Monday, August 31, 2015

Infinite Jest

It was in my reading queue for a long time.  And I kept passing it over for two reasons:  1.   I rarely read fiction  2.  It's hella long at over 1000 pages.  Mostly the latter.  Because was I ever going to have the time to do justice to reading 484,001 words?  Especially that of David Foster Wallace,  "one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years", according to an LA Times book editor?  I wasn't.  But, it was his magnum opus.  And there is a movie, The End of the Tour, coming out about his life.  I had to read it and it had to be now.

When I read a book, I devour it.  It takes me a week or less from beginning to end.  Because I'm a quick read.  Also, because I have a terrible memory and if I put it down for long I'll forget things.  Important things.   Where did I leave off?  Who is that character?   And what the hell book am I reading again anyway?  I call this condition booknesia.  And it's incurable.

Being a busy mom doesn't help, because I don't have uninterrupted reading time.  Ever.  I carve out niches wherever I can.  So I read it at the pool, keeping one eye on the diving board so I don't miss a flip and another on whether the kids have forgotten to zip up the cooler.   Again.  I read at gymnastics in a hot, crowded room full of other parents and small children.  Once sitting directly in front of a mom signing Disney songs with her 4 year old FOR THE ENTIRE HOUR.  (I kid you not.)  All while keeping one eye on my kid so I don't miss a flip.  I read it in my car.  In doctor's offices.  And brought it camping, so it eternally smells like campfire.  Essentially,  I read everywhere.  Without any distractions, obviously.

And after reading this work of genius about being addicted to addictions with intricate stories within stories, I can tell you a few things.  Carrying a humongous book around is an incredible social barrier.  People are intimidated by it and, thus, you.  No one makes small talk when you carry a big book.  (I think that's a Roosevelt quote, but don't quote me on that.)   Also, not to brag or anything, but my biceps look amazing!  Cause, BONUS, carrying an extra 2.5 pounds with you really improves your fitness level.  A fantastic and unforeseen by product.

My last, and most important revelation about this book, is that Infinite Jest is best read when you have no other commitments in your life.  Which, I can only imagine is when you're in solitary confinement.  Which you're probably in as a result of some sort of an addiction to something.

And that's the infinite jest.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


It was just a little two hour hike we forced our kids to go on on a Sunday morning to fulfill our mandatory family fun time quota.  And since our dogs are family, we brought them along too.  Even though Clyde is lazy and terrible hiker.  We also have a kid like that, so with even numbers the kids and the dogs could totally buddy up by temperament or whoever can tolerate whom the best.  Take your pick really.

We hiked in for 2.5 miles and had lunch by a stream where Bonnie swam and Clyde was filled with anxiety over his fear of water.  Which is really a big existential crisis for a Labrador Retriever and left him absolutely exhausted.  Not to mention his buddy the lazy kid who complained the whole way to the stream and showed no signs of stopping anytime soon.  That lazy kid, counterintuitively, exerts a huge amount of time and energy into being a huge pain in the ass.  Which is actually kind of commendable.  Sort of.

It was the way back on a trail, that wasn't well marked, where we got lost.  As a person, with a terrible sense of direction, this happens to me quite frequently, so I wasn't alarmed.  At first.  We joked about it.  Like who we'd eat first if worst came to worst.  And then we had that awkward moment when we all voted for the same person.  That lazy, whiner kid, just so there was no more endless droning on and complaining.  We bushwhacked to try to get back on the trail.  Before we just tried to get on any trail.

We were lost for 4 hours.  Making this a 6 hour hike.
And we were out of water without cell service.

Which is when two of the kids started catastrophizing, which is highly contagious.  And my reserves were already low from dealing with that lazy, whiner kid.  So although I was saying all the right positive, encouraging things, my head started to swirl with worst case scenarios a bit.  What if we have to carry a 85 lb dog with heat exhaustion out?  What if someone gets bit by a rattlesnake?  And that DVD I had to return to the library was due the next day.  What if I got charged a late fee, because I was dead in a forest hiking with a 85 lb dog on my back and a rattlesnake bite?  WHAT THEN?

And just for a while, all the bullshit got stripped away.

The fighting stopped.  Because we all knew what was truly important.  Even that ungrateful, lazy, whiner kid.  As late afternoon approached,  we took a family vote and headed in the winning direction.  Which in a couple of miles led us to an empty hunting cabin and in a couple more miles led us to someone's home.  And a very kind person who drove us back to our car at the trail head.  In hindsight, maybe that poisonous mushroom we saw early in the hike was a sign.  Maybe that we're all metaphorically lost and need to find our way back home at some point.  Or maybe we should just bring a GPS next time.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Deep Thoughts by Bonnie & Clyde

With my kids back in school, I have all day at home alone.  Except I'm not alone, because I have the company of my two labs, Bonnie & Clyde.  And I often wonder what they think about (me) during the day.

Bonnie:  She's a klutz, so there's a good chance she's going to drop food on the floor.  Stations!

Clyde:  We'll just rummage the kitchen counters and the trash when she leaves for the store.

Bonnie:  When is she going to clean up these dog fur tumbleweeds all over the house anyway?

Clyde:  She's going pee, she must want me to watch her, cause that's what she does to me.

Bonnie:  How many times a day can a human pee anyway?  She seriously interrupting my nap time.

Clyde:  I'll get in the car,  if you promise me we're not going to the vet.

Bonnie:  I pooped,  now pick it up human slave.

Clyde:  Look a squirrel!  (We think he has ADD.)

Bonnie:  Why does she baby talk me?  I understand English.  Walk.  Food.  Outside.  Food.

Clyde:  Did she feed us yet?  That Tupperware lid looks delicious.  So does the library DVD case.

Bonnie:  I don't care what she says, I don't snore.

Clyde:  I don't like the looks of that mailman.  Biker.  Runner.  Deer.  Dog.  Walker.  I'll protect her.

Bonnie:  She's going to be so proud of me when I bring her this dead bunny.

Clyde:  God, did you smell that?  And she thinks my farts stink!

Bonnie:  Why is she taking pictures of us?  Again.

Clyde:  Rub my belly!  Rub my butt!

Bonnie: Oh god, don't try to spoon me!  It's just really weird and awkward when she does that.

Clyde: Spoon me!   Rub my belly!  Rub my butt!  Look a squirrel!

These have been Deep Thoughts by Bonnie & Clyde

Thursday, August 20, 2015

In the Balance

A little to the left.   Nope, too much.  A smidge to back to the right.   Forward a hair.  Right there!  
The Balance Point.

I'm prone to depression and anxiety.  And every day is a delicate balancing act to keep them both in check.  I get up at the same time every day,  eat healthy, exercise, write, read, disconnect from my phone and social media in the evenings,  spend time outside and go to bed early.  Most days this regimen helps me cope.   But most days aren't every day.

The thing with balance is you'll eventually lose it. 

Because in the battle between balance and gravity, gravity is going to win sometimes.  It's a law of physics after all.  What goes up must come down and all that.  (Ok, I never actually took physics ...but whatever, the analogy still works.)   Eventually,  you're gonna lose your balance.  Over and over again in fact.  After all, there's Acts of God at play.  And sometimes he doesn't play very nice at all and knocks you clean on your ass.  That's when it all seems so formidable.  And the very last thing you want to do is...well...anything.

Which is precisely when you need to get off your ass and start balancing again.  

No, no one else understands how bad you feel.  And nope, no one else can do it for you.  Yup, it sucks.  Yes, it's unfair.  Quit whining and making excuses and do it anyway.  Because your happiness lies in the  balance.    

*This may have been a pep talk to myself.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Faking It

I'm a fraud.  Pretending to be something I'm not.  I didn't intend to hurt anyone or misrepresent myself, it just kind of happened.  Over and over again.  And then this untruth took on a life of it's own and I couldn't stop it.  Mostly because I didn't want to.  I liked the fabrication more than I liked the truth.

The truth is, I lack self-confidence.

I know my photos on social media suggest otherwise.  And I know if you only know me from my on-line presence, that you may feel deceived.  Because I've gotten comments such as,  "You don't seem like an introvert, scared of heights, self conscious...etc."  But, I do what so many other people on social media do, I fake it.  Which works especially well for introverts, because using social media, counter intuitively,  is a solitary process.  And you also take a selfie when you're alone, feeling your best because you're dressed up to go out.  Or having a fabulous hair day.    

It only takes a second. 
(Ok, it takes a couple minutes and 20 or so photos to feign just the right confident stance.)
Please see above photo.  

Everyone on the internet distorts the truth a little bit, right?  It's not so bad, right?  But, one can't only incriminate those that post photos, but those that consume them.  Because social media users are just as guilty of filling in the blanks with their imagination.  Especially in this day and age where images trump words.  Which I admit I am completely guilty of too.  Distorting reality, however small and innocently.  (And I didn't even touch on the power of filters and photoshop.)  So, who's more at fault?  Or is it a blameless omission?  

All I know for sure is, I'm a fraud. 
And you probably are too.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The End

Endings evoke dread.  We know they're coming.  Plus, with each ending comes the beginning of something else.  The fear of which, making it easy to get nostalgic about how great things were.  And how they'll never be exactly that way again.  In fact things probably look pretty near perfect.  Because the mind is a tricky bastard.  Except when it comes to summer.  Because while I'll miss it, I can't wait for it to end.

Because I'm exhausted.

Endings tend to wear on you like that.  They hold some ambiguity.  When will my kids' fighting end? And what about the entitlement, whining, complaining, laziness and blaring that crap that they call music?  Then something starts to happen.  You stop caring and give up, not entirely so child services shows up at your door or anything.  But enough that you don't care how much time they spend staring at a screen anymore.  Because electronics don't require you to chauffeur your kid anywhere.  Your kid will probably even forget to eat, so it even saves on food costs.

Did I mention I'm exhausted?

After a jam packed summer with 4 kids 24/7 giving them constant lectures about picking up after themselves and nagging them to reapply sunscreen, not to mention teaching a kid to drive and pleading with my kids to go outside,  perhaps my parental judgement might be compromised.  Like I've decided to just stay out of their sibling fights, while imagining the worst case scenario.  Which at this point I've decided is that I'd have one less kid to buy school supplies for.  And I must admit, right about now that doesn't sound too bad.  I've lost both my patience and my mind.  

Because I'm exhausted.
The End.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Martyr Complex

Martyrs employ self-sacrifice and victimization to avoid taking responsibility for their own life. They are prepared, however, to take responsibly for everyone else's life.  

We all know a martyr.  It's pathetic how they twist everything to be someone else's fault.  Oh poor me, I'm just a saint.  Wait, let me do that for you because you're probably incapable of doing it correctly yourself.  With their incessant need to be needed. 

 And that's why we all dislike martyrs.  

But, wait...isn't the definition of a martyr pretty much exactly the same as the definition of a parent?  And what god has joined together, let no man separate.  I mean it's in the bible, it must be true.  See?  It's not my fault.  You know who's fault it is?  My kids.  Without them I wouldn't even be a parent.  They made me this way.  Obviously.  Cause I wasn't this way before.  Nor was I exhausted all the time with a house full of broken things.  

I mean really, if I didn't do all the things I did for them, who would?  It's my moral obligation.  And if I don't tell them exactly how to replace the toilet paper with the paper going over the roll like a civilized person, how would they ever know the right way of doing it?  Also, they need reminding when I have to run up there and replace the roll my damn self cause they forgot to.  Again.  I mean I'm tired of being the only one to do it.  I'm basically a superhero.  Not that I want to brag, but really?  Would anyone have anything to wipe their ass with without me?  No.  

Oh trust me, the list goes on and on.

Which is what I tell my kids when they complain about putting fresh water in the dogs' bowl.  Or a litany of other seemingly trivial tasks.   "Oh really?  That's so hard?  Do you want to hear the list of everything I've done today?"  No one ever does. But, I'm hoping some day they will.  Because I always keep a mental checklist ready for just such an opportunity.  And so I can pat myself on the back later.  You know, after their asleep in their cozy beds that I washed and made for my ungrateful kids.
Turns out this martyr stuff is more complex than I thought.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

In the Back of My Mind

I've got a lot going on in the back of my mind.  And it's not what's for dinner.  Or if I'm going to screw my kids up monumentally.  Definitely not what the cheapest, but most interesting exotic travel destination we'll choose next is.  And whether buying airline tickets would deplete the kids college funds.  Or that I have no clue about the college application process.  Not to mention that I haven't taken my oldest to visit college campuses yet.  Ok, all those worries are back there too.  With a smattering of others.

But I have some kind of control over those.
And my biggest fear, I don't.  

I think about it every time I forget something.  And whenever my mind seems sluggish.  Which in my mid-forties, with 4 kids, is all the time.  I know this is normal for all the directions midlife pulls one in.  And that lots of people forget what they went into a room to get,  bring the wrong kid to a parent/teacher conference, fail to remember to pay their insurance and all that kind of stuff too.  I know that.  
But I over think it.
Because my mom died of brain cancer.

Maybe it's my fate too.  Oh, I try not to dwell on it.  But trying to avoid something only makes you obsess more.  And every instance where my mind fails me becomes a possible symptom.  I do what I can to stay healthy.  I work out. I balance work and play.  I eat kale.  And dark chocolate.  And drink red wine.  Cause a girl's gotta do what a girl's got to do.  I mean, it's for my health.  Obviously.  

And then I think, what about my kids?

My kids who are adopted.  A virtual blank slate of medical history.  What are they predisposed to?  And how will that affect them?  Will they live in fear of the unknown genetic predators?  Or will being unaware actually reduce their stress?  Maybe even their risk.  Or will it be just the opposite?

And that's the ultimate brain teaser.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Camping is a Huge Pain in the Ass

When I was little, growing up in a large Catholic family in the 70's, we never went camping.  And you know what?  I never felt like I missed out on anything.  Until I was an adult.  And everyone had these great camping stories and knew how to start a fire from flint and tie cool knots and stuff.  My kids, I vowed, would go camping.

Except, camping is a huge pain in the ass.

I know this because we camp at least once a summer.  And it's a colossal undertaking with 4 kids.  Three of which are teenagers.  Which means their bigger than when their toddlers.  So their clothes are bigger, they require more stuff to keep them entertained.  And even more food.   Because they're outside being active hiking, canoeing, biking and burning it all off.   So, essentially, I have to bring an entire Costco store of food.  Then we still have to pack 3 tents, 6 sleeping bags, a kayak, a canoe and 4 bikes.  And I know you're going to say, but they're teenagers,  it's easier because they can help.  

Except, camping with kids is a huge pain in the ass.

It doesn't matter if they're toddlers or teens.  It's just a different kid of pain in the ass-ness.  Sure, teenagers are capable of helping.  But getting them to help is almost not even worth it.  Because you have to listen to, "But why do I have to help, ____________(fill in child's name here) isn't doing anything!"  Even if your 20 minute lecture is effective, you've just wasted 20 minutes and it's probably raining now and you haven't even set up one of the three tents you brought.  And there are still three other kids roaming free who haven't had the lecture yet.  And they have already found the trail mix and picked out and eaten all the m&m's.    

But, then again, everything with kids is a huge pain in the ass.

It's really not all that different camping than being at home.  Except you're really dirty.  And exhausted.  And not sleeping because sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent is not as idyllic or comfortable as it sounds.  And you're worried that your kids have gone to bed with marshmallow residue on them or that they stashed some reserve m&m's in their pockets for later and may get mauled by a bear during the night.  

But it's the beautiful moments hidden in chaos that make it all worth while.  
And the memories they create.


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