Category Archives: neuroses

Back from the Steamy South

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Actually, it wasn’t that steamy, but 70 degrees and sunny in the middle of February was a gift to delight the heart of this North Idaho girl.  My sister and I took daily walks in the sunshine, and I could almost feel my body ramping up its vitamin D production.

I got to enjoy loving on my beautiful nieces and nephew:

Mufaro, 3-1/2 months

Riley and Seth

I ate at my much-missed Chick-Fil-A and at my favorite high school hangout, Waffle House (which one comedian famously described as a truck stop restroom that serves food.):

Chicken Biscuit

Scattered, Smothered, Covered

I did neurofeedback treatments twice a day, and, judging by how much better I feel, I’d say they were a great success in bringing down my anxiety levels and calming my poor, overstimulated brain.  Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of my sessions.  Have you seen the movie “Total Recall”?  Yeah… it was nothing like that.

Best of all, I got to hang out with my dad and mom and sister and brother and their families, and it was wonderful.

Amber, Bill, and yours truly

I might not even wait until the next time I go crazy to make a return trip.

Panic

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The first time it happened, I thought I was dying.

Paul and I were just relaxing after putting the kids to bed, sitting around and watching a movie together, when I felt my heartbeat stutter.  That’s how it started.

“What was that?” I wondered.  Unarticulated fears and the words “heart attack” flashed frighteningly across my mind, and all at once I couldn’t catch my breath.

“Paul, something’s wrong,” I gasped, and found myself suddenly swirling in the center of a storm of horrible sensations.  My arms and hands went numb and cold, my heart raced as if it was trying to escape my rib cage, and I dashed to the bathroom, sure that I was going to throw up.  Hovering helplessly over the toilet, I was shaking all over as wave after wave of nausea rolled over me.  My chest was in the grip of a giant fist, the pressure increasing along with a choking sense of fear.  Even though I felt like I couldn’t get enough air, I was hyperventilating, and the lightheadedness cast an impression of unreality over everything.

Paul was worried.  He wanted to take me to the emergency room, but I thought we should call Urgent Care first.  I hated to wake the kids up and drag them to the hospital for a three hour ordeal, and as scary as my symptoms were, they didn’t seem like classic heart attack symptoms.  The Urgent Care doctor agreed with me.  He ran down the list of signs:  chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath, shaking, weakness or pain localized to one side of the body.  I had some of them, but not the biggies.  He advised me to get some rest and come in the next day to be checked out.

Get some rest.  Not much chance of that.  Instead, I lay my head on Paul’s chest, shaking, trying to take deep breaths, and clutching his shirt like a drowning swimmer clinging to the lone buoy in a dark and angry ocean.  After a small eternity, sleep finally drew her curtains around my exhausted body.

I’ve already written about the medical follow up to my heart attack scare.  A visit to the cardiologist and a battery of tests confirmed the good news that I was in perfect heart health.  The palpitations were judged to be the result of a high caffeine intake, and I promptly cut the offending drug out of my life.  The palpitations themselves didn’t return, thankfully.

What I didn’t write about at the time, partly because it was still too emotional to talk about, was all the other stuff that happened that night.  The nausea, the shaking, the hyperventilating, the hot and cold flashes, and, worst of all, the disconnected feeling of terror rocketing around in my head.  I looked up my symptoms at WebMD and made an appointment with my general practitioner, who confirmed my diagnosis.

Panic attack.

“Tell me,” I begged Mark, our friend and doctor, through tears, ” Tell me how to make it never happen again.”

He didn’t guarantee that, but said that cutting my caffeine consumption and trying to manage my stress was a good start.  He also gave me a small prescription for Lorazepam, a benzodiazapine that is sometimes prescribed to treat panic.  He said that if I ever experienced another attack as intense as that one, I could take a half a tablet and it would take the edge off of it.  He recommended that we take a wait-and-see approach to any further intervention, until we determined whether or not the dietary change would help.

And it did help.  I ended up using the Lorazepam twice while my body came down from the caffeine saturation, but after a couple of weeks without caffeine, I felt completely recovered.  Months passed uneventfully, and I was pretty sure my experience with panic was behind me.  I wish I’d been right about that.

***

Unfortunately, I don’t think caffeine or stress told the whole story.  This summer, the attacks started back up again.  Is the cause physiological or psychological?  I don’t know.  I usually get them in the evening before bed or first thing in the morning.  It can’t be caffeine, because I’m not drinking any, and I don’t think it’s stress; I’ve been on summer break for the past three months.  Happily, I’ve never had an attack as bad as that first one, maybe because I know what they are now.  And I’ve picked up some coping techniques.  I pray.  I focus on breathing slowly and deeply.  And I talk to myself.  “You’re not dying,” I tell myself.  “Oh, yeah?” myself replies, “How do you know?”

Exercise seems to help, too.  Mark described a panic attack as your body triggering its flight-or-fight response over and over again, flooding the system with adrenalin.  Working up a sweat seems to burn off some of that extra adrenalin, so whenever I start to feel myself getting twitchy, I head for the gym or for the elliptical machine that our friends Alan and Kathy have generously loaned to us for me to use.  It takes the edge off, and the firm thighs and calves are just a bonus.

I’ve also done some research (by which I mean I typed “panic attacks” into Google) and have decided to cut aspartame out of my diet.  Aspartame toxicity has been linked to panic attacks, and if anyone has absorbed enough aspartame to qualify for “toxicity”, it’s me.  It takes a few months to cleanse it out of your system, so I won’t know if it’s helping for a while.

Meanwhile, my little 10-pill prescription of Lorazepam is only about half gone.  I usually take it as a last resort when nothing else is helping.  My hope is that I’ll be able to continue to cope with the attacks on my own, or that they’ll go away altogether.  However, I’m glad to know that there are medications out there that can help people whose lives are being persistently and negatively affected by panic disorder.  Only time will tell if that will be me.  I’d appreciate your prayers.

I’m So Happy That I Can’t Stop Crying

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crying

I hate to cry in front of people.

Hate it.

Despite that, or maybe because of it, I sure seem to do it a lot.  I cry easily.

The more determined I am to appear cool, calm, or unaffected, the less successful I am. The more desperately I’m trying to hide the depth of my worry or heartache, the more likely it is that I will be overcome by unwanted emotion and dissolve into a liquefied puddle of embarrassment in front of whoever is around, whether it be friends, coworkers, or visiting foreign dignitaries.

It doesn’t take much, just the proverbial drop of a hat.  I cry when I see little old couples holding hands. I tear up when I pray out loud. I even get suspicious sniffles every time Clinton and Stacy teach another poor, clueless woman how to shop for her body type.  Some days, for no reason at all, I just wake up feeling weepy, and I know it’s only a matter of time until something sets off the deluge.

Just recently, my traitorous tear ducts have spilled over while I was singing at church, when feeling a little overwhelmed at work, when an unexpected financial expense popped up, and during a group meeting that got a bit tense.  And forget trying to surreptitiously dab at your eyes; someone always notices and approaches with the tender-hearted question guaranteed to turn a couple of transient tears into a truly horrifying gusher: “Are you all right?”

The embarrassment of having my waterworks noticed coupled with the emotional impact of someone reaching out in compassion never fails to intensify the storm.  Suddenly, it’s an Incident.  People walking by feel the need to stop and see what’s wrong with me (answer: a lot) and to offer hugs and pats on the arm while I try to explain, between sobs, that I’m okay, really, and it’s nothing, and as soon as everyone stops looking at me I’m sure I’ll be able to get myself under control, I promise.

It might be different if I cried pretty.  You know what I mean.  In the movies, the ingenue always weeps quietly, lower lip trembling, moisture pooling sweetly below her beautiful, shining eyes until one glistening tear escapes to make its careful way down her face, miraculously leaving her makeup intact before it is kissed or wiped away by the studly love interest gazing rapturously into her soul.

When I cry, it’s nothing like the movies.  My face gets all red and blotchy, my eyes swell up, and the only thing glistening is my nose, which runs like it’s being chased by a mugger.  My vocal cords seize up and I can barely squeak out a word, let alone form a complete sentence.  The muscles in my face each go off in their own direction, and anyone looking at me finds himself thinking inexorably of Heath Ledger’s Joker from the last Batman movie.

I know some people view tears as manipulative and immature.  A 36 year old woman should be able to reign in her emotional reactions, they’d say.  Apparently, the six year old inside of me does not agree, and she will not go quietly.

I’ve tried to stop.  I pinch myself.  I think of puppies.  I blink really, really fast.  Nothing works.

I guess there’s nothing for it but to accept my ridiculous eyes and all that goes with them.  It’s not all bad, I suppose.  There’s a certain wanton relief in having a good cry.  It leaves the heart feeling like the woods after a hard rain: fresh, clean, and cleared of debris.  Far, far worse is the feeling of needing to cry and not being able to.

Or so I’ve been told.

Frankly, that’s never been my problem.

M.M.M.*

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As a fairly busy full-time homemaker and stay-at-home mom, I often wondered how women who worked for a paycheck by day and cared for a home and family by night ever found the time to do it all.

Now that I am a member of the legion of working mothers, I can finally and definitively answer that question for myself:

I don’t.

(Apologies to those of you out there who can and have and currently are doing it all and doing it quite well, thank-you-very-much.  Clearly I’m not talking to you.  You are Super Mom.  I’ve heard of you.  You have inadvertently stumbled across the blog of a well-intentioned, intermittently inspired, but *Merely Mortal Mom.  This blog is like yours, but with whining.  Allow me to redirect you: kryptonmoms.wordpress.com.  Be sure to check out their online store for the stylish new Maya Wrap/cape combo!)

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh, yes…

I miss housework.

Did I type that?  I must have, but I dozed off for a minute there, so I’m not entirely sure.  It’s true, nonetheless.

When I was at home, I did housework every day.  Mostly when I felt like it, with occasional breaks for reading or playing with Caleb or running errands, but with a regularity and efficiency that rendered my weekends completely free for family frivolity and lovely, languid afternoons of shameless vegetating.

Now the dreamlike landscape of my weekends has given way to a strange continent of laundry mountains, flowing with rivers of dishwashing detergent.  I’m playing catch up, but I must not be very good, because I haven’t caught up yet.

When I was working at home, I stayed up until midnight every evening with my night owl husband, nourishing my marriage with long, soulful talks and marathon horde-bashing sessions, knowing that I could always make up for it the next day with a quick doze on the couch when Caleb went down for a nap.

Now I’m the fuddy duddy falling asleep on the couch at nine-thirty, head back, mouth open as if frozen in the act of teaching my kindergarten class the short “o” sound–which is probably what I’m dreaming about.

When I was a full-time domestic engineer, I ran a tight ship.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  Dust was banished.  The toilet was clean.  The kids’ toys were sorted neatly into categorized bins at bedtime.  I cared about these things, deeply.

In recent weeks, I have waded through the contents of an upturned toy box to tuck the kids into bed, stopping only to kick a clear path to the door.  I have been slowly cultivating a science experiment of alarming color in the bowl of the toilet, and yesterday I wrote my To Do List in the dust on the coffee table.

To put it simply, I’m floundering.

I know the most important things are getting done.  I’m teaching, and I love it.  I’m spending time with my children, hugging and playing and reading a little every day.  Paul does help out when he can, and he and I still get some time together every night, even if we are under the gun to get in bed before my coach turns into a pumpkin.  Life is good, and I have absolutely no reason to complain (but when has that stopped me?)

The truth is, I miss my tight ship.  How do they do it, those other moms?

I am such a weenie.

Where’s a super hero when you really need one?

Home Sweet Home?

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I knew it would be fun, this long awaited foray into the wilderness of the real estate market, and it has been. We’ve dreamed about buying a home for so long, and here we are, trying on houses like a crab tries on shells, looking for the perfect fit, and hoping we’ll know it when we see it.

What I didn’t realize through all those hours of sighing over HGTV and crushing on Bob Vila is that, no matter how eager the search or how exciting the possibilities, buying a home is a stressful process. We walk into every home eager to love it but afraid to settle for something we’re not crazy about. The likelihood that interest rates will go up before we have a chance to lock in our loan is a constant worry. I spent yesterday scouring the apartment for all the paperwork we have to turn in with our official mortgage application–everything from paycheck stubs to tax returns to third grade report cards. And this weekend, the tension ratcheted up a few clicks.

You see, Thursday we found a house. The House, I hope. It was the second one we looked at that day, and as soon as we walked in, we could see ourselves living there. It was the a-ha moment I’d been waiting for, the fulfillment of the “I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it” feeling I’ve been carrying around with me from showing to showing. Nevermind that the carpet was thrashed like a platoon of marines had been rebuilding tank engines on it, and the tenants were hovering and glowering in the background like a dampening mist, none too pleased at the prospect of making way for those who might send them back to stalking the classified ads for a new place to live. It just felt like it could be home. Paul and I looked at each other and it was clear we were of the same mind.

But we couldn’t do the happy dance yet. Because finding the house you want is only the first step. Yesterday, we wrote up our offer, a three hour process, and after asking the seller to shoulder the burden of new carpet and closing costs, it’s significantly lower than the asking price. They have until tomorrow afternoon to respond. Or not. One of three things will happen: They could accept our offer as it is, with no changes (highly doubtful). They could counter-offer, opening the way for us to make a few concessions and possibly come to an agreement both parties can live with. Or, they could simply reject the offer, so insulted by our failure to approach their asking price that they’ll send the contract back smeared with goat’s blood and sporting a skull and crossbones etched across the front in black Sharpie.

So now we’re just waiting and praying. We’ve talked it over and agreed on how far we’re willing to go to get this house, should we at least get the chance to counter. And we’re steeling ourselves for the possibility that it won’t work out at all and we’ll have to walk away, hitting the streets once more in search of the great American dream.

Waiting.

Not my strong suit.

Ring, phone!

***

Update: Our first offer was rejected (no goat’s blood, though–that’s a positive), so we’ve gathered our resources and upped the price to the very highest we’re willing to go. It’s more than we hoped to pay, but less than we’re pre-qualified for, an amount that would leave us somewhere between premium-cable-package rich and Ramen-noodle poor. This will be our last stab at this particular house, and then we’ll be hitting the MLS again. *sigh*

Further Update:  I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.  The sellers countered our final offer with their own lowest price, and the two numbers are still eight thousand dollars apart.  It doesn’t sound like an insurmountable hurdle, except for the fact that we were already pushing the boundaries of prudence.  We summoned up the small amount of objectivity we have left and decided to take our ball and go home before we were tempted to do something truly crazy.  Thanks, everyone, for the great advice, the good wishes, and the prayers–we need them all!

Attack of the Robot Roaches

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I shaved a few years off of Paul’s life last night.

First, let me say that it wasn’t my fault. You see, I have this problem. There’s a communication breakdown between my brain and my body, wherein the little part of my brain whose business it is to crank out dreams sometimes forgets to alert my body that the sensory input is not real and that its (the body’s) services will not be needed for the night.

To put it more simply: I sleepwalk. And sleeptalk. And sleepfight evil aliens from the planet Krakkavid with a flamethrower I built out of household cleaning products.

My college roommates used to think it was hilarious. How they loved to regale me in the mornings with tales of my midnight lapses into pirate-speak and treks into the dorm room closet in search of the lobster people. Even Paul, who has to share a bed with the spaztastic night wanderer, finds it amusing when I spring upright in bed and insist that the puppy (the nonexistent one that we can’t have because of apartment regulations) has to get down off the bed, and I mean NOW.

He wasn’t laughing last night, however. I really scared him this time. The weird thing is that I remember most of it. I recall waking up to find that there was a swarm of giant half-robot half-cockroach creatures (no doubt spawned by some nefarious mad scientist) invading the apartment. I could hear them clickety-clackering around in the living room, and skittering up the sheets from the floor. When one of them leaped onto my chest, I smothered it quickly in the bedclothes and bolted from the bed like an avenging angel, determined to clear a path through the apartment and somehow get the kids to safety.

Well, I made it as far as the hallway, where I flicked on the light and peered around the corner into the kitchen, listening intently for the tap-tap of robotic insect feet. That was when I heard Paul’s voice.

“Katrina.” Firm. Loud.

I turned on the bedroom light. “What?” I asked impatiently.

“What are you doing? Are you awake?”

“Of course I’m awake,” I snapped, irritated. Paul told me later that the really scary thing was that I looked awake. And totally, utterly insane.

“What are you doing?” he repeated.

“I had to kill a…thing, in the bed, over there!” I spluttered, that sense of urgent danger making it hard for me to think. “We have to get the kids, babe. Because…there was a thing…a bunch of things…and…we have to…uh…” My voice trailed off. As usual, the rational act of explaining my delusion woke up the part of my brain that had, heretofore, been asleep at the switch. Reality reasserted itself slowly, laughing its butt off.

“I was dreaming, wasn’t I?”

“Yes.” He still looked worried. “Are you okay now?”

I promised that I was, and after a moment’s poking of the duvet “just to make sure”, I lay back down.

A few moments passed.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes!”

We slept.

I think Paul’s fear is that I’ll actually make it to the kids’ room one of these days. So far, my episodes have been brief ones. It usually only takes a few moments after I burst out of bed for me to awaken enough to realize that, in fact, the apartment isn’t flooding, nor is my pillowcase filled with spiders*. Soon, I’m tucked back into bed, sleeping soundly. The occurrence rarely repeats itself within the same night. I’ve heard of some people who prepare and eat food in their sleep, and a few unfortunate somnambulists who wander out their front doors or drive themselves around in the car only to wake up miles away from home with no memory of the trip. This is nothing like that. Still, I imagine it’s disconcerting to the outside observer.

I apologized to Paul this morning for scaring him so badly. “You remember that?” he asked, surprised. Many times, most times, I don’t remember. I’ve even accused him of making this stuff up. “Yes, I remember. And believe it or not, I was making perfect sense before you woke me up,” I teased.

He shuddered a little at the memory. “Your eyes were bloodshot, you know. You looked…” Words failed him.

Eventually, we’ll look back on this night and laugh.

But until then, I have to sleep in the laundry room.

*Spiders, more than any other dream object, get me moving. It’s a recurring theme. I can’t tell you how many times I have awakened Paul with the thrashing and squealing that accompany killing imaginary spiders. I’ve dreamed of them covering the duvet like a pulsating second blanket; I’ve dreamed of them dropping down from the ceiling on a thousand gossamer webs; I’ve dreamed of a giant, scabby, hair-covered one creeping around under the sheets. Ick. I loathe spiders.

McOops

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Several inches of snow made the park an unappealing choice for Katie’s day off from school on Friday, so instead I took the kids to McDonalds for an afternoon french fry snack and an hour of wild rumpus in the playland’s giant gerbil tunnels.

I wasn’t the only parent hoping to burn off some excess kid energy under the golden arches; there were probably thirty children careening around the plastic structure, screeching and laughing and bouncing off the walls like electrons in an excited molecule. As you might imagine, the nine or so tables in the playland area were full; we were lucky enough to walk through the door just as another family was leaving, and seated ourselves with relief. After the kids hoovered their fries, they scampered off to play, leaving me alone at the fourtop amidst the confetti of crumpled up napkins and empty ketchup packets.

I may have been imagining the dirty looks in my direction as I took up a whole table by myself, but when I sensed the presence of someone standing behind me, waiting for a place to sit down, I gladly turned to offer the empty side of my table.

Smiling what I hoped was a friendly smile, I leaned toward the mother and baby and said, “Excuse me, ma’am–would you like to share my table?”

The moment he opened his mouth to speak, I realized that the “mother” was a man. “No, thank you. We’re just waiting for my wife and son to get back with the food.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, my face suddenly aflame. Quickly, I turned around and busied myself in cleaning up the fast food detritus scattered over the table. Oh no oh no oh no! I can’t believe I called him “ma’am”! Did he hear me? It’s pretty loud in here. Maybe he thought I said “man”? I hope, I hope, I hope…

“Excuse me,” his voice intruded on my self-recriminations. His wife hovered behind him, tray in hand. “Could we take you up on your offer after all? Our son would like to play for a while before we eat.”

I motioned weakly to the empty chairs across from me, and they sat down. At this close proximity, I was able to see the man more clearly. How could I have thought he was a woman? He was holding a small baby, sure, and carrying a diaper bag, and in his ears he sported a pair of silver hoops, but that was where the resemblance stopped. If he did hear me, would it have made him feel better or worse to know that I didn’t think him a particularly attractive woman?

Usually after saying something embarrassing (and believe me, it happens more than I’d like), I flee the scene. But with my kids lost somewhere in the middle of a rocking and rolling plastic jungle, I was tethered to my seat. Looking up from where I was hiding behind my bucket of Diet Coke, I accidentally made eye contact with the baby, who was grinning at me as if she knew how uncomfortable I was.

Oh, well, I thought. If he’s going to pretend it didn’t happen, so am I. Surprisingly, we ended up having a pleasant conversation, during which I learned that they were just passing through town on their way from Seattle to Missoula (so I’ll never see them again, thank goodness.) Ten minutes passed before I was able, at last, to disentangle my children from the horde, get their shoes back on, and wish the young family well on their journey before making a merciful retreat.

My face is finally cooling and the sense of embarrassment is fading away, but just to be on the safe side, I’ve decided that from now on I might give up gender-specific addresses altogether and opt instead for a hearty “Hey, you!” when talking to people I don’t know.  It may not recommend me to Miss Manners, but I hope at least it will keep me from becoming someone else’s blog fodder!

It’s a Dirty Job

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In terms of visceral reaction, it was a little like stumbling across a bunch of dead bodies in the basement.

Ugh.

I can barely write about this without gagging.

It’s true what I learned in the second grade. Boys are, in fact, gross. And since the boy in this particular story once threw his own poop under the bed, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was.

The kids woke me up early this morning, and I was still half asleep as I stumbled through our morning routine. Paul usually gets up with the kids on Saturday so I can sleep in, but today he left for a day of snow skiing with the guys just as the rest of us were rubbing the sleep out of our eyes. So there were no reinforcements around when I made my gruesome discovery.

I was making Caleb’s bed, pulling up the sheets and tucking them under the mattress, when I felt something hard and pointy scrape across the back of my hand. Thinking it might be an exposed nail head, I ran my fingers along the inside of the bed frame. It was rough and pebbly, and I was completely flummoxed as to what it could be, so I pushed the mattress away from the bed rail to have a closer look. For a moment, my brain couldn’t even register what I was seeing into a known category. When recognition finally clicked into place, I recoiled in horror.

There, pasted against the hidden inner surface of Caleb’s bed frame, were a hundred thousand petrified boogers.

Yes, boogers.

***

(Author pauses to indulge in a renewed fit of shuddering and retching.)

***

It took forty minutes, reams and reams of antibacterial wipes, and all the mental fortitude I possessed to clean up the abomination. It was a magnificently revolting sculpture, layer upon loathsome layer, the cumulative work of many months of secretive mucus deposits.

All the time I worked, Caleb worked with me, while I lectured him mercilessly about germs and Kleenexes and the importance of not being disgusting in relation to his future dating prospects.

I mean, who does that?

Four year old boys, that’s who.

How naïve I was, thinking that the grossest part of parenting was behind me with the burp cloths and the dirty diapers. Apparently good hygiene education covers a lot more than cleaning behind your ears and washing your bits and pieces. If “don’t wipe your boogies on the furniture” has to be expressly spelled out, then what other instructions have I overlooked? “Don’t save toenail clippings in your toybox”? “Don’t keep used toilet paper”? “Don’t leave peanut butter banana sandwiches under your bed”?

That’s it. I’m starting a list. Feel free to add to it.

I just can’t handle any more crusty surprises.

*shudder*

Not Exactly Sick

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Katie was absent from school yesterday. When I called the school secretary to let her know, she asked, so kindly, “Is she sick?”

“Um, no. Not sick. No.” Then there was this awkward pause, and after a moment I knew it was up to me to fill in the blanks.

“See, what happened is that this morning I had to get up super early and drive my husband into Post Falls in the snow (without my snow tires, since I waited too long to get them put on; I don’t know what I was thinking) because he’s doing some training for work all this week in Spokane and is carpooling with his friend, Jesse, and then after I dropped him off it was way too early to bring Katie to school, so we went back home and I decided to use the little bit of time we had left before we needed to leave to finish up a favor I had promised to a friend, because I just knew that I wouldn’t be home for the rest of the day and it really needed to be done this morning. But by the time I got the favor done, we were running like ten minutes late and I bundled everyone back up in mittens and coats and boots and got them into the car and then I was trying to hurry but trying to drive carefully (because our car is like a big ice skate without studs on it) and then we finally got there and I got both kids in their giant puffy coats out of the car and was dragging them through the snow on my way to check Katie in late at the school office when I realized she didn’t have her backpack with her lunch and her homework and everything in it. So I asked her, ‘Where’s your backpack?’ and when she realized she’d left it at home and took one look at my face, she burst into tears and I couldn’t get her to calm down, and at first I thought I’d drop her off anyway and go back to get the backpack at home and drive back to school and bring it in to her, but I called Wal-mart early this morning when I was dropping Paul off and their line for snow tires was already backed up four hours before they even opened and I knew if I didn’t go straight there, I’d never get in line in time for them to get done before I needed to come back and pick up Katie this afternoon and then she’d be standing in front of the school crying because I didn’t show up, so I just told her to get back in the car and now we’re on our way to get snow tires and I have to come up with entertainment for two kids for (at least) four hours at Wal-mart when what I really want to do is sit down somewhere and cry. So the reason for her absence is chaos. Utter chaos.”

The secretary, blessed woman, who I can imagine blinking once or twice under the onslaught of such a deranged outburst, simply smiled into the phone and said, “I’ll just mark her down as excused.”

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannolis

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The bugs have declared war.

It seems the spiders I killed had mob connections.

This morning I awoke to find a teeming trail of sugar ants snaking around the kitchen floor. No ant spray, so I assaulted them with Windex and wiped their disinfected corpses up with paper towels.

Two hours later they were back, in force. Another round of Windex and paper towels, taking care to liberally coat the little crack under the door where they were gaining entrance. One of the more stalwart little soldiers escaped from the paper towel and ran up my hand to bite me between the fingers. It itches.

Later, in the car, I made to brush a stray hair from the underside of my arm only to discover that the little tickle I was feeling was made by a tiny spider, who, once discovered, skittered for the safety of my sleeve, nearly causing a fatal collision. (No doubt that was the plan all along.) I flicked it away only to have it catch itself by a slender thread and dangle from the steering wheel before lowering itself rapidly into my lap.

Have you ever seen someone do the Icky Spider Dance of Girliness while navigating five o’clock traffic on Appleway Avenue?

I was slapping my legs and my belly and feeling hugely thankful that I wasn’t wearing a skirt. And the way I was stomping around on the floor, it’s a wonder I didn’t rear end the Dodge Ram in front of me. I still don’t know what became of the little eight-legged ninja. It may have lived to fight another day. Just typing this, I feel like it’s crawling on me.

I don’t know what to do. I see the ants are regrouping now. If they carry me off in the middle of the night, just remember this: they started it.