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So I’ve put on a couple pounds since I got back from Japan. I’m becoming aware of my stomach, which is never a good thing. I mean, is anyone ever strictly unaware of her stomach? I suppose I’m always some baseline-level aware of my stomach, but lately I’ve been hyperaware of my stomach, and that is what troubles me. I haven’t been exercising as much since we got home, and part of that is because I’m lazy, and part of it is because now that Princess Zurg has started college and I have to deal with her schedule, my free time has become more fragmented and it’s easier to let the day get away from me. Last year I had a good 5-6 hours a day when no one was at home. This year it’s like having a kid in pre-school again. PZ is in class 9 a.m. to noon, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. (She has an evening class on Tuesday and Thursday.) Since she doesn’t drive, I have to drop her off and pick her up, and it really cuts into my alone time. It’s cramping my style, I don’t mind telling you.

But back to what I was talking about–I’m having trouble getting over the exercise hurdle, so I thought I would try to modify my eating habits. I don’t know why I thought I would try that. I guess I really, really didn’t feel like exercising. Anyway, I thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal to have a salad for lunch a few times a week, cut down on the carbs, etc. I mean, it’s not like I would be dieting, exactly. Except that I had a salad for lunch on Wednesday, and it immediately brought back all of the negative feelings associated with my horrible experience with low-carb dieting in March. Like, the whole time I was eating that salad, I was having PTSD symptoms. And afterward I was like, “Life is no longer worth living unless I can eat half a bag of Fritos right now,” and so that’s what I did.

I don’t know if you’re aware, but Fritos have a lot of carbs.

That’s the problem with low-carb eating. It’s easy to feel full if you shove a bunch of protein in you. But you can never feel satisfied. You can never feel joy.

So that’s my short-lived experiment with modifying my eating habits. Apparently I need to have a peanut butter sandwich more or less every day or I become suicidal. That’s what science has taught me.

What else can I tell you? I was gone a long time. Before I came back, I mean. For a while I was in Japan, but before that, I was just lazy. And depressed. I’m still lazy and depressed, but now I’m lazy, depressed, and blogging, even if it’s wrong. I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing, and it’s just really hard. I’d rather be eating Fritos right now. Or sleeping. I keep meaning to do other things, but I just don’t. My husband asked me the other day if I needed to be doing some mental health upkeep things, e.g. I dunno, therapy, and I was like, “Meh.” I mean, I could see my psychiatrist, who is also my therapist, but I don’t know that it would make any difference. I don’t think I have issues that I need to work through. I think I just need to start doing stuff instead of not doing it. Unfortunately, it’s so hard to do stuff and so easy not to. I use all of my “do stuff” energy to do the absolute minimum.

I keep hoping it’s just a phase. I mean, historically, I go through these periods of extreme sloth, interrupted by periods of productivity. That is, eventually, at some point, I become so disgusted with myself and the way I’m living that I just have to clean the house or whatever, because I just can’t stand it anymore. I keep thinking, “Any day now, that self-loathing will kick in and spur me to action.” I’ve been thinking that for most of 2016. Not panicking just yet, but historically speaking, this is the longest uninterrupted period of extreme sloth that I’ve experienced since…I dunno. Maybe ever. The worst part is that I no longer respond to nagging. Maybe I’m just too old and don’t care anymore.

But you didn’t come here to read my sob story. Or maybe you did. Well, in any case, I’m done for now. Is there anything else I can tell you? I could tell you about Japan, except I’m so sick of re-hashing my trip to Japan. I enjoyed our time in Japan, but I’m just done talking about it. Mainly because it was such a chore sifting through all the pictures we took and uploading them to our family blog, and I’m still not done with it yet. I keep thinking I’ll just power through it–power through a la Hillary with pneumonia–and get it over with, but whenever I get on a roll, I eventually have to quit because it’s time to make dinner or pick up a kid from school or put someone to bed or whatever, and it takes soooooooo much effort to take the job back up again. I think, “I have earned a break from this tedious task,” and I probably have earned a break, but maybe only a few hours, not a couple weeks, which is becoming my average length of break-taking.

Guilt just doesn’t motivate me like it used to. That is also never a good sign.

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.

All the kids are back in school today, and I could not be happier. Just kidding. Of course I could be happier. I could always be happier! If I ever reached the fulness of my happiness potential, the world would probably explode. Nevertheless, I am pleased to have the house back to myself. Unfortunately, I think that also means I have to clean it now.

If I were a better person, I would have made my kids clean it this weekend. But I’m at best an average person; therefore, all I can do is whine about how messy things are.

Maybe I couldn’t possibly be happier. Maybe this is as happy as my average-person self gets.

But this is no time to get bogged down in philosophy.

Today I went to my clogging class for the first time in three weeks. We didn’t meet during spring break, and then after spring break I got sick. Or rather, during spring break I got sick and was not better enough on Monday to dance for an hour and a half. I confess I was not looking forward to going today. I haven’t practiced at all, and I thought it would probably hurt to start again. It didn’t hurt that much. It was driven home to me, yet again, that I really need to practice some more. I’m so bad right now, I am starting to be embarrassed by it.

And I don’t embarrass easily.

It’s fortunate that I don’t embarrass easily because Princess Zurg had a semi-public breakdown this weekend. I say semi-public because we were at the church, but not many other people were there at the time–and not really anybody we knew. If your daughter has a psychotic episode in front of strangers, is it still humiliating? I shouldn’t say “psychotic episode.” That is hyperbole and inaccurate. What shall I call it? A total loss of self-control and rational thought, which included screaming and profanity. I realize church has that effect on a lot of people, but I’m still concerned. It happens at home too, you see. And yes, I realize family life has that effect on some people. Like me, for instance. But I spend weeks and months repressing it and only let it out occasionally. PZ lets it out all the time, and it doesn’t seem to help her at all, so I’d rather she did more repressing. Do you think it’s possible to teach someone how to repress stuff? I have a natural talent for it, so it’s hard for me to explain how it’s done, but surely there are professionals out there who could offer their assistance.

I had a talk with my husband yesterday about several things, but one of the things he brought up was my writing, and it put me in a rather unhappy mood. I was actually already in an unhappy mood because of the PZ situation, but I was repressing it pretty successfully, and then my husband’s innocent inquiry about my writing forced me to confront my fear of failure, which I suspect is a fear that grows more rational every day, and that put me in an unhappier mood. And here I am now, writing on this blog for no reason except to prove to myself that I can. But it isn’t very interesting, is it?

I’m hungry, and I need to do more laundry. Gentle reader, I apologize for how often I talk about the laundry. I know it has to be annoying. But I keep needing to do it, and there’s just nothing else going on in my life right now. Except that PZ’s birthday is coming up, and she wants to have a party but she doesn’t know what she wants to do, specifically, and I certainly have no ideas because I’m not a party-giver. Also, I’m apparently not an idea-haver, or I would be writing a lot better than I currently do. But that’s treading too closely to the matter I’m trying to suppress.

Tomorrow night is a baby shower for a woman in my clogging group. I feel like I should go because I like her, and perhaps I should get out of the house, but I’m afraid I’ll go and not have a good time. I kind of hate baby showers. But I feel obligated to make some effort to be social with people sometimes. I don’t know. I suppose I could go and if it sucks, I could leave. No one would notice or care. And I will have fulfilled my social obligation. So I guess I’ll go. Maybe. We’ll see.

Now I’m really hungry, and that laundry isn’t washing itself.

So now I have survived two traumatic experiences this summer. Back in June I was in a four-car smash-up, and yesterday I went white water rafting. If you know me at all, I know what you’re thinking: “Madhousewife, why were you white water rafting?” I am not fond of the outdoors. I don’t like to have fun. Therefore, it makes little sense that I should have been white water rafting. Except that my husband wanted to take me and the older kids white water rafting, so naturally that is why I was white water rafting. When my husband says he wants to do something that I’m not particularly interested in doing, my response is to murmur indifferently and hope that he will eventually forget about it. To say I’d rather not do something he’s decided would be fun to do is to invite criticism of my well-established hatred of fun. In addition to fun and the outdoors, criticism of my fundamental personality traits is something I don’t enjoy. I only invite personal criticism when it’s really important. I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head. Maybe I will get back to that later.

Anyway, my husband went white water rafting with his co-workers as a team-building activity last summer, and for his birthday the white water rafting company sent him a gift certificate for a free white water rafting trip for an individual. This reminded him that he wanted to take me and the older kids white water rafting, and it wasn’t like he could not take advantage of one of us being free—hence, he booked us on a white water rafting trip. I was not excited to go, but I was willing to go because despite my hatred of fun and my apparent willingness to own it, I am clearly not willing to fully own it because I still occasionally feel guilty about it and doubt my own judgment when it comes to outright rejecting activities that I have no desire to participate in. I have no desire to spend three days at amusement and water parks at the end of this month, but I am uncomfortable saying, “I will not do that,” because a) it just seems rude to tell my family I won’t go on vacation with them, b) what would I suggest instead? I’m not a fun person, and c) even if they left me at the hotel to read a book, which I would enjoy, I would feel like I was missing something because the rest of my family is off having fun and—for want of a less cringe-inducing phrase—making memories without me. I have to go to the amusement park and the water park, or otherwise I am not part of the family. I would sooner excommunicate myself from the church (and I’m not aiming to do that any time soon).

When it comes to things I’ve never done before, there is also the remote possibility that I will end up enjoying it. It isn’t likely, given my nature, but how do I know unless I’ve tried it? I like to think that there are many things I’ll agree to do once. I once agreed to eat tripe. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. But now I know, and now when I’m confronted with the opportunity to eat tripe or not eat tripe, I can make an informed decision, with or without guilt. Well, in the case of tripe, it’s without guilt because there are several people in the family who won’t eat tripe. I don’t have to feel like I’m letting them all down by not eating it. Also, maybe I feel like some tripe today. I don’t know. I also don’t feel guilty about refusing to eat olives. This only affects my family when it’s time to order pizza. I guess this is one of those examples of when inviting personal criticism is worth the risk. I really hate olives. I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks. Thanks to experience, I also know that I really hate raw baby squids—eating them, not so much their existence—and I have no qualms about refusing to eat those, even if it means offending the entire nation of Japan, should I ever find myself in a remote fishing village there again.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Until yesterday, I had never been white water rafting. Maybe I would like it, maybe I wouldn’t. How would I know unless I tried it? I wasn’t excited to try it, but I was willing to try it, for the aforementioned reasons I have already explained, despite the fact that it involved the outdoors (which I’m not fond of) and also involved water, with which I have a complicated relationship. (I’m not sure it’s worth going into the history.) Despite the fact that I am generally terrified of drowning (part of my complicated relationship with water), my anxiety over the trip was not so much over the (distinct) (but at the same time statistically unlikely) possibility of drowning but the certainty that I was going to have to spend several hours in a wet suit, which didn’t sound comfortable (what if I get an itch I can’t scratch?) and that I would need to exert myself physically (physical exertion being another thing I have a complicated relationship with) in a manner that might require coordination (coordination also not being one of my strengths). So yes, I was anxious, but I wasn’t scared anxious.

That was before I got to the white water rafting place. The wetsuit actually wasn’t that bad. I got an itch. I was able to scratch it. It was unbearably hot, but they told me I’d be grateful for the insulation once I was in the 40 degree water, and I believed them. I still had my doubts about the physical exertion/coordination thing, but they were not overwhelming. What was overwhelming was when they started talking about what I’d need to do if I fell out of the raft or the raft turned over and everyone, including me, fell into the river. Obviously, I knew all along this was a possibility—falling out of the raft and into the river—but I didn’t know-know it until they were giving me instructions on how to deal with this scenario and I realized that I would never in a million years remember all of this stuff. I could remember some of it—Number One rule, for example, “Don’t Panic!” Easy to remember. Not so easy to follow, which brings me to my second overwhelming experience, the realization that I would, in the event of falling into a river, definitely not remember anything I was supposed to do except not panic, and therefore I would definitely panic. I’m sorry, but what is the alternative when you can’t remember how not to drown? I can’t think of one. At the same time, I can’t think of a better way to drown than to panic while underwater, so you see why my anxiety increased exponentially at this point. I really had no choice but to stay in the raft, and being ill-coordinated and inexperienced (at white water rafting), I was not 100 percent confident of my ability to do so. Did I mention that I was now rationally anxious, as opposed to just silly-anxious? Seriously, an itch I couldn’t scratch? How could that ever have bothered me? I’m some kind of idiot, that’s how.

Anyway, back to my story and my determined resolve not to fall out of the raft, since I had already forgotten 85 percent of what they’d told me to do in that event—possibly 90, I couldn’t really tell since I’d forgotten so much. I got in the raft. The raft was in the water. Because we booked the trip late, our family had to split up and be in two separate rafts. Sugar Daddy and Princess Zurg were rafting with some outdoorsy, fun-loving young adults (or maybe they were middle-aged adults, I couldn’t really tell since I was focused mostly on the drowning thing), and Mister Bubby and I were rafting with a family of four—outdoorsy, fun-loving parents and their game-looking teenage daughters, one of whom had been rafting before but not at this level of rapids. I forgot to mention that this trip included level-2 and level 3- and level-4 rapids and also a level-5 waterfall thingy at the end. None of these levels meant anything to me before this trip; frankly, they don’t mean much to me now, except I now know that level-2 is about where my comfort level stops. But back to my story. I was getting off topic. We were in the raft. The raft was in the water. SD was in another raft. He said he was actually kind of glad he was in a separate raft because then he could better watch me as I was having my rafting experience. Forget the logic of this statement. What you need to know is that my husband has admitted that he enjoys witnessing my discomfort, to the extent that it’s important to him to get a good seat. I’m going to leave that for now and come back to it later, or we’ll never get past the part where I’m in the raft.

We’re in the raft, the raft is in the water, and we’re rowing. Or paddling. I guess you paddle in a raft. They taught us how to paddle. It made sense.  I am executing the paddling motion. Am I awesome at it? No. Am I better at it than the girl in front of me? Yes. Is that saying much? No, but I don’t have any other reference. We are paddling in the raft, in the water, and we’re coming up on some rapids. What do they call these rapids? I forget. They all have cute names. One is “Maytag.” I do not like that name, but that is not the name of these rapids. I think these were “The Staircase” or something. Honestly, none of the names appeals to me, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re coming up on some rapids, maybe The Staircase, maybe something else fraught with devastating possibilities, and our guide—whom I like very much; he sounds a lot like the Crush the turtle in Finding Nemo, and I feel comfortable with him—tells us to paddle forward two, but I notice there’s a big rock where my paddle would go, and then the next thing I know, the raft is tipping and, despite my determination, I am falling out of it. I am telling this in slow motion. This is how it really went down: we’re paddling, everything’s cool, and then BOOM! I’m in the water and I’m drowning. I knew this would happen!

So I’m in the water, drowning. I don’t know what anyone else is doing because all I can think is, “Don’t panic,” and also, “Panic!” This is the conversation my brain is having with itself: “Don’t panic!” “I’m panicking!” “I said don’t panic!” “I know! I’m drowning!” “You can’t panic when you’re drowning!” “But I’m DROWNING!” “Okay, let’s think, what was that thing they said about recirculating? We don’t want to do that—“ “I AM F***ING DROWNING HERE!” “SHUT UP, I’M TRYING TO THINK!” “I’M PANICKING!” “What you don’t want to do is put your feet down, they told you not to put your feet down—“ “IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT THAT I GET SOME AIR RIGHT NOW” “I’M THINKING!” “Okay, I am breathing air now, but I can’t see anything and I can’t hear anything and the important things is that I’M STILL IN THE WATER AND NOT THE BOAT AND WHERE IS THE WATERFALL AM I GOING TO DIE” and on and on like that until finally I heard SD’s voice and the guide in his raft pulled me out of the water, and then I wanted to cry but I didn’t because the trip had just started and I had already almost f***ing drowned. If I cried at this point, what would I have left to do the next time I almost drowned? Do not be misled by my reluctance to type the F-word in public; I assure you that my private thoughts contained no asterisks. I’m sorry, I’m going to need a minute here.

It was terrifying. Also, cold, but at the time I didn’t mind the cold so much—frankly, it was rather refreshing—but the terror really put a damper on my mood for the rest of the trip. It turned out that the whole raft tipped over, so all six of us went in the river. Mister Bubby actually swam toward the raft. I learned to swim at an appropriate age, but apparently I can only access the skill if I’m not in a life-or-death situation, which, to me, pretty much misses the point of learning how to swim. But I don’t have time to dwell on that epiphany. All six of us eventually ended up back in our right-side-up raft and continued on our way as if we hadn’t just had a near-death experience.

Seriously, wet suits and itching. What was I thinking?

Actually, one of the previously game-looking teenage daughters now appeared to be even more traumatized than I was. She couldn’t stop crying. I knew how she felt. I would have been crying too, if I hadn’t been determined not to embarrass my son, who had made it clear before we got on the raft that he was not thrilled to be paired with me because I was so potentially embarrassing. So I was being strong, for him (not that he appreciated it), but my sympathy was with this poor girl, who—I believe I mentioned—could not stop crying. We kept paddling, she kept crying. We got to a part of the river where we had to get out and hike what seemed like a mile but probably wasn’t nearly a mile of rugged terrain, and she was crying the whole way. Eventually she and the mother just had to walk out, which left only four of us in our party, but that was okay. At least none of us was crying. Yet.

We got to the point where it was time to get back into the rafts, which were already in the water (having been zip-lined past the stretch that was apparently unnavigable), and our choices were to jump off a cliff into the water (about a 20-foot drop), or hike a more roundabout route to the place where the rafts were waiting. The jump was highly recommended by several, but I knew about this part of the trip from the outset, and I knew from the outset that I would not be jumping off any cliff for any reason, with any inducement. I don’t jump off of cliffs. I don’t jump off of anything. SD jumped off the cliff, but that was no biggy, he’d done it before. Also, he liked jumping off of things. Like diving boards and crap. MB and PZ also jumped off the cliff. I took the long road, along with half a dozen or so of my fellow catapedaphobic rafters. I can’t say the descent down the side of the cliff was a stroll in the park either, but there were ropes. I made it. I watched my children plunge into the river, on purpose. Then we continued on our merry way.

Really, there is not much for me to say about the rest of the trip. As I told MB and SD later, it might have been different had I not fallen into the river very first thing. Perhaps I might have enjoyed some of the gentler rapids. SD pointed out to me that I basically body-surfed a level-4 rapid on my back, which should have been awesome, but I really could have done without the experience. I spent the rest of the time just being afraid that I was going to fall in again. It is hard to forget that you just almost-drowned when your ears and stomach are still full of river water and your mouth is still full of the taste of fear. As we got closer to the end of the trip—the part where we were supposed to go over the waterfallOn the bus ride down to the starting point of the trip, I told MB—who was so bummed that he was with the embarrassing, fun-hating parent—that while I was definitely not jumping off a cliff, I did intend to go off the waterfall (which, like the cliff-jumping, was optional). I mean, why wouldn’t I? It was the climax of the trip, and after all, I’d never done it before, had I? And I couldn’t disappoint my son when I was the only parent he had in the raft with him, could I? So I said I’d go over the waterfall, but that was before I fully grasped the concept of “level 5.” As we got closer and closer to the waterfall, and they went over all the safety procedures for going over the waterfall, and they reiterated the stuff they said earlier in the day about the risk of “recirculating” (which I definitely didn’t want to do), I became increasingly certain that without a frontal lobotomy, I would not be able to enjoy going over a level-5 waterfall. And no matter how much I wanted to do it, i.e. not disappoint my son and miss the climax of the trip, even if I hated it, I could not make myself do it.

It turns out that I am only so much of a good sport about drowning.

It also turned out that of the four of us left in the raft (besides the guide), MB was the only one willing to go over the waterfall. That made me extra upset about not being able to make myself do it, because 12-year-olds shouldn’t have to go over waterfalls without their mothers. Right? I mean, it seemed that way to me. I can’t describe the guilt that went along with this decision, which I absolutely knew was the only decision I could possibly make because the flesh was weak and the spirit was also weak. It made it very difficult to enjoy the relief I felt over not having to go over a waterfall, which I now think was really unfair, but at the time all I felt was regret–and an overwhelming fear of drowning, of course, but that goes without saying.

So I got out of the raft and walked with my fellow waterfall-phobic rafters to the bridge where you watch fun-loving people go over a waterfall in a raft and possibly fall out and get sucked into a whirlpool thingy and “recirculate” and meet their watery demise, and my anxiety level went up again. Here I was, safe on the bridge, and there were my children in the river, about to go over a freaking waterfall. I wasn’t worried about SD—he’d done it before and not died, so I was reasonably confident he could do it again—but neither of my children had ever navigated a waterfall before, successfully or otherwise. PZ was even less good at rafting than I was, and MB was all alone in the raft with a dude who talked like the sea turtle in Finding Nemo (not that he wasn’t a consummate professional). I almost didn’t want to watch, but I did.

They survived. Nobody fell out. And the fun was finally over!

SD said it was very sad to watch me getting knocked around by the rapids, clearly terrified, but I can’t help noticing that while SD always says it’s sad for him to see me scared, he also can’t seem to keep from laughing about it. Perhaps it’s a nervous reaction and he doesn’t actually enjoy my fear, but it’s just that he keeps pulling me into situations where I will be very afraid. Situations like roller coasters and haunted houses and big water slides and white water rapids. And he seems to enjoy reminiscing about those experiences. I don’t mean to invite you to judge him too harshly, gentle readers. I’m sure he’s only able to laugh because he (unlike I) knew all along that I wasn’t going to die. I’m sure he wouldn’t laugh at my fear if he ever thought I was in actual danger. I think.

MB: You didn’t enjoy the rest of the trip because you almost fell in the river.

Mad: There was no almost about it! I did fall in!

MB: I mean you almost fell in again. You only stayed in the raft the second time because you grabbed onto that 12-year-old girl.

Mad: Yes. And thank God she was there.

That’s all I have to say about white water rafting. Except that wet suits smell like feet. But that’s another post for another day.

Yesterday was Sugar Daddy’s birthday. I think he was offended that I didn’t write 38 fun facts about him. I’m not sure if I have 38 fun facts. It’s getting harder to come up with more than 10 for the older children. I’m going to have to come up with a new gimmick for celebrating birthdays around here. Anyway, it was SD’s birthday yesterday. We went out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant. SD, Princess Zurg, Mister Bubby, and my MIL all had sushi. Elvis and Girlfriend had bento boxes, and I had something else. I don’t like sushi, and I know that I don’t like sushi, but every time we go out for sushi, I feel like I have to try some. So I had some, and what I had was all right, but it also reminded me why I don’t like sushi. I can’t explain exactly what I don’t like about it. I mean, sometimes it’s just too fishy. And I like fish, but not things that are “too fishy,” whatever that means. I know it when I taste it. I don’t know. In some ways it tastes good, but at the same time there’s also something about it that makes me rather I were not tasting it.

I am feeling nervous about the summer. I look forward to the sleeping in part. But I am nervous about the camps. I’m nervous about the swimming lessons. I’m nervous about my MIL going to Chicago for three weeks, not because I can’t live without her help (I lived without it up until last year) but because I have grown accustomed to making appointments and such knowing that my MIL will (usually) be available to babysit if necessary. Now I will have to make special arrangements for babysitting, if necessary. I am nervous about having PZ home all day, getting bored and using the computer too much and complaining that she doesn’t have any friends. I am nervous about having PZ’s friends over. I am nervous that Girlfriend will not have enough social interaction with other children because it is incumbent upon me to arrange play dates for her because no one will call me to arrange a play date for their kid with my kid. Girlfriend is actually a very popular little girl. I’m the one who’s unapproachable, and my children suffer for it. Well, what can I do? Get a personality transplant?

So yesterday I went to the SuperGyno, and she told me my progesterone was a little low–which wouldn’t be a problem if I weren’t having symptoms of something that is undesirable, but since I am, she’s going to try supplementing me with progesterone for a few months and see if that helps anything. Well, I’m game. Why not? Why not, indeed? So there’s that.

Today I have to see my psychiatrist. Lately I feel like I have run out of things to say to the psychiatrist, so I end up talking about random crap, none of which seems significant, and I seem to be repeating myself on a lot of insignificant points. Last month I cried during one session–not a lot, just a tiny bit–so that seems like it ought to signify a breakthrough or something. I mean, crying is significant, right? Even if it’s just a little bit? I don’t remember why I was crying, though. Maybe I was just pre-menstrual. WHO KNOWS? It was kind of embarrassing. I’m not really a crier, except when I am. Then I’m really a crier. Except when I only cry a little bit, which is still embarrassing. I’m pretty sure I’ve never cried in front of a psychiatrist before. Most of my psychiatrists were not people who give you the impression that it would be okay if you cried in front of them. I mean, I’m sure they would have been patient, but they also would have been sitting there with that impassive look on their face that I interpret as “Good Lord, she’s crying. How long is this going to last? When will she get to the point?” I cried in front of a regular old therapist once. Not a lot, just a tiny bit, like this last time. That didn’t seem as embarrassing because she was sort of a touchy-feeling kind of gal. In the metaphorical sense. She didn’t really touch me, I don’t think. That might have been weird. She was just the type who seemed like she’d consider crying a major breakthrough. And I suppose she was right, that time. I don’t know about this last time. Like I said, I don’t remember it well. Just the embarrassment.

Speaking of touchy-feely, on a non-metaphorical note, when we were saying our goodbyes to the couple who ran the bed & breakfast in Leavenworth, the wife said to me, “How about a hug?” And I was like, sure, why not, I’m a hugger–because I am, actually. I mean, I’m flexible on the hugging issue. I didn’t used to be a hugger, much, but when I’m around huggers, I become a hugger too. It’s weird because I’m really reserved and anti-social, and I think most people wouldn’t consider me very huggable, but I don’t mind it. Sometimes I’m even the hug-initiating type, depending on my mood. I don’t know. I guess not being much of a talker, either, if I have to pick some form of communication, non-verbal is preferable. That is how I end up hugging people who may not actually want to be hugged, or who seem like, “Whoa, I was not expecting you to hug me, but okay, I guess.” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t go up to random people and hug them. I don’t go up to just anybody and hug them. I hug friends and relatives–people I actually know well, but apparently not well enough to know if they are the huggy type. (Yeah, I know, my own relatives–weird.) Perhaps I have faulty hug-dar. Huggy-dar. I don’t know. Now I make myself sound like a creepy hug-predator, which I’m totally not. Gentle reader, if we ever meet in real life, I promise not to hug you unless you explicitly come out to me as a hugger. Not that any of you would, after this creepy paragraph.

I have never hugged my psychiatrist, and I don’t plan on doing so.

I am making a chicken-rice salad for dinner, but it has to chill for several hours, so I have to get that done before I go to the psychiatrist. I have a couple hours, give or take. Well, mostly take. I also have to take a shower, so make that an hour and a half. Can I do it? Yes, I can. Do I want to? No, I don’t. It’s really not such a chore, but I’m just lazy.

What shall I tell my psychiatrist today? I went to someone’s birthday lunch on Monday, and I talked to people. That was different from the norm. I saw someone about whom I had recently come to the realization that while we are friends, we are not really friends-friends, and I have adjusted my expectations in that regard accordingly, but when I saw her, I felt inordinately annoyed by her presence, so apparently I need a re-readjustment of my expectations. But in which direction? I do not know. I am gradually cutting myself off from other people to avoid being hurt by them, even as I proclaim myself a hugger. Well, I wouldn’t hug any of these people. Unless they hugged me first–then I’d be okay with it. Because really, I’m not a hugger so much as I’m a pleaser. If it pleases you to hug me, well, fine. It’s no skin off my nose. I’ve hugged homeless people on the street. Note: None of these homeless hugs was my idea. I just told you, I don’t hug random people. But sometimes random people hug me. Specifically, random people on the street who are mentally out of balance enough not to be intimidated by my aloofness. Apparently the crazy homeless people find me approachable, but normal people, for the most part, do not.

And you know, as a result I find I am not as much of a pleaser anymore. I still want to please people–that is, if I can please someone, that pleases me. But if I can’t, I am much more likely these days to say, “Oh, well.” Because I’m too tired. I’ve spent the last 42 years as the lonely scarecrow all the little animals are afraid of, and I’m tired of trying to make friends. If people look at me and think my face is telling them to get off my lawn, well, fine. I don’t need you on my lawn anyway. I have plenty of homeless people lining up to be my friends. When I go downtown, anyway. In the suburbs, not so much. But you get what I’m saying. I am adapting to a solitary life–solitary except for the five people I live with, of course. And the internet. There’s always the internet.

I now have about an hour and fifteen minutes to make a salad, eat lunch, and take a shower. Can I do it? Yes, I can. But I don’t want to. Do it, that is. I would still like to have it done.

And also resistant to treatment. My psychiatrist admitted that she pretty much didn’t know what to do with me, the last time I was there. I was there, like, six months ago, I think. Before I went on our family vacation. I don’t think I went again after school started. I’m making my psychiatrist sound like kind of a not very useful psychiatrist. It probably isn’t fair to put it in those words, that she didn’t know what to do with me. I’m sort of reading between the lines, in retrospect. Actually, I may have read between the lines at the time. Who knows? It was ages ago. I thought that maybe I needed to do weekly chit-chat therapy, like my daughter does. I mean, it seems to help her, more or less. Well, that’s what I thought at the time. I did it for a few weeks, and then I went on vacation, and then school started and I never made any more appointments. Because I think I convinced myself that I was just wasting the insurance company’s money. I shouldn’t need to chit-chat with a trained professional once a week. Isn’t this what I have a blog for?

The Effexor that I’ve been taking for the last few years doesn’t seem to be hurting me. I’m afraid to stop taking it–although I do manage to stop taking it for days at a time, sometimes, and that can’t be helpful. That is how I’ve ended up with a six-month backlog supply of Effexor that I’m probably not going to get through before it expires. Don’t worry, I’ve turned off “worry-free refills” with the pharmacy. I’m not completely irresponsible. I think I will continue to take it until it runs out, which at the rate I’m going may be next year. I still have about a month’s worth of Valium, if I took a Valium every day, but I don’t (believe it or not!), so it’s probably a three-month supply of Valium. I’ll have to go to the psychiatrist again if I want more of that. Maybe I should just take a whole bunch and go to the psychiatrist tomorrow. Wait, that’s not safe, I don’t think. Well, it might be, actually, considering what a low dose it is. I could probably take the whole bottle and be okay. Not that I’m going to do that because that would be wrong! I’m just saying.

I have lost interest in all of my usual activities, except for reading. Reading is probably what’s keeping me from taking the whole bottle of Valium. That and duty. I have not lost my sense of duty. Everyone’s still getting fed and crap. Although I wonder with increasing frequency why I bother feeding the children, given their responses to my cooking. There’s probably some legal reason. Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes, reading. I’m reading a lot. It’s to keep my mind active, like I would do if I were in prison. I should probably take daily walks, too, now that I have hit upon my metaphor. I am less interested in eating than I usually am. That is to say, I have entered the not-eating stage of depression, which I usually take as a bad sign. That and crying for no reason. Or any reason. I was crying for no reason the other day. The other day before that I was crying because I was reading a romance novel and the heroine thought her husband was dead and she had just realized that she loved him but never actually told him in so many words. I mean, he didn’t know. He was supposedly dead without ever knowing that she really loved him. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it, and I already know how the story ends. Of course he wasn’t really dead. I knew as I was reading about her thinking he was dead that he wasn’t dead because it was not that sort of book, and yet I still cried. Well, in my defense there was a small possibility that it may have been that kind of book. It didn’t have the usual cover with the shirtless guy and the lady with her dress falling off–the cover art was actually very tasteful, so it was possible that maybe he really was dead. It could have turned out to be that kind of book. It would have been a little weird, but possible. But it wasn’t. He was alive, which I already knew, but like I said, I was still really sad about it. That is not normal. I knew at the time it was not normal. Don’t you think I know these things?

I don’t even want to tell you what the Downton Abbey 3 finale did to me last night. Not only because I’m ashamed but because it’s still too upsetting for me to talk about. No! Don’t say anything! I know that Downton Abbey isn’t real. It’s just television. It’s not even American television. So what am I on about? I don’t know. I’m just reporting the facts.

I don’t want you to think that I’m only reading romance novels to escape. I mean, I am reading to escape, but not only romance novels. I’m reading real books too. Like right now I’m reading a book about these guys who were held hostage by the FARC in the Colombian jungle. Has it made me cry? No, but it hasn’t made me happy. How could it? And yet I would rather read this book than engage my own life. Don’t tell me I’m not self-aware.

Incidentally, I’m also aware that it’s not funny to joke about taking a whole bottle of Valium. I wasn’t joking or trying to be funny. I was just saying that the Valium is a very low dose, so if I did take a whole bottle of it, it would not be a very serious suicide attempt. I mean, it might kill me, what would I know? But I’m not sure it would qualify as a cry for help. I wouldn’t try to kill myself anyway. I’m the sort of religious person who could never kill herself. Sometimes I wish I were. That is how depressed I am. I don’t even find the afterlife appealing.

Everyone who reads this is going to think, “Girlfriend, you really need to go back to the psychiatrist.” I should probably tell you that I’m at that stage of my menstrual cycle where I shouldn’t make any kind of decision. That can’t be helping matters. I’m sorry if that’s TMI, but if you’re that sensitive, you probably shouldn’t be here in the first place. It’s not like I’m sharing this on Facebook or something. Lighten up. Listen to me, the clinically depressed person telling you to lighten up. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve just lost the thread of this particular paragraph.

What I’d really like to do is get all these children in bed so I can stop thinking about my duty and legal obligations and start catching up on the sleep I couldn’t get last night because I was too depressed by the not-real-and-actually-kind-of-lame Downton Abbey. Sometimes I can sleep when I’m depressed, other times not. It depends on whether or not I take a Valium at the right time. If it’s late enough in the evening, i.e. technically early morning, there is no difference, in the end, between taking the Valium and going without the sleep. I’m a zombie either way. There’s probably some health difference, actually, but feeling-wise, it is all the same. But I digress. I think I am tired enough now that I can probably sleep, maybe. Maybe I won’t sleep. Maybe I will stay up and do some other mind-numbing thing like Free Cell. I switched from Spider Solitaire to Free Cell so that I could pretend I was making meaningful changes in my life. Now that I have publicly admitted to playing Free Cell to numb my mind, I realize I can never play it again without making my loved ones worry about me. So maybe I won’t play Free Cell. Maybe I will just go to sleep or read another book.

…but I took a stupid nap this afternoon, which was more like early evening and when I woke up it was 7 p.m. Oops.

You know what the problem is? The house is too cold, so I sit curled up on the couch with a book and possibly a blanket, and then what am I supposed to do? Huh?

On the other hand, if I turn up the heat and therefore (theoretically) stay awake, the house will be too hot for me to move around and do stuff. Therefore, theoretically, I should make myself warmer by moving around and doing stuff instead of curling up on the couch and reading. But I hate to do stuff!

Case in point: We are going on a little trip tomorrow, the Madhousefam + MadhouseMIL. Just a little trip, out to The Dalles. Someone heard we were going to The Dalles and said, “Why?” I dunno. Because it’s close and low-impact and we’re going to fool our kids into thinking it’s a real vacation. We’re going to stay overnight in a hotel and swim in the swimming pool, and that’s pretty much all our kids require in a vacation that’s only going to last two days. More than two days and there’s gonna need to be roller coasters.

Have I mentioned lately that I don’t enjoy swimming? But this vacation isn’t for me.

Anyway, we’re going on a little trip tomorrow, and I’m supposed to be packing right now. I was packing earlier, but then I stopped. I had some laundry to do, as it’s been piling up. I was only going to do one load, but then I realized that somehow, all of Elvis’s socks ended up in the laundry hamper. Every last one! This wouldn’t be remarkable except that he has about 20,000 pairs of socks. We all do, except for Mister Bubby, who is very particular about his socks and therefore only has about half a dozen that he’s willing to wear. It wouldn’t be remarkable if all of his socks wound up in the laundry at once. But anyone else, it’s kind of amazing. And suspicious. I doubt very much that all of those socks were dirty. That seems kind of impossible. And yet, there they all were. And I wasn’t about to start subjecting them to the smell test one by one. It was easier to just wash all of them. Are you beginning to see why I have so much laundry all the time? I suspect a conspiracy, but I don’t know who all is in on it.

Anyway, I’m waiting for the socks to dry so I can pack some. I really dislike packing. I do it because I’m the only one I trust to make sure everything gets packed that needs to get packed. I very rarely forget anything. But that’s because I almost always overpack. Often I overpack grossly. I just can’t not think of all the contingencies. We’re only going to be gone overnight and come back on Tuesday evening. Theoretically we should be able to get away with just one change of clothes and the clothes on our backs, shouldn’t we? Everyone’s toilet trained and no one wets the bed anymore. And yet…what if something happens? Something could happen that would make it so we needed more clothes. Something like what? I don’t know. We’re going to Multnomah Falls tomorrow–what if someone…falls in? Well, I reckon we’ll have bigger problems on our hands than wet clothes in that case, but you know what I mean. Something could happen. And if we don’t have spare clothes, it’s all on me.

It means I am overpacking again.

More than once in the past year our family has gone on a day trip and there’s been some event that caused someone to need spare clothes, but of course we didn’t have any because it was a freaking day trip and everyone’s toilet trained. I can’t even remember what any of these events were, just that Sugar Daddy would always turn to me and say, “Do you have any extra pants for Girlfriend/Elvis/whoever in the car?” and I’d be like, “Noooo [tone clearly implying “Why would I have extra clothes in the car when we’re on a freaking day trip and everyone’s toilet trained?”].” Well, clearly I ought to have. Not that SD was blaming me or anything–he was just being hopeful. But I hate to disappoint people. Also, I hate to be personally inconvenienced because I’ve disappointed people. So why haven’t I learned my lesson about the day trips? Always have extra clothes. Yes.

But if you’re going on a two-day trip, does that mean you need twice as many extra clothes? I just don’t know!

I have some banana-chocolate chip cookie bars sitting on my counter that are going to be stale by the time we come back from our trip. I don’t suppose I can talk people into eating them in the car. I can’t talk people into eating them while they’re sitting on their cans inside the house. I gave some to my MIL and some to our neighbors, but no one in the family wants to eat them. I take it back. SD had one last night. He’s still on his diet, but he’s relaxing a little lately because he’s so close to the end and he’s so far ahead of everyone else in his challenge group that something really crazy and unlikely would have to happen for him not to win.

Something crazy and unlikely like needing extra clothes on a freaking day trip when everyone is toilet trained!

I’m packing his gym shorts so he can exercise in the gym at the hotel. That’s how hardcore he’s gotten. He’s going to exercise on vacation. (A two-day vacation!) On the other hand, I am not packing my tap shoes so I can practice my clogging routine while we’re at the hotel. One of us had to make a sacrifice.

I want to eat one of those cookie bars, but I’m in the living room with the new carpet and I shouldn’t eat in here, and I don’t want to move the laptop into the kitchen. I’m too warm where I am. But I’m not falling asleep, no sir.

I’m telling you people, those cookie bars are good. They deserve to be eaten. I’m just saying this because I have such a hard time getting people to eat my baked goods. I’m not like the world’s most magnificent cook, but I know how to bake cakes and freaking cookies. Come on. This crap is hard to mess up. It’s not brain surgery or pie crust. And yet no one will eat what I bake. I know how that looks, and I know what you’re thinking: “If nobody’s eating them, that means they’re no good.” But you’re wrong! I eat them myself. Would I eat stuff that didn’t taste good? High-calorie stuff that doesn’t taste good? Do you really know so little about me? Please. No, the rest of my family is just obnoxious.

Yesterday I spent all day in my bedroom cleaning out my desk. It’s actually a desk with…I dunno…would you call it a hutch? There’s drawers and shelves and crap over it. It’s a big freaking thing that holds a bunch of crap, and I spent all of yesterday cleaning it out and didn’t finish. I kind of hate myself. But I hate my crap more. Why does it have to taunt me? This is the same problem I have with the packing. I want to toss out 90 percent of these papers, but I just don’t know which ones I’ll need ever again. I do not want to find myself standing around someday and SD turns to me and says, “Did you keep the EOB forms for Elvis’s speech therapy from 2007?” and I have to say, “Nooo [tone clearly implying “Why would I have saved those things when I obviously wasn’t ever going to need them again?”].”

As it is, if he ever does turn to me and ask that question, I will have to say, “Yes, but hell if I remember where they are.”

Which should tell me something, but something in my soul doesn’t believe it. What’s wrong with my soul? I should probably get some professional help specifically for this problem.

And please, please, please do not ask me if I’ve seen Hoarders. One, my house is disorganized and often a wreck, but I’m not a hoarder like you see on Hoarders. I’m only a mini-hoarder. I like to dabble in hoarding on the side. Two, I have a limited amount of time to watch television and why would I watch anything so depressing and close to home? I may be some kind of masochist, but I’m not that kind. I like to dabble in masochism on the side.

Which reminds me of a tangentially-related-but-not-really anecdote. SD and I teach the ten-year-olds at church and today we were telling the story of some people in the Book of Mormon who were in bondage, and one of the boys in the class was surprised to learn the meaning of bondage because he’d assumed that it meant “like you bond with a friend.” And I, being so very articulate, said something like, “No, usually when people speak of bondage, they’re not talking about the good kind…of…bonding…” and then I had to explain the difference between good bondage and bad bondage while my husband just sat there giggling.

I didn’t do very well, by the way. I eventually just had to change the subject so SD wouldn’t wet himself. (‘Cause then he probably would have asked if I happened to pack him a spare pair of dress pants in my purse, and I would have had to say, “Nooo…”)

The socks are probably dry now, and I’m starting to feel sleepy.

Apparently, in addition to compassion fatigue I also have title fatigue. (Was the “also” redundant? Yes. But it sounded better to me. Just like saying Tuesday thrice sounds better than just twice.)

I feel certain that I’m going to forget that my daughter has piano lessons today, just as I forgot that she had them yesterday, which is why I had them rescheduled for today, but will I remember that? It doesn’t seem possible, all things considered.

(And all things considered, why would I say my daughter has “piano lessons” today? She has a piano lesson today. She accumulates multiple piano lessons over time, but technically has only one today. But I always refer to piano lessons in the plural. Like I did just now. I can’t stop myself!)

I’ve had a few things on my mind. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but I’m easily overwhelmed. Like most people, I have a hundred things I ought to be doing at any one time, but I’m only willing to think about one or two and prefer to ignore all the others. When circumstances converge so as to force me to not only think about but actually do something about more than a couple things, I start to feel put upon. Hence, my current discomfort. And forgetfulness. I’m simply incapable of remembering most things, let alone everything.

The other day I panicked because I thought I had forgotten to order my dad’s birthday present, but then I remembered that I hadn’t forgotten, and I was relieved. So relieved that I proceeded to forget everything else. (Once I start relaxing, it is really hard for me to stop.)

SO. I know some of you would like to know why Princess Zurg was suspended on Friday. The short answer is “PMS? Insanity?” but the longer answer is this: She had a confrontation with her Language Arts teacher (the latest in a long line of confrontations with this particular teacher, whom she despises for reasons I don’t really understand) that culminated in her threatening the teacher’s life and subsequently she was taken to the Behavior Learning Center classroom to cool down and had another confrontation with a different teacher there, which culminated in her hitting the teacher on the arm. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these new-fangled school policies, that’s a no-no. I mean, all of it’s a no-no. She did very few things on Friday that are actually permitted under ordinary circumstances. So, yes, she absolutely deserved to be suspended for the remainder of that day, and she has had in-school suspension yesterday and today. I think she’s supposed to go back to her regular classes tomorrow, but I think she may be in for a change in Language Arts teachers. We’ll see. I really don’t have time to think about it right now.

Fortunately, I was able to get her in to see her shrink yesterday, and he has added another medication to our pharmacological support arsenal. It’s Abilify, which I think is probably the awesomest name for a psychotropic drug ever. I mean, it’s so stupid and nakedly condescending that you can’t help but love it. I believed I’ve blogged on it before, back when my own shrink was considering it for me (but alas, I was never actually Abilified). It’s supposed to have a calming effect and keep her from getting stuck on her runaway train of negativity. I’m sure I can come up with a better metaphor than “runaway train of negativity.” How about she’s got this Ferrari of negativity and someone’s cut the brake lines? That’s a little more apt. Anyway. She started that last night. One of the side effects is drowsiness (which is why it’s taken at night). She woke up this morning feeling nauseated. I was scared because I really, really don’t want this pill to make her nauseated. I don’t want it to make her anything but Abilified. Also, I really, really wanted her to go to school today. Because I want everyone to go to school everyday. It’s my dream, and I mean to live it.

She felt better after eating breakfast, so she went to school, and so far I have not had a phone call from the school reporting puking. So we’re cool. I guess.

Tonight is pack meeting for cub scouts. We’re going to eat cake. So that’s good.

Tomorrow night Princess Zurg and Sugar Daddy are going to the temple and the rest of us are going to Elvis’s basketball party. It’s the end of the season. So that’s good.

On Thursday I leave for California because it’s my dad’s 65th birthday on Saturday and my step-mother is throwing him a party. I am looking forward to the trip, but I haven’t really planned for it yet because I’ve been overwhelmed with thoughts of teacher-hitting and -possibly-murdering and suspensions and Abilification and scouts and cake and basketball and what to make for dinner and there’s also been a lot of laundry. Also, it is Dr. Seuss’s birthday on Friday and so the kindergarten is having Pajama Day.

HEAVY, PUT-UPON SIGH. Pajama Day.

So Girlfriend doesn’t actually own any pajamas. She did have some Thomas the Tank Engine pajamas, but they disappeared into thin air several weeks ago, and I have not been able to locate them. We even looked for them extra-hard once we found out that there was going to be a Pajama Day (HEAVY, PUT-UPON SIGH), but to no avail. I know what you’re thinking: So what has Girlfriend been sleeping in, if not pajamas? Answer: Not the buff. She just wears clothes to bed. Comfortable clothes, but not to be confused with pajamas, and therefore not a believable outfit for Pajama Day. So I went to the Target to look for pajamas, but being that it’s February, all the pajamas in stock are shorts, not long pants, because in Retail World, summertime starts in January. In the Pacific Northwest I shall not be sending my children outside the house in shorts until mid-July. Which is about when they’ll start selling heavy winter coats again, so I should make a note to pick one of those up then. Anyway, I got off the subject. I also went to Old Navy, which doesn’t sell pajamas, and I even went to Ross Dress for Less, which doesn’t sell children’s pajamas except for babies. So that was disheartening.

Today I had to go to Macy’s to buy fancy soap for my face, and while I was there I looked for pajamas. No love. So then I went to Kohl’s, where I eventually found something suitable. Ideally, I would have gotten her new Thomas pajamas, since they would match her Thomas slippers and her Thomas blanket, but there weren’t any Thomas pajamas to be found, so instead I got her Scooby-Doo. Of course, I had to go to the boys’ section because all they sell in the girls’ section is Pepto Bismol-hued princess stuff and stuff that says “Mommy’s Little Cupcake Sweet as Can Be” and crap like that. I mean, she is my little cupcake, sweet as can be, but jeez, she’s already going to school in her intimate apparel; let the girl keep some of her dignity.

While I was at the Kohl’s I remembered that I forgot to bring the belt that PZ gave to SD for Christmas and I’ve been meaning to return because it didn’t fit then, and since he’s lost 20+ pounds, it certainly doesn’t fit now. I just don’t shop at Kohl’s very often. It was doubtful that I could have returned it anyway, however, since I’ve lost the receipt and do they have a 60-day return policy or a 90-day, I can’t remember. Whatever. I think the best I could have hoped for was an exchange (which was all I wanted), but they appear not to carry that brand anymore anyway, so whatever. I bought him a new belt. Much smaller than the old belt. It was on clearance, so it sort of makes up for me wasting money on a belt he’ll never wear and I’ll never return. Kind of. Maybe I’ll just keep the old belt for those days when he feels bloated. Ha ha. If I see him start to put the weight back on, I can say, “Do I have to get out your fat belt, honey?” You know, just to be supportive of his new lifestyle.

Here are the things I have to do before I leave town:

1. Figure out what the weather is supposed to be in California. I mean, as I recall, February in Southern California is pretty warm, but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually experienced a SoCal February. I don’t know. It’s impossible to predict the weather in Oregon; you just have to be prepared for anything. But California tends to be pretty predictable.

2. Touch up my roots. I have this patch of grey by my right temple that looks like a bald spot from a distance. I don’t like that.

3. Remember how many ounces of liquid I’m allowed to carry on the plane. Now that I’m all high-maintenance with the fancy Macy’s soap and the conditioner that I have to buy off the interwebs, it makes travel a little more complicated. But I don’t want to check a bag.

4. Remember that PZ has piano lessons today. A piano lesson, that is. Just one. Approximately 50 minutes from now.

Last night I read Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.  I didn’t like it.  Here are fewer-than-thirteen reasons why.

1.  For those of you unfamiliar with this popular YA novel, it is about a girl named Hannah who commits suicide, but before she dies she records six-and-a-half audio cassette tapes explaining her “thirteen reasons why” she did it–or rather, describing thirteen incidents with thirteen different people that led up to her committing suicide.  The book is alternately narrated by Hannah’s audiotaped voice and Clay, one of the thirteen people on the tapes, who is listening to Hannah’s audio tapes.  Does this make sense?  I feel like I’m making it more complicated than it is.  The premise is not so complicated:  You’re reading the words of Clay, who is listening to the words of Hannah.  So you alternate between Hannah’s narrative and Clay’s reactions to what he’s hearing.  The concept is simple enough;  the execution is somewhat flawed because it’s not like there’s a section where Hannah speaks and then a section where Clay speaks, but there’s a constant back and forth between the two.  My sister enjoyed the audiobook version of this novel, and I imagine that the audiobook version is superior if only because it is much easier to determine who is talking when, if the different characters’ words are spoken by different actors:  Boy Voice, Girl Voice, Boy Voice again, etc.–what could be clearer?  In the text version it’s Italics, Not Italics, Italics, Not Italics–who’s the Italics again?  Wait, was that one thing in Italics or Not Italics?  Italics.  Not Italics.  It’s more complicated than it sounds, or maybe it’s because I’m coming down with something and my brain is foggy, but I found the narration very confusing for that reason.

2.  Confusing narration is not a deal-breaker for me–I just finished my seventh Toni Morrison novel, and it took much longer than a single evening to read, but I plugged away at it, by golly, because I’m that way–but in addition to being insufficiently differentiated in their respective fonts, the characters in TRW were not particularly fleshed out.  Again, this is where an audiobook version would be really helpful, since actors would be dramatizing everything and making it all…dramatic…you know, making the characters seem more like real people.  Reading the plain old slanty-letters/non-slanty-letters version, I never felt like I really knew these characters, much less cared about them, which brings me to Another Reason Why.

3.  Hannah’s story is very sad.  It’s sad because some kids were mean to her, and she ended up killing herself.  Suicides are almost always inherently sad, or sad by default.  At the same time, because she never seemed like a real person–i.e. I never really understood where she was coming from or what made her tick–her suffering didn’t seem all that real to me either.  Now that’s just cold, isn’t it?  She killed herself and I’m like, “Meh.”  No, it was actually more like this:  Some kids did some mean stuff sometimes, but I did not have a picture of what her daily life was like, at school or at home (there was some technically-non-zero amount of information on her home life, but it was not useful), so although she explained how Incident 1 led to Incident 2 which led to Incident 3 and so on, and certainly all of these incidents sucked, I did not get a sense of their cumulative effect on her life or her psyche.  She told me she was overwhelmed and hopeless, but I didn’t really believe her, even though she was clearly dead now because of it.

4.  But here’s the real thing:  Her suicide was a calculated means of revenge against everyone who had wronged her.  I can see how such a plot would energize and motivate a person, but it still came off as exquisitely cruel.  And yes, I realize I’m talking about a dead girl (albeit a fictional one) who was the victim of bullying.  But it seemed like she gave at least as good as she got.  She would lay traps for people, including, in the end, one completely innocent person she used to render her suicide Totally Justified.  All of which made me think, “Really, Hannah?  Why don’t you just grow up?”  But of course, she can’t.  She’s dead now.  And it’s all everyone else’s fault.

Honestly, it kind of bothered me.  I know how the adolescent mind works.  I have an excruciatingly vivid memory of my own adolescence.  Adolescence sucks.  Feeling like you’d be better off dead, likewise, sucks.  I understand all that, so I feel like I should be more sympathetic.  But I’m just not, and it bothers me.

Before you start getting too worried, let me reassure you that all of this is not over a mere YA novel.  It’s more complicated than that.  Because I have been the mother of a troubled adolescent girl for a few years now, and let me tell you, THAT sucks.  It sucks to have this excruciatingly vivid memory of how much adolescence sucks and how much clinical depression sucks (that last part is not so much a memory, but I remember having clinical depression at that age, too, and it SUCKS), and to know that there is nothing in your power to change that for your child.  You can listen, you can make (lame) suggestions (and know that they’re lame), you can take them to therapy and buy them pharmaceutical support, but the bottom line is that the will to live and the will to keep trying is all on them, not you.  Your adult perspective is all well and good for you, but it’s useless to them.  They have to get their own.  And in the meantime you feel frustrated and helpless, and that makes you angry.  And sometimes just plain annoyed.

That’s how you find yourself thinking things like, “Gah, just grow up already!”

Please.

I can tell it’s coming, just as sure as you know when the slutty girl in the slasher movie is about to get decapitated by a chainsaw-wielding psycho.  Ominous music starts playing.  Or it is quiet–too quiet.  Or, you kind of just know it is time.  This is what happens in these pictures.  And even though you know what’s going to happen and that none of it’s real, that information doesn’t help.

Right now I’m feeling this overwhelming sense of dread and despair, and it doesn’t do any good to tell myself it’s all in my head it’s all in my head it’s all in my head because I already know it’s in my head–that’s why I can’t get away from it.  I try.  I’ve been reading a lot.  Do you know how many books I’ve read in the last couple months?  A lot.  A LOT.  I read three whole books in the last four days, if you count that awful Toni Morrison book it took me six weeks to get 15% of the way through.  (It’s not really an awful book; it’s just eminently put-down-able.  Like the half-grapefruit I used to force myself to eat every morning while I was in college.  I was glad I’d done it at the end, but the joy was not in the journey.  And now I’m off topic.  But this is a good illustration of what’s been happening to me.  How I run from place to place just in case where I currently am is not far enough from where I’m trying to escape.)

It was a mistake to mention the books because my husband reads my blog, and now every time he sees me with a book, he’s going to ask, “Are you reading for enjoyment, or are you escaping?”  As if they weren’t the same thing.  Escape is not only enjoyment; for all intents and purposes these days, escape is life, and living is the nightmare I keep waking myself up from.

I wish I could have woken myself up from my dreams last night.  Well, I guess I did, just not soon enough.  I had one dream that I was doing another tap recital, but my instructor had added all this  stuff to the production, all this stuff we’d never seen before, the night of the performance, during the performance–and apparently enough of the people involved knew what was going on that it wasn’t just complete chaos, but at least a third of us had no clue when the thing was going to end.  It was supposed to be about fifteen minutes and was going on about two hours and we still hadn’t gotten to either of the routines that I’d actually learned.  In fact, I was beginning to forget them.  I wasn’t sure I’d remember what to do when (or if) the time finally came.  My husband had left with the older children–along with most of the audience–and it was just my mother-in-law and Girlfriend who had stayed with a few other faithful observers.  “When is this going to end?” I asked my neighbor.  She laughed because she had no idea either, except we were facing the wrong way (again).  Finally, even my MIL and Girlfriend left, and I was just there with nobody to watch my final tap recital, and I felt somewhat betrayed, or at least abandoned, even though I couldn’t blame anyone for not sticking around.  The whole thing was a disaster.  It made no sense.  It just kept going on and on and on!  What was my tap instructor thinking?  Did she have a sudden onset of extreme narcissism?  Yes, I blamed my tap instructor, which I think was appropriate, and yet I was too loyal to just call it quits and leave myself.  No, I wasn’t loyal.  I still thought that eventually we would get to the part where we’d actually dance what we’d been practicing to dance, and I didn’t want to give that up.  But we weren’t getting to that part.  Ever.  At all.  And then I had to pee.  I mean, for real I had to pee.  That’s when I woke up.

I was relieved that wasn’t a real tap recital.  I felt like I dreamed it in real time.  Like I’d really just done a two-hour tap recital that still wasn’t over.  I was so relieved that I didn’t have to go back to that dream and finish it, and yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I tried to think about other things, so I wouldn’t fall asleep and God forbid, dream that horrible dream again, but nothing worked.  Finally I fell asleep, and then I dreamed a horribly disturbing sex dream that also involved church, but at least it was a Lutheran service, whatever that means.

I could have done without that other dream.

So you see, not even sleep is safe for me.  That’s a pretty sad state of affairs.  That’s why I read.  That’s why I’ll stay up late this week, while my husband is out of town, watching episode after episode of Ned & Stacey, which I ordered from the Netflix.  On purpose.  I happen to like that show.  I’m pissed that they never released the second season on DVD, though.  Not really “pissed,” that’s too strong.  I’m really just disappointed.  What kind of world do we live in where you can get Whoopi Goldberg’s entire oeuvre on DVD, but not the complete Ned & Stacey?  It is a world worth escaping, I say.  But that’s too neat an ending, isn’t it?  I don’t feel nearly so much resolution in my heart.

 

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