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Well, it’s the first blog post of 2017, kids. I know you thought I was never coming back. Or maybe it was I who thought you were never coming back. You may still not be here! But I am, and herewith I kick off what is sure to be a glorious year of amateur blogging!

Actually, it’s not necessarily sure to be glorious. But it always has been amateur, and there’s no reason to suspect it will ever stop being so. And with that, let the glorious year begin.

Maybe it won’t be a glorious year, but a magical year. Which would you prefer? Myself, I can’t decide.

What can I tell you that you don’t already know? I had a pretty good holiday season. I still refer to it as the “holiday season” because I’m a loyal foot soldier in the War on Christmas. Also, I don’t think I’ve posted since before Thanksgiving. I’m lucky to be getting this under the wire for Martin Luther King Day.

Talking of which, I still haven’t taken down the Christmas tree. (It’s part of my War on Christmas, to make the Christmas tree part of all of my holiday celebrations, just so I don’t have to put it away.) I know folks who put away the Christmas decorations on December 26. I don’t even understand that. I guess that maybe goes well with the tradition of Boxing Day? I mean, I know Boxing Day is when you box up stuff to give to the poor, but as long as you’re boxing up for the poor, you may as well box up your Christmas decorations? It seems reasonable, from a theoretical standpoint. But only if you’re the industrious, non-lazy type. When it comes to how long the Christmas tree stays up, I’ve always taken my cue from the soap operas, which always have their characters attending New Year’s Eve parties where a Christmas tree is still prominently displayed. If it’s good enough for the folks on Days of Our Lives, it should be good enough for us, I think. I suppose it should be kosher (so to speak) to keep the Christmas tree on display through Epiphany, but after that it does seem a bit gauche.

So yeah, I’ll start being embarrassed by the Christmas tree sometime after Saturday. My annual goal is to have it down by Valentine’s Day, and I usually make that. Low expectations are the secret to my success. (You’re welcome. That first one was free.)

In the past, I have not done well with New Year resolutions. I’ve decided that this year I am not going to make any big changes in January. If at some point during the middle of the year I decide that a change is in order, I will feel free to pursue that avenue. That’s the phrase that just popped into my head. “Pursue that avenue”—does anyone even say that? It rhymes. People ought to say it. But that’s neither here nor there. I don’t have any specific goals for this year until I get to December.

In December I resolve that I will not do any Christmas shopping the week before Christmas. It matters not if the Christmas shopping is finished or unfinished at that point. What matters is that I don’t go Christmas shopping during that last seven days before Christmas. Not because it’s crowded and stressful and I’m more likely to get into a car accident (although I have had two pre-Christmas car accidents in two years; maybe my other December resolution should be to avoid driving), but because the closer I get to Christmas, the more desperate I become to find a gift, any gift, to give the loved one(s) for whom I am shopping, and the more unreliable my judgment becomes. To wit, about three days before Christmas I was in a Bed, Bath & Beyond, where I seriously considered buying a set of Football Corn Holders. In my defense, they were on clearance, and they did have the University of Oregon logo on them. But that is not a defense that would stand up in the Court of Christmas Craptastrophes. If I were actually in court, I would go with an insanity defense, which, luckily, is a scenario that popped into my mind before I crossed that particular line. I left the Bed, Bath & Beyond shaken, and without any gifts, but grateful to have survived such a close call.

I really should probably not leave the house at all that last week before Christmas, but that may not be practical. Baby steps.

But back to January. My kids are back in school, except for Princess Zurg, who goes back next week. Have I mentioned that PZ is in college now? Do you know that when I started this blog, she was in kindergarten? Just mentioning that makes me feel like I should rethink my life, so I’m going to change the subject now.

What else happens in January? The presidential inauguration, I guess. On second thought, let’s talk about how I should rethink my life. I’ve decided that I need to get a job. I don’t know yet what it’s going to be. My husband went to the bank today, and he said while he was there, he thought about how if I got a job, I should try the bank. I don’t remember any of his reasoning, except that I’m a woman. I have noticed that bank employees, especially bank tellers, tend to be disproportionately female. I don’t know why this is. Frankly, I’m not sure my female traits are at bank-teller level, but it’s something to strive for.

And I think we’ll just leave things there for now. Happy 2017, gentle readers! I’ll probably see you again after the Christmas tree is down.

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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 apparently the whole world’s gone crazy. Just kidding, it’s only about a third of Republican voters across America who have gone crazy, and I’m not sure “gone” is the appropriate word. They are just revealing the full extent of their crazy, letting their freak flag fly at full staff. Do you know how difficult it is to say “freak flag fly”? I even say it wrong in my brain as I’m typing. But that’s not the point. The point is that a third of Republican voters are a) straight up racists, b) complete loony toons, or c) racist loony toons. I mean, I always knew there was a faction of racist loony toons in the GOP, but I always figured that the percentage of genuine loony toons in either of the two major parties couldn’t be above 15 percent, and I reckoned that the Republican platform was too wussified to satisfy most racists, especially the loony toon variety. That’s what third parties are for. I mean, if I were a racist (who was also a little cuckoo), I would not settle for some pansy Republican, even if he did work for Pat Buchanan once. I guess that just shows what I know about American racists—or rather, what I knew about American racists. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, I know a lot more. Thanks a lot, Donald Trump. Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with democracy!

So. There’s that. It’s an interesting time we live in, isn’t it? I didn’t think I could be more depressed than I was on Election Day 2012, but oh my goodness, how wrong I was. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy this second Obama administration more because January 2017 is looking more and more like a f***ing nightmare.

To tell you the truth, I am not really afraid that Donald Trump will actually become President. I find that highly unlikely. As I was telling some friends the other day, elections are decided by people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean. I realize that Hillary is not popular, but she does have a couple things going for her: a) she probably isn’t a racist and b) she doesn’t send out drunk tweets at 3 a.m. insulting whoever pissed her off that day. I’d say that’s enough to give her an edge in the general election, even if she is a chick. In fairness, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump isn’t actually a racist but just plays one on TV (and radio and Twitter and all public platforms). Also, he might not actually be drunk when he’s on Twitter. It’s probably just his personality, which I think has its own entry in the DSM-V. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here and also there is that Donald Trump is an unstable narcissist and a bully with stronger-than-average totalitarian instincts. He’s wholly unsuitable to be President in terms of both character and temperament, not to mention being deficient in relevant experience—unless he’s planning to bribe two-thirds of Congress just like he’s been bribing politicians his whole career. Which might actually be his plan. It would not surprise me. But only because I’m completely incapable of being surprised anymore. Not after Chris Christie endorsed Trump the other day. Put a fork in me, America, because I’m done. As Jar-Jar Binks used to say, MY GIVE UP. What more can happen?

My son, who’s been very interested in this election, kept asking me who I’d vote for if Trump and Clinton were the nominees. At first I just said, “I hope it will not come to that (please, God).” But since it’s started looking more and more like that’s exactly what it will come to, I’ve said I will either vote for nobody or I’ll vote Libertarian, WHICH I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, mainly because third parties are for loony toons and dreamers, and a dreamer I am not. (I take it back—partly. I did vote for a Libertarian once, for state senate, I think. He didn’t win, so whatever. Voting in Oregon is sort of pointless.) That answer is most disappointing for Mister Bubby because he knows as well as I do that voting third party is a waste of franchise—poor-spirited and not a little bit masturbatory (though I don’t use the word “masturbatory” in front of my fifteen-year-old son—I’m genteel that way). But I don’t know what else to do. I won’t vote for Donald Trump, and I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I am physiologically incapable of doing either. It makes my soul hurt to think about it.

I know what you all are thinking—well, the Democratic portion of y’all, anyway: What’s so bad about Hillary? Well, I’d like to say she’s not that bad. Compared to Donald Trump, she seems downright Reaganesque. But she’s not actually Reaganesque. She’s actually Clintonesque, which is not a recommendation. Might she be the lesser of two evils? Well, worst case scenario, door #1 or door #2, maybe Hillary is the lesser of two evils, but here’s the thing about Hillary: while she is neither a racist nor suffering from a form of mental illness—two of the more underrated virtues in our time—she is still nakedly corrupt and a congenital liar and should probably be in prison. No, we won’t argue about it. To tell you the truth, I have always kind of liked Hillary, on a personal level—never enough to vote for her, naturally, because her politics do not align with mine, but I’ve always believed (and continue to believe) that a lot of the animosity toward her is born (at least in part) of old-fashioned misogyny. She doesn’t have her husband’s charisma, but I kind of find her lack of charisma charming in itself. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of one’s more-charismatic husband. (Not that I would ever compare my husband to Hillary’s husband because my husband is not an incontinent creep.) So I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Hillary. Even after all I’ve learned about her over the years, I still have a lingering fondness for her. I can’t help it. (Just as I can’t spend five minutes watching Bill Clinton work a room and not find him perversely charming, in a ya-big-galoot kind of way. Certainly not in any other way. ::shudder:: ) If I’d had my druthers in 2008, Hillary would have been the nominee, and not because I thought McCain could beat her (although I think he probably could have), but because I thought she would make a better President than Barack Obama. (A low bar, to be sure, but without low bars, how much would I be able to achieve in my own life? Low bars are underrated.)

But after all these years, I think I know Hillary pretty well. I know what she is. I don’t trust her not to do things that are unethical and/or illegal. If I voted for her, I wouldn’t be able to complain about her later (almost inevitably) abusing her power (as 99.98% of politicians are wont to do, but especially the ones whose last name is Clinton) because I knew what she was when I voted for her and I was basically asking her to abuse my trust. Not to pre-blame the victim (that would be me), but I like to fancy myself cleverer than that.

I know many of you gentle readers are Hillary supporters, and I don’t begrudge you your Hillary support. We see the world differently. When Hillary abuses your trust, I will not blame you. I know that’s a real load off your mind. You’re welcome. I’m hardly under the illusion that the Republicans I’ve voted for have never abused my trust. I just didn’t know beforehand that they would do so. That would be the difference. At the risk of sounding like a self-indulgent third-party loony toon, it’s the principle of the thing. You shouldn’t be upset with me. At least I’m doing my part to siphon votes away from the Donald. For that you should be eternally grateful (if you’re not a racist loony toon).

Interestingly enough, I do not feel a great deal of animosity toward Donald Trump. He sickens me, but a lot of people do that. I’m not angry with Donald Trump, who’s just being himself. I’m angry with everyone who voted for him. Because seriously, what the hell, people? WHAT. THE EVERLOVING. CRAP. This isn’t the freaking circus. For the first few months, before the voting started, when it was just polls telling us Donald Trump was the Republican front runner (mostly because every Republican and his/her dog decided to run for President this year, so the basically-sane, non-racist vote was split 37 ways), I was merely confused. Baffled, that is. I did not get it. I assumed Trump supporters were just, I dunno, deluded, or possibly not very smart. (That may well be the case.) But I’m of a different mind now. I think Trump supporters are less stupid than they are destructive. They’re pissed off at any number of things—immigrants particularly, but also the bad economy and stagnant wages and whatnot–and they want to watch the world burn. They can vicariously live out their worst fantasies via this racist-blowhard-slash-dirtbag. It feels good to them. (It is also not a little bit masturbatory, not that you’ll catch me saying as much to my fifteen-year-old son.) But that doesn’t make it less gross.

Well, that was a load off my chest. I hardly know where it came from. After four years of political apathy, this post has been quite an emotional workout. And possibly very offensive. I’d blame Obama, but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Actually, I think I should blame the low-carb diet my husband talked me into doing with him this month. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say, I’m on Day 3 and I pretty much hate everyone now. Everyone, but especially salad. (You know what else I hate about Trump voters? THEY ARE PROBABLY EATING BREAD RIGHT NOW.) It’s not as bad as the liquid diet I was on after the jaw surgery. I’m not hungry, just extremely unfulfilled. I have a lot more to say about that, but it’s getting late and I’m just going to pull the trigger on this thing, even if it’s wrong. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. If you don’t see me tomorrow, possibly I have died inside. Died a lonely, bitter (and probably still ten pounds over my ideal weight but nevertheless probably not racist) Republican. Gentle readers, adieu.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

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?

I don’t know yet. In January 2014 I wrote two posts. Can I break that record for January 2015? I think I can. I know, that’s big talk for someone who only has nine days left in the month, but what can I say? I’m feeling cocky.

Shall we make it more interesting? In all of 2014 I wrote fifteen posts. Can I break that record? Can I double it? Can I triple it? Is there any limit to how much better a blogger I can be in 2015 than I was in 2014? I think not.

Here are some things that have happened so far in 2015:

* I decided to give up my housekeepers in favor of having my kids clean the house. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking one of three things:

1. “Have you adopted new kids?”

2. “What’s the matter with you?”

3. “What took you so long?”

The answer to #1 is no, I still just have the original kids, and no, they haven’t undergone radical personality and temperament changes recently. But I was getting tired of the fortnightly stress of clearing all my surfaces in preparation of having them cleaned professionally. Plus, Sugar Daddy and I have noticed that the quality of the work has gone down over the years. Not that I blame the housekeepers for losing their motivation to make everything sparkly. I lost the will to clean my house just a few short months after we bought it. Why should a total stranger have more incentive than I? Plus, they can probably be forgiven for thinking we wouldn’t notice. There are six of us here and we’re obviously slobs. Sometimes there is ketchup on the wall. Not that the housekeepers have ever tried to wash my walls, but when you see a thing like that, you might think, “Why do I even bother?” I mean, that’s what I think just about every day of my life.

So it got to the point where I figured it wasn’t worth the money or the hassle, and SD hit upon the perfect incentive to get the kids on board with our new plan. If they do all their chores, we’ll take them out to dinner. If they don’t do their chores, he’ll take me out to dinner and they can stay home and eat macaroni and cheese. Now, my kids happen to like macaroni and cheese, especially if it’s out of a box, but what they don’t like is knowing that they could be out eating at a restaurant but they’re not. My kids are such entitled narcissists. It’s about time I used it for my advantage. Unfortunately, I had heretofore been unable to think of something they would want more than to sit on their fat cans playing video games. Money means relatively little to them. They like money, of course, but they don’t need money. They know we’re going to feed and clothe them regardless of what they do. Even if I decided to get all hardass and tell them they’d have to start paying for their own food and clothing, they’d starve and go naked just to spite me. Then CPS would come knocking on my door, just when I’d finally gotten them to leave me alone. But they love food, especially when it’s not cooked by me. SD has promised them that the quality of their dinner will match the quality of their housecleaning efforts, so we’ll see how much fine dining we end up doing.

The first week we went without the housekeepers, I decided to do the cleaning myself, just so I could get a handle on what all the jobs were and figure out what I could realistically expect the children to do. Oh, boy, never again. I’d forgotten how much it sucks to clean the bathtub and shower. I mean, I remembered that it sucked, but I’d forgotten just how much. This was definitely going to be a job for someone not me. I spread the cleaning out over a couple of days, which was actually much less stressful than prepping the house for the housekeepers to do it on the designated day. (That was another annoying thing–they were very unpredictable; they always came on a Wednesday, but it could be at 8:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m., you just never knew.) Vacuuming was also much tiring than I remembered. I mean, I had certainly vacuumed in between housekeeping visits, but only quick jobs, and only downstairs. Vacuuming one’s entire house properly is rather a workout. I suppose it doesn’t help that my vacuum weighs about six hundred pounds. That might be an exaggeration. I’ve never been very good at estimating.

Anyway, I’m getting off the subject. This week was the first week the kids have had their new chores. So far everyone has completed theirs except for Mister Bubby, which is typical. In his defense, he doesn’t get home from school until after 4 p.m. and he had to go to his church group Tuesday evening, and he had jazz band until 5 p.m. Wednesday, and it is finals week. In his non-defense, he had Monday off school and spent the day playing Super Smash Bros., so whatever. And tonight he has a trombone lesson. Oh, well.

That was a long bullet point. The others will be shorter, I’m sure.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the topic is what has happened in 2015 so far.

* I cleaned my kitchen floor today. You might think this should fall under the housekeeping section, but it’s actually something quite spectacular and special. This is one of the things that the housekeepers never did very well. It wasn’t really their fault; they were probably used to mopping floors that actually come clean with mere mopping. Our kitchen floor is the original linoleum–or vinyl, I guess, not linoleum–that went down in 1987, so you can imagine what sort of shape it’s in. Now imagine something worse than that. That’s our floor. It has absolutely no protective coating left, so you have to use a great deal of elbow grease to get dirt and food stains off. If there’s one thing my housekeepers aren’t contracted to do, it’s use elbow grease. At least not on kitchen floors that don’t appear to be worth saving. But whatever. Who am I to complain when I can’t be bothered to do it myself? Except I did do it myself today, after I had already worked up a good sweat vacuuming my entire house (with a 600 lb. vacuum). I had to get down on my hands and knees and use a scrub brush. I’d scrub off the first layer of dirt, mop it away, and then get to work on the second layer of dirt. It was tedious. But the floor is as clean now as it’s bound to get, ever. Do I want to give this job to someone else? Yes, very much so. But let’s be realistic.

Will the kitchen floor get scrubbed again in 2015? It remains to be seen.

* I taught Sunday school to a bunch of teenage boys for a couple weeks. For the past three years SD has been our ward Sunday school president, and last month they made him the stake Sunday school president, so technically he’s not in charge of Sunday school at the ward level, but the new ward Sunday school president was out of town for a couple weeks, so SD was continuing to take responsibility for the ward Sunday school classes, and since they were short a couple of teachers and SD couldn’t take any of the classes himself (as he used to do) because he was gallivanting around the stake teaching other wards’ Sunday schools, he volunteered me as a substitute. That was kind of him. Well, he told me I could say no, but I didn’t, so there I was.

It was actually a very nice group of fifteen-year-old boys. I had never taught that age group before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Don’t worry, I didn’t try to be cool or anything. I’m not a complete idiot. The new Sunday school curriculum is pretty bare bones. It’s supposed to encourage discussion. Unfortunately, this was a rather quiet bunch of fifteen-year-old boys, and I’m a quiet 43-year-old woman. I’m not very good at facilitating discussions under the best of circumstances. But it wasn’t a complete disaster. That was due mostly, I think, to the boys being such good boys. I noticed that this one boy kept turning to the guy next to him and showing him his phone and they were sort of whispering together, or whatever the masculine equivalent of whispering is, and I figured they were just discreetly distracting themselves from a very dull Sunday school lesson. As a Sunday school teacher, all I really ask of my students is that they be discreet while they’re ignoring the lesson, so I wasn’t upset or anything, but then I happened to hear what they were saying, and they were actually talking about the lesson. I won’t lie to you. It kind of freaked me out.

* Also while my husband was off gallivanting about the stake performing Sunday school responsibilities, all of the ward organists got sick or were out of town. Since my husband is one of the ward organists and was not sick or out of town but otherwise indisposed (see: gallivanting, responsibilities thereof) but nevertheless felt obligated to fix this problem, he volunteered me to play piano for sacrament meeting (since I don’t know how to play the organ and indeed have never so much as touched an organ with intent, so a public meeting wouldn’t be the best place for me to start). I don’t ever mind playing the piano. I am competent enough that I don’t embarrass myself, but people are used to having the organ, so I felt very conspicuous. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. Everyone just had to deal with the situation.

The opening hymn was “I Believe in Christ,” which those of you who are Mormons know is the longest hymn ever written and is only bearable when it’s played at a brisk tempo. I prefer to think of it as a joyous tempo, myself. I mean, do you believe in Christ or not? Then let’s get on with it. Those of you who are Mormons also know that most Mormon congregations have never met a hymn they didn’t want to sing at half-speed. Maybe this is true of other churches too, I wouldn’t know. But SD has always insisted that no matter what tempo he and the music director start a song at, the congregation ends up slowing it down; it’s unavoidable. I never had reason to doubt him, but after my experience on Sunday, I knew exactly what he meant. It’s like the lotus-eaters out there. It’s very difficult not to succumb. But I have very strong feelings about the proper tempo of “I Believe in Christ,” so I persevered in my resistance, refused to fall asleep at the keyboard, and finished about 30 seconds before the congregation did. I’m just kidding. I made them work for it, though. Keep up or be left behind, kids! Piano players can get away with crap like that. #StandingForSomething

* I actually haven’t done very much in January, and not much has happened to me. And now I have to take my kids to Grandma’s house for dinner. Gentle readers, adieu.

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