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