own, had been taken over by the kids. Not recommended. Blogging on your phone, I mean. Also, letting the kids take your computer. I mean, it’s yours, dammit, you should be able to use it whenever you crapping well feel like it, am I right? Well, whatever. They’re all in bed now, and here I am, so let’s go forward.

Guess what I did today. You’ll never guess, so I’ll just tell you. I went to my first clogging practice since June. In olden times of yesteryear, our clogging group used to perform at the county fair, so we would meet through the summer until after the fair, at which time we would break until school started up again. So we’d be off for four or five weeks, depending on when Labor Day fell. But the last couple years we haven’t performed at the fair, and without an upcoming performance to practice for, continuing to meet during the summer seemed more inconvenient than necessary. Unfortunately, that means that instead of a four-to-five-week hiatus, we have a twelve-week hiatus. I always say I’m going to keep practicing during the hiatuses, so I stay in shape and don’t forget the routines, but do I ever do this? No. Never. Never! It’s just like with the housekeepers. I need a schedule, or I’m useless. I’m not all that useful even with a schedule, but without one I am totally useless.

I was counting on losing that pesky 10-15 pounds I’ve been carrying around for the last…I don’t remember how long it’s been, just that I was counting on losing it when I had my surgery and was forced to stop eating. Well, I did lose between 10 and 15 pounds while I was not eating. I lost all my energy and will to live, too, but at least I was thin! Just kidding. Well, I was, but my values aren’t that screwed up. Since I have been eating again, I’ve gained back all of the weight I lost, but I no longer care because you know what, screw it. I would rather carry around 10-15 extra pounds than live like I did during my recovery period. I’m just going to have to get used to the lumps, because there’s no way in hell I’m going on a diet now. AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, I WILL NEVER BE HUNGRY AGAIN.

This is only tangentially related to clogging, which, now that I am doing it again, I hope will retard the growth of my midsection. Well, I did it this morning for the first time in three months and holy crap, that was painful. About 10 minutes in I wanted to collapse and/or throw up, not necessarily in that order. I didn’t really think I’d been all that sedentary for the last…well, four to six weeks…but of course I had been. My body isn’t going to enjoy this transition from slug to caterpillar. (Yes, I know that slugs don’t normally transition into caterpillars; I was just trying to come up with an example of something that is slow almost to the point of being stationary and also an example of something that is not quite as slow but not exactly fast, either. The latter is my usual metaphor, at least nine months out of the year, with a little break during December.)

After clogging I went grocery shopping. You know, there was a time when I shopped at Target rather frequently. There’s one very close to our house, so it weren’t no thang to just pop on over when I ran out of soap or paper towels or whatever. The problem was that I couldn’t seem to shop there without spending less than $100, regardless of how recently I had just been there. So I decided I really should stop shopping at Target at all unless it was absolutely necessary. To the point where I would buy toilet paper at the grocery store rather than Target, even though it cost more at the grocery store but at least it didn’t cost $100 more. Let me tell you, it worked. The Target Visa bill went way down. However, I am noticing a disturbing new trend: I can’t seem to shop at the grocery store without spending at least $50 or $60. This wouldn’t be a problem if I weren’t shopping at a grocery store every 2-3 days. Sometimes I shop at a grocery store three days in a row and twice in one day. I just need stuff, okay? I forget to buy something and I have to go back.

I only plan meals a couple days at a time anymore because a) I’ve been having difficulty deciding what to make for dinner for the last, I dunno, eight years, and b) yeah, it’s actually just a). Never mind. I can’t decide what to make for dinner tonight, let alone the whole rest of the week, so no, I’m not going to plan out a week’s worth of meals and get my full week’s shopping done all at once. I will plan for one or two, maybe three days if I’m feeling super-ambitious, and I will shop for those particular meals…but also for stuff I can put in the kids’ lunches and stuff that’s on sale and stuff I’m pretty sure we’re out of and will probably need at some inconvenient time when no one can go to the store. On Saturday I went shopping at the WinCo, where I always spend more money because it’s the place where I can buy the cheapest groceries. You see what I did there? Irony! Anyway, on Saturday I went to WinCo to get the food I needed for Sunday, and only Sunday…but I also bought a crap-ton of rice pilaf because we’re always running low on the rice pilaf when we need the rice pilaf and can’t go to WinCo, where it is cheap. Of course, it isn’t that cheap when you buy it by the crap-ton. I mean, it is cheap, by the pound, but absolutely it is not a small expenditure, a crap-ton’s worth. So there was that. Also, some crackers because the kids are always eating all the crackers so there are none left when I want to eat crackers. Or maybe it was just bread. I might have bought the crackers earlier in the week, when I spent $150 and still didn’t know what I was eating for dinner beyond the next day. Whatever. It’s becoming not very cost-effective for me to go grocery shopping. The only problem is I don’t have an alternative venue for buying food. Target, maybe. There’s less of a selection there. BUT THEN THERE’S ALSO PAPER TOWELS AND GARBAGE BAGS AND OTHER THINGS THAT I ALMOST CERTAINLY WILL NEED IN THE FUTURE.

Also, lipstick. Occasionally I go on a lipstick-buying spree because I am still looking for the perfect shade. I’m not sure that it’s out there anymore. Maybe I should only buy lipstick at the 7-Eleven. (I don’t think they sell lipstick at the 7-Eleven, so that would certainly be more cost-effective. And before you say it, no, I don’t drink Slurpees.)

What else did I do today? A little bit of laundry, a little bit of dishes, drove some kids around, made dinner. Started writing this blog. You know, I take it back. You could have probably guessed this much.


I’ve decided that September is a good time to make resolutions, rather than New Year’s, because it’s when the kids all leave the house for a few hours a day and I have some space to think about how I might make life improvements. Also, it’s nearing the end of the year, and if my September resolutions fail, there’s always New Year’s just around the corner.

This decision comes after months of procrastinating–no, make that years. Years of procrastinating getting on with my life now that I’m no longer changing diapers and breastfeeding and cutting up people’s food all my waking hours. Well, I sometimes still cut up people’s food. But not as much as I used to. Technically, I’ve made this decision about a billion times since my youngest started first grade, but it’s the implementation that I’ve procrastinated. Of course, the resolutions are always changing. One day they’re modest, the next unrealistic, the next somewhere in between. The problem is that I can’t seem to accomplish anything, regardless of how small the as-yet-hypothetical accomplishment may seem.

Which means that while I started this post with the intention of talking about resolutions, writing that last paragraph pretty much talked me out of ever trying to do anything ever again.

So if you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to since I got jaw surgery and fell off the face of the (virtual) earth (or, you might say I virtually fell of the face of the actual earth, I don’t know), that’s pretty much it. When I’m not numbing my pain with frivolous, non-productive activities or the reassuring routine of laundry and dishes, I am more or less losing hope of contributing meaningfully to society ever again.

Since my family is supposed to be more important than anything else I have to do with, hopefully my children will do better with their lives than my own example has taught them. (That was meant to be a sardonic comment, although I do hope my children engage life more successfully than I have. Fortunately, only one of them seems to have inherited my mental instability so far. So, you know, #hopeisalive.)

I’m afraid they’re all going to turn out to be crappy housekeepers. Let me give you a quick update on our experiment with firing the housekeepers: All of my worst fears have come true. I’ve known for the last several years that the main argument for keeping the housekeepers rather than doing the housekeeping myself was the enforced schedule. I knew I could never maintain a schedule on my own. I would need the support of everyone else in the family, and since that support did not seem to be forthcoming, I kept paying professionals to come clean my house even though they sometimes didn’t do such a great job and preparing for their visits was causing me to have mini-nervous breakdowns fortnightly. When the kids took over the bulk of the chores that the housekeepers once did, it seemed to work out pretty well for the first five months. I was astonished, actually, at how well it was working out, and I was so much less stressed than I was when I had the housekeepers.

Then in June I had the jaw surgery, and that was the week I stopped vacuuming regularly. I was absolutely unable to vacuum that week because I was unable to do just about anything but drink things through a straw and lie in bed and be miserable. That was okay. Anyone can afford to skip vacuuming for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, two weeks later I was physically able to vacuum but still very tired and psychologically depressed because I was still in pain, not sleeping well, and the only thing I had to look forward to was drinking chocolate protein shakes. HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY. So vacuuming was not on my list of things to do because basically nothing was on my list of things to do, including the tidying that should have preceded the vacuuming, including the nagging and threatening of the children that could have substituted for doing all the tidying. If I were a good parent, instead of a hopeless one, I would have insisted that children could not do x (desirable task) before doing y (undesirable task). The trouble was, it was summer, and the kids were always around, and the only thing I wanted more than for them to do their (and my) chores was for them to get out of my face for a while. So if they got invitations to go with friends somewhere, off they went, even if they hadn’t done their chores, because I was too tired and unhappy and hungry to listen to them whine and complain about anything, let alone EVERYTHING.

Eventually, after what felt like the longest six weeks of my life that didn’t include high school P.E., I was able to eat real food again, and that’s when things should have gotten better, since at least I was no longer hungry. If you have enough to eat, you should have enough energy to do whatever needs to be done. Unfortunately, by that time the house was in so much disarray and the constant presence of other people was driving me so crazy that I didn’t even know where or how to start getting everything under control again. The thing about dependent children is that they always need things (hence the term dependent). Every time I thought about cleaning the kitchen (or whatever), I’d think about how I would start doing something and someone would inevitably need me to drive them somewhere or make them a sandwich or play Monopoly with them or explain the meaning of life or whatever, and that would disrupt my flow and everyone’s-just-going-to-mess-it-up-anyway-so-why-bother–and I just wouldn’t begin. Well, there’s no surer way to accomplish nothing than by not beginning in the first place, so you see where I went wrong. I’m not making excuses. I’m explaining myself.

The solutions to my problems are obvious. Even I can see them. It’s the execution that’s elusive. Probably because I’m deliberately avoiding it.

The thing I hate about housework is not the cleaning and scrubbing. (Well, except for the shower and the bathtub. I freaking hate cleaning the shower and the bathtub. I’d rather scrub a million toilets.) Cleaning and scrubbing feel like actual accomplishments. It’s the management of possessions that overwhelms me. Six people live in this house, and I’m in charge of managing all of their possessions. I can already read the comments: “You should not be in charge of managing all of their possessions. Everyone should be responsible for managing their own possessions.” Yes, but you’re describing the world that ought to be, and I’m describing the world that is, so bear with me.

Earlier this year–or maybe it was last year–I read somewhere about a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and I got it into my head that I should read it because maybe, unlike every other book about organizing and changing your life, this one would actually be magical. I don’t know what hallucinatory drug I was under at the time–aside from the fact that books about organizing rarely tell me anything I don’t already know, I learned from actually visiting Japan that I don’t have a culturally-Japanese bone in my body–but whatever it was, it couldn’t have been too debilitating because I didn’t actually buy the book, but I put myself on the three-mile-long waiting list at the library because let’s face it, the odds were against it being actually magical. You might say I left it to fate. By the time it was my turn to borrow this allegedly-magical book, I was already completely free of my delusion. In fact, I’d considered taking myself off the waiting list several times, but for some reason I didn’t, and because I actually had the maybe-magic book in my possession now, it seemed foolish not to actually read it.

Well, I read it, and let me tell you, this woman has a lot of great ideas for decluttering and organizing your life if you live alone. I can see it working perfectly for someone who only has to manage her own possessions. It is completely unworkable for someone who has to manage (to at least some extent) six different people’s possessions and whose management style of her own possessions is partially dependent on the fact that she has five other people’s management lifestyles to compensate for. The guiding principle seems profound and life-changing, initially: Don’t keep anything in your life that does not spark joy. Well, sure. Why would you want anything in your life that doesn’t spark joy? Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t have a choice about keeping things in your life that don’t spark joy. She acknowledges this, I think, at some point. I would hate to mischaracterize her writings or her philosophy. I think she accounts for things like toilet paper by reasoning backwards that a life without toilet paper would be significantly less joyful. Not that she actually writes about toilet paper. I’m just giving you an idea of how she might have dealt with such mundane essentials. Unfortunately, there are things other than mundane essentials that must stay in one’s life despite their failure to spark joy and despite their tendency to provoke actual sorrow. Here’s what’s on my living room floor right now:

A socket wrench–does not spark joy, but I assume my husband would be very upset if I just tossed it. I have no idea if my husband is responsible or not for it being on the floor, but there it is.

A three-hole punch–does not spark joy, but my joy is significantly dampened when I find myself, from time to time, needing a three-hole punch and being unable to find one. Up until looking down at the floor just this minute, I had been wondering where this particular three-hole punch had gotten off to. There isn’t a particularly good place for storing it because it’s kind of bulky and doesn’t fit in any drawers because there’s too much other crap in my drawers. I don’t know who left this three-hole punch on the floor, but I would be curious to know where they found it.

A USB cord–does not spark joy because I don’t recognize it as a USB cord to one of the devices that I use. I assume it belongs to one of my husband’s devices, but I don’t know which and I also don’t know why it’s on the floor, unattached to any device.

Princess Zurg’s jacket–sparks joy for Princess Zurg, but often gets left on the floor because it’s too much trouble to put away in the actual coat closet, which is jam chocky full of jackets and coats that spark varying levels of joy among different household members.

A Scooby-Doo Monopoly game and a Duckopoly game–spark joy for Elvis, who loves Monopoly in all its forms. Does not spark joy for me personally, as I dislike Monopoly more than almost any other game on earth, but I assume it’s on the floor because there is not enough room in the game cabinets (yes, we have more than one) to fit all of the Monopoly games we own, let alone all of the other board games we own. Some games are just always going to live on the floor, until we get rid of some games or get rid of some bath towels and bed sheets and convert the linen closet into a game cabinet.

Mister Bubby’s leather portfolio–does not spark joy for me; used to spark joy for Mister Bubby, even though the zipper broke on it about a year or so ago, but he had to switch to an ordinary three-ring binder because the Organizational Nazis at his high school have decreed that everyone needs to have the same organizational system regardless of personality or preference. Granted, this new organizational systems is probably better than his previous organizational system (stuff everything in the leather portfolio until it gets too full and then cull and start over again, looking classy all the while because it’s leather and doesn’t fall apart like your traditional three-ring binder, except for the zipper thing)–but MB has always been very sentimental and doesn’t like to let things go, even after they are no longer of use to him. He also doesn’t like to put things away.

A children’s magazine–does not spark joy for me, but sparks some joy for Girlfriend, who actually reads it. Unfortunately, she likes to keep all of her magazines rather than recycle them (unless she’s actually outgrown them, like with her Thomas the Tank Engine magazine–I tossed a bunch of them last spring, it was awesome). In her defense, she does actually re-read them. However, there is not enough space in this house to store all the reading material any one of us might re-read someday. This is the number one reason I bought a Kindle. Actual books used to spark joy for me, before I started drowning in my own (and everyone else’s) possessions. My Kindle is probably the one thing standing between me and literal suffocation. (Yes, literal. I was an English major. It’s been good for one thing.) It is the one area in which I have been able to stem the tide of material acquisition.

Princess Zurg’s old tap shoes–have always sparked joy for me because they’re cute and remind me of why I took up dancing late in life, but I should probably get over it because Girlfriend’s feet finally got too big to wear them (and theoretically learn to tap dance) and they’re just taking up space on the floor because there isn’t room in our shoe shelves to hold all the shoes we actually wear, let alone the shoes no one can wear. So here is the one object I have named thusfar that actually sparks joy for me, and it is the one object I have decided I should actually get rid of.

I see that this post is now over 2,400 words. If it were hard copy, it would be sucking the joy right the hell out of me.



February 2016
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