There’s no end to the list of things I’d rather do than clean my house. I am so desperate to avoid doing it that I will even dust off ye olde blog and pretend I have something worth writing about. What can I tell you? I went to the doctor this morning for my annual physical. I got my lowest scores ever on the depression/anxiety scales, but that’s mainly because they don’t give any points for “I don’t want to die, really, but man, am I bored.” But anyway, congratulations to me. I also got a Pap smear, which I’m sure you were dying to know, but don’t worry, the new guidelines say you won’t have to hear about it again for another three years. I narrowly avoided a lecture on the importance of breast self-exams, and the doctor gave me some advice on staying continent in my golden years. All in all, a resounding success.

I had to get some blood drawn, so I went downstairs to the lab, and there was this lady in the chair across from me who was giving her birth date to the phlebotomist, and I happened to overhear that she was born in 1988. And I said to myself, “Hm. She definitely does not look like a teenager.” And then I said to myself, “Well, of course not. There are grown-ass men and women walking around out there who were born in the ’90s, for gosh sake.” And then I said to myself, “YOUR OWN DAUGHTER WAS BORN IN THE NINETIES!” Imagine the camera slowly zooming in on me as this realization hits. Would it be more or less effective with music? I will leave that to your judgment. Suffice it to say, I was rattled. Sure, my son has been calling me “Grandma” for the last couple years, but I didn’t realize it was LITERALLY POSSIBLE. This was not unlike that moment I was thinking to myself, “That Marcus Mariota sure is handsome,” immediately followed by “AND YOUNG ENOUGH TO BE YOUR SON. STOP! REVERSE COURSE NOW!”

::Shudder::

So then I went to the grocery store and managed to decide what to make for dinner tonight, sort of. WAIT, I forgot to tell you that also at the doctor, I found out that I am officially one pound over the weight I promised myself would be the absolute most I would ever allow myself to weigh while not pregnant. I am not pregnant and do not plan ever to be so again; therefore, this must mean that I am supposed to lose weight now. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it. It’s a problem! So much a problem that I completely forgot to mention it when I was describing the resounding success that was my annual physical. So scratch that “resounding success” part and write in “mostly a success but partially a crashing failure because there is no way I’m going to lose ten pounds any time soon.”

Except that I might lose ten pounds when I have my jaw surgery in June. I did schedule my jaw surgery. It is officially happening. Maybe afterward I can finally get my braces off, and won’t that be lovely. I had this little conversation with the doctor. Doctor: “Most people do lose weight when they have braces because it’s such a pain in the neck to eat.” Me: “Not enough of one.” Unfortunately! But when I have nothing but protein smoothies to sustain me, I imagine I will finally lose the will to load up on calories. The goal, in the meantime, is to avoid gaining ten more pounds between now and June. While I was at the grocery store, I was hungry because I’d been fasting for the labs, and I still had another stop to make before going home, so I got a slice of $2 pizza and a diet Shasta from the vending machine. (The pizza was not from the vending machine but from a legit fresh-pizza-seller.) Pizza and diet cola–Breakfast of Champions and Other People Who Will Never Lose Ten Pounds without Having Their Jaws Wired Shut.

Then I went to Target to pick up a prescription, and I figured as long as I was there, why not drop another $75-100 on toilet paper, Band-Aids, and underwear? There was some other stuff in there too, but I forget what. Oh, I bought a new sports bra for Princess Zurg, who has been complaining that her medium-support model is not up to the rigorous bouncing that her Taekwondo class involves. So I selected a high-support sports bra, something I have never required for myself despite years of engaging in highly bouncy activities such as tap dancing and clogging, which is just as well since, I noticed, they only sell them in C, D, and DD sizes. I can only hope this one is up to the job.

While I was at it, I bought more underwear for my teenage son, and I was reminded how terribly uncomfortable it is to look for the right brand and size when you’re surrounded by walls of crotch shots. Compounding the problem is the fact that Mister Bubby and Elvis wear the same size in everything, so there needs to be a way of telling their underpants apart. For years I got MB white and Elvis colors/patterns, but then MB got bored of white underpants (I guess) or they don’t sell the style he likes in white, so I have to get him colorful underwear that isn’t the same as Elvis’s colorful underwear, but it can’t be too colorful or he’ll feel like an idiot. He won’t look like an idiot because no one will see his underwear–except I guess maybe some boys in the locker room if he has P.E., except do boys ever notice other boys’ underwear? If they did, would they admit it? Maybe, if it were really colorful and they claim they couldn’t help themselves.

Anyway, I was trying to find some sedate navy, perhaps a green, but all they had were black/grey or a “fashion pack” (!) (who knew?) that included purple, red, and camouflage. Seriously, camouflage? Is that ever going to stop being a thing? And that’s when I was thinking I’d had enough of the wall-o’-groins for one day, and I also thought to myself, “Are there any men who actually buy their own underwear, and if so, do they ever think, ‘All right, camo!’ These will be really fashionable!'”

I’m not saying camouflage underwear isn’t fashionable. I just wonder what men think about it. Probably nothing. They probably don’t even notice what’s on their underwear, unless it’s too colorful. So why camouflage? Who decided that was a good pattern for men’s underwear?

I don’t know. What else can I tell you? I got an e-mail from Marco Rubio, wanting to know if he could count on me. That was the subject line. “Can I count on you, Mad?” And I was like, dude, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about you a month from now, let alone November 2016. But it turned out he just wanted money. Pft. No, you can’t count on me. Please. Except that considering who else is running so far, maybe I should consider letting him think he can count on me. I like to encourage people who aren’t Rand Paul, no offense to him.

But it’s really too early for me to consider committing to anyone, even on a…what’s the word…a trial basis. I don’t even want to think about the next presidential election. It seems like we just had one. And I just don’t care that much anymore. Wake me up when they finally take my Social Security away.

UPDATE: Since I published yesterday’s post, at least one of my questions has been answered. The reason we know about the Christian pizza parlor and its conscientious objection to gay weddings is because the reporter who did the story went into Memories Pizza parlor and asked the owners what they would do if they were asked to cater a gay wedding. This diminishes my scorn for the pizza parlor owners considerably, given that they didn’t deliberately set out to make spectacles of themselves. One can still argue that if you want to stay in business these days, the answer to the question “Would you ever cater a gay wedding?” should either be “Sure, why not?” or “No comment.” (Though I must say, that last one is not without its risks.) So I think these folks are mostly guilty of being a) too invested in where their pizza ends up and b) too naive to realize that refusing to cater a gay wedding is akin to throwing homosexuals into concentration camps and they should be prepared to suffer the social consequences. In this case, the consequences look like they are out of the pizza business for the time being, and maybe for good. Well. I hope everyone’s happy.

Personally, I’m disgusted. As I wrote at length yesterday, I think the restaurant owners’ position is kind of ridiculous. This is not to say their religious belief–that gay marriage is wrong–is ridiculous (no comment), just that their application of said belief is ridiculous, given that they’re not being asked to officiate or put their stamp of approval on anything. That is not a commentary on whether or not their refusal to cater gay weddings should be legal. I could give you my opinion on that, but it would undermine my position that this whole issue is too stupid to argue about. What disgusts me is that somebody thought a single business’s position on catering gay weddings was a newsworthy subject. What was this reporter trying to accomplish, aside from stirring up trouble? NOTHING HAD HAPPENED YET. Nobody had asked this pizza parlor to cater their gay wedding and nobody had been discriminated against, legally or otherwise. What was the “news” in this story? There was no news, just a fantasy.

I can’t imagine that there wasn’t a less destructive way to fill three minutes on this station’s news program. Really, what did they think would happen once this story aired? Again, it is hard to believe someone could be so naive in this day and age. Badly done, ABC 57! Badly done!

For the last several days I’ve been seeing stuff in my Facebook news feed about the Indiana religious-freedom law that discriminates against gay people or whatever, and I’m afraid I haven’t actually been reading anything about it because I just don’t care. It’s really hard for me to get agitated about this stuff one way or the other. All I can think is, “Why is it so important to you not to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple?” and “Why is it so important to you that a gay-hating bigot bake your wedding cake?” Yeah, I know, freedom of conscience blah blah equal protection blah. I understand the legal issues involved. I don’t understand the emotions. But my conscience has been slowly choking on its own apathy for the last four to sixteen years, so who cares what I don’t understand? It’s not like I’m going to stop anyone else from carrying.

But sometimes things get so stupid that I go from confused to angry. Like this story about the pizza restaurant that refuses to cater a gay wedding. Some Christian pizza parlor-owners in Indiana are happy about the new, horrible law that will protect them from having to provide pizzas for a gay wedding because they can’t in good conscience do that. Yes, I did start out confused. Three things:

1) Why do I know about this? Who asked for these Christian pizza-parlor-owners’ opinion on the law? Did they hold a press conference or something?

2) Do people often turn to local pizza parlors for their wedding catering needs? Is this a gay thing or an Indiana thing?

3) Who cares? WHO CARES?

This is one of the weirdest stories I’ve ever read. And people are getting all upset over it on the Facebook and the Twitter because bigotry and hate and whatnot, and it makes my head hurt to think of how anyone, gay or straight, could spare the energy to care about this. I can almost see how a religious baker might feel like baking a wedding cake for a gay couple could amount to endorsing the marriage. Almost. Not really. Not quite, because dude, do you really endorse the marriage of every other couple you bake a wedding cake for? Do you know that every couple who comes to you for a wedding cake isn’t brother and sister or secret bigamists? How do you feel about a marriage between a man and a woman who was born a man but had gender reassignment along the way? Is that kosher, and if so or if not, how do you know those people are not committing a chromosomal-ly gay marriage? Yes, I understand the legal issue and religious freedom, blah blah–I don’t care. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about you being a freaking baker, who bakes cakes. You don’t officiate anything. Sometimes a cake is just a cake. Actually, I think cake is always just cake. Yes, that is my position on the issue. It’s also my position, but more so, on pizza. Why on earth would you think to inform the public that you will not be providing pizza for gay weddings? WHO ORDERS PIZZA FOR THEIR WEDDING? HOW IS A PIZZA AN ENDORSEMENT OF A WEDDING?

The owners of the pizza place say they’d be happy to serve a gay couple who walked into their restaurant to eat a pizza, so obviously it’s not anti-gay bigotry that motivates them. This is what I don’t get, maybe because I’ve never worked in the pizza business, but do pizza parlors often work closely with wedding planners and send people over to the wedding venue to personally serve pizza to the guests, perhaps people in uniform with the logo of the pizza parlor on it so everyone knows that Gay-Loving Pizza provided this feast? Is that how we get to where pizza supports gay marriage? Because when I’ve wanted lots of pizza for an event, I’ve always called the store and arranged to pick it up or have it delivered without specifying what event I needed the pizza for. Do most people feel compelled to give their reasons for needing pizza on a particular day? Or do these pizza people make it a point to ask where their pizza is going to make sure no one eats it in celebration of something they don’t approve of?

On the flip side, if you’re getting gay-married, why do you care if these people won’t provide pizza for your wedding? Were you in fact planning on ordering pizza for your gay wedding? Why is your reaction not “whatever, dude, like I really want to eat your lousy pizza at my wedding”? I mean, true, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to type a lousy Yelp review decrying their bigotry, but why did they make this announcement in the first place if not for attention, and here you are giving it to them. How many gay-hating pizza-lovers would know to patronize this pizza parlor if not for all the flack they’re getting for not supporting gay marriage? I think that’s a weird demographic to go after, but I wasn’t a business major. I don’t know. I just see these people as not being a particular threat to the republic, even if they are weirdos. Not that disapproving of gay marriage makes them “weirdos.” They’re probably perfectly normal-seeming, except that most normal people don’t go around announcing that they’re limiting their business to everything that’s not a gay wedding. I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.

In short, I’m sick of the headlines about how horrible Indiana is and how horrible liberals are for not supporting religious freedom because NOW IT’S PIZZA WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. Is there no longer even a small corner of the world where we can sit peacefully and not think our way of life is being threatened because we don’t agree on politics?

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

NOTHING. Knowing the future NEVER ENDS WELL. And I can’t imagine what else I would want to know about myself and/or my life that I don’t already know. I mean, I am myself. I’m living my life. I know a little too much about myself and my life, if you ask me. Maybe I should look into a crystal ball and forget a few things.

Now, a Magic 8 Ball that would tell me what I should do with my kids–that might be useful. But I think that’s not the same topic.

What do you kids think?

You may or may not remember that I let the housekeepers go in January, and since then the children and I have been cleaning the house. You may or may not be wondering how that’s working out. Well, I don’t imagine that you had remembered or wondered until I mentioned it just now, but in case you are wondering right now, I’m about to tell you: It’s working out pretty well, actually. It is much less stressful not having to get the house ready to accept professional cleaners on a fortnightly basis. Who knows, I may have saved myself from an eventual heart attack or an aneurysm or something just by vacuuming my own floors.

Talking of which–the vacuuming, not the heart attack–I will now take your vacuum recommendations. I have a perfectly serviceable vacuum that we’ve owned maybe 12-15 years. It’s a Kenmore. It’s got kind of a Frankenstein thing going on with the power cord and it no longer has any of its attachments, but it still works. I’m not desperate for a new vacuum, but every time I vacuum the house I am reminded that I could very well do with a different kind of vacuum–say, one that is lighter, more maneuverable, and yet still works. I already have one that is heavy, awkward, and works, so I don’t need recommendations for any like that. I’m just looking to make the vacuum experience a little less labor intensive. You know, since I’m being such a martyr, vacuuming my own floors and all.

Feature that would be a bonus but isn’t entirely necessary: I don’t have to drive to freaking Sears every time I need a replacement bag. (Freaking Sears is at the mall in freaking Tigard. You may recall that I don’t like driving there–not because there’s anything wrong with freaking Tigard except for its geographical position relative to mine. I’ve got a Target and a Macy’s and many fine restaurants within three miles of my house. I feel like I shouldn’t have to drive to freaking Tigard for anything. I’m just that entitled.)

On a completely different note, I just got off the phone with the Red Cross, and it’s a good thing I did because I thought I had already signed up to give blood in March and apparently I had not, or if I did, it didn’t take. So now I am signed up to give blood for real, and at a more convenient location at that. What serendipity! That reminds me, I should take my iron supplement. Anyway, they asked me if I could bring a friend. I said that unfortunately I couldn’t think of any acquaintances off the top of my head who weren’t afraid of needles. Well, at least I didn’t tell them I didn’t have any friends!

So in case you aren’t afraid of needles and aren’t pregnant or otherwise deferred, consider giving blood because the Red Cross lost a lot of donations during the recent snowstorms. Of course, the Red Cross seems to experience perpetual shortage. That’s what they’re always telling me, anyway.

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Let’s take a time out so I can talk about Downton Abbey. ATTENTION! SPOILER ALERT! I AM ABOUT TO SPOIL ALL OF DOWNTON ABBEY FOR YOU IF YOU DON’T SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTION IMMEDIATELY! UNLESS YOU HAVE NO INTEREST IN DOWNTON ABBEY IN WHICH CASE YOU SHOULD PROBABLY SCROLL DOWN IMMEDIATELY ANYWAY! I DON’T WANT TO WASTE YOUR TIME! I didn’t think I would continue watching Downton Abbey after Dan Stevens left the show (and in such a horrific fashion), but for some reason I have continued, although now I am doing so without my husband impeding my enjoyment of it. He gave up on it partway through Series 4, and I probably should have also, but for some reason I can’t help myself. The best I can say for watching the show now is that it enhances the enjoyment of reading the recaps on Go Fug Yourself. That may be all I can say for it. But here’s the thing I really want to talk about:

Seriously, what the crap is Julian Fellowes doing with the Bateses? Isn’t one wrongful murder conviction enough for one family? It seems to me that one wrongful murder conviction is unfortunate, but two wrongful murder convictions could be described as carelessness. (If one were Oscar Wilde, anyway.) And don’t get me started on that first murder conviction, that only came about because the prosecution somehow knew the content of private conversations held between Lord Grantham and his valet. Did Scotland Yard have some weird surveillance program going on in the wake of World War I? How exactly did that work? I can’t tell you how many times I yelled at the screen during Series 2, “HOW DO THEY KNOW THAT? HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY KNOW THAT??” At least this time there’s an eye witness, even if he’s unreliable. Frankly, at this point I was kind of hoping that Bates really did kill Mr. Green, and not only him but the former Mrs. Bates as well. THAT IS HOW SICK I AM OF BATESES IN PRISON.

ALSO: They dragged out the Mary-Gillingham-Charles Blake potential-love-triangle all through Series 3 without a single freaking thing happening, until the Christmas special, when one of them says the game is afoot or something, giving the impression that the potential-love-triangle might become actual-love-triangle in Series 4, but we get to Series 4 and find out that Mary’s already decided she’s choosing Gillingham and it’s like Charles Blake was never actually interested anyway–seriously, Mary, this is why you ruined your evening gown hydrating pigs with this guy in the mud all night and made scrambled eggs for him in the morning? You, Lady Mary, actually knew how to scramble eggs and actually scrambled them after a night of muddy pig-saving and it was all just for isolated giggles in Series 3? And then she decides she doesn’t want Gillingham after all and Charles Blake helps her break up with them and then moves to Poland so Matthew Goode can come on the show and be Mary’s new love interest? Is this not exactly the same as putting a gun in Act I and not having it go off in Act III? WHY ARE YOU WASTING MY TIME THIS WAY, JULIAN FELLOWES? I WAS JUST STARTING TO LIKE CHARLES BLAKE ESPECIALLY SINCE HE CUT HIS HAIR.

ALSO: I am bored of Daisy bettering herself. Just better yourself and move on, Daisy.

ALSO: Not nearly enough Evil Butler.

ALSO: If this is really the end of Isobel’s relationship with Lord Merton, I’m just going to have to punch Julian Fellowes in the face for making me almost care what happened.

ALSO: I’m bored of Mary taking cheap shots at Edith all the time. Once in a while, sure. Edith is a sad sack and a Debbie Downer, but at this point in time, it’s like continually reminding us that Dan Quayle can’t spell potato. I get that Mary is supposed to be a total bitch, pardon my French, but shouldn’t bitches also have more interesting things to say than “I hate my younger sister whose life is so much worse than mine is”? You’re a grown woman! WHAT WOULD MATTHEW THINK?

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OKAY, NO MORE DOWNTON ABBEY, IT’S SAFE TO READ AGAIN.

But here’s a harmless segue–Hugh Bonneville, aka Lord Grantham, is nothing but delightful in the Paddington movie. I had no interest whatsoever seeing Paddington until it started getting rave reviews and Mister Bubby started wanting to see Paddington, in no small part, I’m sure, because he has fond memories of his Paddington baby blanket that he slept with until maybe six months ago. (I’m kidding. Maybe it was a year ago.) So I ended up taking him and Elvis to see it, since no one else would–not even my mother-in-law, who sees every movie out there that isn’t rated R and buys the Blu-Ray as soon as it goes on sale. Well! We all loved it. Believe me, this was unexpected. I am not usually a fan of this sort of movie. But it was very funny, and did you notice that I took my teenage boys to see it? That is not a thing I would have predicted in a million years, but there you go.

Here’s something completely unrelated that I also feel like ranting about: Politics aside, I can think of few things I find more obnoxious than National Review Online’s new site design. Yes, I know–now it has a design to match its content. R D 2R, Obama eats dogs and Dick Cheney shoots his friends for sport, blah blah–can we get back to what I was talking about? Almost all conservative commentary magazines have dreadful web sites–there are actually very few good web sites, but many manage to be inoffensive. Unfortunately, NRO is no longer one of those.

You know, when I worked at the newspaper, one of my less desirable responsibilities was to field complaints, and I can’t tell you how many phone calls I got from old people complaining about the crossword puzzle. First it was too hard, then it was too easy, then it was too hard again, and why did you change it in the first place, blah blah, and I was like, dude, it’s just a crossword puzzle, and I swore right then and there that I would never, ever be that old person who complains about things changing. Every time Facebook changes something, everyone turns into old people complaining about the crossword, and it’s way more annoying than whatever annoying thing Facebook has forced upon us. So a few weeks ago I’m reading Jonah Goldberg’s newsletter and he warns everyone that a new site design is coming and certainly some are going to be displeased blah blah but change is inevitable so don’t-be-old-people-complaining-about-the-crossword, essentially, was what he was saying, and I thought, “Sure, Jonah, I can do that. (Not be an old crossword-complaining biddy, that is.) No problem.”

But then the new design appeared and holy crap, I have never wanted to get on a phone and complain about something ever before in my life, but if I did, this would be the thing I’d complain about. It’s not just that it’s moved to a whole-bunch-of-boxes-in-no-particular-order-one-can-discern format, which is not a format I care for but which I can tolerate since so many people seem to like how it looks. No, it’s the fact that you scroll over a box and it MOVES AND CHANGES COLOR AND I DON’T WANT A LIGHT SHOW, I JUST WANT TO FIND WHERE YOU’RE HIDING JAY NORDLINGER, FOR THE LOVE! I’ll give them this: So far nothing is sparkling or flashing. One can only pray it stays that way.

And yes, I’ll be sure to switch over to ThinkProgress and the Daily Kos right away. Thanks for the suggestions.

Well, now I have to make myself some lunch. This was a really pointless point, but that’s pretty much how they all are these days. DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE CROSSWORD, JETHRO.

 

 

 

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

There are many qualities and abilities I would like to have, so it’s hard to choose just one. When I think about how I wish I were different, though, I usually wish that I were less lazy. Or, alternatively, more organized. My life is very messy, and I don’t enjoy it. I don’t mean my life is messy as in “my life is a mess, it’s just one nightmare after another,” but my life is literally messy. My house is messy, my car is messy, my work space is messy, my calendar is messy–everything that could possibly be messy is messy. I can’t tell you that I personally don’t look somewhat slovenly most of the time. There was more of an excuse for it when my children were younger. Now I think it’s just habit.

Yes, laziness seems to be at the core of all my problems. But is it laziness or pessimism? Because half of the time my attitude isn’t just “I don’t feel like doing that” but “why should I bother?” I’d say I’m a really bad example for my children, except that I still work about a hundred times harder than they do, so it’s probably more accurate to say I was a bad genetic influence on them.

So what is the opposite of laziness? Hardworkingness? I don’t think that’s a word in English, though it might be one in German. (Probably.) What is the quality that I lack? Initiative? Gumption? Perseverance? Diligence? Or is it optimism? Do I lack the belief that I can make a difference in my own life? I’m 43, closing rapidly in on 44, and I think I have spent most of the last 18 years building a case for my own incompetence. I mentioned in my last blog post that people used to compliment me on my organization and efficiency. No one who knows me now would accuse me of having either of those qualities. Was I actually more organized and efficient back in the day, or was I just better at faking it? After all, no one ever saw all the stuff I never got done.

So I think if I had to choose one quality, I would choose to be more optimistic. I wish it were as simple as just choosing. I never have been optimistic, as a personality trait. I have experienced brief periods of optimism. Some have lasted as long as a few months (but I can’t say I’ve had one of those since the mid-1990s). But generally, I’m just pessimistic. I always have been. My parents, who knew me best as a child, would tell you this. I really can’t help it. I’ve tried to. (See “brief periods of optimism” above.) But ultimately, it’s just not in my nature.

Of course, if it suddenly were in my nature, I’d probably become a completely different person. This might astonish and possibly frighten the people closest to me, but I can’t imagine any of them would complain, since it would probably make me a better person. Of course, if I were an optimist, that would mean my husband and I would both be optimists, and possibly the whole balance of our marriage would be thrown off. But that’s the pessimist in me speaking.

Anyway, it’s not possible to wake up one morning and suddenly be improved. Even optimists know that.

Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

I don’t know how fast you all read. Well, probably you read at varying speeds, since there are more than one of you. I took a reading speed test online, and it said I read about 450 words per minute. I don’t know how accurate this is. I tried to read carefully because I was reading for comprehension as well as speed. I don’t know if I would have had a comparable level of comprehension at a higher speed, and I don’t know if I would have gotten much farther if I hadn’t had mouse and paging-down issues. It doesn’t matter. I decided it would be more useful to look up how fast the average person reads, which is supposedly 250-300 words per minute. I think my gentle readers are above average, so let’s say you read 350-400 words per minute. Then let’s say that you don’t feel like reading very quickly today because if you only read 300 words per minute, I only have to write 1,200 words for today’s entry.

OR–you can set a timer for four minutes and see how far you get.

I was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1971. I moved around a lot as a child because my dad was in and out of school, in and out of the army (he was drafted, but served stateside), and in and out of jobs. And also, we were in and out of houses. I went to four different elementary schools, but only one middle school and one high school, although though my parents didn’t settle in one place until I was about 16. I stopped trying to make friends around age 11, which is interesting, because that’s when I finally stopped switching schools and having to leave people. I socialized with people at school and at church, but I didn’t really have actual friends–like the kind you would have over to your house–again until I was 16. It didn’t have anything to do with my parents buying a house and me feeling like it was safe to put down roots. (Actually, my new home didn’t feel very permanent, as it was a condo and there were seven of us. I got the feeling my parents were trying to squeeze us out.) It just sort of happened, like most friendships do. I’ve not had a lot of experience with friendships that were deliberately cultivated. In my observation, that sort of thing almost never works out.

As I said, there were seven of us. I was the second of five children–four girls and one baby brother. I was five years younger than my older sister and ten years older than my brother; my two younger sisters were pretty close together in age, so I was closer to them. At least we played together the most. I shared a room with each of my siblings at one point–even my brother, when he was a baby. (Not recommended, by the way, putting the baby in with a ten-year-old–he woke me up a lot, and any hope my parents had of letting him cry it out was dashed when I started crying along with him. Poor Mom.) I have fond memories of sharing a room with bythelbs–we laughed a lot. We used to get in trouble for being too loud at night, when everyone else was trying to sleep. I remember one night, Mom had already been in to warn us once or twice, and I didn’t want to get in trouble again, but bythelbs was making me laugh so hard that I couldn’t think of the words we need to be quiet or Mom will come, so I slapped her across the face. That stopped the laughter right quick. (I bet foo4luv is grateful our stint as roommates was less raucous.)

I got an inter-district transfer to finish high school where I started it. I’m not sure if I would have wanted to, had I known that the school district my new home was in only required two years of PE, whereas my high school required three. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know this, as I did make very good friends my junior and senior years; I stayed in touch with all of them long after high school, but not much in the last ten years. I do still talk to one of them on the phone semi-annually. I used to be a great correspondent. Ironically, this went out the window when we got internet in our home. Sad, but true.

I was a good student, and I graduated somewhere in the top 20 (you know, the part that wasn’t the top 10), but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and the thought of going to school four more years depressed me, so I decided to take a year off and see what happened. I got a temporary secretarial job at a hospital in the instrumentation department. I pretty much hated it. That’s when I decided I should probably go to college after all. I wanted to establish some independence, though, so after my temp job ended, I moved several hundred miles away to live on my own in Portland. It was about 20% fun and 80% lonely and scary. I also had difficulty finding work. I finally got a job at one of those scandalous savings and loans, but after a couple months I was let go and couldn’t find anything else, so I decided to go back home until college started that fall.

I enrolled in a small Baptist college in Virginia because they gave me a scholarship. My family was still in Southern California. One of my professors told me I’d gotten it backwards; I should have grown up in this crappy Virginia town and gone to college in California. I don’t regret my decision, though. I had a great college experience. I was the only Mormon in the place, and that’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been special. I majored in English, which was dumb, but at least I did well. Initially I planned to be a teacher, but that plan didn’t survive the first semester. When it was time to graduate, I still didn’t have a plan, although I toyed with entering a library science program. I ended up going home to California and getting another crappy temp job.

Several crappy temp jobs, actually, but at some point I decided I should get my MFA in creative writing, so I applied to graduate schools, and I got into one back east (although I can’t remember which one) and two in California. I was leaning toward one in Fresno, but at this point I had made a lot of good friends through church, and I was reluctant to pick up and leave again, so I decided to attend one that was closer to home. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to get the classes I needed, so after spending one semester earning 3 credits and facing another semester when I could enroll in 0 credits, I decided it was time to change plans again. When one of my friends asked me to get an apartment with her, I said sure, decided that an MFA was impractical anyway and maybe it was time I became a teacher after all. I got into a certification program at a local college and lasted about two weeks before realizing that there was a reason I’d decided against teaching the first time. That’s when I got a temp job as an editorial assistant at the newspaper.

The temp job turned into a permanent job. My department produced the lifestyle section for three area newspapers; my job was about half administrative and half writing. This was when I finally learned how to talk on the phone, although I never learned to like it. In those days people were very impressed with my organization and efficiency. I was still young and childless then. I met my husband through friends at church, and six months after our first date, we were married. He had just finished his sophomore year of college. A couple months after the wedding, I discovered I was pregnant. In those days doctors were less clear about the effect anti-depressants had on birth control pills. I forgot to mention that I’d been on anti-depressants since my sophomore year of college. So I had Princess Zurg and quit my job, and thus my husband became Sugar Daddy. He worked two jobs while finishing his senior year. I didn’t see much of him until we moved to Oregon and he started graduate school. We lived on his stipend. (It wasn’t pretty.)

We lived in Eugene, Oregon, for nine months, and then SD got a paid internship at the Big Satan, so we moved to Portland for nine months, during which time I had Mister Bubby. The paid internship was a blessing because I didn’t want to say anything, but we were kind of starving. When it was over, we moved back to Eugene and settled in for the long haul, except a year later SD was offered another paid internship in Portland, this time for four months. After that, we came back to Eugene (again) and I had the most miserable pregnancy of my life starring Elvis. This was around the time Princess Zurg was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Shortly after Elvis was born, SD finished his dissertation, got his Ph.D. and was offered a permanent position at the Big Satan, so we moved up to Portland again.

And I’m at 1,500 words and eleven years ago. Suffice it to say, we bought a house six months later, and that’s when we got the internet and I started this blog, so if you want to know the rest of the story, you can consult the archives. Thank you, and goodnight.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

This is another one of those hard questions. It’s like asking me about my regrets. I don’t like to think about my regrets because there’s nothing I can do about my regrets. Regrets make me feel guilty and/or unhappy, and I try to avoid unpleasant emotions whenever possible. Because that is the sort of weakling I am.

I can’t imagine how I should have been raised differently than I was. My parents did all right. They were about the right amount of strict vs. permissive. I think the circumstances under which they were working were fine, too. (I mean, there was indoor plumbing and everything.) I guess I am curious, though, about how I would have turned out if I’d been raised without television.

Actually, our parents tried (briefly) to raise us without television. I mean, my parents had a television, as most folks did by the 1970s, but at some point they were inspired to take the TV away and see what happened. I think maybe our cousins or some friends were TV-free, and my parents thought, “Hey, good idea,” so they decided to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, instead of getting rid of the TV, they just put it out in the garage. And my siblings and I found it and we would plug it in and watch it out there in the cold, huddled up in our blankets. So my parents decided to just bring the TV back inside.

I do have memories of watching TV out in the garage, but I didn’t know until I was much older that this was my parents’ experiment with the TV-free lifestyle. I would mock them for their efforts–if you were serious, why didn’t you just get rid of the TV?–but considering my own experiments with trying to direct my children’s free will, that would be ridiculous. So this is no slight against my parents, and I did turn out non-psychotic, if I do say so myself. But I do wonder occasionally if my desires and aspirations–not to mention my attention span–would have been different had I grown up without TV at all.

It’s not that I watched TV constantly as a kid. I had two siblings very close to my age, so we played together a lot, and unlike a lot of kids, I also enjoyed being by myself. But I did watch quite a bit of television, and the television was almost always on. We didn’t even have cable most of the time I was growing up. We had it for about a year, maybe, when I was 10, but we dropped it when my father lost his job, and we never had it again. We still watched a crapload of TV. I don’t know what would have happened if we’d had the internet in those days. Nothing good, surely.

When my husband and I got married, we lived in an area where we couldn’t get TV reception; you couldn’t watch any TV unless you had cable, and we couldn’t afford cable, so we didn’t watch TV. We had a TV, and a VCR as well, so we could watch movies, which we did most weekends. When Princess Zurg was a toddler, I let her watch Richard Scarry videos and Fantasia. I don’t think we had anything else that was suitable. But by the time Mister Bubby came along, we had a pretty good variety of children’s videos. Back in those days I was very optimistic about limiting the children’s TV time. I started off with a half-hour, but that proved to be too exhausting for me, so I bumped it up to a whole hour. Ninety minutes or two hours, tops, if I was having a hard day. I actually did pretty well most of the time. But it was a daily struggle. Not because the kids demanded TV, but because they demanded me. TV was my respite babysitter.

I would often wonder what caregivers did before there was television, and of course I know what they did–they put the children in play pens and let them cry a lot. I mean, before there was television, housewives had a lot of work to do; they couldn’t be taking all day to bond with their kids and provide them with stimulating activities and also supervise them. I suppose if I had grown up on a farm in another century or something, my character would have been a lot better and I in turn would have done a much better job raising my kids, but it’s too late for that, I guess.

The big problem with television is that it makes people addicted to visual stimulation. So while you’re plunking your kid down in front of the TV because you can’t handle entertaining them all day, you’re just encouraging their habit of being entertained and their need to be entertained. It’s really a horrible, horrible thing, television. If only it weren’t so darn entertaining.

Our family never has had cable, so we’ve never had a constant stream of television programming coming into our house, the way I did when I was growing up. This has given us a little more control over what our kids watch, and it does mean that they watch a little less television than their peers do, but as far as total screen time goes, they still have way too much. In my day (cue Grumpy Old Man voice) we didn’t have video games or the internet, so we just watched TV. Unless there was nothing good on, in which case we did something else. My kids, on the other hand, have way too many choices. If they want to watch a show, they’ve got Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offering hundreds of selections. There’s always something good on, or something good can always be turned on.

But Girlfriend’s the only one who really enjoys watching TV shows. The boys prefer video games and PZ prefers the internet. PZ is on the internet so much, I can hardly use it myself. On the one hand, it’s a problem. On the other hand, it’s one of the few social outlets she has, so who am I to begrudge her? Indeed, the internet is one of the few social outlets I have, so should understand. People often talk about how online life has become a substitute for real life, but what if your real life was non-existent before? I mean, I remember the days before the internet. They were a drag. I don’t blame my mother for watching soap operas. At least that was only two hours a day. (Two and a half hours, I guess, before The Doctors was canceled.)

I’ve gotten a little off track. I meant to talk about how my life would have been different without TV, but I guess I’m afraid to face that alternate universe. Too fraught with regret! That, or years of watching television as a kid and being on the internet as an adult has made it impossible for me to stick to the subject without getting distracted. I guess we’ll never know.

What would you change about the way you were raised?

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

It’s hard for me to choose what I feel most grateful for. Part of me thinks I should be most grateful for my family, or more specifically for my husband, or whatever. But I think what I feel most grateful for is that I’ve had a relatively easy life. I was born in an affluent, western democracy. I was raised by both my parents, who stayed married to each other until my mother died, and I didn’t want for any of life’s basic necessities. I got to go to college. I found someone I wanted to marry who also wanted to marry me, and it was not difficult for me to get pregnant and have kids. We did not have to spend many years worrying about money; our worst-case scenario never included the possibility of being thrown out on the streets. We’ve never gone through a period where both of us were unemployed. I’ve always been able to get the health care I need, and so have my children. I have a much easier life than I probably deserve.

Is it cheating to talk about all of these things as though it is just one thing to be grateful for? It’s just that I can chalk all of these things up to my own dumb luck. I am very grateful for my dumb luck, and I suppose it is the thing I’m most grateful for, because it’s the thing I’m most afraid of losing (or running out of). Because there’s nothing I can do to keep being lucky or prevent myself from being unlucky. I am grateful that I have been mostly very lucky in life–certainly luckier than about 90% or maybe even 95% of the rest of the world–because I really wouldn’t like that to change.

Possibly I shouldn’t be so grateful for my great gobs of luck. Maybe if I’d been less lucky in life, I’d have better character. But I’m not silly enough to wish for opportunities to develop greater character. I think I’ll just take them randomly, as fate wills.

But if I need to be more specific, I suppose I would say I’m most grateful for indoor plumbing. Indoor plumbing is pretty much the best thing ever. It’s hard to come up with something I like better.

Does anyone “get” the reference in this post title? Who remembers the Tom Hanks-Jackie Gleason movie Nothing in Common, let alone the Thompson Twins song that ran over the end credits of said film? I remember really liking the movie, although I also remember it being a critical failure, despite the fact that Tom Hanks is brilliant in it. This was before Tom Hanks had won any Oscars, so to say Tom Hanks was brilliant in anything back then should be considered retroactively prescient and hipster-ish. (“He was all right in Cast Away, but I preferred him in Bosom Buddies.”) The Thompson Twins song is very Thompson Twins-y. Here’s a link for your edification and bemusement.

This is a convoluted introduction into today’s question designed to make you fall in love with me: Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

Since these questions were written for people getting to know one another, I should answer as though I were talking about what I have in common with you, gentle reader, as opposed to what I have in common with my actual life partner (who’s already fallen in love with me). This poses somewhat of a problem because I can’t be sure who’s reading this blog on any given day. Some of you may be complete strangers visiting my blog for the very first time. (Question for you first-timers: Are you falling in love yet? Wait, don’t answer that.) On the other hand, what do you care what my husband and I have in common?

Here are three things Sugar Daddy and I appeared to have in common when we first met:

1. We were both Mormons.

2. We were friends with some of the same people.

3. We both played the piano.

I suppose we were also around the same height, but I wasn’t particularly aware of that, since all I noticed was that he was shorter than I was, and I was afraid that would make dating him awkward. In truth, he is only about an inch shorter than I am, when we’re both in our bare feet. (Or stockinged feet, if you want to keep it G-rated for the kids.) Of course, back then I saw him mostly at church, where I usually wore heels, which made me a few inches taller than he was. I had much more anxiety about this at the time than seems reasonable, in retrospect. But this story is boring.

Now, of course, my husband and I have lots of things in common. Kids, for example. That’s a pretty big one. We also enjoy spending obscene amounts of money eating out at restaurants. Those two things are pretty much the basis of our relationship. Just kidding. But really, it’s not a bad beginning.

So let’s move on to you, gentle readers. I know that many of you are mothers. We have that in common. Some of you are Mormons. We have that in common. Some of you are writers. We have that in common too. More specifically, most of you have blogs. Yet another thing that we have in common.

Let me tell you some other fun facts about myself and among these things, see if there are three you have in common with me.

* I hate olives.

* I love peanut butter.

* I have excellent blood pressure.

* I have Restless Leg Syndrome.

* Being outside at night kind of gives me the creeps.

* I have a low tolerance, physically, for sunlight, despite the fact that I find sunlight very cheering emotionally.

* I read a lot of books.

* Reality TV repulses me.

* I really don’t care how my home is decorated. It’s possibly because I have no taste.

* I am an alto, but I can also sing tenor sometimes, provided it doesn’t go below the E below middle C.

* I have a B.A. in English.

* I don’t have a Pinterest account.

* I have an irrational fear of Cheerios.

* I also have an irrational fear of buttons. I just barely tolerate them on clothes–one has to be practical, after all–but buttons just loose, by themselves? I have a horror of them. The smaller the button, the more horrifying it is to me. Truth be told, I’m not crazy about the word button. Too triggering.

* I prefer games of chance to games of strategy.

* I have Rick Astley on my iPod. In related news, I am not easily embarrassed.

* I love eating, but hate cooking.

* I didn’t think Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead was really such an amazing book. I thought it was a beautifully written, okay book. I kind of feel like this makes me morally deficient in some way.

* As a teenager, I had a huge crush on Sam Harris, the grand champion male vocalist of the first season of Star Search. I guess every girl has to fall in love with a gay man at least once in her life.

* When I was in the fourth grade, I was the best tetherball player at my elementary school. That was the last time I was ever the best at anything.

* I hate running.

* I love dancing, although my ability in this area is best described as “relatively competent.” But everything is relative, isn’t it?

* I have never been to Mexico.

* Part of me would like to go to Europe someday, but another part of me is afraid of feeling like an ugly American. I felt like a very ugly American when I went to Japan. I can’t say I was super comfortable during my brief stay in Canada, either. I’m pretty sensitive about my American-ness.

* But I actually really like being American, so screw all those other countries. Just kidding. (Maybe.)

* I’m a night person. I would sleep until 1 p.m. if people didn’t wake me up. But I don’t like sleeping until 1 p.m. because it makes me feel guilty. Therefore, when I sleep in, I try to be sure to get out of bed before 10 a.m. Or at least before 10:30. Or 11.

* Wind gives me a headache.

* I am allergic to bee venom, but I don’t remember what kind. I’ve only been stung once. I don’t have any other allergies.

* I have hypothyroidism.

* I’ve never had a broken bone.

* I can’t whistle.

* I can’t drive a stick shift.

* I find recycling a pain in the neck, and sometimes I feel like Mother Earth can just kiss my big toe.

This post is now long enough that I think it’s time to stop. Gentle readers, what do we have in common?

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