Friday, December 27, 2013

Working Hard At Hardly Working

I love my yard guys. I do. They work hard. Plus, they're outside working hard in some crappy weather right now, a drizzly rain and cold deep enough to chill the bones. 

But there comes an hour when I want them to go home. I don't want to watch what they're doing. I don't want to worry that they're thirsty or cold. I don't want to keep track of their hours. I want to take a nap and not wake, confounded, at the sound of the doorbell. I don't want to answer that doorbell with my hair askew and my eyes puffy from sleep to answer questions I don't know the answer to.

They arrived at 8:45 this morning. And I see that they've done some beautiful work, moving plants around that I planted years ago, making them look landscaped and pretty. I made them mochas, gave them cookies, and just brought out some water and a couple of sandwiches. If they're working, I should be doing something useful. But now it's 1:33 in the afternoon and they just told me they need a couple more hours to unload and spread the gravel and bark that I asked them to bring.

Can't they just pile it up and spread it around on a different day?

Mike isn't worried about how much it costs. He's seeing the cost to our checking account. That isn't the problem. The work so desperately needed to get done and he's happy to have these guys do it. He didn't like doing it. I didn't do effective work in the yard either. I don't mind because Mike works hard at work and with the scouts. He helps around the house. He fixes the cars and keeps stuff in the house running. He's cheerful, hardworking, and patient, so it's worth paying someone to do the work he really doesn't enjoy.

My yard guys are cheerful and hardworking too, and I like talking to them in Spanish, expanding my tawdry vocabulary. So what's the problem?

Right now, I'm tired and I want them to go home. I want to be free to relax, not to worry they might casually look into the back window as they pass by in their progress. I don't want to bring more food or clean my house more completely while I watch them work. My mother raised me that it's rude to hang about while someone else is working. That's a hard ideal to live up to and now I'm tired. I want to go to the movies with Nick and Mike.

First, I want to take a short nap. Watching all this work is hard work. Is that ridiculous, or what?

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Abyss is not Hell

This morning, I was thinking about the abyss. I used to think the abyss was standing at the edge of a deep and immense darkness, one from whom I could hear echoes of rocks that I'd knocked off the edge as I sat down, my legs dangling.

That's not really the abyss for me. See, even in the dark, the immensity of the deep has a Godlike feature, a singular beauty that reminds me of the distance between the stars.

No. That's not the abyss. It isn't true hell.

For me, hell is a rickety elevator that's crowded with the heat of a dozen people. They would be alternately whining in that special tone Nick has when he's tired, talking about their diet and exercise regime, or about the latest methods of computer networking. In my own personal abyss, each and every one of the dozen people I share this elevator with are wearing their own version of Axe cologne. Ordinary sweat would be a blessed relief.

And there are four carat diamonds and gold dust raining down upon us from above. That would cause the diet-speaking of the humans in the elevator to agitate to their knees and the whole place would sway and shudder. The elevator to the Empire State building is something like this, except it has a great deal of fresh air blowing through the cracks, much more than my Axe-laden personal hell. Then, when the women had settled down and stopped pushing me into yet another greasy shoulder - did I mention that all the women would be wearing camisole tops so contact would be unavoidable - the whole place would begin to fill with crude oil, the kind that wells up and makes men rich when it fouls their back yards. When it had reached my chin, my arms would become pinned and it would be difficult to turn my head to see who had a foot on the back of my neck. I might gasp for breath for a moment, but the feel of the Axe cologne would make even that a living hell.

What is your personal hell?

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Battle of the Mouse

Look, I just want to decorate for Christmas. I don't want to take the whole damned house apart.

Here's what it is. It's 5:52am. I'm sweaty. The dog is excited and pacing. The cat is under the stairs in the under-the-stairs closet which is now nearly empty. Think about it. When was the last time the closet under your stairs was empty?

We have a mouse.

I hate mice. They shred insulation. They leave tiny little poops everywhere. And they harbor disease. Have you ever heard of the hantavirus? We have the hantavirus in the Pacific Northwest and it is not pretty.

Okay, now that I'm calmed down and cooled down a little, I'll tell you that I do not hate mice. I just hate having a mouse loose in my house. If the damned thing were in a cage, a really good cage, I might feed him and call him a pet. I would name him, Oscar or Lucky or something like that. Once he's loose, however, he's a pest and I'll tear my house apart trying to get him out.

Here's how this saga began. Seth suddenly became alert and was working around a pile of stuff we wanted to give away but hadn't yet gotten out of the house. I can tell when Seth is working and he was working this pile, a very interesting pile. We have that stuff lying around - you know, the stuff that nobody uses, and it bugs me, so I go routing through the house once or twice a year and get rid of stuff we don't need any more. It's cathartic, but not enough. We still have too much stuff in our house.

The other night, I was at a dinner party. One of the hosts started talking about how the lottery is getting high. Megamillions. Then, as it usually does when there's talk of the lottery, everyone started talking about what they'd do with all that money. A Jaguar, good colleges for the kids, a new house, diamonds. Big TVs. My first thought if I won the lottery, was to let Mike retire so he could relax and do Scouting full-time. I think he'd like that. I'd like that, having him around more and knowing he was doing what he loved to do. My second thought was that I'd buy some closets, some really good closets with my megamillions.

I know that you can't exactly buy closets at Target or anything, but I'd try. My worst envy is when I get the house tour and people walk me into closets bigger than my bedroom where their clothing is stacked, hung, and placed on shelves as if I'm shopping at a high-end department store. It makes me wilt with desire, these closets.

Now, I realize that no closets will ever accomplish that way of living that I'd like to achieve because, at heart, Mike, Nick, and I are all pack rats. Even if we had wonderful closets, they'd fill with stuff we don't use any more and the place would begin to look like it now does anyway. That's how it is with pack rats. And I'm telling you that there is no room for a mouse in this family of rats.

Then suddenly, Seth was looking up at me with a mouse in his mouth. I ran to get something to put him into, but by the time I came back, Seth's mouth was empty and he was staring at the discard pile again, toys and outgrown clothes. Nick cleaned his room last weekend.  Seth kept looking at me as if to ask me to move things out of the way to expose the mouse's hiding place. I can do that, I thought.

Then, I lifted that next thing, a faded T-shirt, under which the mouse was hiding. I love that half a second, during which everyone, myself included, just stares at the enemy. The moment passed and, in a flurry of fur, Seth had him until the mouse took a wild leap and landed on the wooden slide along one side of the stairs. Nick used to race Matchbox cars down those ramps on either side of the steps. The poor mouse slid in an uncontrolled descent half way down the stairs. He needed a tiny little ice axe to perform a self arrest. Instead, he twisted and turned and scrabbled until he fell onto a stair, bounced once, and landed two steps down. Then, he backed into the corner of the step and stared straight into the face of the cat who had matched his descent step by step.

"Get him, Seth!" I hissed through my teeth. The rest of the household members were asleep in their rooms at the top of the stairs and I didn't want to wake them, though I wished they were part of this hunt. Nick always seems to be asleep for the best mouse hunts.

Seth went in, but the mouse tumbled down the last four steps and scuttled under my antique trunk. I had seen him, a little grey blur. Besides, Seth was practically pointing. Even Teddy, who had joined in the excitement, was staring at the space between the bottom of the chest and the concrete floor. I took a breath, put down my little mouse container, and heaved as I lifted the old chest out of the way. This was the hundred year old trunk that I bought at an estate sale in New Jersey. This thing had probably seen an ocean trip and a trousseau or two. Fortunately for my back, I had emptied it when Nick was little and I realized that tiny fingers could be chopped off if the heavy, metal-edged lid came crashing down on them.

Again, the mouse looked up at us three predators and froze. Where do you go when you're the center of that kind of attention? The problem here is that Teddy, the one with the most potential for damage, actually just sniffled the little mouse. Yup. He sniffled him.

'Where is your predator nature?' I wanted to ask him. 'Don't you want to kill him?' I wanted to know?

"Get him, Teddy, get him," I hissed. It was the wrong thing to say. We've used 'get him' to mean that he should chase the cat and if he catches him, he gets to stick his cold wet nose into his butt for a good sniff. Teddy didn't have the butt-end, but he gave a good sniff anyway. Unfortunately, we don't yet have the command for him to tear a being limb from limb. And Teddy, being a big but very well socialized dog, hasn't shown that penchant for blood.

The mouse saw his chance, ran between Teddy's legs and back under the treasure chest. We repeated the process three times, my back creaking a little more with each cycle. The last time around, the mouse slipped under the door into the Costco kitchen.

See, I have two kitchens, one stacked on top of the other. I don't know why they designed this house that way, but it comes in handy on Thanksgiving. The only difference is that the downstairs kitchen, the Costco kitchen, has a freezer instead of a fridge and a big dual utility sink that comes in handy when I'm painting or stepped in shit. Other than that, the extra kitchen is a great place to store the extra sets of dishes we don't use, coolers, and stuff we get from Costco, thus the title 'the Costco kitchen.' You can imagine that there are stacks of things in the Costco kitchen.

Again, Seth honed in on the mouse's location as I tried to take everything out from under the counter where a dishwasher might go. It was rough going because the kitchen is long, narrow, and filled with things like multipacks of toilet paper, spare jugs of vinegar, and stacks of paper cups. Eventually, I unearthed the mouse, Seth swatted at him, and Teddy got another good sniff. Really? A sniff?

But then, the mouse escaped into the storage area where I actually put all that stuff that I'm going to donate. It was packed. I gave up trying to go through and went around to the hallway on the other side. The mouse, closely followed by Seth, rushed under the door to the under-the-stairs closet. It made me dance a little.

I'd begun to sweat, what with all this unpacking and chasing. I took a moment to take off my hoodie, but didn't take the time to get my slippers. Out came four suitcases, multiple duffel bags, three frame packs, and a tent in a stuff sack that I was sure I'd have chosen if I were being chased by three predator giants. My bare feet began to feel grit that had dropped off camping gear and wet suits from summer sand and dirt. I took out a heavy speaker that I'd used in the garage band I joined when I was in my twenties. There was a tiny Christmas tree we never used, the mesh bag of wet suits and booties, and four crates of Christmas stuff that had to come out anyway.

Finally, I cleared most of the things out, hoping I'd cleared enough room to keep the mouse from escaping under a box and leaving the closet. Seth indicated which box the mouse was under, a ragged box of Mike's photos from before he met me. This was the box that was likely to collapse if I tried to carry it out of the closet. I leaned down. My forehead scraped on the badly done textured paint on the angled wall. I began to lift the saggy box.

Suddenly the mouse darted out from under the box. I turned, dropped the box on the floor next to me, stomped, managed to turn him around, away from the exit. Seth was on him. Teddy ran forward, banged his head on the angled wall. Seth had him, then lost him. Desperate, the mouse climbed the textured wall, getting a foot off the ground. There was nowhere for him to go. He scrabbled. Then, he fell, right into Seth's waiting claws.

The mouse took one last-ditch wild leap. He found a crack. It was a tiny crack, but Seth just could not get a claw into it. Drywall dust fell from the crack. Teddy whined. I straightened up and hit my head again.


It was over. The mouse had won.

For now.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, December 12, 2013

No Credit and No Thank You

I'm seriously pissed at a couple of people right now. How do you live in a small community, run into people who have taken advantage of you, and still smile and chat when you see them at the grocery store?

I guess I'd better stay out of the stores until it wears off. Mike and Nick are going to get pretty hungry.

I tell you. I was having a good day until I checked my email.

Here's news:
  • Do not give out someone's email without their permission. 
  • Do not keep adding projects when someone shows up to help with just one thing.
  • When someone goes out of their way to help, you should thank them.
  • Do not plagiarize.
  • Make sure that articles, artwork, and photos are credited to the author in publications.
Oh man, I hate living in a small town sometimes. Can't I just say what I think to them? Can't I?

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Despairing Over My Calendar


The only reason I wanted to sign up for this list is that I was trying to complain and couldn't get the complaint to submit properly. You knew that, didn't you? Your company doesn't really want a good way for me to complain, does it? I knew that.

Well, I don't really want to opt in for email either. I already get four emails a day from my kid's karate corporation. Four. Every. Damn. Day. Then, there's that company that won't stop sending me offers of 'free stuff' if I buy more of their stuff. They send me two or three emails a day and just won't quit it. I got fifty-four emails the other day and there was only one thing in it I really wanted to see. It was pictures of funny snowmen. Did you see that one? It was a good one. My favorite were the armies of snowmen all lined up in rows.

My point is this. I was just trying to make a calendar for my husband. You know the ones we customers make, with snarky little comments like 'Don't forget to buy that solitaire diamond for Valentine's Day .... What? No diamond?' for February 10th. Well, it's a tradition around our house to make that calendar. I wait until it's nearly too late to get it delivered on time. Last year, I was really late and it arrived on January 4th, four days after my insipid comment about New Year's Day. Oh, who knows what the hell I said. It probably wasn't even funny. My husband frequently reminds me that I'm not funny, but he really wants his Demotivator's calendar anyway. And he wants me to add those special dates on it, see? I think he likes the really rude ones about how the neighbor calls to ask him to help take out his old toilet so he can install a new one.

So, my point is that I was working on my husband's calendar today. I was interrupted at least six times - once by the UPS guy, who started leaving packages out in the rain in front of the garage. Twenty-two years, they've delivered to my door and lately they're leaving me soggy packages in front of the garage door so I have to get out of the car in the rain to move the damn things out of the way. Well, I called to get that changed and this prick on the phone said he couldn't help me unless I signed up for some special services program. I don't want the damn special services, I told him. I just want the same old service I got for the first twenty-two years I lived here. What I don't want is more damn email.


So then, I was interrupted by my kid who thought it was a good day to blame me for all the homework he procrastinated. We spent about forty-five minutes of his study time and my calendar-building time arguing with me about it. Then there was dinner to buy. What a bother. You know how it is,, don't you? I'm just trying to have a make-it Christmas, even though this make-it is on the computer, and people keep coming along and getting in my face while I'm trying, somewhat desperately, to think of funny things to put on a calendar.

As if 'In the stall next to a woman straining while talking on her cell phone' is funny. It's not. It's just offensive. What is this world coming to? I ask you,

The problem, - remember I had a problem? - is that your calendar doesn't have a 'save draft' button and the third time I was interrupted just as I was entering dates for December. I was almost done! This time I was interrupted by my husband who wanted a hello kiss when he got home from work. I pressed some stupid button on my keyboard and lost the whole damn calendar. Not to mention that I said, "Shit, fuck, fuckety, fuck!" right after I kissed my husband. I tried to hide the reason for my displeasure because I was working on a Christmas present after all, so I think he took it a little personally. Poor guy. 

Then I began again.

I got pretty far, though I'm sure I lost some of the gems that will never be recovered. They were the funny ones, you know. You know how that is. I was up to September again when the dog finally ate his dinner. That dog is so damned picky. He stares at me when I put food in his bowl. Now, this is the $64 per bag kind of food that the vet says he needs to keep him from puking all over my nice white carpet. Well, it's a little beige after two cats, a dog, and a thirteen year old boy and his friends. When I don't add anything to the dog bowl from the counter, such as that special dog chow with beef and broccoli in it, skip the broccoli, please, the dog huffs and walks away from his bowl a couple of times, always circling back. Finally, after everyone has gone to bed, he saunters over to his bowl, sniffs it with disdain and eats a kibble or two. Then he looks at me with sad, sad eyes. I try to ignore him and stay on task. The calendar, remember? Then he eats another four kibbles and pauses to look at me. Not even some beef broth? Calendar, calendar, calendar. Don't look him in the eyes, I tell myself. Focus on the calendar.

Finally, the dog has suffered through most of the kibbles in the dish, leaving five or six out of protest. I am sure of his meaning. I also worry that, along with the cold outside, the smell of that $64 a bag kibble left in the bowl will cause field mice to chew their way through my walls to get inside. Hey, it could happen.

The calendar, Remember my calendar?

I finally give in and get the sad, sad dog a cookie to stop his groaning as he jumps onto my quilt on the leather couch to get comfortable. Interruption number 657. I still have a calendar when I sit back down.

That cookie, the one that stopped the groaning, somehow put the dog over the edge, though, and just as I was about to enter dates for October, he's dancing in front of the door to be let out. I can not ignore that message. Eat. Go out. Eat. Go out. It's a habit for him. I mess with that habit at my own peril. Remember that nice white carpet of mine? Well, beige.

When I sit back down, the calendar is there for one sweet moment, but the minute my hands zap static to the keyboard, it is gone. Gone. For. The. Second. Time.

Oh, I am so done. Well ... for tonight, I am done. Tomorrow, so I don't disappoint my sweet husband, I'm going to try to recapture all those funny, snarky, and hardly insipid or distasteful comments I wrote today for his calendar.

I wish you had a 'save draft' button, I really do.

I just wonder if I can be brilliant two days in a row.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Half-Full and Twenty-Seven Seconds

I'm in the mood to bitch about things. But have you noticed that it takes energy to bitch? Well, I've got some energy to spare, so hang around. I might get you to feel indignant about things too. Then there will be a whole wave of indignant people out there. Maybe we need more of that in this world, more indignant people.

I'm particularly pissed about a couple of things. Didn't I already complain about the corporations starting the sales on Thanksgiving day? I think I did. Maybe you'd like to take a moment and think about that one again.

Then yesterday, I heard that they tend to push the prices up well above what they were so that 50% off is only about 10% off if you're lucky. How are we supposed to know when the prices change almost on a daily basis? We aren't. That's the point. So, we rush out on the evening of Thanksgiving day and spend thousands of dollars trying to get that sale price only given to the first hundred customers. You've just been duped and you spent your precious holiday evening waiting in lines for hours to do it. Did you stay up all night? Did you get the deal you expected to get?

And then when you come home with groceries, have you noticed that when you buy a great big bag of chips, the bag is only a third full, unless you count air, when you open it up. What the hell is that? Pill bottles are half full. Protein powder is sold in huge half-empty containers. Is that container half full or half empty? Well, it appears that there is abundance when you're shopping those shelves, but you actually get much less than you think when you open it up at home. There are spacers built into boxes, air pumped into the bags, huge bottles that could be half their size. They are selling us air and we haven't even noticed. There are probably whole departments in these companies whose sole jobs are to find ways to make minute changes over time to sell you less for more.

God forbid you need to go through drive-thru after all that shopping. Don't mention that they've change the spelling of the word itself. You won't get more than fifteen to twenty-five seconds of the drive-thru cashier's attention. You'll need to know what you want to order before they ask that three-second question - are you ready to order? Then you rush. Have you noticed that you feel rushed? Why is that? Is twenty-seven seconds of their attention too much. Yes. Yes, it is. You get ten or twelve seconds at most to order it and confirm that she got it right. Don't fumble with your change either. In fact, you shouldn't even carry change. Your debit card should be available the moment you finishing braking at the window. That thing is swiped and handed back to you. Four seconds. Again, you rush to get it back into your wallet while the cashier simultaneously speaks to another customer and hands you your salad minus a fork and some mozzarella sticks. That might take seven seconds if you need any sauce with that. She forgets the cup of water you asked for. Did you really think you had her attention when you were ordering? No. She was busy swiping a debit card and handing food out the window to the schmucks in front of you. Don't worry, they didn't get any more attention than you did.

They didn't get water or a fork with their salad either.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Big Turkey

Why did I buy such a big-ass turkey? I could have gotten a small turkey and I wouldn't have had to get up at oh-God in the morning to put it into the oven. What the hell was I thinking?

Everyone else in the house is asleep. It's completely dark out. Really, I should have gotten this damn turkey in the oven an hour ago. I don't even like turkey most of the time.

For me, it's all about the pie. Pumpkin pie, squash pie, apple pie, raisin pie. Oh man, if you've never had that buttery flavor of raisin pie, you're really missing out. How could you, unless you're my cousin. We called it fly pie. For reunions, that put off a few people, for a while. Then, it got popular and you had to elbow your way to the front of the line to get some.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. You wouldn't know it from my current attitude, but it is. Food, non-denominational good spirit, loud music as I cook, and my little family at home for four days in a row. Why is that non-denominational part of the good spirit important to me? Dunno. Plus, there isn't an over-arching need to stress over what gift to buy anyone.

"I thought Christmas was your favorite holiday," Nick said yesterday.

"No honey, Christmas is your favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is my favorite."

"Oh ... but why?"

"Because Thanksgiving is simple."

"What about the presents?"


He sat there with a look on his face, that look that said that I had no idea what I was talking about. We're in that stage. It's okay. I don't expect him to get it at this age. I didn't.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Bug

It's a stomach virus.

Last night, Nick skipped the troop swim. I almost gave him grief about it. Why does he miss all the good Boy Scout stuff? Well, it's the good stuff in my opinion, anyway. Biking, hiking, swimming.

Thankfully, I didn't give him too much grief. He said his stomach hurt. I planned to send him to school today anyway because I didn't want him to have one more absence for a half day at school before a holiday. The day before Thanksgiving is always an easy day.

Last night, he ate. A little. He complained that he felt a little nauseous, but he didn't use the puke pail he put by his bed. It took him a while, but he eventually fell asleep.

This morning, with no thought in the world except of all the kids who's parents took them out of school today so they could travel, I sent Nick to school. I'm self-righteous about that.

And then.

And then, it hit me, right in the stomach. Oh, I've had worse bouts of stomach flu. I have. But it was there, insistent and persistent. I'm feeling a bit of it now. You know what I mean, that big grumble, the feeling that you want to eat macaroni and cheese or toast instead of your usual salad. Why do I always get the munchies when I have the stomach flu? All you ever get afterward is worse symptoms.

About ten minutes ago, Mike came into the room and said, "Yup. We've got a stomach bug. It's official."

Tea. I'm going to make tea and go back to bed. No, I don't have a dinner plan. And no, I don't intend on taking the dog for a long walk, probably not even a short one. I don't think I'll puke. Nick didn't. Mike's not taking the dog out either. That poor guy will have to run up and down the stairs with his toys tonight. Teddy, not Mike.

Or maybe he'll chase the cat. Poor cat.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Being A Single Drop in an Ocean

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

How often do you get a letter from an ordinary citizen?

I'm sure you hear from lobbyists and yes men, people who would have you believe that they represent the people. They don't. I'm sure you hear a great deal from corporations hoping to promote their subsidies, but regardless of the law, a corporation is not an individual, so that doesn't count either. (A corporation does not have hopes, dreams, nor should a corporation have the rights of an individual. Free speech? The pursuit of happiness? There is no true correlation between an individual and her rights and a corporation and its interests, which is a fancy word for 'profits'. Since when did you hear of a corporation yearning for a better education or the right to govern her own body? I know you don't enact the law, nor do you interpret the law, but I just had to throw that in there.) In your position, you also hear from pollsters, but I'm not sure a poll can truly portray the concerns of your citizens.

So, I figured it was time for you to get that letter, the letter from an ordinary member of an ordinary family. I am not a wealthy donor. I am not a lobbyist. I do not represent a corporation. I'm simply a stay-at-home mom who works on a daily basis to keep my family running, who contributes to my community, and who hopes that there are enough like-minded people in the nation who will follow suit.

In my family, we are blessed with enough most of the time. My husband and I struggle to help our son make his way through school and to make sure he becomes well educated in the process. We discuss childhood development, the policies of the school district, and how to develop integrity in a young mind. We manage our schedules around his karate classes, volunteering at Boy Scout meetings and campouts, volunteering in the school, participating at church, walking the dog, and helping our son develop a strong group of friends while we maintain our own. We live in the kind of community where we run into friends and acquaintances at the library and the grocery store and, believe it or not, we actually get things accomplished during those chance meetings.

My friends and I discuss education trends, methods of increasing literacy, how to manage health issues, nutrition and fitness, the role of art in the community, the reduction in basic privacy and freedoms, giving back or paying it forward, the cohesiveness of the neighborhood, the fight against drugs, and the future of our children.

So how should this affect what you're trying to accomplish? Let me count the ways:

  • First of all, I believe in the work that you are doing. It would be easy for you to get discouraged with all of the opposition you encounter. I believe that most of that opposition is racist in nature. Sorry for that. You don't deserve it any more than the average black man deserves to get searched when he shops at Macy's.
  • I appreciate that you didn't back down when radical members of Congress hijacked our government's budget, temporarily closing down programs such as Headstart and Meals-On-Wheels in their attempt to circumvent the process of law established by the founders of our nation. That process is there for a reason.
  • I know there are challenges that your healthcare program faces, but some of us believe that all people, especially children, are entitled to basic healthcare. Thank you for that. The cost of healthcare is a big deal in our family, but the efficiency of available medical care is as important to us as we face our particular set of health problems. As it is, we struggle to get the kind of care that we would like to receive and our insurance, a part of the profit-centered system that currently exists, is an impediment to that care. My hope is that your system will help to iron out these impediments. I'm telling you, these insurance companies won't back down easily. They like making money without having to pay for medical expenses.
  • The deficit? It's hard to know what to believe. You need to know that there is no clear information about the national debt that trickles down to people like me. If I were to believe one faction, you've saddled us with overwhelming debt. If I believe another group of people, you've actually reduced the deficit. I would really like to know where the truth lies. How can you better convey that information? How can you create a more transparent system for showing the way our tax money is spent? I'd love to see it.
  • I know people who have been illegal immigrants in this country for years. These people don't receive basic freedoms that hardworking people like them deserve. Their immigration status gives employers the right to take advantage of their time, to pay them a pittance, and to eliminate any benefits. These people are still poor for that reason alone. We are a nation of immigrants, so unless we want to send the pilgrims home and leave the country to Native Americans, your plan to allow illegal immigrants a path to citizenship is the right thing to do. Building a longer, wider wall to keep illegal immigrants out is a waste of money and time.
  • Please close Guantanamo and put the remaining prisoners on trial. I know it's complicated, but a person's basic rights to a fair trial are simple, even if they are a terrorist.
  • I'd really appreciate if you would move forward with protecting us from climate change by enacting a carbon tax. It will do no good to get medical care for poor children or to improve our educational system if we can't survive the environmental changes that we have caused. Really, I do think we're sticking our heads into the sand on this. I would also love to hear clearer advice about what ordinary citizens need to accomplish in this regard.
  • Can you change the tax code to eliminate corporate subsidies? I've heard that a set percentage for everyone would do the trick. Is that an oversimplification? The current code with its tens of millions lines of regulations is not working. The poor remain poor, the middle class pays the bills, and the rich find loopholes so they get richer.
  • I appreciate the First Lady's attempt at fighting the battle against obesity, but two things stand out in my mind with regard to her program: school lunches still suck; and no kid wakes up in the morning and decides that he wants to be fat, so we need to make sure that we aren't fueling the trendy wave of cruelty toward people and kids who struggle with their weight. There is no easy solution to obesity or someone would have made millions on it already.

Have I covered everything? I haven't really discussed the human need for art or the ways we can create more tightly knit communities. I missed technology completely. And I didn't complain, though I should have, about the degradation involved in traveling through airport security. Maybe I'll cover those things in another letter some day.

Thank you for lending me your ear. I had gotten an email that promised me a moment of your time, but I realized that it was a blatant attempt at soliciting a donation. My husband sent a donation to your last campaign and my son still has the photo of your family on his bulletin board above his desk. He is such an optimist. I wonder where he gets that trait?

On that note, I send this letter, hoping that in some small way, it can make a difference.

Sincerely, ...

Do I dare send it? Oh, I know that it will lie in the inbox of some intern. It may even undergo some special scans. Isn't it sad that time and energy need to be taken to protect our interns?

Maybe I'll win the lottery. Maybe I'll get struck by lightning. Maybe someone will read my letter. At least I can say I tried.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Your Damn Gratitude Journal

I should be going to bed, yet here I am.

I don't have anything to complain about except that everyone's Facebook pages are filled with gratitude posts. Why does that bother me? Sure, I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday, so I should take the whole month of November and be thankful every day, right?


I'm allowed to be a curmudgeon. Who ever said I had to state out loud, to all my friends, acquaintances, and people who friended me who I was too polite to refuse, all the ways that I am grateful?

Why does this bother me so much?

Because I'm sure everyone knows that I love my family. Of course my boy is amazing. The way he broke those boards with his open hand last night at the talent show was perfect. I'm grateful he didn't break his hand. Of course I love my husband and I'm happy he didn't croak when he had his heart attack three weeks ago. I'm telling you, there is nothing like hearing 'your husband had a heart attack' to get you thinking about love, about how you might not be able to live without someone, about how fucking dependent you are on the fact that they breathe in and out next to you in your bed at night.

But do I have to broadcast that to my friends? Most of them lie in their beds at night next to men or women that they love too. Yes, some of them had fights that day. Some get annoyed because their husband's towel is always askew on the towel rack. Some didn't take the time to really watch the movie with their beloved before they went to bed because how many times can you hear 'You can't handle the truth!' without knowing the line before and the line after in that movie?

Am I clear?


So, I think I hate those gratitude posts on Facebook, not because those people are grateful. It's good to be grateful. It makes you happier to be grateful and I think you live longer.

I hate those gratitude posts on Facebook because they have a Martha Stewart feel to them instead of an Oprah feel. You know what I mean, right? The sheets are 1200 thread count percale, folded impeccably. The lawn has every blade of grass in place. The children are all on the honor roll and the boys are on track to become Eagle Scouts. The bottle-blond wives are still thin and pretty and the husbands are manly enough that they can deadlift 235 pounds. Someone in the household works at one of the big four, Microsoft, Amazon, AT&T Wireless, or Google. Their lives are just about perfect most of the time anyway. And the children's well-tutored SAT scores are perfect too. Right?

Oh, I can't compete. That's the problem. I watched Martha fold her fitted sheets perfectly and I could never duplicate that. My lawn is pathetic, even where there is grass. My son is bright, funny, and solid as a rock, but not on the honor roll. He may or may not become an Eagle Scout, despite the fact that my husband is the Scoutmaster. I am not bottle-blond, nor am I pretty or thin, but I try to make up for that with sincerity. My husband never lifted weights, but he's had a solid job with a technical company for the past twenty-three years. My life is never perfect. I almost always have a spot on my shirt after I eat, and I make mistakes, lots of mistakes, every day. So, I guess I'd rather be like Oprah than Martha Stewart. Oh, I know that Oprah struggled to manage her weight. She looks good, doesn't she? Who cares what that woman weighs? She's got her own network, for God's sake. What I like best about her are her imperfections, her enthusiasms, and her honesty.

So, I guess I wouldn't mind those gratitude posts on Facebook if I could see a bit more of the person in the post. I'm not interested in one more perfect post about the perfect life. Show me something real, something even slightly imperfect that you can still be grateful for.

I'm grateful that my damned gutters are clean. I'm grateful for the carpet of red maple leaves on the green moss that grows on my sidewalk even though I know I'll eventually have to rake them up and shove them into the yardwaste container with the pizza boxes from last night. I'm grateful that my pants fit better now that I'm drinking 1 percent milk instead of whole. I'm grateful that, despite the fact he's never going to deadlift even eighty pounds, my husband's cheek is still pink in the morning light when I wake up to watch him sleep. I'm grateful for the fugly yellow, purple, green, and red pinch pot my boy made for me on the mantelpiece and that he doesn't have a clue how damned ugly that thing is. That is what I am grateful for, damn it.

Okay, all you gratitude journalists. Here is my proposition for you when you sit down to your Facebook page tomorrow morning. Make it real. Make it dirty. Get that gratitude out of the closet and roll it in the grass before you put it up for me to see on my Facebook wall. If it ain't real, I don't give a shit.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hovering Again

Mike can't go into the bathroom for too long without me wondering if I'm going to find him laid out of the floor there, pants down, and gray from lack of oxygen.

I'm not sure you really need to know this, but I'm telling you - I hope and pray I'm not naked when I die. I don't know why that bothers me. I feel pity for Marilyn Monroe over that. She died in the nude. Her housekeeper also walked past her door, saw the light on, and decided not to disturb her near the time of her death. I wonder how this housekeeper felt after she'd found out the poor woman was lying naked on the floor, possibly still alive when she walked by. It makes you think, doesn't it?

I also worry that I'm going to wake up next to Mike, having slept through his struggle, and finding his cold body sucking the heat from me as I sleep. I wonder if we'll walk too far into the woods on our rambles and I won't be able to get Mike to help soon enough after he collapses. I worry I won't do a good job at CPR. I worry he'll drive into the back of a bus, killing children, as he clutches his chest while trying to drive home from work. Nightmares. Every one of these scenarios is a totally possible nightmare.

There are so many ways that death can come. Even though Mike had a heart attack, I can't really guess how it will come for him. I can't guess how long we have together. I can't control a thing, unless I happen to be very lucky and get into my CPR training class before an episode and I'm right there with Mike when something happens and can get him to help quickly enough. What are the odds?

It's just a reminder that, no matter how hard we try, the people we love may still die alone and untended.

The other day, I asked Mike if it bothered him that I was hovering. He smiled and told me it didn't. Still, I wonder if he knows just how many times I check to make sure he's still pink in the night, how often I look out onto the lawn when he's outside blowing the walkway, how often I wander innocently into a room where he's sequestered and watching TV, or how much I watch out the window for him to return when he's out running an errand. I hover. I wake up worried. I try to keep breathing in this beautiful world.

It's exhausting, you know.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The New Normal

The new normal is not that fun.

Did you ever have to pivot around a point in time, as if you'd been thrown onto the merry-go-round and been thrown off in another direction?

There are five or six times I've been spun in a different direction in my life. Three of them were happy events, but surprising nevertheless - when I graduated college, when I got married and when I gave birth. The other things have not been as pleasant - death and illness.

My illness haven't usually done that, but three times, now that I think of it, I have flown off on a tangent. I remember how, when I spent the night alone on the floor of my bathroom, too weak to crawl into bed between bouts of vomiting, I knew I would die some day, most likely alone. I was twenty-five, living on my own in my own apartment with a bad case of stomach flu. I knew if I couldn't keep water down soon, I wouldn't make it through the next 72 hours.

I don't really want to go into the details of the other illnesses that changed me forever. I'm still living with them. Don't you hate when old people start telling you about their gout and how they had diarrhea last night? Well, there's a reason they're telling you about that shit. It hurts. It's frightening to feel your mortality. You, being the young punk that you are, may not want to feel your own mortality, but it's there, just waiting for that moment when your body starts failing you. By listening to grandpa's woes, you just might be teaching yourself something about life. Be patient with him. You, if you don't grind your skull into the asphalt in a motorcycle accident, will be there some day and it will be a balm if some young punk cares about you enough to hear you out as you talk about your aches.

It's the same with crying babies. I hate this trend people have of wanting crying babies off of airplanes and out of restaurants. I want to ask of the people who complain, 'Were you never a baby? Did you never cry for comfort as an infant? Did you never dirty a diaper?' Those people, the ones who want to eliminate children from restaurants, are infants themselves.

So, the next time your great aunt Elma tries to tell you about her sciatica, try to be patient with her. She knows you don't understand. She doesn't want you to feel her pain. She just wants someone to care about hers.

I'm still not going to tell you about my two other serious illnesses today. You can listen to grandma's aches another day.

The surprising thing is how my family's illnesses have spun me in circles and thrown me into a different trajectory. I get how having a kid with medical problems can put you into a different world, a world that most people don't understand or don't want to. How do I know? My kid, a kid who looks pretty normal most of the time, a kid who argues about doing his homework and his chores, is one of those kids who has medical issues. You've probably heard me go on about this - viral-induced asthma, anaphylaxis, pneumonia. Mike and I are experts about these diseases. For the most part, people don't understand how vulnerable that has left us. Nick, at the age of five, had to understand his own mortality. Most kids don't get that lesson until much later. Most kids don't have to have that lesson repeated over and over until it's their new normal. Nick knows what it's like not to be able to breathe. Most people take air for granted. Nick knows how to slow it down, how to exist in the crisis when anyone else would be begging to go to the emergency room.

And now Mike.

Mike had a heart attack. He's only fifty, but it's where we are now.

We have a new normal, a new sense of mortality. I've learned that I'm more afraid of losing Mike than I am of dying myself. Well, shit. Didn't I know that already?

A little, but not really. Now, I know it. It's seeping more deeply into my bones. I live with two people, people who drive me crazy, people who leave their shit lying around, people who want me to feed them and entertain them and clean up after them. Yet, when you pose the picture of what my life would be without those two people, I'd rather not go there.


Mortality is easy. Living without these two annoying and loving people is not.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back and Forth

Sometimes it rains shit when you're stuck outside looking up.

The cat started the day puking chunks of chewed Nerf bullets in various places on the carpet. Always the carpet.

In solidarity, the dog puked on the rug twice. At least I could pick the rug up and throw it into the washer.

Nick got so sick I had to take him to the doctor. The doctor put him on prednisone, saying he wanted to keep him out of the ER for this round. No school for Nick. Probably no school tomorrow. The downside is that Nick's breathing is still rough, he's jittery from the steriods, and he's more emotional than usual. At least he's breathing a little easier.

I was making my second trip to buy stuff for the Boy Scout Awards night coming up when I got a call from Mike.

He's in the hospital with chest pain. Yes, chest pain. Plus, some enzymes have indicated that his heart is in distress. Tomorrow, he gets a cardiac catheterization. I learned how to spell 'catheterization,' didn't I? I'm not sure.

I haven't returned phone calls. I didn't show up for stuff I'd volunteered to do. I did drive back and forth between my sick boy at home and my sick man at the hospital.

Overnight, my life has changed. I loved the life I was living yesterday. It drove me crazy. I'd been foiled more than once while trying to shop for the awards night. I'd managed to get into the city for jury duty and been excused just as quickly. I was always running late because life ran too fast. Sometimes, I argued with one or the other of my two favorite guys. We didn't always agree. We loved each other though and sometimes our predicaments were funny. Life was a comedy.

Today, nothing is certain except that I expect the house and the hospital to still be standing when I pull into the driveway. I'm kind of stunned. I'm running on automatic, surprised that I still know how to breathe let alone drive. I've said 'I love you a dozen times today, cried, prayed, yelled as I drove my car as carefully as I could, and finally, just showed up at one place then at another then back then back again. Tomorrow, I'll get up and do the whole circuit again.

I'll do it as many times as I need to. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Still Jittery

I was the first on the scene of an accident today. I made a lot of mistakes.

I should know how to use a flare. I couldn't get the damn thing lit and the Asian man who was trying to help me kept fiddling around with the one I handed him too close to his daughter for me to feel comfortable. He didn't appear to be flustered after crunching his car, but I never should have handed the flare to him in the first place.  He didn't speak much English either. I should have realized that too. He probably didn't have any more experience using a flare than I did.

I should have gotten the woman whose chest hurt to lie down. I was pretty sure that she was bruised from the airbag, but I wasn't actually sure. Plus, she might have had a spinal cord injury. I had to help her out of the car because it was smoking, but I could have done a better job of keeping her still. I don't think I should have left her side since she seemed the most injured of the four of them.

I should have asked the Asian man to take his daughter to the car and get her to lie down. The girl was shivering and pale. She might have been going into shock.

I should have called 911 right away instead of assuming that the Asian man actually meant 'yes' when he said 'yes.' I didn't realize until much later that no one had actually called. If they'd gotten word of it at dispatch, the woman would have told me they were aware of the accident and it would have been a short call instead of the agonizingly long one that it was. The dispatch woman actually asked me if I was in the northbound lane or the southbound after I told her I was on I-90 near the Rainier exit. Had I said I-5 by accident? Oh, it's possible. It really is.

The blankets I used on two people were filthy. It's hard to keep the blankets in the car clean because of the dog being in there every day, but I should give it a shot. I could put one in a zippered plastic case that blankets come in so I have a clean blanket to hand people in an emergency. Still, I rationalized that a dirty blanket was better than nothing in that frigid wind, especially if someone was going into shock. No one was bleeding, so I didn't have to worry about introducing infection.

I should have given the police officer my phone number in case they needed more information. Oh, I didn't actually see how it all happened. Suddenly the woman's car had popped up in the air, had gone on two wheels, and had come crunching down, spewing debris and sparks behind it. I never even saw the other car make contact. I couldn't tell you who was at fault if I tried. I was just grateful I didn't have to slam on my brakes to avoid it, glad I didn't get hit myself. But I should have given the officer my phone number for the report he had to write. Ah hell, he didn't ask for it. He would have asked for more information if he'd needed it, right?

I should have stopped for a minute, got myself a cup of coffee or something to eat, or just sat for ten minutes on Rainier Avenue before I got back onto I-90 to drive home. I was so relieved to get into my own driveway safely because I was still really revved up. Hell, I stayed jittery from the adrenaline rush for a couple of hours after I got home. I got jittery again when Mike got home from his Boy Scout hike and I told him the story.

I need to sign up for First Aid training. I lived in New Jersey the last time I took it. That was over twenty-three years ago. It helps that I've been involved when Nick's Boy Scout troop worked on their First Aid merit badge, but I really need to take the training again. It's changed quite a bit in twenty-three years.

Hey, tomorrow will be fun. I'm going to have Mike show Nick and I how to use a flare. Then I'll have less of a chance of being hit by a passing car the next time I'm out of my car on a busy road.

I'm still jittery.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Piss-Me-Off Journal

Okay, I'm annoyed by so many things right now that I can't stop at just one thing.

1) My new mattress hasn't yet been delivered. We have to leave in an hour. They just texted me to tell me they're coming in about thirty minutes. I'm going to go crazy trying to get out of the house in time for Nick's karate lesson. It's hard enough getting out of the house without mattress guys downstairs wrestling with my old stinky guest bed mattress. God, that's going to be embarrassing even without the need to rush out of the house.

2) I don't have a dinner plan.

3) Nick has taken to yelling questions to me while I'm working in the kitchen. Aside from the sense it gives me of being a kitchen maid, I can't hear what he's saying much of the time because I'm running water or grinding something. My teeth, maybe? Both reasons are cause enough for me to ask him to come into the kitchen to ask his question. He was annoyed to have to get up. Okay, kid, pick your butt up off the floor and use those muscles to walk into the kitchen! Now! I didn't say that, but he got the idea. Then, he got offended when I copied the expression on his face, the surly expression. It was a good day for a new vocabulary word. How do you define 'surly?'

4) The website for the school photos is no longer available. I had a photo taken on picture retake day, Monday, and thought I'd order copies for my family. I had checked the website on Monday night, but it didn't display my picture. Was that another kid with my same name or was it a model? I wasn't sure. Today, when I tried again, it wouldn't let me in and I had a hell of a time getting a phone number so I could ask. The lady who finally answered the phone said that those photos aren't available forty-eight hours after the shot was taken. Really? She said she could take my order over the phone, but then, she got mad when I told her that I wanted to respect the rules the company had set up for the website. If they don't want to sell photos that they've bothered to take just three days after the shot was taken, then I can respect that. Vote with your wallet, people!

5) My cream of broccoli soup turned pale green. Who the hell wants to eat green soup?

6) The government is still shut down. Does Congress still get paid for those days?

7) The new HP printer we bought last spring was still under warranty when it failed. The company happily sent us a new printer, a refurbished printer. The 90 day warranty for the refurbished printer ends well before the year is up on our original HP printer. How is that fair? Now, the refurbished printer has to have its head cleaned every day when I need to print something. I want to get it fixed, but it's not under warranty even though it's been less than a year since we bought the damn thing! Never going to buy an HP printer again in my lifetime. Voting with my wallet again!

You know, years ago, Oprah had a segment on having a gratitude journal. She said it made her happier and guaranteed that it would make me happier too.  I don't know. I never tried it. Sorry, Oprah. Maybe I'm missing out on a great deal of happiness that I could have had over all these years, not to mention the physical remembrance left behind for Nick who would get a bookcase full of the lists of things I loved about him. Bummer. At this point, he'd probably give me an eye-roll over half that shit anyway. I've become an embarrassment. I get it. I did it that with my mother too.

What Oprah didn't tell me was just how satisfying it would be to rant the hell out of stuff that pisses me off.

Hey Oprah honey! Have you tried this new feel-good technique? It's called the 'piss me off' journal. Try it. It just might make a person happier. It might not, but I feel better now.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, October 7, 2013

Petty Partisan Politics

What has happened to our government?

It's shut down, over petty partisan politics.

That pisses me off!

On April 15, will I be allowed to shut down my household until I have approved my budget? Will I be allowed to suspend payment of my taxes until such date as I've decided to drop my arguments against the opposition? Will I be allowed to sit on that cash until things are run my way?

I think not!

The government, the one that has closed its doors, will make sure of that. Heavy penalties would be assigned. So what the hell are they doing with my money right now? All you people out there who live in the United States should think about that. They're wasting our money with this stupid ploy.

Here's a question - are they going to get paid for this time they're wasting? Are they?

Now, be honest, don't you think the Republicans are taking it too far with this? Head Start kids can't have breakfast. Meals on Wheels funding is suspended. There are people out there who aren't eating! Is this really what the Tea Party wants, to starve Grandma and little Susie until they aren't a problem any more?

Now, you could say that National Parks aren't essential, but do we really want to close down Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Statue of fucking Liberty? There's a metaphor for you. 'I'm sorry. We've shut down liberty until we can repeal these laws that we passed.'

When I asked a friend of mine what she thought, she said, "It's bullying, plain and simple. We don't allow this kind of thing to go on in the schools, but the example we adults provide is right there in our own government. The Republicans are bullying our President."


Not to mention the entire country. I happen to be eating during this shut down, but I don't condone letting poor people starve. The Republicans don't like the laws that were passed? Then they should use the legal system the way it was designed, to repeal them.

I loved the quote by Jimmy Carter asking 'how is it family values to let people go hungry?" I tried to find it on the Internet, but I couldn't. Bummer. I hope you've seen it.

So, is this really about getting the insurance system under control or is this about hazing a black President?

I think my friend is right. We have some bullies in Congress and we need to send them a message to stop. How do we do that, furlough their salaries? Oh, right. We don't have any control over that. They have control of their own salaries. Funny.

If people from another country were in Congress, holding our government hostage, we'd send in the troops. When is it time to send in the troops?

As it is, we have to wait until November and try to vote them out of office. It's frustrating, but that's the only control we have, our votes. I tell you, if I could, I'd vote them into the very Head Start and Meals on Wheels programs they have suspended. Until those people eat, they should not eat either, not one bite.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Rotters

Mike's company has begun the great invasion into our private lives.

Last week, I had to submit to having my blood pressure taken. It was low. Then, they drew blood. My good cholesterol is probably high enough they'll bug me about my overall cholesterol. And then they made me get onto a scale.

The rotters.

They have no right to tell me how to live my life. Are they harassing people who go climbing in their spare time? It's a risky sport. Someone could get hurt. Are they challenging me to move to another house because I live in a slide zone? That hill could come down at any time. Are they giving people grief if they spend too much time on the road? Driving is also a dangerous sport. The average person gets into an accident every thirteen years. Are they testing me for drugs, overuse of alcohol? That certainly shortens a life.


They're bothering fat people.

The funny thing was that I hadn't thought of myself as fat before they got hold of me. Now, in order to get the benefits the company offers, significant benefits, I have to submit to their invasion by changing my lifestyle, lowering my 'numbers', and submitting to their questions. There are phone calls I don't want to answer. I shouldn't have to discuss my eating and exercising habits with my husband's company. No one should.

What is the price of independence? What control should a company have over its employees? Should they be able to say I have to lose weight or lose benefits?

Well, they just did, the rotters.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blow Up the TV

It's a good night to tell you about what I hate.

I hate the television.

"Were you watching something?" Mike asked as he walked into the room. Yes, as a matter of fact, I was. I was watching a stupid romantic comedy and I was curious about how it would end.

"No," I said. I know that he wasn't asking if I was watching TV, because we both could see that I was. He was asking if he could change the channel.

The menu tonight didn't include me, a horror flick. I hate horror movies. I don't need to be scared. I'm scared enough as it is. Every night, I check to make sure the front door is locked. Sometimes it isn't, especially when Nick has taken out the garbage. Nick didn't take out the garbage tonight, though I asked him, twice, but I'll still check the front door before I go into bed. Teddy walks downstairs with me. It helps.

The moment, after everyone else is asleep, when I walk into the foyer, flip the light, and look at the dead bolt, I imagine the handle turning ever so slightly as I watch it. Stephen King would be proud. Yes, I had to stop reading his novels too. They were just a little too good at what they did. What's down under the sewer grate? What's in the back of the closet? What is on the other side of that door? No, I don't want to watch another horror movie. I make an exception for horror comedy. 'Sean of the Dead' is one of my favorite movies. 'I Am Legend,' though, still tortures me, though Mike says it wasn't that scary, those crazy faces leaping out of the dark with their gaping mouths, the abyss lying down their deep throats.

No, I don't want to see his movie tonight, not ever. I don't even want to look at the cover.

Now, I have to either leave the room or turn my back and log onto the computer. I opted for Facebook on the computer. I couldn't hear the shared videos that I tried to listen to. Mike asked if I wanted him to put on the headphones. I did, but I wasn't willing to say it. I am not the alpha dog in our home, despite what my son might think.

But reading the rest of the Facebook posts didn't help either. It was the screaming. I can't stand the screaming overlaid with the music indicating fear and suspense. The music doesn't help. I'm particularly susceptible to the effects of music. It's why my jumbled mess on my iPhone throws me off so easily. It jumps from one type of music to another leaving me confused and frustrated. I really need to take the time to make playlists for it. Mike's movie doesn't leave me confused. It leads me down the blind alley of horror flicks. Without the screen to guide me, it's often worse, my own imagination taking hold and explaining the agonizing screams.

I try not to stay there, but focus on what I'm reading. I latch onto supportive and funny reposts, but I can't not hear the TV. The screaming, the breathing, even.

Finally, I put an audio book on in the kitchen and do a load of dishes. I really didn't plan to get up and do more work at 10:45 at night, but it helped. What I really need is a library, a room with comfy chairs whose walls are lined with books and art. I'd like to have a quiet room. We used to have a decent couch in the den, but these days, it's taken over with camping gear and the futon is broken in a half-upright, half-flat state. I worry that if I try to sit on it, I'll end up on the floor, jarring my back, and in any case, it isn't comfortable. Mike says he's going to fix it. I wonder if that will be after he mows the lawn, hangs my bulletin board, finishes building the railing on the back steps, and replanks the deck. No, he's not going to fix it yet he doesn't want me to throw it away and get a new one. I know he's overwhelmed, so I try not to bother him with it. It's why I let him take over the TV at night too. I know he needs a break.

I wish the TV could go off at some point. I can tell it isn't good for me, especially the incessant screaming of horror. Finally, when I hear the music from 'Lord of the Rings' I'm relieved and go back into the living room to spend a few minutes of quality time with Mike, me at the computer, him watching TV. It's a lovely scene, isn't it?

Oh, I hate the television.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, September 5, 2013


The computer didn't work. It wasn't charging even though the plug was plugged in. The boy decided to yell at me while I was trying to make turkey burgers. Yup. Turkey. Good name for what's happening, don't you think? I'm not calling anyone names here. Really, I'm not.

1 pound ground turkey

I washed my hands in the middle of working with the turkey and then double-checked connections. No problem that I could see.

2 tablespoons olive oil

The computer stopped functioning altogether. I abandoned the spices I was staring at in my cabinet.

"I'm not available," I chimed in at the summons from Nick, though I walked into the living room and looked over his shoulder first before saying it. Mike was playing video games and I was on dinner duty. Why is it my problem?

1 teaspoon garlic powder

It's my problem because I'm the homework helper. But, I can not claim to be an IT kind of person. I walked back into the kitchen.

1 teaspoon white pepper

"Mike, can you help with this?" I yelled from the kitchen.

1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Mike figured out, while I came back into the living room and stood there, my hands in the air like a surgeon, that the switch on the power strip had been turned off. The cat probably walked on it.

1/2 teaspoon chili seasoning

Then, the roasted potatoes decided to smoke me out of the kitchen even though they weren't nearly done. The cooking spray was burning.

1/4 teaspoon salt

Somebody - I won't name names here - saved a file in some strange place without bothering to manage where it was going, so homework got lost. Magically, that was my fault too, though I didn't have a hand on the computer at the time.

Blend all ingredients well in a bowl.

"Get over here and help me. Now!" Nick yelled. I heard an echo of my own voice and was humiliated at the thought.

Form into patties.

"You can sit on the stairs until you decide to treat people with respect," I chimed in from the kitchen. Nick didn't move. My hands went back into surgeon position and I walked out into the living room to stare him down.

"Now," I said, trying to use a quieter tone than he had used. He glared at me and sauntered to his timeout spot.

Grill patties and just before taking the cooked patties off the heat, add sliced cheddar to each.

"I'm sorry dad," Nick said as he rose from the stairs and returned to the computer to finish his work.

Serve on a toasted English muffin with mayonnaise, mustard, a slice of dill pickle, and a thick slice of the neighbor's tomato. Life is delicious. Don't you think?

Thank you for listening, jules


Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Philosophy of Cleaning

My eyelid is swelling. I don't know why. I hate when that happens. The last time I did that, I found out that I was allergic to shrimp. I love shrimp, so it stinks. I don't know what I'm allergic to today. Hopefully, it's my laundry detergent.

There are only two days until school starts. I have to admit that I'm ready. I want a schedule. I want to be able to go back to sleep after the kid goes to school. I want to clean my dirty house. Okay, I don't want to clean my dirty house. I don't, but there was a guy, today, who was showing me photos of his house. It was beautiful. It was clean. He'd painted it inside and out himself. I wanted to go sit in his house until my house was clean.

I don't want anyone seeing how dirty my house is either. I don't want someone else rearranging my stuff, using their own methods to do my dishes, my laundry, dust. Not interested. One week in Hawaii with the women moving stuff away from where I put it was enough of that. If I put my shoes by the door, I want them to be by the door when I come back into the room later.

It's an easy place for mind games to begin. They tell you about your slovenly nature by the way they reorganize your shoes. Sometimes mind games are fun, but not when you're on the receiving end.

This is boring.

So, why is it important to clean your house?

So you feel welcome when you sit down on your couch. That's all. You want to feel cozy, comfortable. If your stack of books by the recliner makes you happy, you should leave it there, let it lie, forget that there's a world of moms out there who would tell you to put away that pile of stuff and while you're at it, put that glass of water into the sink.

It doesn't help to have someone else do the work for you. That kind of thing just twists your perception of reality, messes with your affect on the world. Tell that to a bunch of litter bugs.

Tell that to the people who cut in line in front of you, thinking they're entitled. Don't you hate those people? They should never have been allowed to hire house cleaners. If your work is so important that you don't have time to clean, tough. Make the time. Hire people to manage your money. Hire people to fix your car, grow your food, shop for your groceries, even, but wipe your own piss off the sides of your toilet. Do you know what I mean?

Is it relevant to have a philosophy of cleaning?

I think so. You don't? Have you ever been in a house that's so clean you can't relax? Have you ever sat on a couch so dirty you couldn't lean back? Did you ever say 'No, thank you' to lemonade because you got a look at the crumbs on the counter or the film on the drinking glasses?

Yup! You have a philosophy of cleaning.

So, which is it? Clean, dirty, or in between?

I'm a big fan of in between.

And right now, after yet another vacation and just before school starts, my house is leaning toward the dark side. It's not quite evil, but it isn't welcoming either.

I'm out of shape too. It turns out that all those summer activities weren't as good for me as walking my dog.

So, here's my plan:

The first day of school, I'm not going to schedule anything, maybe the second day too. Then, on the third day, I'm going to get to work, scrubbing, reorganizing, donating, walking the dog, making my living room inviting again, and cooking some decent meals.

I ate a lot of crap this summer too.

Thanks for listening, jules

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Pull of the Moon

So, on my way in to the parking lot to order a birthday cake at the grocery store, a woman made me slam on my brakes by pulling out in front of me. Then, she proceeded to give me the finger. I honked. She gave me the double finger. I honked some more. She shook the double fingers.

Very mature, don't you think?

Oh, it gets better. Then, I decided the cake could wait and I followed her for five or six blocks. She didn't like that. Guess what? More fingers, but never more than one on each fist at a time. Then, she got on the phone. I got a little nervous.

Is it illegal to follow an arrogant driver for five or six blocks?

When I approached a sign that said 'One lane only - expect delays,' I peeled off and went back to my regularly scheduled programming.

I realized how stupid I'd been as I calmed down a bit. There are arrogant drivers everywhere. It makes no sense to engage with them. Some of them are downright dangerous. This one was.

Then, dropped off Nick at karate and went to the library. Guess what?

There was a guy in a pink sweater and brown corduroy pants dancing, kicking, and cursing at the entrance to the library. I got back into my car and sat there for a bit.

'Well, crap,' I thought. 'Do I have a right to hang out at the library or not?'

So, I went and sat my butt down right at the entrance and read my book. I'm reading 'FBI Girl' by Maura Conlon-McIvor. I like this book. It reminds me of Bill Bryson's 'Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.'

It didn't take long for the pink sweater dancer to curse his way past me again. I held my ground, though I made eye contact with a couple of mothers scurrying past dragging their children a little faster than their tiny feet could go. Pink sweater dancer was cursing God, insisting to the air to his left that he had every right to tell God to 'fuck off.' He slipped into the library.

Curious and angry, I gathered my things, got up, and went inside. I was not in the mood to give up ground today. The library should feel like a safe place to go, as should the streets, so I patrolled, my phone in my hand, ready to dial for help if pink sweater dancer harassed anyone.

Then, I got distracted by the rows and rows of books. I looked for 'A Song for Julia,' a book a friend had just finished. No dice. I looked for a new audio book and found 'Letting Go' by Philip Roth, an author another friend is always pushing. I'm half through 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' by Walter M. Miller Jr. and I don't want to get stuck without anything to listen to as I do dishes. I ambled along, looking at titles that were recommended. I touched other books, tried to keep myself from checking out yet another title since I was in the middle of 'FBI Girl,' at the beginning, really. Then, I headed to the checkout computers.

Two police officers were gently drawing pink sweater dancer out the door. My irritation rose again and after I checked out Philip Roth, I went over to the Information Desk.

"Do you happen to know of a forum to discuss the safety of people going in an out of the library here? I've seen the police here five or six times in the last ten times I've come. I'm getting uncomfortable with it and I'd like to know what's being done to address the problem."

The librarians were helpful. They listened to me, made some suggestions, and gave me an address at the library where I could send my concerns. I'll probably write that letter. I don't want to give up coming to this library, but I'm getting a real sense that it's going to belong to the crazies soon, or maybe it already does. It pisses me off.

About then, Mike texted me and said he was ordering our usual from the pizza joint and could I pick it up. I could, I texted back.

At the pizza place, when I signed for a single pizza, I was confused. I told the guy I wasn't sure what 'our usual' was since my son had been asking for different stuff lately. He handed me a single pizza box and asked me to sign the slip. The bill came to $26!

"That's a lot for just one pizza," I told the cashier. He checked the bill and nodded his head. He asked my first name and I told him. He nodded and showed another cashier how my order had been confused with another one.

A tall blond woman came in and waited patiently while the two cashiers tried to work out my problem. The first cashier asked for my last name and I told him. He showed me the pizza. It had onion on it.

"My husband would never have ordered onion. He can't eat onion," I said. He looked at the computer again.

"Can you tell me your name again?" he said.

"That's my order," the polite woman said, leaning forward just a bit and looking at the onion on the pizza.

The second cashier looked at the polite blond woman and smiled as if to ask her to wait her turn. I told the first cashier my name.

"That's my name too!" the polite blond woman said.

"Well, it's nice to meet you," I said and held out my hand. She shook it and we all laughed.

When Nick got done with karate and we got home safely with our pizzas, I was relieved somehow.

"Did you know it was a blue moon tonight?" Mike asked as we walked up the stairs.

"Yeah," I said, "and in another universe, I have a dented car, the wrong pizza for the right name and I danced with the pink sweater guy at the library."

"What?" Mike said.

I swear, Mike will never understand me.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, August 12, 2013

Under the House

I hope my friend won't mind if I steal her status for you:

"Crazy comes in all forms... I just hope it doesn't show up on my doorstep someday."

I wanted to tell her that crazy lives under house and comes up through the floor as a nag and a temper tantrum. Crazy screeches around you on the interstate and gives you the finger. Crazy boxes you in in the parking lot and yells at you in the library. Crazy sneaks in at 4:18 in the morning when you've realized the mistake you can't undo. Crazy is there, always silently waiting outside your door. But crazy is  deep inside your own soul. Crazy is there too, just beyond the darkness.

When you're lucky, or maybe just smart, kindness rules and crazy becomes the injured and ignored child that you were, when you needed someone most and he didn't come along until you were twenty-six years old and you had nearly given up. And at that moment, you could look at the top of his head and know that this is a kind man, and that maybe, between the two of you, you could keep crazy at bay, outside, on the road where crazy belongs.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I don't believe in housekeepers.

Oh, they exist. They seriously exist. I just don't believe that people should hire people to clean their shit.

The basic problem with hiring people to clean your shit is that it's your shit and when someone else cleans it, you tend to start thinking that you're better than they are. After all, why else would you be good enough that you can leave your shit all over the place if you weren't seriously more important than the ones who clean up their own shit, not to mention the ones who clean up their own shit and your shit too. 

The problem I have is that all the people at the resort where we stayed were of separate classes. If they were young (and beautiful) and from the forty-eight states, i.e., Caucasian, they were making espressos or working at a cash register or behind a desk where they could sit there and smile at us. The management hired a few good looking Hawaiians, i.e., Caucasian-looking, to gather towels and greet people at the door. If they were a more traditional Hawaiian or, God forbid, Philippine, Mexican, or otherwise immigrant with an accent, they were supposed to be invisible and pick up palm leaves and plumeria petals from the grounds at 6:00 am or show up to clean your room after you've dirtied breakfast dishes and vacated to lie on chaise lounges by the pool. You've left socks on the floor, piles of sand where your kids took off their bathing suits yesterday, and bits of toothpaste gumming up the bathroom counter and sink. When you return, you notice that the beds have been made, but unless there's a grain of sand on the floor that irritates your foot, you pay no attention to the fact that the dishes are done, the garbage has been emptied, and your towels are fresh. Your shit has been cleaned and you weren't supposed to see that it was a person who cleaned it. 

So, what about dining out? What about vacations? What about when you're sick? Oh, it's not easy. It's nice having a break from cleaning up your own shit. It really is.

I guess my idea is that all of us deserve that kind of break, so if someone has a job of working in a restaurant and can still afford to take two weeks off each year to go somewhere beautiful and have other people clean up their shit for a while, then it doesn't sound so bad. But if some people get to have it all and the rest are stuck with the shit all day every day, then it's not a good plan.

The other thing was that I did see the housekeeping staff and I would have liked to see them of mixed races, not just Hawaiians and recent immigrants.

Oh, who am I kidding? I started reading 'Eddie Would Go' by Stuart Coleman. The beginning of the book tells about how the Hawaiians were persecuted, how their culture was forbidden, how they were made to clean up shit for the white folks. It talks about treatment of the recent immigrants too.

And there I was participating in all that by going to a resort for a week-long vacation. It's confusing, you know? I wanted a break from cleaning up everyone's shit. I was willing to pay for a break, but there I was, being served by the ones whose culture I came to experience. I didn't want slaves. I wanted to feel a part of a tribe, or at least to watch and admire it for a while. I didn't mind picking up my own socks.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Complaining in Paradise

How can I complain in a place as beautiful as Hawaii?

Oh, I can complain.

We missed the fire dancing show tonight and there isn't another one until after we leave.

I don't like the chairs around our dining table. They're hard to scootch forward.

Nick is still sick and he's a bit of a bear too. We've had a number of talks about having a decent attitude toward people even when you're sick, especially when he reminded me of people I stopped being friends with years ago because they were snooty.

I want to go out to eat. Oh, this kitchen is really nice and I like that we've saved some money by eating in, but I'm tired of eating in. I'm tired of sitting around in this villa. Yes, I said that. Am I spoiled? Yes, I'm spoiled. If Nick absolutely had to be sick, it was good it was in such a nice place. Plus, the Hawaiian breakfast sandwiches were great! Hickory flavored SPAM! Oh, right, complaining. I'll get back to the complaining.

I have to get up in the morning for our kayaking adventure, but I can't sleep!

Last complaint, I promise.

Tomorrow is our last day! We're not going to get to do everything. I hate when there are so many things that we still want to do and we've run out of time. In order to fit it all in, we'll have to kayak, see turtles, find a fire dance show, paddle board, shop, eat out, and head over to that historic town to see what's historic about it. Oh, and I want to see lava even though Mike said that lava is on another island and it isn't erupting right now.

Don't you hate when you get near the end of an amazing vacation and you already start to mourn going home before the amazing vacation is over? I hate that too.

Thank you for listening, jules


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hell No

So, I've decided that if the Boy Scout troop doesn't want me on their trips, I'm going to find a group that does. There's a whale watching trip I could take at Friday Harbor. I've always wanted to paddle the Bowron Lakes. That trip costs $1500, but Grandma would love if I spent the money I got for her inheritance on something that I love. There are trips all over the country, even one to Turkey. Todd won't go to Turkey. I should plan all my trips to coincide with his. I should try to bring Buddy.

I can't tell you how sad I am, being excluded from activities I love because I'm female. Todd said that it really would not have been appropriate for me to be at camp, that there was a men's club only atmosphere to it. He said I could pretty much guarantee that it isn't appropriate for me to go to camp from now on. That means I can schedule a trip every year while they're at camp. So, instead of holding their hands and packing their gear for them, I'm going to plan my own trip. I will not sit at home while they do adventurous things. I can go canoeing, kayaking, or backpacking. I can book a tour to Germany or Scotland or France. Oh Mike, it's going to be expensive!

Where did all this anger come from?

It was when a guy last night said that there was no singing at camp and that they had work to do and they got right down to it, total bullshit. At first, I thought he was joking. He said I wouldn't have liked Camp Meriwether, that it wasn't like Camp Brinkley at all.

It was when another guy said that I should organize the moms to make a picnic for them while the men trained the boys how to paddle a canoe. He actually said that our 'little family canoe' was good for an occasional outing, but not much else. Well, fuck that shit.

What does Mike think of these plans? I don't know. I haven't told him yet.

If I am going to be excluded from paddling this trip to Ozette, I'm going to plan a trip of my own. I think sea kayaking at Friday Harbor would be a good start. Then, I'll have to begin planning my trip for next year. I want to paddle the Bowron Lakes. It's going to be expensive. That's just tough shit. By the time I'm done, these companies are going to be hiring me to help guide their tours.

That would be funny. The Boy Scouts has access to a person who's quite experienced at paddling a canoe and they're sending her off to paddle with strangers because she's female.

I have to stop whining about not being able to go with them and start planning my own trips. And they aren't going to be trips to Indiana to visit relatives. Hell no.

Thank you for listening, jules


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Left Out Again

Mike is back from camp. He's tired, but he had a great time. He's spent most of the afternoon on the couch, alternating between catching up with work on his computer and napping. I had a million questions for him.

Oh, I don't want to write about this.

I am so jealous that he got to go to camp and I didn't. There were bonfires on the beach, challenge courses, wilderness survival training. They arranged for the kids to sleep on the beach. Some of them liked it so much, they dragged their dads out for another night of it. They sang songs at lunch. They had a Dutch oven chili cook off. There were skits and merit badges and snacks stolen from tents by a raccoon. It made me sad that I missed all that.

Mike told me there were some helicopter moms that were in their kids' faces during the challenge course. We both shook our heads.

"But you know I wouldn't do that," I said. Mike continued to type on his computer.

"I know," he said absently. There was a pause and he looked up, right into my eyes. "No, I know you wouldn't do that. I know you wouldn't."

Another pause.

"But it would have changed to dynamic to have you there. It really would."

"When we met, you asked me to come to the Explorer Post trips. You needed a female advisor so the girls could come and I was excited about being included. I loved these trips, the camping, canoeing, whitewater rafting, climbing, hiking, even pushing against my claustrophobia by caving. You knew that I loved doing those things. You knew that about me and you married me. Now, you're telling me that I can't come on the best trips."

"It was definitely not right for you to be at camp. I don't know why. It just wasn't. We'll have to think about the canoe trip. We'll really have to think about doing the right thing, here."

I know what that's going to mean, ultimately. And I know what the difference is between the woman I am now and the woman I was when Mike met me.

I wasn't a mom then. I could come on the trips and, regardless of the way I approached the activities, I wasn't viewed as a mom. Oh, when the bear came into camp and a girl clung to me, wondering if a bear would attack her because she was on her period, I sort of acted like a mom. More like a big sister, really. I let Mike handle those things. He was more sympathetic. He listened and told her she'd be fine. Those stories were about grizzlies and these were black bear. He was the one the kids went to when they needed support. There weren't any adults old enough to push against when it came to parental authority. All of us leaders were in our twenties. None of us had kids.

When the boy was afraid to go into the dark by himself to pee, I rolled my eyes at him and only reluctantly found him a place half way between me and the campfire to relieve himself. The challenges I faced, I faced as a young person trying something for the first time, not as a middle-aged woman beyond her physical abilities.

And yet, I detest the idea that I can't keep doing things just because I'm getting older. I'm friends with a 93 year old woman and when I asked her if she still mowed her own lawn, she said, "If I don't do it, I won't be able to do it." She has a good point. The more I bow out of things that I used to do, the fewer of them I'll be able to do.

The problem is that I don't particularly like camping solo or I'd head off on my own while they're at camp. I guess I'll just have to start going solo or join a tour. Are there canoe trekking tours for women? I'll have to check it out. I can't just sit around at home, waiting for them to come home. I can't. I won't.

Thank you for listening, jb