We also have just re-started speech therapy for Lola, which conflicts with Iris's loathed softball practice. And of course, this falls upon a day the husband must be in Palo Alto, as well. This is a short-term conflict; softball is close to an end, but in the meantime, it's another source of stress.
Then there's Tuesday, where for eight weeks running (eight! weeks!), I've been scheduled to work at Lola's preschool. That makes Tuesday mornings stressful for us, with me having to chivvy poor Lola constantly to hurry along, as we have an extremely tight schedule to get from her delightful child gymnastics class to school early (working parents are supposed to arrive fifteen minutes before school starts). Normally I try to "plan for success with my spirited child", as the parenting catchphrase goes, and my planning for success largely involved allowing Lola a ton of extra time. She's a dawdler, an extremely slow walker (although, in a marked display of lack of self-knowledge, she proclaims herself to be "fast as a squirrel" and is completely puzzled over why the other children are able to get to school before her when she is walking as fast as is humanly possible). I like to allot half an hour to make the 1/3 mile walk to her school (and no, driving it is not possible, because the whole point of this preschool is that it's located in a quiet canyon where children and dogwalkers cavort in nature away from the hectic city). When we can't do that -- as in these eight consecutive Tuesdays -- our walk is transformed from the most relaxing part of our days (Lola and Mommy in nature! observing red-tailed hawks! looking for the baby owls which were born in a eucalyptus tree right by the trail! walking on logs! picking leaves off the stinky monkey flower plant!) into nasty old Mommy nonstop nagging poor, poky Lola. "Lola, we have to walk faster. Mommy has to work today and she's going to be late! It makes your teacher unhappy when Mommy is late! Please, Lola, for the love of God can't you keep walking?? Godamit." And of course, once I am at the preschool, I need to be patient, calm, cheerful, energetic and observant to work with the children, plus I need to keep my normally truck-driverish vocabulary G-rated.
There's not much time in the day for me to be alone or with other adults sans children. Iris's alarm goes off at 6 AM. Lola goes to bed around 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. That is a loooong day. (Don't start with me about how I am a bad mother letting Lola stay up so late. Lola is one of those freaks of nature, like Bill Clinton or Thomas Edison, who require very little sleep. As a baby and toddler, she was a non-napping paragon of wakefulness. In addition to her relatively tiny appetite for sleep, the child lives for the time of day when Iris is already asleep and she, Lola, rules the roost). Some days, I have a block of time of nearly two hours of free time without children, and I usually squander it going to the grocery store or running other mindless errands.
I used to relieve stress and maintain morale by a series of money-wasting beauty treatments (pedicures, professional eyebrow shaping, Brazilian waxes, expensive haircuts, etc...) plus buying books almost as frequently crack addicts buy rocks of crack. Then the Sober Husband and I had the realization that we were living way beyond our means, and the first thing to go on the economic chopping block was the poor old Drunken Housewife's personal appearance. Sigh. (Less sadly, I rejoined a delightful private library, enabling me a better source of books than the dreary and depressing public library).
This leads us to our next source of stress, the Almighty Dollar. We were recently hit by an astounding tax bill, which was completely unanticipated by stupid old us because we'd just paid a large amount of money in estimated taxes in January upon the advice of our tax attorney. These are taxes upon extra income earned in the distant-seeming past by the Sober Husband from doing some side consulting work, work which has dried up and indeed work from which we are owed $25,000 in unpaid fees (this is an entertaining story in its own right which I have long meant to get around to telling). Currently we are living outside our means, and Something Should Be Done. Of course, the most natural possibility that comes to mind is that the Drunken Housewife get off her curvy rump and obtain paying employment, but given that we already cannot get the children through the week without making the husband come home early from work at least one in five days, how the hell am I supposed to manage getting to a job? Not to mention that I am currently unwilling to do the work for which I am trained (litigatrix), and I'm woefully over or under-qualified for anything else. (I have graded practice bar exams for cash, as it's something semi-flexible which doesn't require putting the children into daycare, but it sucks in its own right. There's nothing to cause one to despair for the future of civilization like being put to grading a few hundred essays on a more obscure subject, such as corporations, which the aspiring attorneys of tomorrow have completely failed to master. And then again the pay for this is not generous, and indeed collecting it requires numerous long-distance phone calls and emails with increasing tones of nastiness. Funnily enough the bar preparation people are completely capable of receiving all emails EXCEPT the ones with my paysheets, which invariably are not received no matter how many times they are sent).
The last straw recently was when, on a day when I was already stressed and depressed and had only enjoyed about 2 hours of sleep, due to chronic insomnia (and indeed, it was a Tuesday morning, the worst time of the week), I received a note from my mother-in-law (with whom I have a spectacularly stressful and crappy relationship):
REUNION 2008And here's your Drunken Housewife on the Martha's Vineyard ferry to the "first-ever family reunion":
I will turn 70 next year, and I would like to have a first-ever family reunion sometime in the summer. You are all invited with families, spouses, significant or even insignificant others. This is a heads up way in advance to get your input on available dates during July-August 2008. Do you have any specific plans for those months that would prevent you from coming?
Here's the general plan: I will rent a place for a week, big enough for everyone. I'm looking on Martha's Vineyard but probably won't be able to confirm rental for 6 or more months. Whatever I get will have beach access and other activities available. I'm hoping everyone can be there for a big cookout on a Saturday night, vegetarian and vegan options available. Then you can stay for as much or as little of the rest of the week as you wish.
I look forward to hearing from each of you.
Now why should this bother a reasonably sane person? First, the last time I went to one of these family reunions (this is actually not the "first-ever" one; there was one for a landmark birthday for the husband's now-deceased grandmother), it was one of the worst experiences of my entire life. Secondly, at least at that one (horrific as it was) I had insisted upon staying at a hotel, so I was able to have a few bits of time here and there where I could escape from the inlaws and stare blankly at the walls in private, contemplating death as a feasible escape and pondering why, why, why did I think it was a good idea to carry that particular family's genes forward into the new millennium. I was so horrified at the idea of having to be in a house with these people (and a statement that it will be "big enough for everyone" is meaningless coming from a person who thinks a one bedroom house is large enough for a family of four to visit comfortably, particularly as they could use a futon in the basement) that I completely missed at first the spine-chilling fact this was a house on an island. Not just any old, conveniently visited island, but one with no bridges and only an infrequent ferry. Thus if yer crabby old Drunken Housewife were stressed and wished to escape, there would be no escape short of wading into the sea.
But most of all, the fact remains that we haven't had a vacation in over three years, a proper vacation. We did go to Camp Mather last year and will return this year (Camp Mather is the city-subsidized mountain get-away, consisting of extremely rustic cabins by a pond in the scenic Sierras), but that is a vacation for the children, not their cranky old mother. Our last vacation was wonderful, a couple of weeks in Panama (so underrated as a destination. Just as brown is sometimes the new black, Panama is the new Costa Rica), but that was years ago and poor Lola can't even remember it. Travelling abroad is the most important thing in life to me, my greatest joy and pleasure, even eclipsing reading and drinking (and of course, you can read and drink abroad! discover new and exotic alcohols!). Due to monetary constraints, international vacations are not part of my life as a stay-at-home crab, and there are no conferences or calls to action for a cranky old Drunken Housewife to heed which would entail flying her abroad. At the present time, going from California to Martha's Vineyard is completely not in the budget and would conclusively exterminate any hopes of a more enjoyable outing elsewhere in the foreseeable future. I can't live in a world where my only vacations are spent being miserable with my in-laws. What mistakes have I made to put me in this position?
I am not being paid enough to be cooped up on an island with people who hate me. On "Survivor", at least they have tropical splendor to gaze upon and the hope of winning a million dollars... and the joy of voting out despised enemies.
And today, as the icing on the cake, my mother-in-law arrives for a visit. I am so dreading any discussion of this "first ever family reunion." If things get bad, I am going to have to run away from home (readers: I am entertaining offers! I have a valid passport and credit cards, albeit no ability to pay them off).