I got an email from my web host a couple days ago: if I want to keep my web sites alive, it’s once again time to pay for them. Cue much mental debate. Do I want to keep my sites alive? I barely use the “business” site, certainly am terrible at updating it, and I haven’t posted to this one in a month. Common wisdom is that no one reads blogs anymore, and as far as I can tell, that’s true. I was inspired to look at my traffic stats and my blog’s best traffic year was 2015. And “best” was nothing to write home about. Or to be more specific, nothing that would have earned me more than pennies if I wanted to “monetize” my audience, which I never did, never have.

But… I haven’t given up on being a writer. I think about it sometimes, but always come back to it. I still have plans for future books, intentions of writing more. I’d also have to delete a lot of links in the current books if I wanted to kill that site. Plus, the email address from my business site is tied to a number of useful accounts. It would be a PITA to try to change them all. Points that strongly suggest just paying the money to keep that site alive. And then my blog, well, ups and downs, but I never have been writing for anyone but myself really. Do I like my blog enough to spend some money to keep it alive? Yeah, I do.

But not as much money as my provider wants.

Every web host seems to do this thing where you get a good rate — under $10/month, usually — for an introductory period, and then the rate doubles or triples. My current web host would like $650 or so from me for the privilege of keeping my sites running for another three years. And no. I’m just not going to pay that. The last time around, I called them up and spent a good long while patiently explaining to the customer service person that unless I could get the introductory rate, I’d be moving on to another provider, before finally getting her to agree to that price, and I don’t think I want to go through that again. I could spend the same hour moving my site. (Okay, that’s probably unrealistically optimistic. But hey, it might be fun to do a site redesign anyway.)

So a couple things: 1) any recommendations for site providers from fellow bloggers? I’ve got almost a month to make this decision, so I’ll probably do it in a couple weeks, but I’m researching my options now. And 2) at some point, my sites and my email accounts are going to go down for a short period. I’m busy cleaning out my email accounts, because the last time I did this — six years ago, I think? — I lost all my emails. This time I’d like to make sure that I at least don’t lose contact info from people who have emailed me. I’ll post another warning before I actually take the plunge, but if I disappear for a bit, don’t worry about it; I’ll be back. But don’t send me any urgent emails, please.

In other news… wow, I just froze at that phrase. Felt the urge to run away from these words. Time to go hide, bury my head in the sand, play some solitaire? In thinking about my blog and whether I want to keep it, I’ve thought a lot about privacy and vulnerability, honesty and depth. I don’t want my blog to be a place where I only write about the superficial and the trivial, but I think I’ve developed a wariness about trolls that has been getting in my way.

So let’s try some radical honesty and see if I can get it out of my system. In other news, I’ve definitely been struggling with depression again. Oaxaca was awesome but the thing that I didn’t write about, couldn’t write about, was how much it hurt to be spending time with Suzanne’s stepson and grandson. I totally stuffed those feelings while they were happening. There wasn’t any room to feel them, and I didn’t want to explain them.

So when J was talking about still really wanting kids and hoping he can figure that out in the next few years and S said, “Yes! I vote for a granddaughter, please!” and I said, “That would be cool! I want to be an honorary grandma,” and J replied, “Oh, totally, you’ve been so great to my mom, I’m so grateful that she has you taking care of her,” I did not cry. I just smiled. I did not spend a second moment thinking about what it means to be grateful that someone is there for your mom.

It took probably two weeks more before I could say to myself, “Okay, you’re clearly depressed. You have seen trash on the patio for at least a week, maybe longer, and you haven’t picked it up and thrown it away, what’s going on with that?” And then the memory of that moment popped into my head, as vivid as if it had just happened seconds ago.

And I let myself feel the feelings. In the middle of Creamery field, a muddy expanse of grass and weeds where I had taken the dogs to run, I stood and threw the ball and sobbed and sobbed, ugly crying where I had to wipe my snotty nose on my jacket sleeve. Knowing that S’s son worries about her, cares that she’s taken care of, is grateful for her friends… it was a knife through the heart. Not jealousy, but bereavement. Mourning the deepest loss, the loss of a child. I did feel better when I’d cried it out, in the way that one does, but it wasn’t a miracle cure. There isn’t a miracle cure.

So I’ve been working on writing the sequel to Cici, thinking optimistically that I could finish it by the end of November, but it keeps veering into her relationship with her mother, which is not where I want it to go. Finally I decided that I was just going to have to write out this other stuff. The real stuff. To get rid of it. Maybe a book, a memoir, that no one else would ever get to see, just a purging, a way of processing. And that’s… well, honestly, really hard and painful. Eons ago, when I was getting divorced, I read a book that talked about how divorce feels like a failure to most people, and how we have to work through our feelings about having failed to recover from divorce. Divorce has nothing on estrangement when it comes to those feelings. It’s also a lot of looking back at choices and time and decisions and memories — in the long run, I hope this will be good for me. But it’s not fun.

Enough radical honesty, at least of the painful kind, and at least here and now.

More fun is that S is finally off crutches. Why is this fun? Because it means I’m walking only one dog, which also means I get to have so MANY more conversations with strangers. Which is nice, really. It’s terrible when you’re depressed to also be feeling isolated, and it is impossible to be isolated when you’re taking cute Miss Sophie Sunshine for a walk by herself.

With three dogs, my conversations with strangers were limited to two exchanges (many times, with numerous different people). From the dog-friendly: Wow, that’s quite a pack. (and variations thereof.) From the dog-wary: You’ve got your hands full. (No variations.) But most of the time, I was too focused on juggling the dogs and keeping my eyes on all of them at once to interact much with other people.

With Sophie alone, my conversations are much more extensive. In fact, twice recently, conversations at the park up the street have included introductions and hopes to see us again. Yesterday I probably spent a solid twenty minutes chatting with two elementary-age kids who asked to throw the ball for Sophie and I walked home feeling happy about the state of my world. (Helped, also, by the fact that it’s a beautiful walk home.)

Also more fun, learning Japanese. Why am I learning Japanese? I have no idea. NO IDEA! Seriously, I don’t know what I expect to accomplish with my ability to recognize Japanese numbers. Actually at the moment, I can’t really recognize the numbers, because I don’t know which is which, except for the easiest ones — 1, 2, 3, 4, and 10. All the others get jumbled. But will I ever have any reason to use this information, even if I do someday master it? Probably not. But it’s so absurdly hard. I make mistakes in Spanish because I get my articles mixed up or misspell a word that’s too close to an English word (beisbol vs baseball), but in Japanese I stare blankly at sentences that are completely mystifying that somehow the app thinks I should know. The app is usually correct that I’ve seen them before; wrong that I know them. So hard. It is the most intellectually challenging thing I’ve done in years. And so crazily satisfying when I get a question right because I honestly know the answer, not just because I made a lucky guess.

I should really post a picture of Sophie now, to finish out this rambling mess of a blog post. But on our way to the marsh this morning — literally the first time I’ve walked out to my favorite spot since sometime last spring — I had to stop and stare at the sky for a while, and then pull out my phone to take the below photo. A perfect wannabe rainbow.

not quite a rainbow